Entlebuchers generally have a hardy constitution

but there are some heritable health problems that

can crop up.


Before you actually buy a pup ask for proof of all

of the health certificates. Often people get what I

call "puppy fever" and throw common sense out

the window when someone says "Yes, I can have a pup

shipped to you tomorrow."



Dysplasia is simply defined as misalignment of the hip joint. There are many degrees of dysplasia. In its mildest forms it may not show up until the animal ages and the dysplasia becomes complicated by arthritis. In the most severe cases the animal may be crippled from puppy hood and may need major surgery to enable the dog to live a normal, pain free life. Dysplasia affects many breeds, mostly medium to large breeds. 

Dysplasia is polygenic, meaning that there are probably several genes involved. There are also theories that a genetic predisposition to dysplasia may be exacerbated by environmental conditions. There are studies underway designed to determine the effect of diet on dysplasia occurrence in larger breeds. In the meantime some breeders are attempting to avoid high calcium, high phosphorus diets that encourage very rapid growth in young puppies. This theory has not been proven and puppy diet modification should only be undertaken with veterinary supervision. 

All potential-breeding animals should be screened for dysplasia. The presence or absence of malformation and/or joint laxity can be determined with x-rays. Dogs can be screened at one year by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), but the OFA requires that the animal be at least 24 months before they will issue a certification. The screening need only be performed once at any time from 24 months on. Ask the breeder to see the certificate. Only those animals with Excellent, Good or Fair ratings should be bred. Very few Entles with OFA certification have "Excellent" ratings. The majority are OFA "Fair", the rest are of course "Good"

PennHIP is another method of testing for dysplasia.

It is still possible for a puppy to be born with dysplasia even if both parents have no evidence of dysplasia, however the odds are far more favorable than without screening. Oona is an example of this; her parents and grand parents were not dysplastic. Because dysplasia is polygenic it is recommended that one examine the incidence of dysplasia in littermates of parents and grandparents in order to estimate the likelihood of dysplasia-free breeding animals being carriers of some or all of the involved genes. This is very difficult to do. This is one of the reasons that a comprehensive, open genetic database is needed. Genetic testing for polygenic diseases may be a way off. Developing tests for single genes causing disease is still difficult at this time. Being able to determine which clusters of genes are responsible for diseases is even more complex.  

It is possible to directly check an Entlebucher's OFA rating on the OFA web page. All animals that have been certified as Fair, Good, Excellent, by OFA are listed along with their rating. Below is the link to the OFA.

For detailed information on PennHIP and access to a list of veterinarians certified to perform PennHIP examinations use this link to the University of Pennsylvania PennHIP page.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears (ACL)

This is not an uncommon injury in this breed. Some researchers believe there is a hereditary component in this injury in dogs. Others believe it is related to the athleticism,  condition and the activity level of the dog or a combination of both. Just as human "weekend warriors" often suffer from this condition so with Entles who are only  occasionally  heavily exercised. Entles who are elite athletes in agility, for example, are warmed up, cooled down and exercised on a regular basis. Entles will play whenever and as long and hard as someone will play with them. It is up to their human to  guide them well.

Luxating Patellas

There have been isolated cases of luxating patellas. Although considered hereditary in most breeds, I have had two occur in my line in all my years of breeding. I have only heard of a few others.


CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation)

OFA exams may only be performed by Board Certified veterinary ophthalmologists (DACVOs). An OFA Eye Registration certificate means that the dog was free of visible genetic eye disease at the time of exam. This test shoud be performed yearly.For more information go to :


Cataracts are the most prevalent eye problem in this breed. Cataracts are presumed to be inherited although they may caused by other diseases and may occasionally be caused by trauma. They sometimes lead to blindness but in many cases they do not. A cataract is typically a partial or complete opacity, or clouding, of the lens. Cataracts may be bilateral or unilateral. If cataracts are complete and affect both eyes, blindness results. In some cases, lens replacement such as that performed on humans is possible.

Cataract is believed to be an autosomal recessive trait. See PRA below.

