The Cane Corso's recent boom in popularity has exacerbated some health problems in the breed. Now is the time to identify these issues and understand them so that we can move forward with eliminating them from this breed. The only way this will ever happen is if all breeders will collaborate in their findings in their breeding programs, as well as health test all breeding stock with published results. The purpose of this page is to identify each of the most common health problems in the Cane Corso and to share what we have produced here at Difesa Cane Corso. We hope that this information can be used as a valuable tool for others.
Hip Dysplasia is a genetic disorder where the hips do not develop correctly. Hip dysplasia is generally associated with joint laxity (the space between the ball of the femoral head and the socket of the pelvic bone (acetabulum) is greater than it should be). While the heritability of hip dysplasia is not clearly understood, research proves there is a genetic link, which is most likely polygenic. In many cases, overtime, hip dysplasia will cause the development of osteoarthritis, which can be cripplingly painful for some dogs. While hip dysplasia is genetic, there are many environmental factors that can, and do influence the severity and progression of the degeneration of the hip joints. These factors include, but are not limited to: Over feeding which causes puppies to grow too quickly, feeding diets inappropriate for large breed growing puppies, and/or allowing or forcing too much activity in large breed growing puppies. Because hip dysplasia is fundamentally genetic, it is critical that any and all Corsi, which are intended to be used for breeding, have their hips radiographed before breeding. In order for hips to be evaluated by OFA, the dog must be at least 2 years of age when the radiographs are taken. Click here for an article written by us for the Cane Corso Chronicle discussing Canine Hip Dysplasia in greater detail.
Elbow Dysplasia is a disorder of the elbow joint that is not clearly understood. There are multiple 'forms' of elbow dysplasia such as: osteochondrosis (the cartilage does not develop correctly), ununited anconeal process (this specific process on the ulna does not fuse appropriately as the puppy grows because the ulna grows more slowly than the radius), elbow incongruency (associated with cartilage development and trauma), fragmented coronoid process, and fragmented medial coronoid process (the radius grows more slowly than the ulna). Just as hip dysplasia is influenced by environmental factors, elbow dysplasia is, too. There is also a strong correlation between hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Allowing large breed growing puppies to be too active (jumping on or off anything higher than their elbow before growth plates have closed at 12-18 months), feeding inappropriate food to large breed growing puppies, supplementing inappropriately, and/or feeding too much food to large breed growing puppies will all contribute to this elbow disease and exacerbate symptoms and joint degeneration. Research indicates that dogs who have elbow dysplasia are more likely to produce it in puppies than dogs who do not have it.
Cranial Cruciate Rupture is an injury that is very common in the Corso, and considered the most common orthopedic injuries in all dogs. While a CCL tear (or ACL tear in humans) is considered an injury, there are some aspects of the knee that are heritable and will increase the likelihood of rupture. The Cane Corso, being a robust breed and very active and agile, is a primary candidate for this particular injury. However, conformational flaws such as a lack of turn of stifle, slipped hocks, or a straight rear, in general, will increase the likelihood of a Corso tearing a CCL. Also, something that can't be evaluated without radiography, the angle of the tibial plateau will greatly influence the likelihood of a dog tearing its CCL. If the angle of the tibial plateau is excessive, that will increase the propensity to rupture. While most CCL tears in dogs are the result of degenerative disease overtime, there are some dogs who, like people, have a genuine 'sport's injury' and will tear their CCL regardless, of sound conformation or the tibial plateau angle. Once a Corso has torn his CCL, there are few options outside of surgical repair to get the dog back into working condition and comfortable. Due to the size and activity level of the dogs, most orthopedic specialists recommend the TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) as the golden standard for method of repair. The other two options are the TTA (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement) and the Lateral Suture techniques. When a dog of any breed tears his CCL, there is a 70% chance the other CCL will be torn within 2 years. This can be a result of structural issues, as previously mentioned, or the overuse of the non afflicted leg causing the tear.
