Posts Categorised: Health

What Is PRA In Labradors?

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that affects eyesight in Labrador Retrievers and several other breeds. It causes degeneration of the retina which is where light is changed into electrical signals and sent to the brain.

PRA is not painful but affected dogs will go blind.



There are several forms of PRA in dogs, and Labs have the prcd-PRA form. The PRCD part stands for progressive rod-cone degeneration and is caused by a mutation in the PRCD gene.

Affected puppies are born with normal retinas, but over time the cells break down which causes the blindness. When that happens varies however it often starts when they’re about three to five years old.

The rod cells – helpful with night vision and motion detection – generally break down first. The cone cells – helpful with color detection – will break down next, ending with complete blindness.

You may not notice it right away because dogs adjust very well. It is more noticeable after dark or when the dog is away from home. Some signs include:

  •  bumping into things
  •  hesitating to use stairs
  •  seeming disoriented
  •  reluctant to go outside after dark
  •  dilated pupils



PRA is a preventable genetic problem.

Annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist can detect a variety of eye problems. Early detection may make a difference in some diseases.

However, you can have your dog tested with a simple test. Get a few sterile swabs (they look like a long q-tip). Wait an hour after your dog has eaten, then wash your hands and position the swab between his cheek and gums. Swirl it ten times and place the swab back in the packaging. Repeat with another swab inside the other cheek. Package and mail the swabs to a laboratory that does genetic testing for dogs.

I use DDC and like that they’re polite, fast, and reasonably priced. They offer a variety of genetic tests, and you can do several tests or just one at a time. They’ll also send you a packet of swabs if needed.

About two weeks later, you’ll get an email with the results. Dogs that are clear of the mutated gene are not at risk and will pass clear genes to their puppies. Labs having one copy of the mutated gene are not at risk but may pass that gene to puppies. Labs having two copies of the mutated gene will gradually go blind, and all of their puppies will have at least one copy of that gene. There is no cure.

If you plan to breed your dog, this is one of the tests you should do. Finding out whether your dog is clear, a carrier, or affected will help avoid producing puppies with prcd-PRA. An exception would be if both of your dog’s parents were tested clear AND you have copies of those results.

Prevention is as easy as choosing at least one parent tested clear of PRA.



If your dog has two copies of the mutated gene, he will gradually go blind. Dogs generally accept it much better than people do, but you’ll want to help him cope anyway.

Be aware that blind dogs may become disoriented and anxious. Losing sight can also reduce his quality of life if he can’t do some of the things he enjoyed doing.

Start helping him by fencing off potentially dangerous areas, such as:

  •  long flights of stairs, indoors and outdoors
  •  holes and steep slopes
  •  cactus and other similar plants

If you have any remodeling plans, try to finish that while your dog can still see. Do the same with rearranging furniture.

You may notice he doesn’t see as well in dim light. If so, provide additional lighting if you can.

Keep your dog’s bowls and crate or bed in the same spots.

Add tactile and/or scent clues so he can find his way. For example, add throw rugs in front of furniture and gravel or wood chips in front of bushes. Spray a particular scent near his bowls and another scent on his bed. Always use those same scents in each location.

If he likes toys, get some that make sounds. A giggle ball can be particularly fun.

And best of all, talk to your dog. He may jump if he doesn’t know you’re about to touch him, so talk or make some noise first. When calling him to come to you, don’t just say it once, continue speaking so he can find you. He can also learn cue words, such as “watch out” and “step”, to help him navigate.



Even if your dog has been tested for PRA, an annual eye exam is a good idea. Other conditions can affect vision and overall eye health.

Some of the most common eye problems in Labs include:

  •  Cataracts: a clouding of the lens in the eye, which can cause vision problems or blindness. Labs are prone to developing juvenile cataracts, which appear before the dog is a year old.
  •  Retinal Dysplasia: a developmental disorder that affects the retina, and can cause vision problems or blindness. This is another hereditary condition in Labs.
  •  Corneal Dystrophy: a group of genetic disorders that affect the cornea, which can cause vision problems or corneal ulcers. Labs can be affected by epithelial/stromal corneal dystrophy.
  •  Glaucoma: a condition that causes increased pressure within the eye, which can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness. Labs are prone to developing glaucoma.
  •  Entropion: a condition where the eyelashes rub against the eye and cause irritation. Labs are prone to developing entropion.

Dr. Becker Discusses Blindness in Pets


PRA is a significant health concern in Labs. There is currently no cure for PRA, but genetic testing is quick and easy.

If you’re planning to breed your dog, have him or her tested. Ensure at least one potential parent is clear of PRA.

If you’re considering buying a puppy, check if the parents have been tested clear. Check for proof, not just that they’ve been cleared by the local vet.

No dog should go blind because of PRA.

When my chocolate Lab was about 13 years old I noticed his bark was sounding a bit hoarse. I thought he had a cold but after checking with my veterinarian I learned it was laryngeal paralysis. I made some changes to his care and lifestyle that helped him live to 17. That’s quite old for a Labrador.

The hoarse bark is a telltale sign of Laryngeal paralysis. Some dogs might have noisy or labored breathing. Others might faint from a lack of oxygen.

Read on to learn what dog owners should know about laryngeal paralysis.

Understanding Laryngeal paralysis in older dogs

The Larynx: Gateway to Breathing and Sound.

The larynx – or voice box – is at the top of your dog’s throat. It regulates his breathing and includes vocal cords that make it possible for him to bark, growl, and whine.

Flaps inside the larynx cover the airway when your dog swallows to keep food or liquid from entering his windpipe.

The flaps open to allow  your dog to breathe.

At least that’s what happens in a healthy dog.

What is Laryngeal Paralysis?

Sometimes because of age or injury, the larynx might not open completely. This can restrict your dog’s breathing, especially when excited or playing hard. He might also become anxious, pant excessively, cough, or gag.

Laryngeal paralysis is common in middle-aged and older dogs of medium and large breeds. The sign most owners notice first is a change in the sound of their dog’s voice.

It can also be part of a neurologic condition called Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis Polyneuropathy (GOLPP). Owners often notice symptoms of laryngeal paralysis first because they’re the most obvious.