Some believe animals with cataracts should never be bred. Others believe that because of the limited Entlebucher gene pool, it is necessary to breed Entles with posterior cataracts.  My belief is that we should concentrate our efforts on first eliminating diseases that cause distress/pain, or impairment or possibly death for the dog and are financially costly to treat for the owner. I don’t want to promote ignoring cataracts by any means; but with our gene pool, cataracts that bother neither the dog nor the owner are not of as great import as the other diseases that cause discomfort and/or disability to the dog and distress and financial expense to the owner.

Currently NEMDA permits breeding with  polar cataracts as long as the bitch or dog is bred to an older cataract free animal.

There have been a few reported cases of glaucoma in the Entlebucher. NEMDA's Genetics Committee is monitoring this. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)


As of July of 2004 there are no Entlebuchers bred from properly paired parents that should develop PRA. Dogs being diagnosed currently were typically conceived prior to availability of the Optigen PRA-prcd gene test.

Although cataracts are more prevalent in Entlebuchers, PRA has always been considered by most to be more problematic as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) causes progressive vision loss, usually first with night vision and ultimately results in blindness. There is no treatment for PRA. PRA is common in many breeds, particularly northern breeds.

In March of 2004, working with NEMDA, Cornell University discovered the gene  for PRA-prcd in Entlebucher Mountain Dogs. Many of our breeding dogs were/are carriers but now as of July 1, 2004 no Entlebuchers with PRA should be born in. We are currently seeing dogs born before that date being diagnosed with PRA. NEMDA has a support group for owners whose Entlebuchers have been diagnosed with PRA. As the vision loss is gradual the dogs do accommodate surprisingly well. It is often more difficult for the owner to accept and adjust.


There are three testing outcomes. Normal (A),  Carrier (B), and Afflicted (C). Results of various pairings below

A + A = 100% A

A + B = 50% A and 50% B

B + B = 25% A, 50% B and 25% C

B + C = 50% B and 50% C

C + C = 100% C


Some Entlebucher kennels advertise that they are "PRA Free".  All BCOE breeders have kennels that are "PRA Free" as they will never produce a PRA pup. They always insure that one parent in a breeding is "Normal". If "PRA Free" means that the advertising kennel will always only breed "Normal" to "Normal" then that is something else. Most informed breeders know the potential danger in doing this. Eliminating all carriers and afflicted dogs from breeding programs at this time means eliminating over 50% of the Entlebucher breeding gene pool from breeding consideration.

We must continue to breed carriers for a time as the Entlebucher gene pool is so small and more Entles are carriers and afflicted than clear at this time. We are continuing to breed carriers and some afflicted dogs that carry traits desirable for the Entlebucher breed. The reality is that there will no longer be afflicted dogs in a few years as the existing afflicted dogs are retired. Of course, at some time in the future, there will be a time when when only normal dogs will be bred as gradually the gene will be eliminated. Gradual is the key here.

Geneticists, including Dr. George Padgett our breed club consulting geneticist until his death,  have warned our NEMDA breeders against breeding only "Normals" as that would create a genetic bottleneck in the breed and could likely result in an increase in other even more catastrophic diseases. Dr. Padgett saw this happen repeatedly in other breeds when gene tests were developed.

As we identify the genes responsible for disease in our dogs it is critical that the gene pool remain as open as possible. For example, when we have to match breeding pairs by hip scores, CERF exams, Optigen and soon hopefully a gene test for EUS it is critical that the gene pool be as wide as possible or we will have not have enough dogs that can be matched for breeding. Gene testing is  a tool for responsible breeding. Responsible breeders must learn how to use it wisely, not just capitalize on it.

Elka and Farah are both "Normal" and can be bred to any stud. Arco was a "Carrier". Jedi is a "Carrier" and can only be bred to "Normal" bitches.

For more information go to the Optigen site,


Glaucoma is a disease defined by increased pressure within the eye. Dogs with glaucoma have an abnormal filtering system in their eyes which can obstruct the flow of intraocular fluid. This results in a buildup of pressure within the eye. Untreated, the rising pressure will cause irreparable damage and ultimate blindness. Diagnosed early, as with humans, the condition can be treated with medication. There is some, however limited, occurrence of the hereditary form of glaucoma in this breed. The only way to determine if this predisposition exists is with a gonioscopy examination performed by a DACVO (veterinary ophthalmologist). If the predisposition exists, your general practice vet can easily check eye pressure during routine visits and monitor for any rise in pressure.  If treatment begins in a timely fashion the disease can typically be well managed.

