Genetic Testing


Bella & Gracie

The significance of genetic testing should not be overlooked when one is making the decision to purchase a Labrador Retriever. Prior to issuing a CHIC number the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) requires the following testing for Labrador Retrievers:

Hip Dysplasia – OFA Evaluation

Elbow Dysplasia – OFA Evaluation

Eye Exam by a boarded AVCO Ophthalmologist – results entered with CERF or with OFA

EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) – DNA test through the U of Minnesota

CNM (Centronuclear Myopathy (Optional) – DNA Based CNM Test with results registered with the OFA

Red Barn Ranch and Labradors, LLC goes above and beyond these requirements and include the PennHip exam for hip dysplasia, testing for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and regular screening with full thyroid panels.

Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joints fail to develop normally. This leads to gradual deterioration and causes crippling lameness and painful arthritis. Labrador Retriever is one breed that is more likely to have the genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia than other breeds.

Elbow Dysplasia simply means ‘abnormal development of the elbow’. It causes an abnormal amount of wear and tear on the joint and can be disabling or cause a great deal of pain. Elbow dysplasia is a significant problem in many breeds, including the Labrador Retriever.

Eye exams performed by a member of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists certify that a dog is free of heritable eye diseases. The conditions ruled out by the A.C.V.O. examination are too numerous to list here individually but, include conditions of the globe, eyelids, third eyelid, cornea, uvea, lens, vitreous, and fundus.

Exercised Induced Collapse (EIC) is an inherited disease common in Labrador Retrievers. Dogs affected with EIC become weak in the hind limbs and collapse after brief periods of intense exercise and is some cases after a simple game of fetch. Dogs with EIC can live fairly normal lives but, must be limited in intense exercise and excitement.

Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM) is a debilitating disease found in both field and conformation Labradors. CNM causes muscle weakness and exercise intolerance. According to the Altfort School of Veterinary Medicine, “The age of onset of the disabling phenotype varies between 2 to 5 months with an awkward gait and a decreased exercise tolerance, associated with a generalized muscle weakness leading to a ventroflexion of the neck, abnormal postures and movements”. An affected puppy will not recover from this disabling disease.

PennHip is a not-for-profit program owned by the University of Pennsylvania. Their mission “is to develop and apply evidence-based technology to direct appropriate breeding strategies aimed at reducing in frequency and severity the osteoarthritis of canine hip dysplasia”. PennHIP incorporates a method for evaluating the integrity of the canine hip that many believe is more accurate than the OFA exam. It is accurate in puppies as young as 16 weeks of age. It has great potential to lower the frequency of canine hip dysplasia (CHD) when used as a selection criterion. Follow this link for an interesting study:

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease of the retina in dogs which causes the dog to go blind.

Canine thyroid disease (Hypothyroidism) occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough T4 hormones. According to Dr. Jean Dodds, “up to 80{d411b256902d0fb544345f93b06e6b25d21068214dc23fff2bc59e85ee1a0062} of canine hypothyroidism cases result from an inherited autoimmune condition known as autoimmune thyroiditis”. Symptoms of canine thyroid disease are many and include, lethargy, weight gain, cold intolerance, mood swings, dry, scaly skin, coarse dull coat, and infertility. Misdiagnosed or left undiagnosed, thyroid disease can prove deadly.

Here at Red Barn Ranch and Labradors, LLC, our goal is to produce Labrador Retrievers that are physically and mentally sound. We will continue genetic testing to ensure that we are producing the healthiest puppies possible.



As a breeder and trainer I am often asked my opinion on spaying and neutering. I believe the decision to spay/neuter or leave a pet intact should be made by a well informed owner. There are many myths in regards to the benefits of spaying/neutering and research has proven them false. The following article, posted here with the written permission of Wendy Volhard, is very informative and can help to educate anyone trying to make the decision to spay/neuter.

Spaying and Neutering – To Be Or Not To Be?

Everyone who owns a dog has to come to a decision at some point whether to spay or neuter. Up until now, veterinarians, rescue groups, shelters, breeders and trainers and everyone involved in the pet dog world, have been advising their clients to spay or neuter their pets. Reasons cited are better health, less bother and mess in the house, a dog that is easier to deal with, less unwanted puppies in the world and a myriad of other reasons.

Recent studies out of Rutgers University blows away a lot of the myths above.

