Labrador Retriever – Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Labrador

Labrador Retriever - Progressive Retinal Atrophy in LabradorProgressive retinal atrophy is a genetic condition in Labradors. This disease affects the Labradors retina. Bilateral degeneration of the retina is a characteristic of this condition in Labrador Retrievers. This is a progressive disease since over time vision is slowly lost blindness is caused. This is a serious condition in Labs and there is no proper treatment available for this condition. Therefore, it is important to be more aware of this condition.

Causes for Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Labradors

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It is said that progressive retinal atrophy in Labradors is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait. We know that the retina is the back layer of the eye that contains light receptors for your vision. Any damage to this area will result in the depletion of light receptors that will ultimately cause blindness. In the case of generalized progressive retinal atrophy in Labradors, the neural retinal structures are affected. This condition can be dysplastic or degenerative. In the dysplastic condition, development of cells becomes abnormal; while in cases of degenerative progressive retinal atrophy the development of cells remain normal. However, after development these cells undergo damaging changes. As we discussed earlier, retinal atrophy in Labradors destroys the light receptor cells.

We know that there are two types of light receptor cells present in eyes, these are referred to as rod and cone cells. Rod cells are primarily used in low light while cone cells are active during more intensive light conditions. Generalized progressive retinal atrophy can affect either type of cells. This condition is not very common in Labrador retrievers. In Labradors this condition is quite common. In Labs who have progressive retinal atrophy, rod and cone cells initially will grow and develop as expected, however as the disease progresses the rod cells will begin to deteriorate. With time, the degeneration starts to affect the cone cells as well. This trait is linked with the ninth canine chromosome.

Signs & Symptoms of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Labradors

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Labradors associated with “night blindness” at the age of 4 to 6 years. As this disease progresses, complete blindness is observed between 6 to 8 years of life. Decreases in papillary light reflexes and dilated pupils are other symptoms of this condition.

Diagnosis of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Labradors

Diagnosis is usually based several specific symptoms. A fundoscopy is performed to examine the shrinkage of blood vessels in the retina and several other symptoms. In the later stages of this degeneration we have observed the formation of secondary cataracts in the posterior portion of the eye lens. Sometimes we need to use ERG (electroretinography), an efficient diagnostic tool, for a more reliable diagnosis of progressive retinal atrophy in Labradors. There is a breed specific genetic test is also available for progressive retinal atrophy diagnosis.

Treatment of Progressive Retinal Atrophy in Labradors

There is no specific medical treatment or cure available for progressive retinal atrophy. We can only provide supportive supplements to support the functioning of the retina of the affected dogs. Antioxidant nutritional therapy is used for this purpose, but there is no guarantee that these supplements will make a significant difference.


This disease progresses very slowly, with no proven medical treatment regardless of how soon a diagnosis is obtained.  It is always a smart move to research the pedigree of the Labrador you may be interested in buying. Selection of the specific trait free pedigree can reduce the chances of retinal atrophy in your Labrador.

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