Tollers and Health Issues

Much like any breed, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers face health issues. However, this club has a long history of trying to meet these issues head-on and working to eliminate the most severe problems.

Jamie Klein, Chair of the Toller Health Committee, has developed the following series of articles to provide information on a variety of tests and health issues that may affect our breed. Knowing the health status of the dogs in a breeding program and others in its lineage allows breeders and genetic counselors to decide which matings are the most appropriate for reducing the incidence of disease and disorders in the offspring.

This document by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Inc. explains the importance of using health testing in breeding programs. By using the data submitted to public registries breeders have access to a wealth of data when  determining which dogs are best for their breeding program.

Following is a list of health tests currently required or recommended for screening Tollers in a current breeding program, including links to the various health registries and organizations as well as a detailed article on each subject.

The dog has a Normal Companion Animal Eye Registry (CAER) Exam performed annually, clearing the dog of hereditary eye problems by a board certified ophthalmologist. This official OFA clearance is obtained when the test results form is submitted to OFA from the owner/breeder.


The dog’s hips are X-rayed and evaluated by the board certified radiologists at Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals when the dog is at least 24 months of age and/or by PennHIP.

OFA maintains the database.  It is encouraged to make all results open to the public.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye disease that affects Tollers. Recent discoveries have given Toller breeders a DNA test to help to control this affliction. Learn more about it and the steps being taken by breeders to stop this heartbreaking disease below.

Unlike PRCD tests offered for other breeds, this marker test is specific for Tollers and results in a greatly reduced chance (0.05 percent or less) of false positive results. The test eliminates the guess work from a breeding program with respect to PRCD – the only form of PRA seen in Tollers which results in blindness. Breeders will no longer have to remove affected and carrier stock from their breeding programs. As long as these dogs are bred to clear dogs, they will not produce any affected dogs.

To order a Toller Progressive Red Cone Degeneration (PRCD) blood test: Detailed instructions are available from OptiGen’s website that explain how to ship a sample, request a test and information about the Toller PRCD test.

OptiGen Laboratory

The dog is rated Clear or Carrier with the OptiGen PRA and CEA/CH gene marker tests unless the PARENTS are DNA tested and this offspring is deemed Cleared By Parentage (CBP).

The owner agrees never to breed carrier or affected dogs that may produce Progressive Retinal Atrophy or Collie Eye Anomaly/Choroidal Hypoplasia.

These results can be included on OFA’s public database through submission of this document.


OFA Thyroid Panel test levels are within Normal limits as tested by IDEXX LaboratoriesMichigan State University (MSU)OFA, or University of Guelph.  The results of testing by these laboratories are accepted by OFA and can be included on its database.  Screen annually from puberty; test females during anestrus.

[Hemolife can be used as an alternative lab but their results are not recognized by OFA at this time.]


The dog is Certified Normal for Congenital Heart disease via an OFA Heart certification (to be performed by a Practitioner/Cardiologist/Specialist) after 12 months of age to rule out congenital defects, or Certified Normal for an Advanced Cardiac Database Exam performed by a Cardiologist annually after 12 months of age to provide clearance for adult onset heart disease.  An Echo Ultrasound Heart Analysis is performed  and/or Holter 24-48 monitoring of the heart’s electrical activity would be the ideal heart evaluation protocol.


The dog has been tested through the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals to determine DNA status for:

  1. Cleft Palate 1 (CP1) unless the parents are DNA tested and this offspring is deemed Cleared By Parentage (CBP);
  2. Cleft Lip/Palate/Syndactyly (CLPS) unless the parents are DNA tested and this offspring is deemed Cleared By Parentage (CBP);
  3. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) unless the parents are DNA tested and this offspring is deemed Cleared By Parentage (CBP);
  4. Degenerative Encephalopathy (DEN) unless the parents are DNA tested and this offspring is deemed Cleared By Parentage (CBP).

Futher DNA testing is conducted through the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory:

  1. Juvenile Addison’s Disease (JADD) unless the parents are DNA tested and this offspring is deemed Cleared By Parentage (CBP);
  2. Chondrodysdrophy (CDDY) and Hansen’s type I Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) risk; new for 2017 – information available at the link.


Washington State University performs this test and they have indicated that Tollers are not listed as a breed affected by the mutation because the breed has not encountered a positive result to date.


“Unfortunately, liver shunts have been present too often in my line as well as with other tollers.  I have been in contact with Bannasch Laboratory to see what we can do to help genetically identify this disease.  We need bloodwork from affected tollers, parents of tollers with shunts, and non-affected siblings.  I would appreciate everyone’s help on this.  If you have a toller that fits one of the categories above, please contact me personally and I will speak with you about what is needed.  Your help can really make the difference in working to conquer this illness!”

Alyson Casper
Cyon Tollers
NSDTRC-USA National Rescue Coordinator
Phone: 954.424.8194

Public Databases for more information about Tollers and tracking health information, including:


Orthopedic Foundation for Animals offers:

  • DM, DE are currently offered and are applicable to our breed
  • a discount for HIP Dysplasia and ELBOW Dysplasia evaluation when submitted together
  • a Mixed Soft-tissue Database Discounted Individual Rate of $7.50 per application when three or more soft tissue applications are submitted together on a single dog (example: Cardiac, Thyroid, Patella, and Eye applications). This discount does NOT apply to any applications requiring radiographic evaluations.
  • DNA Based Genetic Disease – This application form is used to register existing DNA results for all DNA-based tests including Clear by Parentage Appplications.

This is a list of OFA approved DNA Labs.

Please be aware that not every lab listed has the patent for specific DNA tests and therefore may not be OFA approved to have their results listed on OFA’s public database.

However, following is a brief summary of popular labs that are currently approved to perform the DNA tests relevant to our breed at this time.  This OFA form must accompany all results obtained from these facilities in order to be posted on OFA’s site.


Quick Links

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