A related condition – mega-esophagus – happens when food piles up in the esophagus instead of continuing into the stomach. If there’s too much food stuck in the esophagus, your dog might vomit. These dogs are at risk of aspiration pneumonia because of laryngeal paralysis.

Another related condition causes weakness in the rear legs. Often mistaken for arthritis, it’s actually caused by the same nerve problem.

Causes of Laryngeal Paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis can be a genetic condition, especially in Siberian Huskies, Bull Terriers, Bouvier de Flanders, Great Pyrenees, and Dalmatians.”

Or it can be caused by trauma, such as surgery, tumors or bite wounds to the neck. Understanding the underlying cause is important as it helps guide treatment and care options.


Symptoms of Laryngeal Paralysis

Changes in Breathing Patterns

A change in the way your dog breathes is one of the most common signs of laryngeal paralysis. You may notice an increased effort to breathe, a raspy sound while inhaling or exhaling, and sometimes breathing difficulty. When your dog’s breathing is restricted it can cause him to tire easily, faint or in severe cases, to die. Let your veterinarian know if you notice any changes in your dog’s breathing.

Altered Bark and Vocalization

Your dog’s ability to bark normally can be affected by laryngeal paralysis. It might become hoarse, weak, or even completely silenced. This change in the ability to make himself heard can be troubling for both you and your dog.

Exercise and Heat Intolerance

Dogs with laryngeal paralysis may have trouble working or playing and might tire more easily. They might need frequent breaks even during regular walks.

They may also have trouble regulating their body temperature which can make heat stroke more likely. Be sure to provide plenty of cool water and shade on hot days.

Other Potential Symptoms

For some dogs, symptoms include gagging, difficulty swallowing, noisy breathing, extreme panting, and exercise intolerance. If the larynx can’t close completely, food or liquid might “go down the wrong pipe” causing him to cough.


Diagnosis and Treatment Options

Veterinary Evaluation

If you notice potential symptoms of laryngeal paralysis, make an appointment with your veterinarian. The visit should include a medical history and a thorough physical examination. To check the diagnosis and evaluate the extent of the problem, your veterinarian might use X-rays or a scope with a camera. Sometimes even more tests are needed.

The treatment options available can depend on the severity of your dog’s symptoms and his state of health. In mild cases, medical management may be enough to relieve symptoms.

You might need to make some changes such as taking walks in the cooler part of the day. Managing his weight may help. Also, your veterinarian might prescribe medications.

Surgical Interventions

In more severe cases surgery could be considered. This procedure – often called “tie-back surgery” – permanently tacks open one side of the larynx. Unfortunately, this increases the risk of aspiration pneumonia and choking.

Be sure to check with your veterinarian about the potential benefits and risks to your dog.

Personalized Treatment Plans

A treatment plan should be tailored to your dog’s individual needs to improve quality of life and manage symptoms.


Managing Life with a Dog with Laryngeal Paralysis

Home Care Tips

Some things you can do at home to help your dog include:

  • Providing a calm and stress-free environment to reduce breathing difficulties.
  • Having plenty of fresh water available and a cool place to relax, especially during hot weather.
  • If your dog has had the surgery or has a mega-esophagus, buy some elevated bowls to reduce the risk of aspiration.

Also schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian. These follow-up visits will give him a chance to check your dog’s breathing, overall health, and response to treatment.

Recognizing and Responding to Emergencies

For a dog with laryngeal paralysis, problems can quickly become critical.

If you notice severe breathing difficulties, pale gums, excessive panting, or collapse, it can be a life-threatening situation. It’s important to act quickly. Be prepared to seek emergency veterinary care.

In Conclusion

All dogs with laryngeal paralysis need extra monitoring, some more than others. Learning about the symptoms and treatment options available can help you provide the best possible care.

Work closely with your veterinarian and don’t hesitate to seek their guidance when needed. Your care and support can help your dog continue leading a happy life.

The Silver Labrador Myth

Can you tell which is a purebred Weimaraner and which is a ‘Silver Lab’?

Years ago it was really hard to tell a silver from a Weimaraner. Unless you looked at the tail. In the US, Weimaraners have their tails docked to six inches. Other countries have outlawed cropping ears and docking tails, so looking at the tail in those locations is not helpful.

Over time, silver breeders have bred their dogs to purebred Labs so the silvers are looking more Lab-like. And they decided to lie and declare their mixed-breed dog are purebred Labradors. This is the silver Lab myth.



The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland and the early dogs were black. Some had white markings from the St John’s dog.

Several of these dogs were imported to England and Scotland during 1800s. Impressed by their retrieving desire and overall work in the field, wealthy sportsmen imported more dogs and began breeding them.

The majority of these dogs were black, but breeders documented an occasional brown or yellow puppy. But black was – and still is – the most common color.


According to the Factual Review by Margaret Wilson, “There was never any mention in the meticulous and exhaustive breeding records, whelping logs, descriptions of markings colors, etc., and stud books kept by gentlemen of unimpeachable integrity of any dog being produced that was, in fact or in fantasy, a dilute. Not in ANY of the retriever breeds developed from the St. John’s dog during that time in Great Britain. The dilute allele was introduced after the establishment of the recognized breeds. In the case of the Labrador this introduction occurred in the USA during the latter part of the 20th century.”

Because a variety of breeds were crossed with Labs early in their history, occasionally a mismark will pop up. Some have tan markings like a Doberman, some are brindle like a Great Dane, some are splashed with white. These mismarks are rare, but they do still occur. Unlike the ‘silver Labs’ these dogs are considered purebred Labs.

Interestingly there was no mention of ‘silver Labs’ until the mid-1900s. And for years after that they were only found in the US. There were none in the United Kingdom until 2006 when some silvers were exported from the US. If these dogs really were purebred Labradors they should have appeared a long time ago in the breed’s home country.

So where did this color come from?

Most likely from the Weimaraner which comes “in shades of mouse-gray to silver-gray” per the breed standard. Every dog of this breed has two copies of the recessive dilution gene (“dd”) which gives them the silvery color.

Labs, however, do not have the dilution gene. A purebred Lab is “DD” which means they have two copies of the dominant, non-dilute gene.

