Health & Life Expectancy:
The Lagotto Romagnolo is a robust and healthy breed that can live for 10 to 15 years. However, as with all dogs, there are some issues to be aware of.
Hip Dysplasia (HD)
Elbow Dysplasia (ED)
Juvenile Epilepsy (JE) aka Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy (BFJE)
Storage Disease (SD) aka Lagotto Storage Disease (LSD)
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA)
Improper Coat aka Furnishings
All breeders belonging to the New Zealand Lagotto Romagnolo Club test their breeding stock for HD, ED, Eyes, JE, HUU and SD as per our Code of Ethics (link).There is currently no test available for Cerebellar Abiotrophy. The Improper Coat test is voluntary as it is not a health issue but an appearance issue.
Hip Dysplasia (HD)
Canine hip dysplasia stems from abnormal development of the hip joint; looseness in the joint allows excessive movement which can cause arthritis, especially in larger breeds. As a light agile breed, the Lagotto is not overly prone to joint problems, however HD can occur. Therefore it is responsible practice to hip screen breeding animals and by selecting the best scores, there should be continual improvement in the breed’s hips.
Hip dysplasia is a multi-genetic inherited trait, with environmental factors playing an important part. During the first year of life, puppies should not be over fed, over exercised or allowed to jump from anything but the smallest height as this can adversely affect their growing joints.
To test for dysplasia, X-rays are taken of the dogs hips, whilst the dog is under sedation or anaesthetic. These X-rays are evaluated by experts and a score given to the degree of hip dysplasia found.
The New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) moved to the PennHIP scheme in 2014:
Elbow Dysplasia (ED)
Canine elbow dysplasia involves abnormalities of the complex elbow joint, in the same way as for hip dysplasia (see above).
Information on the New Zealand Veterinary Association (NZVA) elbow dysplasia scoring scheme can be found here:
There have been very few cases of cataracts reported in the Lagotto; however it is considered responsible practice to have all breeding animals screened by a veterinary ophthalmologist from 12 months of age, and annually thereafter.
In 2010, the Swiss Lagotto Club conducted an examination of over 80 Lagotti to provide an overview of the cataract situation in Switzerland. The results of these investigations are still pending.
Between 2010 and 2012, the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hannover collected over 95 samples from lagotti in Germany and worldwide to investigate the possibility of a gene-test for cataracts. The January 2015 update on this project can be viewed here:
Juvenile Epilepsy (JE)
Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy was first recognised and reported in the Lagotto Romagnolo as early as 2002. The disease is described as an inherited benign juvenile epilepsy. A similar disease is described in human medicine. The affected puppies usually show evidence of seizures and ataxia from 5 to 9 weeks of age and these resolve spontaneously by 8 to 13 weeks of age. Research at the University of Helsinki identified the causative gene in 2007, showing an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance.
NORMAL: The dog carries two copies of the normal gene and therefore has no predisposition to epilepsy.
CARRIER: The dog carries one mutant and one normal copy of the epilepsy gene. The dog does not develop the disease but can transfer a gene defect to approximately 50% of its offspring.
AFFECTED: The dog carries two mutant copies of the epilepsy gene and will likely develop the disease in early puppyhood. If bred from the dog will transfer the gene defect to its entire offspring.
Carrier dogs should only be mated to clear dogs so as to avoid producing BFJE affected puppies. It is NOT recommended to withdraw carrier dogs from breeding, as this would greatly reduce the already small Lagotto gene pool.
It is recommended that affected dogs be removed from the breeding program. However in exceptional circumstances an affected dog could be bred from but must be mated only to a known clear dog. This would result in all puppies being carriers.
For those interested in the science of BFJE, the full published research paper can be found here: http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1002194
Hyperuricosuria is an inherited disorder in dogs that can cause hyperuricemia and predisposes affected dogs to the development of urolithiasis (urate stones) in the kidneys and bladder. Clinical signs of urolithiasis include hematuria, pain while urinating, and blockage of the urinary tract. Patients with urine stones are more susceptible to urinary tract infections. Blockage in the urinary tract is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary care.The disease is very common in Dalmatians but is seen in several other breeds as well. Hyperuricosuria is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.
