Chondrodystrophy (CDDY and IVDD) in Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers

Quick Summary

Chondrodystrophy, a trait that is characterized by a short-legged phenotype, also impacts the health of dogs. Dogs with at least one copy of the mutation have premature disc degeneration and increased susceptibility to disc herniation.

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Phenotype: Chondrodystrophy (CDDY) includes a short-legged phenotype as well as abnormal premature degeneration of intervertebral discs (also referred to as intervertebral disc disease, IVDD). These degenerated discs are susceptible to herniation. Multiple factors are thought to influence whether a particular disc herniates in an individual dog.  

Mode of Inheritance: Autosomal dominant for intervertebral disc disease; semi-dominant for height

Alleles: N = Normal, CDDY = Chondrodystrophy

Breeds appropriate for testing: Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Explanation of Results:

  • Dogs with N/N genotype do not have the mutation for chondrodystrophy and therefore are not predicted to be at increased risk for intervertebral disc disease. They cannot transmit this chondrodystrophy variant to their offspring.
  • Dogs with N/CDDY genotype will have leg shortening compared to N/N dogs and intervertebral disc disease, and are at risk for intervertebral disc herniation. They will transmit this CDDY variant to 50% of their offspring. Matings with N/N genotype dogs are predicted to produce 50% shorter-legged puppies at risk for intervertebral disc herniation.
  • Dogs with CDDY/CDDY genotype will have leg shortening compared to N/N dogs and intervertebral disc disease, and are at risk for intervertebral disc herniation. If a CDDY/CDDY dog is bred, all of the puppies in the litter will have shorter legs and are also be at risk for intervertebral disc herniation, regardless of the mate's genotype.

Results of this test can be submitted to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)

Turnaround Time
At least 15 business days; may be delayed beyond 15 business days if sample requires additional testing, or a new sample is requested.

$55 single test per animal ($5 discount on 3 or more dogs)
$25 as additional health test on same animal

Sample Collection

Dog DNA tests are carried out using cells brushed from your dog's cheeks and gums. The preferred cytology brushes are sent to you by mail, or you may provide your own brushes. For accepted alternative brushes, click here

We recommend waiting until puppies are at least three weeks old before testing.


Dog having its cheeks and gums brushed for DNA samples
Cheek and gum brushing technique for canine DNA sample collection


  1. Make sure the dog has not had anything to eat or drink for at least 1 hour prior to collecting sample.
  2. When swabbing puppies, isolate each puppy from the mother, littermates and any shared toys for 1 hour prior to swabbing. Puppies should not have nursed or eaten for 1 hour prior to collecting sample.
  3. If collecting samples from more than one dog, make sure to sample one dog at a time and wash your hands before swabbing another dog.
  4. Label brush sleeve with name or ID of dog to be sampled.
  5. Open brush sleeve by arrow and remove one brush by its handle.
  6. Place bristle head between the dog’s gums and cheek and press lightly on the outside of the cheek while rubbing or rotating the brush back and forth for 15 seconds.
  7. Wave the brush in the air for 20 seconds to air dry.
  8. Insert brush back into sleeve.
  9. Repeat steps 5 - 8 for each unused brush in sleeve on a fresh area of cheek and gums. Make sure to use and return all brushes sent by the VGL. In most cases, it will be 3 brushes per dog. If using interdental gum brushes, please note that the VGL requires 4 brushes per dog and only moderate or wide interdental gum brushes are accepted.
  10. Do not seal brushes in sleeve.
  11. Place all samples in an envelope and return to the address provided.


  • Do not collect saliva/drool – the key to obtaining a good sample is getting cheek cells on the swab
  • Do not rub swab on the dog’s tongue or teeth – this will result in poor quality sample
  • Do not collect a sample from a puppy that has recently nursed – the mother’s genetic material can rub off on the puppy’s mouth and contaminate the sample
Additional Details

Shorter legs in dogs are explained by two retrogene insertions of functional fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4). FGF4 gene is involved in many biological processes including bone development.

The first insertion discovered (Parker et al. 2009) is an FGF4-retrogene insertion in dog chromosome 18 (FGF4-18). This FGF4-18 insertion explains a short-legged phenotype known as chondrodysplasia (CDPA) in breeds such as Basset Hound, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Dachshunds, West Highland White Terriers and Scottish Terriers. CDPA inheritance is considered to follow an autosomal dominant mode.

The Chondrodystrophy (CDDY) mutation was discovered by researchers in the Bannasch Laboratory at the University of California, Davis (Brown et al. 2017) as a second FGF4-retrogene insertion in dog chromosome 12. CDDY includes a short-legged phenotype and abnormal premature degeneration of intervertebral discs leading to susceptibility to Hansen’s type I intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). The intervertebral disc, which sits between vertebrae, is composed of an outer fibrous basket (annulus fibrosus) made of 70% collagen and an inner gel-like layer called the nucleus pulposus. These structures allow for flexibility of the vertebral column. In Chondrodystrophic breeds, premature calcification of the nucleus pulposus at early age (from birth to 1 year of age) results in degeneration of all discs in young dogs. These abnormal discs are predisposed to herniation into the spinal canal where the inflammation, and hemorrhage can cause severe pain and neurological dysfunction (myelopathy) termed Intervertebral Disc Disease or IVDD. IVDD has high mortality rate and high cost of surgical and medical veterinary care.

CDDY is inherited as a semi-dominant trait for height, meaning that dogs with 2 copies of the mutation are smaller than dogs with only 1 copy. With respect to IVDD, the inheritance follows a dominant mode, meaning that 1 copy of the FGF4-12 mutation is sufficient to cause disc degeneration and predispose dogs to disc herniation. Dogs that have both FGF4-12 and FGF4-18 show a more drastic reduction of leg length.

Testing for the CDDY variant in Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers can help breeders determine if CDDY is present among breeding stock and to identify dogs at risk for IVDD. Our tests assay for the causal variants, not for linked markers, therefore the genotypes are accurate and not inferred. Breeders can benefit from the test result to implement breeding strategies to reduce incidence of CDDY.