Breeding Labs with Weimaraners will produce dogs with normal Lab colors, however they will all carry the dilute gene (“Dd”). Breeding these dogs together can produce dogs that don’t carry the dilute gene and dogs that carry one copy of that gene. These dogs will have normal Lab colors. However that cross can also produce dogs that have two copies of the dilute gene (“dd”) with diluted colors.

The dilute colors have been named “charcoal”, “silver” and “champagne.” These dogs often have a lavender cast to the coat and light greenish eyes, both traits from the Weimaraner.

When and how did ‘silver Labs’ appear?

Just about every ‘silver Lab’ can be traced back to two breeders – Crist Culo Kennels and Beaver Creek Labradors. They gained notoriety in the mid-1980s. Neither has a current website. There is also mention of a magazine advertisement for “rare gray Labradors” that appeared sometime in the 1950s. Although it’s mentioned over and over again, no one has been able to produce a copy. They can’t even even agree on which magazine it appeared in. Perhaps it’s just a legend like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

In 1987 the American Kennel Club (“AKC”) investigated a litter of silver puppies. After looking at the puppies and paperwork they decided “there was no reason to doubt that the dogs were purebred Labrador Retrievers.” That statement is not the same as saying the dogs were purebred. Rather it meant they had no proof the dogs were of mixed parentage. Genetic testing would likely have proven the records were falsified, but without it they relied on the breeder’s word. Read on to learn about his veracity.

Crist Culo Kennels

Dean Crist appears to be the first person to market ‘silver Labs’ and was adamant that they were purebred Labs. He even boasted that he “offered $100,000 to anyone who could simply prove” he was cross-breeding to produce ‘silver Labs.’ It was a safe bet without genetic testing. When testing did become available, it could only show whether a particular dog was a parent of a specific puppy. It couldn’t prove anything about the first cross-breeding.

The dogs at Crist Culo Kennels were intensely inbred – mother to son, father to daughter, brother to sister. This was most likely done to increase the number of dogs carrying the dilute gene and thus his profit margin.

Half-truths, at best

On his website this breeder claimed “… there is also little doubt AKC will eventually have to concede to the growing public pressure to make Silver a recognized color for Labs in America.” I guess he didn’t know that AKC doesn’t have the power to make silver a recognized color of Labradors. The Labrador Retriever Club (“LRC”), as the parent club for Labs in the US, is in control of the breed standard and does not recognize any dog with a dilute color as a purebred Lab.

He also claimed that “…kennel clubs around the world (who do not have the political pressure from mercenary American breeders of ‘normal’ color Labs) already accept Silver Labs without all the political fuss and pressure being applied to AKC.” The truth is, except for AKC, no kennel club, anywhere, accepts “silver Labs” as purebred.

And despite numerous breedings of ‘silver Labs’, he claimed “Genetically speaking, Charcoal Labs are silver factored Yellow Labs.” When in fact dilute yellow Labs are a pale yellow with a lavender cast to their coat and “charcoal Labs” are diluted black Labs.

In more hyperbole, he claimed “Chocolate Labs were both controversial and rare in the U.S. in the early ‘80s.” Although not as common as black Labs, they were not controversial nor rare and many champions were chocolate:

  • Am Mex CH Gunfields Super Charger CD WC (born 1969),
  • CH Wingmasters Cobe of Mandigo CD (born 1972),
  • CH Shamrock Acres Coco Bo (born 1974),
  • CH Mallards Brown Spinner (born 1974, great great grandmother of NFC AFC Storm’s Riptide Star),
  • CH Shamrock Acres Pot of Fudge CDX (born 1975),
  • CH Wingmaster’s Swiss Ms CD (born 1977),
  • CH Wingmasters Chisim Trail (born 1979),
  • FC Mueller’s Stormy Canada (born 1980),
  • CH Marshview’s Danick Big Bang CD (born 1980),
  • CH Simerdowns Charley Brown CD (born 1980),
  • CH Fantasy’s O’Malley CD (born 1983).

Saddest of all is that he claimed “sensitive skin or allergies … occur at the same frequency in Silver Labs as they occur in Chocolate Labs” and blamed puppy buyers for feeding a poor diet. In fact ‘silver Labs’ are commonly afflicted with color dilution alopecia, a genetic disorder in which the dog loses most or all of its hair. It’s not curable and is associated with the dilute color.

Although he has retired from breeding, other breeders of ‘silver Labs’ continue to spread his false information.

Beaver Creek Labradors

This kennel showed up in the 1990s – about 10 years after Crist Culo. They practiced less intense line breeding – using distant relatives – compared with the inbreeding done at Crist Culo Kennels. According to Crist, this kennel culled silver puppies until they saw him advertising ‘silver Labs’ for sale. He volunteered to sell the puppies for them so they could, apparently, avoid the backlash of cross breeding. Eventually they chose to market their own puppies.

Other breeders fell to the ‘shiny object syndrome.’ Some sourced their first dogs from early breeders, while others decided to breed their own ‘silver Labs.’ At least one was caught falsifying records and was suspended from AKC.


There are a variety of stories told to explain the sudden appearance of “silver Labs” in the 1980s.

Some silver breeders point to gray puppies noted by Mary Roslin-Williams, however they only included the part that makes it seem like ‘silver Labs’ have been around for many years. What they didn’t share is that when those puppies shed their puppy coat they were black. Not silver, not charcoal.

A Dutch researcher created a database of Labs and traced most silver pedigrees back to two dogs from a large mid-western kennel. However he failed to mention that to register Labrador x Weimaraner puppies with the AKC, a false name and registration number from a Lab had to be used in place of the actual Weimaraner parent as noted in the recipe below. The dogs he pointed to were likely the “parents” only on paper.

Another oft-repeated myth is that the level of inbreeding at the Culo kennel resulted in the silver color. Rather the tremendous amount of inbreeding in these early silvers suggests producing the silver color was deliberate.

It only took one fraudulent breeding to introduce the dilution gene to the Lab breed and then lots of inbreeding to develop a line of ‘silver Labs.’ Since then there have been many more fraudulent registrations of Labrador x Weimaraner crosses registered as purebred Labs.

