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QUESTION: What health checks are required for Bolognese?

ANSWER: We are pleased to say that the Bolognese is a healthy little dog and directories don’t list hereditary diseases for our breed. The Kennel Club say, ‘There are not currently any veterinary screening schemes or DNA tests for disease relevant to this breed under the Assured Breeder Scheme, however you should still ask breeders and refer to breed clubs about health issues in the breed’.

When you buy your puppy, the pedigree will most probably be endorsed saying that the dog’s progeny cannot be registered by the Kennel Club. As with other breeds, this endorsement is a recommendation from the breed clubs to help prevent unscrupulous breeding. This endorsement can only be lifted by the person who registered the litter, if they feel that the situation is right for breeding. To lift the endorsement the dog will have to have some ‘health tests’. The health checks that you will come across in Bolognese are Patella Testing, visual Eye Examinations and DNA Testing for prcd-PRA. We will discuss these tests individually.


Patella Luxation testing and scoring schemes in dogs

Patella luxation in dogs is a condition where the patella or knee-cap can move from its normal central position at the front of the knee or stifle joint to one side or the other. This condition is more common in the smaller breeds. Patella problems are rare in The Bolognese compared to other small dogs, but of course testing breeding stock will help to keep it that way.

What are Patella Luxation testing and scoring schemes?

Patella Luxation testing & scoring schemes in dogs are organised by many responsible breed associations or societies.

The dog breeder or owners bring their dogs, which they plan to breed, for an examination by a veterinary surgeon that is familiar with the Putnam Patellar Luxation Grading System. The examination is normally performed during an orthopaedic examination without sedation. In the UK & Ireland there is no official Kennel Club testing scheme for Patella Luxation as there are for Hip & elbow dysplasia and eye screening.

What do the different scores mean in the Putnam Patellar Luxation Grading system for dogs?

The Putnam grading system grades dogs from Grade 0- no luxation present- normal, to increasing severity from Grade 1-4.

The following description is used by some breed societies as guidance although slight variations in the wording and description exists between breed societies. Most breed societies provide their own forms for the vet to complete.

 Grade 0: Normal

 Grade 1: the patella can be manually luxated with the stifle in full extension, but when pressure is released without manipulation of the limb the patella regains its original position in the trochlea. Spontaneous luxation of the patella during normal joint motion rarely occurs. Typically stifle and hock in a straight line with no deviation of the hock.

 Grade 2: the patella can be completely luxated, but manipulation of the hind limb (flexion of the stifle) causes the patella to regain its original position in the trochlear. On physical examination, the patella luxates easily, especially when the foot is rotated.

 Grade 3: the patella is found (at least once) spontaneously luxated with the animal in a standing position or it is permanently luxated but can be repositioned manually or by manipulating the limb. Very shallow or flattened trochlear.

 Grade 4: the patella is permanently luxated and cannot be repositioned. May scarcely be able to walk or may move in a crouched position with both limbs partially flexed, and/or they may carry the affected limb. Trochlea is shallow, absent or even convex.


The British Veterinary Association (BVA) screening programme for hereditary eye disease in dogs is run in conjunction with the Kennel Club and the International Sheep Dog Society. The Scheme now covers 12 hereditary eye conditions in over 50 breeds. The main purpose of the scheme is to ensure that there is no evidence of hereditary eye disease in dogs used for breeding. Eye testing for Bolognese is vital to prevent the condition being passed on.

Bolognese breeders are eye testing their dogs in two ways. Firstly by a visual examination by a specialist vet to look into the eye and see if any eye conditions are visible on examination. A certificate is issued, which says that the parts of the eye have been examined and that the dog is (at the time of testing) clear of any hereditary eye disease. The BVA recommends that breeders submit dogs for annual eye tests as some diseases have late onset of clinical signs. The test is carried out by an approved vet and it involves drops being put in the dog’s eyes a short time before the examination with an ophthalmoscope. The test is quick and simple and some show societies arrange eye testing sessions at their shows or at other pre-arranged times by appointment.


Also for PRA (although only one kind of PRA at the moment) a DNA test is carried out which determines whether the dog is carrying the mutation for prcd-PRA. The DNA Screening tests can accurately identify clear, carrier and affected dogs, and can be used by breeders to effectively eliminate undesirable disease genes in their stock.

The Kennel Club, in conjunction with the breed clubs run schemes for a number of breeds which are known to carry specific hereditary conditions. Although the Bolognese is not required to be included in these schemes, Bolognese breeders do carry out the screening, along with visual eye examinations, so you come across discussions about DNA testing.

DNA Parentage Tests can also be carried out to check the sire of a puppy, as there is always the possibility of a split litter (different pups having different fathers).

Arranging a DNA test is very easy. You simply order the testing kit from the laboratory or organisation that you choose to use, take the sample and post it to them. Tests are now carried out using cheek swabs or a blood sample taken by a vet. Animal Genetics in St Austell, Cornwall carry out DNA screening for prcd-PRA in Bolognese. They are contactable on 01726 247788 www.animalgenetics.eu

To summarize
If you are buying a Bolognese puppy you should ask for copies of the parents patella tests, eye examinations and relevant DNA tests for prcd-PRA. If you have any questions you can email us on info@bolognesedogclubuk.co.uk

More information from

The Kennel Club

The Animal Health Trust 



Melanie Thomas, Chairperson

Melanie Thomas, Chairperson

I live in St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex with 2 Bolognese and I show one of my dogs.