Patellar Luxation is a condition in which the patella, or knee cap, does not properly stay in the trochlear groove. That means it luxates, or pops out, from where is should remain. This disorder can be more specifically defined as medial or lateral. When a dog has a lateral patellar luxation, the patella pops out towards the lateral aspect of the the knee (away from the dog's center). The opposite is the medial patellar luxation where the patella pops out towards the medial aspect of the knee (towards the dog's center) when out of the proper position. Patellar luxations are generally graded on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being the most mild and 4 the most severe. When a dog has a Grade 1 Patellar Luxation, that indicates the patella can be manually luxated, but the patella immediately returns to the proper position in the trochlear groove on its own. When a dog has a Grade 2 Patellar Luxation, the patella will luxate out of position on its own, while the dog is performing normal activities such as running, but will return to the proper position in the trochlear groove on its own, or with the dog's voluntary extension of the knee. With a Grade 3 Patellar Luxation, the patella is no longer in the correct position at all, ever, and there is also associated torsion of the tibia and shallowing of the trochlear groove. With a Grade 4 Patella Luxation, the most severe, the patella is permanently out of proper position, the tibia is generally twisted medially, and the dog is normally not using the afflicted limb. In all cases, arthritis is expected to develop over time, but will occur much sooner in Grade 3 and 4. Because the progression of arthritis is so slow in Grade 1 and 2 dogs, many veterinarians opt to treat without surgical intervention, and manage the dog with joint support supplements such as Dasuquin, Cosequin, Glycoflex, Phycox, etc. Omega 3 fatty acids, and non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs as needed. Surgical repair is indicated in many of the grade 3 and 4 dogs to help relieve the discomfort, and slow down the degeneration of the joint. Of course, each dog is an individual and the size of the dog (the Cane Corso trending towards a larger size) may indicate a change of plans to better manage the dog's discomfort. Due to the frequency in certain breeds, there is a genetic trend for this condition and can be passed down to puppies if an afflicted dog is bred.
Epilepsy is a disease, which occurs in many breeds of dogs, and is not clearly understood. There are cases where there appears to be no genetic correlation, and there are many cases where there does appear to be a genetic correlation. Epilepsy is a disease characterized by seizures, either Grand Mal, Petit Mal, or focal. In the Cane Corso, the trend is towards Grand Mal seizures, or Tonic Clonic seizures. These are the types of seizures most people think of when discussing seizures. The dog experiences muscle rigidity, generally falls over, paddles, salivates, and, in many cases, urinates and defecates. These episodes can last for seconds or as long as 20+ minutes. Every time a dog has a seizure, there is a misfiring of neurons in the brain, and the longer each seizure occurs, the more damage is done to the brain, some of which, is irreversible. With Petit Mal (or Absence) seizures, the dog appears to "check out" for a moment. That is, they seemingly lose consciousness without always falling over, and will stare off into space. When a dog is experiencing this sort of seizure, he can't be 'snapped' out of it. These seizures are less common in the Corso, but are also much more difficult to diagnose as they can be easily missed. Focal seizures occur when a dog has a seizure isolated to one specific part of the dog. In many cases, facial twitching, fly biting, or even isolated to jerky movements in a limb, are how this this type seizure cane be presented. Again, this type of seizure is not as common in the Corso as in some other breeds, but many dogs who have Grand Mal seizures also experience Petit Mal and focal seizures. There is no clear way to diagnose epilepsy, and the process generally results in eliminating every other possibility of seizure causing issues. Dogs can display seizure like behavior with syncopal events associated with the heart, which will cause a dog to collapse. Dogs can also have seizures for many other reasons without having epilepsy or a genetic component. A few examples of these types of seizures are those associated with tick born illness, toxin ingestion, urinary blockage, and different types of cancer. Regardless of the origin of the seizures, they can be very dangerous for the humans as well as the dog. After a dog has a seizure, he generally enters a postictal phase which can be associated with extreme fear, anxiety, aggression, or vomiting and diarrhea. This postictal phase can last 10 minutes to over 24 hours, depending on the dog, the type of seizure, the length of the seizure, and the medication the dog is taking at the time of he seizure (if any). Seizures are generally treated with anticonvulsant medications such as Phenobarbital, Keppra, Zonisamide, Potassium Bromide, and more. In the Cane Corso, most cases do not appear to be very responsive to anticonvulsants, which is both frustrating and heart breaking. In many cases involving Corsi, when the seizures can not be managed, or the postictal phase becomes too dangerous, the most humane treatment is euthanasia. Currently, there is no test for epilepsy in the Corso to see if a dog is a carrier or not, but hopefully this can be changed in the near future. The mode of inheritance for the genetic form of epilepsy is also unknown at this time, but it appears to be Autosomal Recessive with incomplete penetrance or polygenic. Because the mode of inheritance is not known, one should take extreme caution in breeding a dog who is a sibling to a dog with epilepsy, or to a dog whose dam or sire has epilepsy.
