Finnish Lapphund Health Problem Information

Though the Finnish Lapphund is generally a healthy dog breed, there are a few health problems commonly seen within this dog breed.

By Toni Jackson | June 11, 2012

The Finnish Lapphund is a naturally healthy dog breed, not suffering from any documented major health problems. This vigour is probably related to this dog breed’s fairly wild background, being descended no doubt on a ‘survival of the fittest’ principle through many generations of working dogs.

There are two conditions that are seen in Finnish Lapphunds that should be highlighted. Both conditions are hereditary eye defects that have been recorded in this dog breed in its home country of Finland and in other countries as well.

Generalized Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA)
Generalized Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a hereditary eye disease that affects many dog breeds. As the name suggests, GPRA is a progressive disease in which affected dogs can become totally blind. The condition is usually noticed when dog owners first become aware of a loss of night vision in their dogs. The condition then progresses over time to a loss of vision in all types of lighting. It is believed that GPRA is inherited via a simple autosomal recessive gene; therefore, where the condition is noted, the parents and offspring of any affected Finnish Lapphund must themselves be carriers of the condition, even if not affected themselves.

The biggest problem relating to this condition in Finnish Lapphunds is the age of onset. There has been a wide range of ages when GPRA has been first noticed, anywhere from one to eight years of age (even in Finnish Lapphunds that have received regular annual eye tests). In a situation where a dog has tested as free of the condition until about five years of age, followed by a positive failure, there is a reasonable chance that by that time the now-proven affected dog has produced offspring that themselves will be carriers and may in many cases have gone onto produce further puppy litters.

Eradication by breeding alone is difficult in a condition that cannot be detected before breeding age is reached. Of course, affected Finnish Lapphunds and known carriers must be removed from future breeding programs to help reduce the incidence of the condition. However, until such a time when we have identified the DNA markers for this GPRA and a blood test for screening Finnish Lapphund puppies is available, it will not be possible to prevent hidden carriers from being used in breeding.

It is important to note that in most cases the progression to total blindness is slow and the effect on the Finnish Lapphund’s daily life can be only minimal. The dog’s other key senses are able to compensate such that the blind dog may not appear to be handicapped when in his familiar surroundings.

Hereditary Cataracts
There are many types of cataracts (any opacity of the lens or the lens capsule). Since cataracts can be caused by a number of factors, identifying the actual cause of a cataract in a dog is very difficult. Causes of cataracts may be due to congenital abnormality, in utero infection, trauma or injury to the dog’s eye or metabolic disorders, or produced as a result of nutritional disorders or by the influence of certain drugs. Yet cataracts seen in many dog breeds have proven to be hereditary, and since the incidence in Finnish Lapphunds in their homeland has been significant, Finnish vets and dog breeders have elected to regard some cataracts as hereditary. At present, this is not the case in the US or UK, where the number of cases is small.

The Finns have yet to identify the mode of inheritance of these cataracts and believe it to be far more complex than the simple autosomal recessive gene of PRA. Therefore, Finnish Lapphund parents and offspring are not deemed to be carriers unless a parent produces more than one cataract-affected offspring in different litters of puppies.


Excerpt from Finnish Lapphund, part of the Comprehensive Owner’s Guide series, with permission from its publisher, Kennel Club Books, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Finnish Lapphund here.



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Leeza Friedman-Prokopishyn   Cherry Hill, New Jersey

10/3/2012 10:24:42 AM

I am a Finnish Lapphund breeder. It is true that this is a naturally health breed, and that they also can experience the same health problems as any other type of dog (other breeds, mixed breeds, and "designer dogs.") The Lapphund Club of Finland (Lappalaiskoirat ry) suggests screening for hips, elbows, patellae (knee caps), eyes, and PRA carrier status if either parent dog is a carrier. The Lapphund club does not support breeding of dogs affected by hip dysplagia, hereditary catarcts (HC), and strongly discourages breeding of dogs affected by elbows and patallae problems. Like any breed of dog, it is possible for Finnish Lapphunds to have autoimmune conditions like Addison's Disease (thyroid), other thyroid, or neurological problems. You can check the health of parent dog Finnish Lapphunds in North American through the CERF and OFA databases.

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