Health Matters – The Estrela Mountain Dog

EMDC (UK) Health Update By Nichola Luna: January 2020 Newsletter Health

Includes 2019 health Overview, Hip Dysplasia, Cherry Eye, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, DBRG Symposium.


EMD Health Survey Questionnaire 2018


We had a fantastic response to the Estrela Mountain Dog Health Survey, and would like to thank Nichola Marshall (EMDC (UK) Health Co-ordinator) for all her hard work on not only producing the survey, but also collating all the responses and providing us with the results.

Below is a link to the Survey results.


The survey is now closed.

The EMDC (UK) proudly supports the Kennel Club’s ‘Fit for Function’ & ‘Happy Healthy Dogs’ campaign

The goal in dog breeding is functionally healthy dogs with a construction and mentality typical to the breed, dogs that can live a long and happy life for the benefit and pleasure of the owner and the society as well as the dog itself. Breeding should be carried out in such a manner that it promotes the health and well-being of the progeny, as well as the welfare of the bitch. Knowledge, honesty and cooperation, both on national and international level, is basic in healthy dog breeding. Breeders should be encouraged to emphasize the importance of the combination of dogs as well as selection of the individual dog to be used for breeding.”  (Taken from the FCI’s Strategie for Breeding.  Please see the pdf file to the right for the full document.)

When looking for a puppy, of any pure breed or mixed breed, we strongly recommend that you ask for the health testing results for both parents.  It is not enough to have just one parent tested, as the other parent may be affected with diseases that are unseen by the naked eye therefore exposing the puppies to potential risk of becoming afflicted with the same diseases.

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD)

Above is a a table that shows the comparison between hip testing scores from different countries

Unfortunately the Estrela Mountain Dog is one of many large breeds that can suffer with Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD).  Whilst many dogs can live a totally normal life with this disease in its lesser degree, many have a painful existence and some need operating on for any chance of a decent life.  There is no way to eradicate CHD, but the occurrences can be minimised by regular testing using the BVA Scheme available to all.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has a comprehensive scoring system which is one of the best in the world.  An x-ray is taken of the dogs hips, and they are scored by a panel at the BVA.  Each hip has its own score, and the two are added together to get the total.  This means that you will know if one hip is affected more than the other.

In the UK, each hip can score between 0 to 53, 0 is the best score and 53 the worst.  When these are added together to get the total, this is the score used by BVA to calculate the ‘mean’ or ‘median’ score for each breed.  The results are usually written down by breeders as follows:

5:5 = 10.  This would mean that the right hip scored 5, the left hip scored 5 and the total score was 10.

In Estrelas the current breed ‘median’ is 12 (over 15 years) and 10 (over 5 years). So it looks like our dogs’ hips are improving – or it maybe that only dogs with potentially good hips are put forward for scoring. This means that the Kennel Club and BVA recommend that only dogs with scores with a total less than 12 be used for breeding.  Please bear this in mind if looking for an Estrela puppy.

Obviously, with a very small gene pool like the Estrela has in the UK, other factors may outweigh the use of a dog with a higher score than 12.  For instance, if the dog is an import and has fresh bloodlines and good breed type and also comes from lines with good hip scores, then you may put it to a dog/bitch here that has a slightly higher score than 12.  In a numerically small breed sense has to be used, to avoid  ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’!!

In the Further Reading section on the right there is a booklet that has been produced by the BVA which will hopefully explain a little more about CHD.  We hope you will take the time to read it, and understand that problems that this disease can cause a dog.  If you would like more information on the health schemes currently available, please visit the BVA website (link in Further Reading section to the right).

Elbow Dysplasia (ED)

Elbow dysplasia (ED) is a significant problem in many breeds worldwide, and although it begins in puppyhood it can continue to affect the dog for the rest of its life.  The principal cause of ED lies in the genetic make up of the animal. Therefore, a scheme that screens animals for elbow abnormalities will allow animals with the best elbow joints to be chosen for breeding, and will help to reduce the level of the problem in the canine population.” (taken from the BVA ED Booklet)

Estrelas can also suffer with ED, as with most structural deformities, larger breeds are more prone to being affected by them.  Very few breeders in the UK test for this condition, but it should be emphasised that this is just as important as testing for HD, even though not as well known about.

The current testing procedure is to take 2 x-rays of each elbow, this allows the examiners to see most areas of the joint that can be affected by abnormalities.  Each elbow is graded, but unlike the CHD scoring system, the overall grade is equal to the highest of the two elbow grades.  They are not added together as they are with the hip test.

For example:  A dog has one elbow with a score of 2 and one of 1, the overall score would be 2 (not 3!).

The grading system is simple:

0 = Normal
1 = Mild ED
2 = Moderate ED or a primary lesion
3 = Severe ED

For further information regarding Elbow Dysplasia, please read the booklet in the further reading section on the right, and also visit the BVA website (link in Further Reading section to the right.)