Currently, there is research being done at the University of Missouri, specific to the Cane Corso, in an attempt to isolate the gene(s) associated with this devastating disease. The Cane Corso Association of America (CCAA) as well as the International Cane Corso Federation Club (ICCF Club) have both joined forces in an attempt to raise funding, awareness, and sample submissions to further this study in the Cane Corso.If you have any questions regarding this study, please contact us or click either of the club's logo to be taken to their website. Also, for sample submission information, please click Canine Epilepsy Network.
Entropion, Ectropion, Cherry Eye, and Distichia are disorders of the eye in many dogs, and relatively common in the Cane Corso. Entropion is a condition in which the eyelid conformation is such, that it rolls inwards. While this may not always be overtly noticeable, it can cause significant damage to the cornea of the eye as the fur on the eyelid may abrade the cornea. In many cases, young dogs will "grow out" entropion as their head develops and fills in. If the puppy is at a point where the cornea has become ulcerated, surgery to correct the rolled in eyelid may be indicated. Ectropion is a similar condition, however, the eyelid, instead, rolls outward. Due the the eye shape and loose skin in the Cane Corso, it is not uncommon for dogs of this breed to have this issue. In most cases, ectroption does not cause overtly disruptive or uncomfortable issues and is generally ignored. In extreme cases, surgery can per performed to correct the rolling of the eyelid. In many cases, the issue resolves itself as the head develops and fills in. Cherry eye, or nictitans gland prolapse, is a condition in which the gland of the third eyelid (nictitans) prolapses (pops) out past the third eyelid, and becomes visible. Some have alluded to a conformational flaw such as loose skin on the face increasing the likelihood of this condition occurring, but this theory has been dubunked. Cherry eye, if persistent to the point of causing irritation and inflammation, can be surgically corrected by either tacking down the gland, or removing the gland altogether. Because there are many breeds which have a greater propensity for cherry eye and dry eye disease (keratoconjunctivitis sicca), it is considered standard of care to, first, tack the gland before considering removing it. The gland is responsible for creating some of the tears dogs need to keep their eyes lubricated, and so does have value to breeds which are more predisposed to dry eye disease. Distichia is a condition in which eyelashes either grow from an inappropriate part of the eyelid or they grow in an inappropriate direction; growing towards the eye. This, like entropion, has varying degrees in severity and may cause little to no issues for some dogs. However, for others, the eyelashes rubbing on the cornea can cause chronic inflammation, drainage, and even ulceration. In more severe cases, where damage is done to the cornea, surgical repair in typically indicated.
GDV (Gastric Dilation Volvulus) AKA: Bloat or Gastric Torsion is a condition from which no breed of dog is excluded. While large and giant breed dogs, especially those with a deep chest, are at highest risk, any dog is at risk of gastric torsion. Because the Cane Corso is a large, robust, and active dog, he is at higher risk for this condition. Bloat is a generic term that typically describes the dilation of the dog's abdomen. There are many cases were a dog may have a distended abdomen, but the dog does not have gastric torsion. This can occur when a dog simply has intestinal parasites, is gulping air because of GI distress, or when a dog has a splenic mass which as ruptured and is bleeding into the abdomen. True gastric torsion is when the stomach flips on itself along its longitudinal axis. That is, for example, similar to clothes on a clothes line, which have flipped over and around the clothes line. The flipping of the stomach is uncomfortable, and as the dog gulps air to try to 'correct' the discomfort, causes the problem to escalate quickly. Once the stomach has flipped, is pinches off the sphincter the esophagus and the sphincter to the small intestine, preventing any air from continuing through, or returning out. As the stomach extends, it causes a significant amount of pressure on the rest of the organs in the abdomen as well as the arteries responsible for blood flow to the back half of the dog and the veins returning blood to the heart. These problems, as a result of the distended stomach, can cause acute cardiac issues such as cardiac arrythmias, where the heart beats out of sync. This condition generally requires immediate emergency surgery, before too much damage is done to the heart or the intestine necrose from a lack of blood perfusion. It is generally recommended that, a procedure called a gastropexy be performed, to prevent gastric torsion from reoccurring. While the exact cause of the condition is unknown, there are trends in narrow and deep chested dogs, dogs which are more fearful, dogs which eat from elevated dishes, and senior dogs. Also, offspring of dogs, which have had gastric torision, are 70% more likely to also suffer from gastric torsion. Signs of gastric torsion are retching without production (trying to vomit, but nothing comes up), distended abdomen, panting, restlessness, and excessive salivation. Preventative gastripexies are commonly recommended by veterinarians for very high risk breeds such as Great Danes.
Health Concerns in the Cane Corso