For example:

1. Did you know un-neutered animals live several years longer than neutered animals?

2. Hypothyroidism and heart problems dramatically increase after a dog has been neutered.

3. Neutered animals get cancer of the prostate, urinary tract, heart and bone much more frequently than non-neutered dogs?

4. Neutered animals get obese three times more than non-neutered dogs.

5. Neutering increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations.


On the positive side of neutering there are pluses –

1. Eliminates the small risk (less than 1{d411b256902d0fb544345f93b06e6b25d21068214dc23fff2bc59e85ee1a0062} of testicular cancer in males)

2. Reduces the risk of fistulas in male dogs

3. Reduces the risk of mammary gland tumors in females

4. Removes the risk of uterine, cervical and ovarian tumors (which are now less the .5{d411b256902d0fb544345f93b06e6b25d21068214dc23fff2bc59e85ee1a0062}) in females.

5. Reduces the risk of pregnancy and bringing unwanted puppies into the world.


To read the whole study


We think that given the correct information, each pet owner will be able to come to an informative decision regarding his/her own pet and the specifics of their life style. Obviously if you live in the suburbs and you have several children and an unsprayed female dog that could be let out during her season by accident, the obvious and safest answer is to spay that particular dog. Also if you have a dog that is stronger than you, pulls you down the road on a leash and likes to fight with other dogs, then that is a candidate to be neutered. However, the long term health effects are such, that if you at all can take care of your pet, train it, and train it some more, keep it safe and under control, it would be better not to neuter. The answer obviously is to become more educated on the subject, to be totally accountable for that dog and to make the best and most honest decision you can based on your own circumstances.

It seems common sense to say that you deprive the body of its’ hormones, the price will be paid somewhere and somehow in the future. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!

One item that is not mentioned in the study is the difference in cost of keeping neutered and non-neutered dogs. Whole animals are a lot less expensive in the long term than neutered animals and they live longer. Since so many dogs are hypothyroid shortly after spaying or neutering, they have to be maintained on medication for the rest of their lives. As they age, their rear ends become weak and that means more medication, trips to the veterinarian, chiropractor, possibly acupuncture and hydrotherapy. The cancer statistics of neutered dogs is staggering and having to face that at any time in a dogs life, is not only emotionally devastating, it is also very expensive to treat. Adverse reactions to vaccinations can be costly too.

So think before leaping into a decision based on old wives tales and myths, educate yourself, and train, train and train some more! If your veterinarian doesn’t agree with you, take the study above to his office and let him read it.

Wendy Volhard

Brandy Station, Va.


Why Volhard Dog Nutrition?

Several years ago when a contaminated dog food scare was in full swing, we began to study and research dog foods. While we found that the dry kibble we were feeding our Labradors was not affected by the recall, we came to understand that it was not the best choice in dog foods. We also came to the conclusion that dry kibble can be detrimental to a dog’s good health.

During our time of study and research, a friend recommended Wendy Volhard’s book, “Holistic Guide For A Healthy Dog”. After reading Wendy’s book, we came to the decision that a raw, natural diet was the absolute best choice for optimal health of our Labradors. Sandy then attended Wendy’s “Healthy Dog Conference”. The vast amount of knowledge she gained at the conference made it clear that a raw, natural diet was THE way to feed our Labradors.

One of the most profound things we learned in our studies is the fact that dry kibble takes up to 16 hours to digest. That means that if you feed your dog twice a day, his body is trying to digest that kibble 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to the “Holistic Guide For A Healthy Dog”, “semi-moist and dry dog foods sit in the stomach because there are not enough enzymes in the stomach to break them down. When this happens, enzymes are sent from the heart, the liver, the kidneys and other body parts to aid the stomach with digestion. This process is known as enzyme robbing”. Enzyme robbing is detrimental to the various organs from which enzymes are taken to aid the digestion process.

Many other factors went into our decision to transition our Labradors to a raw, natural diet and into our decision to feed Volhard Dog Nutrition. At puppy pick-up we give our puppy clients a copy of Wendy’s gook to help them understand the importance of proper nutrition for the optimal mental and physical health of their new Labrador. Wendy’s book offers a wealth of information about rearing a puppy naturally.

Our Labradors have always look good. Since switching to Volhard Dog Nutrition we have seen an improvement in their physical condition. This is evident by even healthier coats; less shedding; quicker recovery time post whelping, injury, or surgical procedure; and increased stamina. Feeding them naturally gives them stronger immune systems and they are better able to resist diseases and parasites. We believe that in feeding Volhard Dog Nutrition we are helping them live longer and healthier lives.


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