The Animal Health Trust and the Kennel Club have announced that a new, non-invasive DNA test for the genetic mutation causing macular corneal dystrophy (MCD) in Labradors will be available from the Animal Health Trust DNA Testing Service from Monday 26 January 2015.The Animal Health Trust and the Kennel Club have announced that a new, non-invasive DNA test for the genetic mutation causing macular corneal dystrophy (MCD) in Labradors will be available from the Animal Health Trust DNA Testing Service from Monday 26 January 2015.

Macular corneal dystrophy (MCD) is a hereditary eye disease which, although painless, causes severe visual impairment in affected dogs. 

The mutation for MCD is recessive; meaning only dogs that inherit two copies of the mutation will be affected. Dogs identified by the test as Clear have no copies of the mutation whereas Carriers have one copy of the mutation. Clears and Carriers cannot develop MCD, although Carriers will pass the mutation on to about half of their puppies if they reproduce. Dogs identified as Genetically Affected have two copies of the mutation and will develop MCD around middle-age. The DNA test can be used to screen dogs at any age and provides a means of eliminating the causal mutation from the Labrador Retriever gene pool.

Dogs affected with MCD will develop cloudy eyes, due to an abnormal accumulation of carbohydrates (known as glycosaminoglycans) in their corneas. The only treatment for the disease in people is to surgically perform a corneal transplant; however this has not yet been performed successfully in the dog for the treatment of MCD.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the Animal Health Trust, said: "We're really pleased to be able to provide this new test in 2015. Screening Labradors for the mutation responsible for this condition will help to identify those dogs at risk of developing MCD, and/or passing it on to their puppies. Dogs don't typically develop MCD until middle age - so without a DNA test there is a chance that affected dogs are unknowingly bred from. Now, affected and carriers dogs can easily be identified through one simple test giving breeders peace of mind.

"By developing this test and encouraging screening within the Labrador population we hope that this horrible disease can now be eliminated from the breed. This is the aim behind all of our work in canine genetics and we're thrilled to have been able to make such good progress in developing this test after MCD was first reported in Labradors by one of own veterinary ophthalmologists in 2013. Since then we've worked closely with the ophthalmology team here at the Animal Health Trust and Labrador owners and breeders from various European countries and have managed to identify the mutation and launch this test within two years, which is great news for Labrador owners."

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: "The Labrador is the most popular breed in the UK, so there is certainly a high demand for puppies, and it is crucial that those being bred are as healthy as possible.

"This test will further assist breeders of Labradors in breeding healthy, happy examples of the breed and we are delighted to be able to offer another tool to improve and maintain the breed's health.

"The work carried out at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust really does make a massive difference to the lives of dogs and we are thrilled that Labrador breeders will now be able to make use of another health test to protect the health of the breed they love."

For more information, visit www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk. The test costs £48 inc VAT, with a 10% discount when at least 20 samples are submitted within a month. Interested parties should contact dnatesting@aht.org.uk with a start date to request a discount code.