Interesting how there were no ‘silver Labs’ until the mid-1900s. And for years after that they were only found in the US. There were none in the UK until many years later. The silvers there were all imported from the US or descended from imports. You would think if these dogs really are purebred Labradors that they would have shown up a long time ago in the breed’s home country.


It’s not hard to make your own ‘silver Lab’ bloodline, but it will take at least three dogs and two generations. Oh, and if the AKC catches you, plan on at least a lengthy suspension.

Step One:

If you have full registration for a Lab male and a Lab female plus access to a male Weimaraner, you could breed the Weimaraner to the Lab female and fraudulently claim the puppies’ father is the Lab male. With the vast number of puppies registered every year, AKC can’t check each and every litter.

Every puppy in this cross-bred litter will carry the dilute gene, but won’t have the dilute-colored coat.

Step Two:

When the puppies are old enough, breed them together. Yes, brother to sister. Just like the Crist Culo Kennels did. Statistically, their litters should be about 25% dd (dilute color), 25% DD (non-dilute) and 50% Dd (dilute carriers). The colors you get will depend on the color of the Lab grandmother. If she was a chocolate, you should have some ‘silvers.’

Step Three:

To “prove” these dogs are purebred Labs, buy AKC DNA kits and test the parents and puppies of this second generation. AKC is a registration body and will register any puppy when both parents are AKC registered and of the same breed. They don’t care if the puppy is pink with purple polka dots. The DNA is only to check whether a particular puppy could have been sired by a particular male and out of a particular female. They don’t check any farther back.

Congratulations! You have now committed fraud and potentially introduced additional health issues to the Labrador Retriever breed.

* Note: I do not condone fraud. This “recipe” is only to show how easy it is for crossbred dogs to contaminate a breed. And it is happening in many breeds, not just the Labrador Retriever.

However, not all crossbreeding is bad. In the Dalmation there is a problem with high levels of uric acid in their urine which can cause an obstruction. This problem is called hyperuricosuria (HU). Dalmations around the world were tested and all had HU, although it is rare in other breeds.

The Dalmatian/Pointer Backcross Project started by crossbreeding to a Pointer, a breed that does not have HU. After several generations of breeding back into Dalmations, the AKC accepted these dogs into the registry as Dalmatians. However it was another 30 years before a genetic test was available to determine which dogs carried the recessive HU gene and which were clear.

Why provide such a recipe?

To prove a point. Many people rely on the findings of that Dutch man who collected Labrador pedigrees. Developing the database was a wonderful undertaking. Tracing the dilute gene in his database and claiming it came from two dogs that were bred by a mid-western kennel was not.

As in the recipe above, the Lab males contributed NO genes to the puppies and grandpuppies. They were only listed as the fathers so the first-generation puppies could be AKC registered as purebred Labs. The male Weimaraner actually provided the genes.

Claiming those two dogs were the source of the dilute gene has cast doubt on the hundreds of actual descendants of those dogs.


‘Silver Labs’ are prone to color dilution alopecia which is a painful and chronic condition linked to the dilute gene. Dogs appear normal as puppies, but at about six months begin to lose their hair. Some dogs may only have bald spots while others may lose all of their hair. Affected dogs may develop infections and granulomas which are the body’s attempt to wall off foreign bodies. There is no cure.

Read about a lady who believed the hype that the dilute gene was “inherent in the Lab gene pool” and that silvers didn’t have any health issues. Sadly her experience (and the experience of many others) was very different from what she was told. Her dog didn’t lose some hair; she was hairless. Not knowing any better back then, the lady bred her silver and produced puppies with allergy and coat problems.


“The overwhelming consensus among breed experts from legitimate Labrador clubs, the position of these accredited Labrador clubs, and a growing number of recognized purebred dog registries, is that the dilutes are the result of a cross breeding, with Weimaraner being the source of the dilute allele, and are therefore not registerable in a purebred registry.” LRC_News_Spring2018.pdf

In addition, the breed standards for Labrador Retrievers around the world only recognize the colors of black, chocolate and yellow. AKC lists any other color as a disqualification. Labs with the diluted color cannot be shown. Some countries do not allow them to be bred.

The Labrador Retriever Club (US)

The Labrador Retriever Club Inc is the parent club for the breed in the US and they are the liaison to the AKC. They do not condone the breeding of ‘silver Labs’ and have “good evidence in scientific literature indicating that the Labrador has never been identified as carrying the dilute gene…”

In other words, these dogs are not purebred Labradors.

The United Kennel Club and Hunting Retriever Club

The UKC standard is clear. Any color or combination of colors other than yellow, black, or chocolate is a disqualification. UKC does not recognize any form of silver coloration as a variation of the chocolate color and UKC does not and has not knowingly accepted registrations for Labradors that have a silver coat coloring.

Further they are not eligible to run in HRC hunt tests because the tests are only open to ‘gun dog’ breeds and dilutes are not considered purebred Labradors. They can participate in other UKC performance events, but must be neutered.

Great Britain

Dilute colors in Labradors are not recognized


Not a breed standard recognized color for Labrador Retrievers

The Netherlands

Dilute colors are not naturally occurring in Labradors. Breeding dilute Labs is banned.

New Zealand

At least one parent must be clear of the dilute allele.


Dilute Labradors may not be registered.

American Kennel Club

On the other hand, the AKC is a registration body. It’s position is if two dogs have full registration and are ‘registered’ as the same breed, they will register their puppies.


Had the early silver breeders been truthful about what they were doing there would probably have been some backlash, but not to the extent caused by the lies. What I – and most Labrador breeders – object to is calling these dogs ‘silver Labradors’ when they clearly have Weimaraner characteristics above and beyond the silver color. It’s particularly noticeable in the head, ear shape and eye color. Many ‘silver Lab’ breeders are now trying to breed to better quality Labradors to improve the look of their dogs. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.

Too many lies have been told and too much false information has been spread by these ‘silver Lab’ breeders. It’s time to ferret out every one of these cross bred dogs and stop calling them Labrador Retrievers. The LRC has offered to help them set up their own breed, but the silver breeders have refused. If they don’t want to have their own breed, so be it. Strip the AKC registration of every one of these crossbred dogs and see the breeders’ profits plummet.