Lagotto Storage Disease (LSD)
In 2013, a new hereditary neurodegenerative disorder, called Storage Disease was identified in the Lagotto Romagnolo breed. The genetic cause of this disease was the subject of an international research effort conducted by the University of Bern, Switzerland and the University of Helsinki, Finland.
Lagotto Storage Disease is characterized by uncoordinated movements which primarily manifest as difficulties in walking. In some affected dogs, involuntary eye movements (nystagmus) and behavioral changes such as aggression were noted. The onset of clinical signs and pattern of progression vary considerably between individuals. The first signs can be seen at the age of 4 months to 4 years. The disease is progressive and affected dogs deteriorate to the point that they must be euthanized. The life expectancy of affected dogs depends on the progression of the disorder and the severity of the signs. Some dogs can live for several years with mild signs, but dogs with severe clinical signs are usually euthanized earlier. Upon pathological examination, ‘storage material’ (incompletely broken down cellular waste products) is found in nerve and other cells. This impedes cell function and ultimately leads to the cell death.
The study showed that Storage Disease is controlled by a single gene and is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern. In order to be affected with the disease, dogs must inherit two copies of the mutated gene, one from the mother and one from the father.
Lagotti with the test result of ‘NORMAL’ have two normal copies of the gene. They will not be affected with Storage Disease and they will not pass on the predisposition for the disease to their offspring.
Lagotti with the test results of ‘CARRIER’ have inherited one mutated copy of the gene and one normal copy. These dogs also will not be affected with the disease, but they will pass the mutated gene to approximately 50% of their offspring. If ‘CARRIERS’ are used for breeding, it is essential that they be mated only to dogs who have tested ‘NORMAL’. In a CARRIER X NORMAL mating, there will not be affected puppies.
‘AFFECTED’ lagotti have inherited two mutated copies of the gene from their parents and these dogs have a very high risk of developing Storage Disease. It is not recommend to breed with these dogs.
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CA) (aka progressive juvenile ataxia)
Cerebellar abiotrophy is a rare neurological disease that involves progressive degeneration of the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for the co-ordination of voluntary movement in the body. Cerebellar abiotrophy is known in several breeds of dogs, and has now been reported in the Lagotto Romagnolo.
Symptoms develop between 3 weeks and 3 months of age and include loss of coordination, an unsteady wobbly gait (ataxia), and an awkward wide legged stance to compensate for poor balance. Cerebellar abiotrophy symptoms progress rapidly, usually leading to euthanasia of the affected puppy within weeks or months. There is no treatment for cerebellar abiotrophy, the cause of which is currently unknown, but is suspected to be an autosomal recessive genetic mode of inheritance as it is in other dog breeds. Cerebellar abiotrophy is unrelated to the gene mutation that causes BFJE or the gene mutation that causes LSD.
Initially CA symptoms can appear similar to BFJE, but whereas BFJE remits, cerebellar abiotrophy is progressive. Symptoms also appear similar to those of Storage Disease, as both diseases involve the cerebellum. However the causes of these 2 diseases are quite different. In LSD, cell waste accumulates in all cells, including cerebellar cells, causing cell dysfunction and death; whereas in CA, an inborn error of metabolism causes the cerebellar cells to die prematurely. Definitive diagnosis of CA in the Lagotto can only currently be made by pathological examination of the brain.
Research on cerebellar abiotrophy in the Lagotto is continuing at the University of Helsinki , Professor Hannes Lohi’s group and the University of Bern, Professor Tosso Leeb‘s group. If you have a puppy or dog that exhibits neurological symptoms then they ask the owners to contact them and to provide them with blood samples to support this research.
Improper coat (not a health issue but an appearance issue)
Very rarely a Lagotto can be born with a flat or short coat. The dog is perfectly healthy, but will not display the usual Lagotto curls. The Lagotto’s curly coat is determined by a gene called Furnishings but occasionally a recessive gene for improper coat turns up. If both parents carry a copy of this improper coat gene, it is possible for some short coated puppies to appear in the litter. The Swiss Lagotto club has a very good webpage on Short Coatedness.