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Retinal Dysplasia (Folds)

Liaison: Helen Newman

Retinal dysplasia: The term dysplasia means a defective development of an organ or structure.  Merck, CERF and the Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology explain it as follows: “it is a nonprogressive, abnormal development of the retina that is present at birth. It occurs when the 2 primitive layers of the retina do not form together properly.  The disorder can be inherited or it can be caused by a prenatal infection (e.g. herpes virus or parvovirus)”.

There are 3 types:

1.       Focal or multifocal retinal dysplasia: folds or small rosettes, single or multiple, may become less evident with maturity  (vision impairment is unknown, but blinds spots can occur)

2.        Geographic retinal dysplasia: irregularly shaped areas of the retinal tissue that appear similar to a horseshoe in shape.  These lesions can change in appearance with age.  These lesions can co-exist with folds or rosettes.  As the folds may disappear later when the retinas mature, this type of dysplasia will persist.  (some degree of visual impairment and possibly blindness)

3.        Complete retinal dysplasia with detachment: most severe, often leads to blindness and secondary problems such as glaucoma, has been linked to skeletal defects in the Labrador Retriever and the Samoyed.


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Signs and Symptoms

There are no outward symptoms of the eye but signs that the puppy/dog is having difficulty seeing would include frequently bumping into objects, less activity, and possibly timid or fearful.  An eye examination by an ophthalmologist should be performed.


The cause of retinal dysplasia in most dogs is genetic in origin and a congenital disease.  Others causes include viral infections, vitamin A deficiency, x-ray radiation, certain drugs, and intrauterine trauma.  Simple autosomal recessive inheritance has been suspected in Akitas, American Cocker Spaniels, Australian Shepherds, Bedlington Terriers, Beagles, Dobermans, English Springer Spaniels, Labradors, Rottweilers, Old English Sheepdogs, Sealyham Terriers, and Yorkshire Terriers. In many breeds ophthalmologists and researchers have not determined exactly how retinal dysplasia is passed. In the Labrador retriever and Samoyed breeds, a combination of retinal dysplasia and skeletal defects (dwarfism) has been described.


Risk Factors

  • toxicity (something in the envivorment that the bitch may be exposed to during pregnancy or the newborn is exposed to)
  • infection during pregnacy (e.g herpes virus and possibly parvovirus)
  • a trauma at a very young age
  • inherited the genetic make up for RD

Diagnostic Tests

Retinal dysplasia can be detected as early as 6-8 weeks during a CERF examination. However, because the size of the eye is small and young puppies are often wiggling during examination, a re-examination is recommended 6 months later in order for the ophthalmologist to better see the back of the eye is recommended.

7/25/2008 - Optigen now has a DNA test available for the gene mutation that causes inherited Retinal Dysplasia/OculoSkeletal Dysplasia (OSD, ie.,dwarfism) in the Samoyed and Labrador Retriever.  For more information:

Treatment Guidelines

Note: Treatment of animals should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Veterinarians should consult the current literature and current pharmacological formularies before initiating any treatment protocol.


  • There is no treatment for retinal dysplasia. 
  • The affected animal should not be used in a breeding program.
  • Annual eye checks with an ophthalmologist



Aroch,I, Ofri R. and Alzenberg, I., Haematological, ocular and skeletal abnormalities in a Samoyed family.  The Journal of Small Animal Practice.  Vol.37:7, p.333-339,  1996    link to abstract three bones rating


American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist  1999  three bones rating

Howell,D.M. Stankovics, M.E., Sarna C.S. and Aguirre G.D.  The geographic form of retinal dysplasia in dogs is not always a congenital abnormality.  Veterinary Ophthalmology  p. 61-66, 1999.  link to abstract three bones rating


MacMillian A.D. and Lipton D.E., Heritability of Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia in American Cocker Spaniels,  JAVMA, vol. 172:5 p. 568-572  1978. link to abstract three bones rating

Meyers V.N., Jezyk P.F., Aguirre G.D. and Paterson D.F., Short-limbed dwarfism and ocular defects in the Samoyed dog,  JAVMA, vol. 183:9, p. 975-979, Nov. 1, 1983. link to abstract three bones rating

Willis, Malcolm B.   “Genetics of the Dog”  Howell Book House 1989.  three bones rating



Suggested Links

OFA Eye Evaluation   three bones rating

Merck Veterinary Manual   three bones rating

Gionfriddo, Julie (AVCO diplomate),  Retinal Dyspalsia and Retinal Folds   three bones rating

Stroyan, Keith D., Dwarfism and Eye disorders in Labrador Retrievers, Important Scientific Findings.  two bones rating  two bones rating


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