As the name suggests, dogs with Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) may collapse after several minutes of strenuous exercise.



It is found mainly in Labrador, Chesapeake Bay and Curly Coated Retrievers, and Boykin Spaniels. Similar genes occur in other breeds – Cocker spaniels, German wire-haired pointers, Old English Sheepdogs, Bouvier des Flandres, Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Clumber Spaniels.

Originally the disease seemed to be limited to field-bred Labradors, however, it is also in conformation, service and pet bloodlines. It can affect both males and females and, in Labs, all three colors.

It can also occur in mixed breeds, such as doodles and dilutes, that have genetics from one of the affected breeds.

Collapsing due to EIC is most often seen in excitable, very fit dogs with lots of drive. It usually only takes a few minutes of strenuous exercise to cause a collapse which starts in the rear legs – wobbling and often crossing before they stop working. The dog will try to continue running with its front legs while dragging the rear legs.

Some dogs have died while exercising or while resting immediately after an EIC episode. Therefore it’s important to stop all exercise and cool the dog down at the first sign of an episode.

Other EIC affected dogs have never experienced a collapse. This might be because they are not an excitable dog or don’t participate in strenuous activities.

Here is a video from the University of Minnesota where they are researching EIC.


Symptoms may not be triggered until young dogs – about seven months to two years – start heavy training.

Common triggers, especially when combined:

  • excessive excitability
  • strenuous exercise such as repetitive retrieving, intense play, upland bird hunting, long-distance running
  • higher temperatures and humidity than the dog is used to

Often the first signs are a rocking gait, followed by weakness in the back legs, sometimes to the point of dragging their legs. Dogs may stand with their feet further apart or pick them up higher than normal.

As the collapse progresses, the dog may drag their back legs while running with the front legs. Or they might fall over while trying to run.

Most dogs are alert, but may seem confused. Some dogs may still try to run and their front legs might be stiff. Or they may not be able to move their head and legs. They don’t seem to be in pain. Body temperature is often high.

Symptoms may worsen for a few minutes, but after 10-20 minutes the dog should start returning to normal. It may take longer for their body temperature to return to normal.

In extreme cases, there could be seizures and even death.



Researchers found a gene that appears to be the main cause of EIC. If a dog has two copies of the affected gene, it is at risk of collapsing. These dogs are called ‘affected.’ If a dog has two copies of the normal gene, they are not at risk of collapsing due to EIC. They are called ‘clear.’ If a dog has one copy of the affected gene and one copy of the normal gene, they are called ‘carriers.’

A carrier is not at risk of collapsing due to EIC, however, they may pass the affected gene to their puppies. Therefore it’s important to never breed a carrier with an affected or to another carrier. Doing so will likely produce some affected puppies.

However this may not be the entire story. There are some dogs with two copies of the affected gene that have never collapsed. Some dogs may be just more laid back and don’t reach the level of excitement to trigger a collapse.

Or there may be another gene that modifies the affected gene. If such a gene exists, it may cause some dogs to collapse more often than other dogs. Or it may help protect some dogs from collapsing at all.

Or there may be something in how the dog is fed, exercised, or trained that changes their susceptibility.



A genetic test is available to identify the gene that causes exercise induced collapse.

Because EIC is caused by a recessive gene, both of a dog’s parents must carry at least one copy of the gene for a dog to be affected. About 30% of tested Labradors carry the gene.

If you’re buying a puppy or dog, make sure at least one parent is clear of EIC. Or you can have the puppy itself tested. The test is simple – just three swabs between the cheek and gum. Make sure the dog hasn’t eaten anything for at least an hour. Wash your hands and keep the dog separated from other dogs until you’ve finished swabbing – twice on one side and once on the other side. Place the swabs back into the packaging and into an envelope to send to the lab. There are more extensive directions and a link to the lab I use on the CNM page.

Provided one parent is clear, the worst the puppy can be is a carrier (one copy of the gene). Carriers won’t suffer EIC collapses, make fine pets and even competition dogs. However if they are bred, it should only be to a dog that has been tested clear of EIC.

Many top competition dogs carry one copy of the EIC gene, so don’t let that stop you from choosing the best dog for you.

Better conditioning and avoiding strenuous exercise during warmer weather may help prevent collapsing. Many affected dogs can tolerate mild to moderate exercise. The high-energy, excitable dogs may need to be removed from training.



The best treatment for most dogs affected by EIC is avoiding known trigger activities, especially when they are combined with extreme excitement and warmer-than-normal weather.

Most dogs that are retired from activities that trigger collapsing can live out their lives without problems. However, it’s still a good idea to be aware and stop all of the dog’s activity at the first sign of weakness. If the dog seems overheated, you can also lightly spray it with cool water to bring down its temperature.

Keep your veterinarian informed if your dog does have an episode. She may want to do some tests to confirm your dog is otherwise fine.



Overheating (this can be an emergency)

  • frantic panting, increased heart rate, extreme drooling, labored breathing, bright red membranes
  • may be dizzy and appear confused
  • may collapse and/or experience seizures
  • may vomit and/or have diarrhea

CNM (learn more)

  • gait abnormalities
  • generalized weakness
  • tires easily
  • muscle wasting
  • symptoms usually develop as a puppy (2-5 months old)
  • once the symptoms develop they are almost constant

Genetic basics

Luckily Gregor Mendel tested his theories on the garden pea that has a relatively simple genetic structure.

He crossed yellow peas with green peas and tall plants with short plants to discover the fundamental laws of inheritance.

When he crossed yellow peas with green peas he often got only yellow peas.

But when he crossed the second generation together he got a few green peas mixed in with three times as many yellow peas. When he crossed green peas together, he got only green peas.

Mendel theorized that each parent contributed the “elementen” (one gene) for any given trait so the offspring had a pairing of those two genes.

But what you see on the outside doesn’t always tell you what’s on the inside – the genetic makeup.

In today’s terms, we would say the gene for yellow is dominant over the gene for green which is recessive.

When he crossed yellow with yellow and got only yellow, at least one of the parent plants was homozygous for yellow – meaning that parent plant carried only the yellow gene.

