Diversity & Kinship Project


  • Dogs in a breed are genetically similar
  • Every English Shepherd is also unique
  • Understanding  breed genetics facilitates conservation
  • Help us measure genetic diversity and kinship patterns!

Progressive Retinal Atrophy in English Shepherds

The Problem

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a heritable eye disease that results in blindness.  While there are genetic tests for some genetic mutations responsible for PRA, there have been a handful of cases of PRA in English Shepherds that test clear for the known genetic mutations. It is likely that there is a novel PRA variant in English Shepherds.  Based on the cases so far, it appears to behave as an autosomal recessive but it is too soon to be sure.

The Opportunity

There is a geneticist in the UK with funding from the “Consortium for Research into Inherited Eye Disease in Dogs” (CRIEDD) who is analyzing DNA from English Shepherds. She has found a region of interest that is a good candidate for PRA in English Shepherds.  To further test and confirm this we need to collect more data — information from English Shepherds affected by PRA, relatives to these affected dogs, and from unrelated dogs with normal eye exams (over about 6 years of age).

How You Can Help

Test your dog and share the results with ESBC!

The specific tests needed are an eye exam and a DNA sample.  Eye exams need to be done by an ophthalmologist. There are sometimes eye screening exams offered at events and, when that’s the case, the price is usually discounted to about $35-50.  There is a list of upcoming clinics on the “Cavilier Health” website https://www.cavalierhealth.org/health_clinics.htm  as well as one on the OFA website event calendar.  If a screening clinic isn’t available, the cost varies — about $75-80 is common.  ESBC can help offset the cost of eye exams in some cases, we just need to be in contact with you to sort that out.

The DNA kits for affected dogs are also available at minimal/no cost.

ESBC treats all information (test results) from individual dogs as confidential.

The researcher studying this is hopeful that the cause can be identified;  the more data we can provide her, the faster her work will go.  We will be reaching out to ES owners in general, and to specific breeders in particular, to try to reach a goal of providing information on 10 cases and 10 controls (unrelated to the cases).  Your help is greatly appreciated.  Owners willing to test their dogs, or who have already done so, should contact ESBC at esconservancy@gmail.com .

Diversity & Kinship Project


  • Dogs in a breed are genetically similar.
  • Every English Shepherd is also unique.
  • Understanding breed genetics facilitates conservation
  • Help us measure genetic diversity and kinship patterns!

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing provides owners and breeders with information on their dog’s health, ancestry, and factors that give their dog its unique appearance and attributes.  Genetic testing that contributes to a breed-specific genetic database also benefits the breed as a whole — both now and in the future.  In partnership with Embark, ESBC offers the most comprehensive genetic testing currently available at a significantly discounted price.

Sire Line Survey


* Do you own a male English Shepherd?

* Is he over 18 months of age?

* Is he intact OR has he sired a litter in the past?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, please click on the button below and respond to this brief survey!!  Your information will help us determine how many distinct sire lines currently exist in English Shepherds.

Support and Resources


  • Need help interpreting your dog’s genetic report?
  • Looking for information on health problems, testing & certification programs, and available resources?
  • Trying to determine which dogs have the most to offer your breeding program?

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