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Cruciate problems in LH

I have analysed the data about cruciate problems.
The data about 127 cases of cruciate injury so far reveal the following distribution.
The analysis is based on the country where the dogs lived because of the potential influence of environmental factors.
• Finland: 72 cases
• Norway: 5 cases
• Sweden: 23 cases
• UK: 22 cases
• The Netherlands: 1 case 

In 16 litters there were more than 1 case. 24 Sires were involved in 65 cases, and 19 dams were involved in 49 cases. That doesn’t give any indication that the sire or the dam is more prominent in the inheritance of Cruciate injuries. 

The COI in the affected dogs is 9,0%. So inbreeding doesn’t seem a factor. However, the average risk assessment parameter RTR for the affected dogs is 23,5%. That shows that several affected dogs and/or “carriers” are present in the ancestry of most affected dogs. Only one case had an RTR of 12,5%, which indicates that no “carriers” or affected dogs are found/known in the ancestry. 

When I look at the affected dogs born since 2010 (n=71, which is 1,6% of the total number of dogs born since 2010), I find an average RTR of 27,1% (range 12,5% - 47,7%). The average COI in this group is 8,4%. Again this makes inbreeding unlikely as a common factor. The group of dogs which has not been reported with cruciate injuries has a significantly lower RTR: 14,3%.Note: the word “carrier” is not used in a Mendelian meaning of the word. “Carrier” in this context means that the dog is involved in a case of cruciate injury as parent or as offspring. 

My conclusion is that cruciate injuries are certainly linked to lines, suggesting a genetic predisposition. Unfortunately factors like age, sports, early neutering or spaying, obesity or other environmental factors or activity levels are unknown to me. The suggestion that a curved femur could be a common factor is also something to keep in mind. Because I frequently saw the combination of PL and cruciate injury, an anatomical cause (the line-up between femur and tibia) is an option. If the femur is not straight, that might increase the tension on the cruciate ligaments and patellar tendons. In bitches, early spaying seems to be a major factor. 

Which options do we have to avoid cruciate injuries? First of all avoiding dogs with curved femur. But this might not be as easy as it seems. Another option is to take the RTR values as a guidance. About the RTR values: I think that keeping them as low as possible in the resulting litter is a first step to take. That means that if your bitch has a higher than average RTR, you should try to compensate that with a male with a lower RTR. Basically, you should always aim to lower the RTR in the next generation. I assume that many of you are not aware of the genetic burden of your dog or bitch, created by the ancestry. And certainly not about the resulting RTR values. And yes: I know that the RTR system is not a validated test system, but we don’t have anything else (yet). So if you would like to know the figures for your dog/bitch or for a planned litter (plus interpretation), feel free to ask.
But remember: there is no guarantee. 

Recently there was a study published about genetic testing for cruciate ligament rupture in the Labrador. The researchers concluded that the condition is a complex problem, and that more genetic markers are needed to assess the risk. They also concluded that 68% of the problem is genetic, therefore 32% can be attributed to environmental conditions. This research is promising for the future, but it will take a lot of time before the Lancashire Heeler will have its own test. Many thanks to Sarah Culpitt and Elaine Syrett for reviewing and commenting this article.

by Dick Koster

The Labrador Research 

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