Caring for Your Faithful CompanionLagotto Romagnolo: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you like Lagottos and you expected her to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
Energetic and playful
Good with children and other pets
Lively, with a friendly personality
Intelligent and easy to train
Highly active and eager to have a purpose
Hypoallergenic coat sheds very little
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
Can be rambunctious and rowdy, especially as a younger dog
Requires vigorous, frequent exercise and space to run
Wary of strangers, with a tendency to vocalize
Easily bored or distracted if not given something to do
Coat needs to be cared for frequently to prevent matting and tear staining
Likes to dig
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! She is an affectionate and devoted family companion. Lagottos are intelligent working dogs that require early training and socialization, or they just might train you!
The Lagotto Romagnolo is an ancient water retriever that was developed in the Romagna region of Italy. Originally used as a duck retriever they have become specialized truffle hunters. They have a keen sense of smell and easily learn to sniff out the prized mushroom. Lagottos have a thick, curly, waterproof coat and webbed toes that help them to perform in chilly water when retrieving fowl. The Lagotto Romagnolo is a versatile dog that succeeds in a wide range of activities including agility, obedience, and hunting. They are highly energetic and thrive with an active family. The Lagotto is a social breed that can become highly attached to their owner and likes to be in the middle of everything.
Your Lagotto Romagnolo’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Lagotto. By knowing about health concerns specific to Lagotto Romagnolos, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed. That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen in Lagotto Romagnolos to give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Lagotto Romagnolos. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Lagotto looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Lagotto Romagnolo
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Lagotto is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Lagotto’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Lagotto Romagnolos are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — the same ones that all dogs can get — such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, her age, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Lagotto Romagnolos. It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Lagotto’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest her skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into her system in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Lagotto is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Lagotto Romagnolos
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Lagotto Romagnolos commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
The cerebellum is the part of the brain that gives balance and coordination. Cerebellar Abiotrophy is a genetic neurologic disease that affects certain breeds of dogs, including Lagottos. The problem starts in early puppyhood, with affected dogs usually beginning to show symptoms between 6 and 16 weeks of age. This condition causes affected dogs to lose the sense of space and distance, and become uncoordinated. It is not a painful condition, but the exact cause is not known, and there is no effective treatment. Dogs with this heritable condition should not be used for breeding.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Lagottos. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Both hips and elbows are at risk for dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the joints to develop improperly and results in arthritis. Stiffness in your Lagotto’s elbows or hips may become a problem for him, especially as he matures. You may notice that he begins to show lameness in his legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis—the sooner the better—to minimize discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s bones to identify issues as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes a good option in severe and life-limiting cases. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering!
Lagottos are prone to a common condition called hypothyroidism in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin and coat, hair loss, susceptibility to other skin diseases, weight gain, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes. We’ll conduct a blood screening test annually to screen for the disease. Treatment is usually simple: replacement hormones given in the form of a pill.
Short coatedness is very rare. It is not harmful but is considered a cosmetic defect. Affected dogs differ in appearance from normal, curly coated Lagotto Romagnolos. The short coat becomes noticeable by the age of 7 – 8 weeks, with affected puppies having an unusually short coat, especially on the head, ears and legs. In the adult dog there is usually long feathering on the body, ears and tail while the face and legs are short haired. These dogs have a normal shedding cycle. Coat length and texture is defined by a single inherited gene and a genetic test for carriers is available.
Repetitive, obsessive, compulsive behaviors can be issues for all ages of pets. Many times they are related to other conditions – medical or behavioral. Your watchful report as a pet parent early in the process will help our ability to correct this in your Lagotto Romagnolo. Many times, we can help you find appropriate activities for him making it easier to control the behavior aspect of the compulsion.
Taking Care of Your Lagotto Romagnolo at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Lagottos. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Lagotto live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
Over grooming may damage her curly coat; she should be clipped 3-4 times a year.
Lagotto Romagnolos generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
She’s a smart dog with lots of energy, so keep her mind and body active, or she’ll get bored. That’s when the naughty stuff starts.
She loves the water, and swimming is a great form of exercise for your Lagotto Romagnolo.
Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Lagotto Romagnolo needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
Change in appetite or water consumption
Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
Excessive incoordination, beyond normal puppy clumsiness
General reluctance to run or play
Dull coat, hair loss, sluggish, weight gain
Repetitive actions depending on the behavior, e.g. spinning, excessive licking, flank sucking
Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Lagotto counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
Ackerman L. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs. Second edition. AAHA Press; 2011.
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