Entlebucher Urinary Syndrome (EUS)

EUS is a  genetic urinary tract malformation that appears to occur in varying degrees in the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.  Most affected dogs are completely asymptomatic, a few have minor incontinence issues and a very few develop serious kidney disease. There have been two known Entlebucher deaths as a result of bilateral hydrophonosis due to this syndrome, both female pups of five and ten months of age. It appears to occur in all lines. No Entlebucher breeder can in truth assure you that their dogs/pups do not carry the genes for EUS. However, the incidence of symptomatic EUS is very low.  Nearly all of our known symptomatic cases in North American have occurred in females.

As a result of the death of her ten month old bitch puppy, Indigo, pictured left, Janis Miller PhD, began the work with Michigan State to study the ectopic ureter problem.  NEMDA and the BCOE breeders are working with Michigan State University on a study of this disease. Because of the many differences in the manifestation of ectopic ureters in the Entlebucher this form has been named Entlebucher Urinary Syndrome. We are in the initial phase of the study which involves sophisticated medical testing of affected and normal Entlebuchers at Michigan State. Intensive pedigree evaluation is also being conducted along with study of the DNA collected from normal and affected dogs.

The goals of the study are :

"To use the information to describe how this disease in inherited in the breed, develop means of screening for this disease, develop breeding strategies to minimize the occurrence of this syndrome in the breed and ultimately, identify the gene(s) responsible for the components of this syndrome. If successful, our findings would benefit not only Entlebucher Mountain Dogs but also many other breeds that appear to have similar abnormalities in their urinary tract, as well as provide a model to better understand the development of similar abnormalities in humans."

NEMDA has a brochure on the subject which you can obtain at

Heart Disease

There have been a few instances of heart problems in the Entlebucher related to Tetrology of Fallot. Mostly stenosis.

Health Survey

The National Entlebucher Mountain Dog Association (NEMDA) conducted a North American Entlebucher Health Survey in 2002.  Findings were reviewed by the late Dr. George Padgett, DVM, a leading canine geneticist and the author of Controlling Canine Genetic Disease.

Results indicated that Entlebuchers are overall, a healthy breed. The survey confirmed the existence of the primary problems that we already knew occurred in the breed, PRA, cataracts and dysplasia. The following chart, provided by Dr. Padgett, shows the estimated frequency of disease in a sampling of breeds that have been studied. 

The “diseases” identified ranged from those major three already mentioned in the main section preceding this in the above section to: cruciate ligament ruptures, crooked tails, base narrow canines, umbilical hernias etc.

Most of these other health problems identified occurred with extremely low frequency 0.3 to 1.4 per 100 dogs typically. We may find a slight increase in the number of defective genes in our next health survey as we have conducted more extensive testing in recent years.

A second identical survey was conducted in 2012 with very similar outcomes and incidence rates. They remain still a relatively healthy, long lived breed; commonly 12 to 14, occasionally older. In very old age, cancer of the spleen, hemangioma, is the typical cause of death.

Health Issues to Consider

Get a written contract that clearly states both parties responsibilities in the event of a health problem.  Most breeders, at most,  only replace or refund for genetic disease that results in the death of the dog at a young age. A good breeder does everything within reason to avoid genetic health problems but no breeder can afford to refund medical expenses incurred during the life of the dog, however unexpected they are to the buyer. Seriously consider veterinary health insurance.

Don't buy a dog of any breed if you do not have the resources to care for it in the event of a serious medical problem. As with your children, odd and unexpected medical problems can occur. Veterinary medicine is very sophisticated and much of the equipment, tests and treatments are the same as those used in human medicine and thus very expensive.

Please don't be discouraged by health information; instead be empowered. Every breed has an equal or greater number of genetic problems that can occur. Mixed breeds can have any  of the hundreds of genetic diseases that affect all breeds. It is a myth that they are inherently  healthier. They can potentially carry  genes for any number of the diseases carried by the many breeds whose genes have contributed to their makeup. Many puppy buyers are not informed, don't ask and often are not educated by breeders. Be an informed buyer/owner.