Recently, we have seen more signs of puppies in this breed being affected with serious health issues, ranging from the abnormal development of teeth, poor vision, blindness, and issues with abnormal growth. It is common that when a pup is affected, it often displays all of the symptoms.
The dental abnormalities are the most common and are found to affect the teeth in various degrees. The teeth can display minimal signs of abnormalities i.e. discoloration, where other dogs have teeth in very poor condition.
This condition is called odontogenesis imperfecta (the whole tooth is abnormal in predisposition).
The lack of enamel and exposure of dentin cause “weak” teeth that can break easily. Removal of tooth residues must be done with specialistic care due to minimize further infection or damage.
Image 1: baby teeth in severe condition
Dwarfism, stunted growth. There are some puppies known that have remained small from an early age and did not develop well. However, there are also dogs that develop normally during the first months and stand straight on their legs, but after six months are clearly shorter on the legs, get crooked pasterns and become completely out of proportion.
Image 2: weak pasterns
However, there are also those that have a fairly normal build and size with a year. How and why this manifests itself in this way is not yet clear. Pups seem to be more prone to bone fractures.
The blindness, which very often is noticed firstly in the dark, is also a characteristic. It can be seen as PRA (progressive retinal atrophy). The retina deteriorates more and more until the dog is completely blind. It is not a painful eye disease, but neither can it be cured or delayed. The puppies have a green reflection in their eyes and with a normal photo with flash the eyes give a flashlight effect. A correct diagnosis can be obtained from an eye specialist. The dog will receive an eyedrop, after which the eye can be looked at in a darkened area.
Image 3: green reflection in the eyes
Other symptoms. Deafness is mentioned by several owners, some of them have an official diagnosis by use of a BAER test. Again, the age and degree to which it manifests itself varies.
Image 4; Puppy during a BAER test
Further mentioned symptoms; abnormal behavior / tics, kidney problems and uncleanliness that sometimes comes after the puppy has been toilet trained, house broken for months and soft brittle nails.
DSRA and breeding.
DSRA is a serious disease, Animals seldom reach the age of two years. Some puppies are so severely affected that they must be put down as young as 8 weeks.
Also, quality of live is at stake; chewing is sometimes painful because of the bad teeth, the blindness makes the dog insecure, the skeletal abnormalities cause crooked legs and swollen joints. The deafness ensures that the dog becomes even more in a world of its own.
Surgery -removing teeth- and painkillers helps the dog for a while, but at some point, the owner must face the fact that the dog is in too much discomfort. And it has to be euthanized. A very tough decision for the owners.
Breeders, until recently, did not know what they were dealing with for the symptoms are highly variable. Sometimes even in affected puppies in the same litter.
The heredity was not clear, and because the disease is rare and some breeders who encountered it were not open and honest about it, it has remained under the radar. So it has happened that breeders, unknowingly, and certainly unintentionally used animals in their breeding program that turned out to be carriers of the disease. So previously good breeders could not be blamed for it occurring in their puppies.
Fortunately, we now have a test to find the carriers of this disease.
DSRA turns out to be a single recessive gene. This is the outcome of an international collaboration of breeders, owners, specialists, Universities, and the company Laboklin. This means affected puppies can only be born if both parents are carriers of the gene.
What to do before breeding? To prevent affected animals from being born in the future it is important to know whether the parents are carriers, or completely free of the gene.
Carriers are not affected! Carriers can be used in a breeding program if they are mated with a free partner.
The advice therefore is to only make combinations in which at least one of the parents is free from DSRA, either proven with an official negative test result, or that both parents of one parent (the grandparents on one side) have been officially declared free.
Testing can be done with saliva swabs or a blood sample in EDTA tube. Test sets can be ordered at Laboklin. The breeder can send saliva swabs in himself, but then there is no guarantee for other people whether the dog is the one from the test. Therefore, it is better to arrange testing and shipment trough the vet. The veterinarian checks the name on the form and the pedigree, checks the chipnumber, takes the samples and arranges the shipment. After the test has been done the owner of the dog receives a certificate with the result. Only this way we can prevent that more dogs are being born with this terrible disease.
More information can be found on the Facebook group: Cane Corso dental imperfections, PRA, dwarfism.
For Russian speaking people, there is also the Facebook Group: DSRA на Русском (Дентально-Скелетно-Ретинальная аномалия Кане Корсо)
For the USA, DNA testing for DSRA is done by VetGen. Click here to go directly to the VetGen page for Cane Corso
For Europe, DNA testing for DSRA is done by Laboklin. Click here to go directly to the Laboklin page for the DSRA test
Bassie, one of the dogs in the joined research.