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Health and Genetics Research

Donations are accepted for groundbreaking research on polymyositis
Health Concerns, Information, and Testing

The Kooikerhondje, although a healthy breed, can be genetically prone to the diseases listed below. Due to the diligence of Kooiker enthusiasts around the world, these problems can be controlled through selective breeding. Testing is available for most problems, and we encourage all owners, even pet owners, to submit their dogs for testing so we may monitor and evaluate the health of the Kooikerhondje in the United States.

Good breeders will provide documentation that both parents of any puppy have been tested for those problems where screening tests have been developed.

Read Health Testing Step by Step for instructions on testing a dog and registering it on the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)


• VWD is a hereditary clotting disorder caused by a defect or deficiency of a blood clotting protein, called von Willebrand Factor, that is required for platelet adhesion.

• This condition makes those afflicted likely to bleed abnormally and severely. This can lead to potentially life threatening consequences in situations such as accidental injuries, spaying, or neutering.


• ENM is a devastating disease still undergoing intense study. It is a recessive degenerative spinal disease, similar to multiple sclerosis in humans, with clinical signs beginning at three to 12 months old starting with paralysis in the hind legs. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment, and will always result in the dog’s death.

More information will be coming soon.

• In July 2016, the VHNK announced new developments in testing for ENM.


• The patella, or kneecap, is part of the stifle joint (knee). In patellar luxation, the kneecap luxates, or pops out of place, either in a medial or lateral position.

• This is a hereditary defect, although it has been documented to also be caused by malnutrition and/or over-exercise. Nederlandse Kooikerhondjes, as well as all dogs mixed or purebred, are susceptible to this structural defect. It is prevented through selective breeding, choosing parents who have been cleared by use of a licensed canine orthopedic specialist’s diagnosis. The official evaluation normally occurs after 12 months, once most of the growing is done, however you may have your dog inspected earlier by a qualified veterinarian for symptoms.

• Find out more on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals’ (OFA) website.


• A condition of the hip joint in which the bones are not properly formed, resulting in a loose hip socket to femoral head connection causing pain and lameness ranging from mild to crippling. This can be cause by a polygenic inherited defect or an environmental variable such as improper diet in the young dog, obesity and/or physical over-exertion. Like Patella Luxation, screening programs will reduce incidence of Hip Dysplasia.

• Ask a qualified veterinarian to x-ray your dog and submit the results to OFA or Pennhip. OFA radiographs can be taken without anesthesia by experienced qualified veterinarians. PennHIP requires anesthesia. Although Hip Displaysia is not a prevalent problem in the breed, it is always good to test for so we may avoid problems with future generations.


• Like patella luxation, all dogs mixed or purebred are susceptible to hereditary eye abnormalities and deformations such as cataracts or retinal dysplasia. It is important to have your dog examined by a board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist and registered with CERF, the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, now included with OFA (find registration form here). Examinations can take place at any stage in your dog’s life, however certification is only good for 12 months from the date of the eye exam. Annual re-examination is recommended.


The following illnesses have been (rarely) noted in Kooikerhondjes, but no screening tests are presently available. Only selective breeding can assist in the avoidance of these problems. Please ask the breeder of any puppy for information regarding these illnesses in the background of his or her dogs.


• Epilepsy is a disease where a dog has epileptic seizures. There are several types of seizures that are seen, and many times the owner isn’t even aware of the problem. An epileptic seizure is the clinical manifestation of abnormal brain activity in the cerebral cortex. These abnormalities can create seizures that vary from the mild “petit mal” to the generalized, full body “grand mal.”

• Epilepsy in canines is classified into two types: Idiopathic (also known as Primary) and Secondary. In Secondary epilepsy, a specific cause for the seizures is discovered, such as ingesting toxins or hypoglycemia. We now speak specifically about idiopathic epilepsy, which is diagnosed when there is no known cause for the condition, and assumed to be inherited. This disease may possibly be avoided by removing known sufferers, their parents, their parent’s siblings and the sufferer’s siblings from breeding programs.


• An autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of one or more muscles resulting in loss of functionality and muscle weakness in the affected areas. Myositis is a progressive form of the disease with a very poor prognosis. We see two groups. A group of relatively young dogs with swallowing or eating problems. The second group of dogs are young to middle age and have more or musculoskeletal problems or even the combination with swallowing problems. Symptoms: Depending on the location and shape myositis, the most common symptoms are: reduced endurance, muscle weakness, swallowing problems, fever, total exhaustion, no will to play or walk, lameness, stiffness, walking with curved back, salivation, vomit, and lack of appetite.

• This condition is often difficult to recognize because many symptoms are also features of other disorders. If left undiagnosed, myositis is lethal; if diagnosed early, available treatments are immunosuppressants and steroids. Kooikers with myositis seem to pass away 3 or 4 years after being diagnosed. Myositis can be inherited or caused by infections, autoimmune diseases, and/or toxins. It can be misdiagnosed as Myasthenia Gravis by veterinarians. A muscle biopsy by a qualified veterinarian is necessary to make a definitive diagnosis. Intensive research is currently underway in the Netherlands. Please contact the NKCUSA Health and Genetics Committee if you have a suspected sufferer.


• Glomerular diseases are caused by immune-complexes that have become deposited in the glomerulus or have formed in place which initiate glomerular damage. Immune mechanisms may also take part in the pathogenesis of glomerular.

• Inflammation in Familial glomerular diseases is known in Bernese Mountain dog, Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel (especially English), Dalmatian, Doberman Pinscher, Newfoundland, Chinese Shar-pei, and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.

• No gender predisposition has been found. Affected dogs may be asymptomatic or they may have non-specific signs of disease (weight loss, lethargy), or present with signs consistent with chronic renal failure or uremia (polyuria, polydipsia, anorexia, vomiting, malodorous breath). Other signs can be fluid retention (abdominal enlargement consistent with ascites, subcutaneous edema) or thromboembolism (dyspnea, decreased or absent peripheral pulse, loss of limb function). Protein found in the urine is may be diagnostic but renal biopsy is required for definitive diagnosis. Owners and veterinarians should watch out for high blood pressure. Therapy consists of immunosuppression and is mainly symptomatic. Mode of inheritance in the Kooiker is unknown.

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