But when he crossed yellow to yellow and got some green peas, *both* of the parent plants carried the recessive green gene.

When he crossed green to green he could not get yellow because *neither* parent plant carried the yellow gene.

Genetic testing

Before breeding, the DNA strands carrying  “… chromosome pairs are split apart and distributed into cells called gametes. Each gamete contains a single copy of every chromosome, and each chromosome contains one allele for every gene.

Which variation of a gene winds up on which DNA strand and which strand from the father combines with which strand from the mother is due to chance which makes breeding so very interesting.

Genetic testing helps to make breeding decisions a little easier. Many genetic tests for our dogs are for a simple recessive gene, like yellow or green in the garden pea.

What this means is that there is one gene controlling the trait with two or more possible variations (“alleles”) – a dominant allele and recessive alleles.

The recessive allele will only express itself if both parents contributed recessive alleles. When there is only one recessive allele the dominant allele it will ‘cover up’ the recessive.

Terminology –

– allele – one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome

– dominant – relating to or denoting heritable characteristics which are controlled by genes that are expressed in offspring even when inherited from only one parent

– gene – a unit of heredity which is transferred from a parent to offspring and is held to determine some characteristic of the offspring

– heterozygous – having two different alleles of a particular gene or genes

– homozygous – having two identical alleles of a particular gene or genes

– recessive – relating to or denoting heritable characteristics controlled by genes that are expressed in offspring only when inherited from both parents, i.e., when not masked by a dominant characteristic inherited from one parent

Using genetic testing

If your puppy’s parents have been tested or if your puppy shows a genetic trait, such as yellow or chocolate color, you can make an educated guess about his genetic make up.

If he is yellow, then his parents are either yellow or carry yellow as a hidden gene. Both must carry at least one copy of the yellow gene.

If he is black, but has a yellow parent, then he carries one copy of the gene for yellow. It works the same for chocolate.

Yellow and chocolate are controlled by different genes so you can’t know if he carries the gene for the other color based on his color.

With one exception. Yellow Labradors usually have black noses and eye rims. When a yellow Lab has a chocolate nose and eye rims, he is homozygous for both chocolate and for yellow. Although it is a natural color in the breed, it is a disqualification in the show ring.

In a graph, the dominant trait (like black in Labradors) is capitalized and the recessive trait (chocolate) is lower-case:

BB = homozygous black in capital letters
Bb = heterozygous black in capital letters (hidden chocolate in lower case)
bb = homozygous chocolate in lower case

A yellow puppy with chocolate points, is shown as bbee with “e” meaning yellow. The dominant trait – “E” – means “not yellow.”

Early in the Labrador’s history, yellow and chocolate puppies would appear occasionally. Because those colors were not popular, they were rarely bred (and sometimes not even allowed to live).

With no genetic testing available and limited knowledge of inheritance, breeders didn’t know that those recessive colors hid in their dogs’ genetics.

The recessive color could appear if the dog was bred to another dog who carried the same recessive color.

It is possible for a recessive gene to remain hidden for many generations. For example, Sandylands Mark, born in 1965, was black carrying chocolate despite 19 generations of blacks and yellows in his pedigree.

As a side note, because chocolate is a recessive gene saying a dog is “dominant chocolate” is incorrect. Chocolate is recessive to black and is a separate gene from yellow. So I think they mean “pure for chocolate” instead.

For traits you can’t see, you should test the puppy unless both parents are clear for the trait.

EIC, CNM and PRA are also examples of simple recessives.

Here are some charts showing potential outcomes for a hypothetical trait where “X” is the dominant allele and “x” is the recessive allele.

Chart showing potential outcomes where at least one parent is clear of the trait

These examples hold true for any trait that is a simple recessive.

Note: statistics only hold true with very large samples, except for breeding clear to clear or affected to affected where all puppies will be like their parents. However a carrier to carrier breeding could have all clear puppies or could have all affected puppies.

Whether you’re worried about the ingredients in commercial treats or you just want to do something special for your favorite four-legged companion, here are some simple recipes to make great tasting dog treats!

We’ll start with a favorite – yummy peanut butter treats!

Make them as-is or switch out the milk and peanut butter for a cup or 2 of pureed pumpkin. Or try switching rice flour for the wheat flour. Then see which one your dog likes best!

Yummy Peanut Butter Treats


2 eggs
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 cups flour, whole wheat
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the eggs, milk and peanut butter in a large bowl.

Gradually add flour, baking powder and cinnamon, using your hands as necessary, until the dough is stiff.

Sprinkle some flour on a work surface and roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into 1/2-inch squares or dress it up with a bone-shaped cookie cutter. You don’t want your family to mistake them for people cookies!

Bake in preheated oven about 20 minutes. Turn over and bake for 15 minutes more.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

If your dog suffers from allergies, here’s a recipe that he can enjoy without having to scratch. Instead of flour or oatmeal, it’s made with black beans.

Because of their soft texture, these cookies are also good for dogs that have trouble chewing the harder biscuits.

Anti-Itch Doggie Cookies


1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed well and drained
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce


Mash black beans using a fork or food processor. Add peanut butter, banana and applesauce. Stir until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto nonstick cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove sheet and flatten using the back of a spoon.

Return to the over and bake for 10 minutes. Turn cookies over and continue baking 15 more minutes.

Cool completely then store in an airtight container or freeze.

For a slightly different flavor, try substituting lentils for the black beans.

If it’s too hot or you just don’t feel like firing up the oven, you’ll love these easy-to-make treats!

Coconut Blueberry Frosty Treats


1/2 cup coconut oil in solid form
Frozen blueberries


Put a blueberry into each heart in the silicone mold. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat coconut oil until it liquefies.
Allow coconut oil to cool for a few minutes, then carefully pour oil into the heart mold.

Carefully place mold into the fridge to solidify.
When coconut oil treats are solid, pop them out of the mold.

Store coconut oil treats in a baggie in the freezer.

You can get a silicone mold to make heart-shaped treats here. Or pull out those old plastic ice cube trays, just don’t try to use a metal one because it needs to flex to remove the treats.

Here’s a simple grain-free recipe your dog will love!

Banana Almond Bites


1 large egg
1/2 cup almond butter
1 banana, over ripe
1 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Using a fork, mash the banana in a large size bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix together with a fork until blended. The batter should be thick and gooey.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place teaspoon-size dollops well-separated on the sheet.

Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the pan and bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool. Be sure to refrigerate!

Here are some other ideas for treats:

  • Baby carrots
  • Sweet potatoes, sliced
  • Apples, sliced
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon, seedless
  • Banana, peeled
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Cottage cheese
  • Unflavored yogurt
  • Chicken liver
  • Chicken gizzards
  • Broccoli, sliced
  • Cauliflower, sliced

You might be surprised at what your dog likes. Most of my dogs love broccoli and cauliflower, but don’t like bananas! Go figure!

If you don’t have time to make your own treats, check out this post for quality store-bought dog treats.

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A friend’s dog just had a very bad reaction to Advantix II, a topical flea and tick control product. She lives in an area with lots of ticks and had used the product for years without a problem.

Recently her dog became agitated and anxious. He ran around the yard like he was panicked, hid in the bathroom and behind a table. He had a dose of Advantix II the evening before. When she called the Advantix emergency number, she was told “it feels like tiny needles and burning all over his skin.” She bathed him with a degreasing soap (Dawn) and gave him Benadryl. Luckily the dog is doing fine now.

If you search on ‘Advantix II Paresthesia’ you’ll find several cases where dogs have had a bad reaction. Advantix II can cause:

  • skin irritation such as redness, scratching, or other signs of discomfort
  • gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea
  • lethargy or agitation
  • sensation of burning, tingling, itching, redness or numbness of the skin

Also keep any cats away from treated dogs for 24 hours as cats can’t metabolize certain compounds and may have serious harmful effects.

According to someone who replied to her post, “Don’t use Nexgard either, I have a friend who used it on her dog and the dog started seizing and eventually passed. Nexgard is paying and has taken responsibility for it.”

Another reply talked about a friend’s dog who “started having grand mal seizures. Over time they got worse and started clustering. Come to find out it was a reaction to Frontline. Once she stopped the Frontline, the seizures stopped.”

Yet another reply said she “used k9 advantix one time and my girl had a stroke from it!!”

Bravecto is another product that was discussed. Some people like it, but it’s caused sterility which tells me it probably isn’t safe for any dog.

Bottom line?

Be very careful of chemicals used on your dog. The flea / tick products are designed to spread and coat the whole body. That’s probably not a good thing as the skin is the body’s largest organ and plays a big role in the maintenance of health.

Check your dogs when they’ve been in a tick-filled area and pull them off manually.

One product I use with good results is DynaShield. It’s a blend of essential oils, herbs and plant extracts and can be used on people, dogs, cats and horses. Click to learn more about DynaShield and more products from Dynamite Specialty Products. If you must use some sort of chemical, check out diatomaceous earth. I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard it has good results with fewer to no side effects.

You think your dog works hard? Check out these dogs who rack up over 3,000 miles conditioning in just 6 months and then run 150 miles a day for over a week in competition.

Mitch Seavey, has won the Iditarod THREE times (2004, 2013 and 2017) and holds the record as the oldest person to win.

His son, Dallas, has won the Iditarod FOUR times (only one person has ever won it 5 times) in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016.

Dallas holds the record for the youngest person to win. Mitch also came in second to Dallas in 2015 and 2016 and 3rd in 2014 when Dallas won and Dallas came in second to Mitch in 2017.

They’ve also smashed the winning time record over and over. Mitch currently holds the record at 8 days 3 hours 40 minutes 13 seconds. They are the first father and son duo in Iditarod history to claim the top two finishing positions of the race. Between them they’ve won the last 6 Iditarod races.

So why would I – a Lab person – tell you about sled dogs? Well, if a top musher chooses Dynamite products for his dogs it might be something for you to consider.

“We use Dynamite products year round in the kennel to maintain healthy, thriving dogs. The nutritional vitamin and mineral supplements are a key element in our their successful performance and great overall health,” says Dallas Seavey.

What other products does he use?

He says he’s had great success treating viral and bacterial infections “with activated Miracle Clay, Solace, Dyna Pro, and Trace Minerals Concentrate every 3 hours around the clock until well.”

Let me know if you have any questions about any of these Dynamite products!

Image courtesy Dynamite Specialty Products

Best Store-Bought Dog Treats

Who doesn’t love to give treats to their dog? But with so many commercial treats, it can be hard to make a good choice. Start off by looking for quality ingredients.

Signs of better quality:

  • Natural preservatives (such as Vitamin C or E) or no preservatives at all
  • Made in the USA
  • Fresh, whole ingredients (human-grade, if possible)

Ingredients to avoid:

  • Corn and wheat
  • “Meal” and “by-products”
  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
  • BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE)
  • PG (Propylene Glycol)
  • Rendered fat

Consider where the treats are made

There have been on-going problems with pet food and ingredients coming from China. In 2007, there was a massive recall of Chinese-made pet food. Several thousand dogs became sick or died from food containing melamine – a type of plastic. The ingredient was traced back to a Chinese firm that was adding melamine to their food products to increase the protein percentage for bigger profits.

In 2014 there was another health issue that traced to Chinese pet treats. This time it involved imported jerky treats that were linked to over 1000 dog deaths.

Because of these problems, you should avoid pet food products imported from China. Unfortunately labeling laws don’t cover ingredients that come from China. Some manufacturers have imported base ingredients because of the lower cost and mixed them with other ingredients to make pet food in the US. These products can be labeled as ‘Made in USA’ without mentioning the Chinese ingredients.

Check the manufacturer’s reputation

You can search online for recalls, not just for the particular treat you’re considering, but for the entire product line. A manufacturer with several recalls may indicate an overall problem with quality control.

Check the calorie count

Just like people, there are many overweight dogs. Obesity causes all sorts of health issues, from heart disease and high blood pressure, to diabetes and joint damage.

Regardless of which treats you choose, be sure to subtract the calories in the treats from your dog’s daily calorie allowance. Many treats have lots of calories and feeding just a few every day will lead to weight gain.

If you’re not a calorie counter, do the touch test every couple of weeks. Lay the palms of your hands on your dog’s rib cage. If his ribs are sticking out, he’s too thin. If you have to press in to feel the ribs, he’s too fat.

What tastes best to your dog

For that you may have to try a few different treats, but I don’t think he’ll mind this kind of testing!

Here are some treats that score high in our consideration:

Newman’s Own Organics Premium Dog Treats

Heart-shaped, crunchy organic dog treats that come in a wide variety of flavors, including Chicken, Peanut Butter, Salmon and Sweet Potato, Turkey and Sweet Potato, and Cheese. They also come in small (1″) and medium (1.5″) sizes.

  • No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
  • No wheat, soy or corn
  • Made in Canada
  • And the company gives 100% of profits to charity. Over $500 million so far!

“The dog loves them. They are scored to be easy to break in half for smaller dogs or for training nibbles. On ‘subscribe and save,’ the price is very good.” ~ LaRaine

Riley’s Organic Dog Treats

Bone-shaped treats that come in small and large size with a crunchy texture. They also come in a variety of flavors, including peanut butter and molasses, apple bone, sweet potato, and pumpkin and coconut bone.

  • 100% human-grade, non GMO
  • No wheat, corn or soy
  • No artificial colors or preservatives
  • USDA certified organic
  • Made in the USA

“Fantastic product! Wish it was this easy to find healthy snacks for us human-kinds! My dogs, big and small, absolutely love these! Even my friend’s uber picky eater dog goes crazy for these treats!” ~ Kelrick

Nature Gnaws All Natural Dog Chews Bully Sticks

Made from 100% natural, grass-fed, free-range beef. Oven baked without added hormones, preservatives or chemicals.

  • All natural, single ingredient
  • No added hormones, preservatives or color
  • Naturally high in protein and grain-free
  • Good for chewing exercise

“My dog loves these and I’m happy to be giving her something that’s grassfed and natural. She’s a fairly vigorous chewer and can finish one in a single sitting, but I can also take it away halfway through and give back later. It keeps her occupied.” ~ Heidi

Wet Noses Organic Dog Treats

USDA certified organic and non-GMO treats that come in several flavors – hemp seed and banana, carob and mint, cranberry and flaxseed, apple pie, sweet potato pie, agave and pear, apples and carrots, grain-free berry, grain-free peas and carrots, peanut butter, and pumpkin.

  • No corn, wheat or soy
  • No artificial color, artificial flavors or preservatives,
  • Made in USA, but only ships to the lower 48 states

“My little dog has an extremely sensitive stomach. I have to get his food from the vet. He can’t have beef, chicken, duck, lamb and grains. That leaves a lot out. My girlfriend has these treats and her dogs didn’t like them so she asked if my dog would like them. He goes nuts for these and they don’t seem to bother his stomach.” ~ Jeep Girl

Emmy’s Best Premium Chicken Jerky Treats

Thin strips of dehydrated, naturally preserved USDA Grade A chicken breasts. Thin and crispy. Sourced and produced in the US, in small batches.

  • No fillers, additives or preservatives
  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • One-ingredient product
  • Made in the USA

“My dog LOVES these. I have tried so many treats and she wouldn’t eat them. She would just push them around and over and over. Really she did. Until she received these Premium chicken Jerky Dog Treats. I believe this is my 4th order. They smell just like ‘baked’ chicken. You can break them into pieces easily.” ~ TamG

BLUE Wilderness Grain Free Crunchy Dog Treats

A dry, crunchy treat that’s available in a flavors like duck, salmon, turkey, potatoes and flaxseed. They also have some location-specific treats like Denali Biscuits with salmon, venison and halibut or Bayou Biscuits with alligator and catfish!

  • 100% grain-free
  • No corn, wheat or soy
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives

“I love that I can give him a treat, and not worry about him braking out in a massive rash! He loves them, and we love these for him! Also since switching to this brand completely he has had so much more energy, is very playful again,and his coat has been simply amazing, and shiny.” ~ Becky85

Stella & Chewy’s Carnivore Crunch

Freeze-dried raw nuggets that are 98% meat, organs and ground bone from grass-fed, cage-free or wild-caught animals, including beef, chicken, duck or turkey. Minimally processed.

  • No added hormones, antibiotics or fillers
  • No artifical preservatives or colors
  • Single source animal protein
  • Grain-free
  • Made in the USA, although the meat may be sourced from other countries, except China.

“…these treats/foods really do illicit an almost panicked, I’ll do ANYTHING, gotta have it, response!” ~ NewShoes!

Avoid these popular, but unhealthy treats:

Greenies Dog Chews

Although recommended by veterinarians, these treats are not all-natural and there have been problems with white worm infestation, vomiting and intestinal obstructions. The main ingredient is wheat gluten.

Rawhide dog treats

Although dogs seem to love chewing on rawhide treats they are not digestible. It can swell up in the stomach or intestine which can lead to diarrhea, vomiting and pancreatitis. If a piece gets stuck somewhere in a dog’s digestive tract, he will likely need surgery.

Milk Bones

Probably the most popular dog treat available, however the ingredients are very questionable:

  • Wheat Flour
  • Wheat Bran
  • Wheat Germ
  • Meat and Bone Meal
  • Salt
  • Beef Fat (Preserved with BHA)
  • Sodium Metabisulfite (Used as a Preservative)

Even if you can get past the grain-heavy ingredients, the National Toxicology Program has concluded that BHA “is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Why feed something that may cause cancer?

Beggin Strips

Another product with very questionable ingredients:

  • lots of grain (barley, oat meal, brewers rice, soybean meal, ground whole wheat, corn gluten meal, wheat flour, wheat gluten, ground yellow corn)
  • glycerin and sugar
  • soy protein concentrate
  • salt, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid (a preservative)
  • BHA – likely carcinogenic
  • dyes (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6) – linked to cancer, allergies, hyperactivity, irritability and aggressiveness

Here’s a website where you can check for product recalls: treats

I hope you found some treats your dog really likes! If you’d like try making some of your own treats, check out this post with recipes.

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