canine health

Solving Pugs

First, encourage your friend to do the straw thing again, but for longer. If she’s coping while doing nothing ask her to do mild physical activity like walk around, wash the dishes, get the mail. If she can breath through only a straw, whilst doing mild activity, for an hour, with no discomfort, then give her a medal and send her off to a medical science lab.

Second, let’s define ‘the pug crises’. If we’re going to talk about health problems in the pug related to breeding or anatomy, we should include, but not limit ourselves to:

  • Brachycephalic syndrome, causing air hunger, overheating, exercise intolerance, collapse, chronic vomiting and increased risk of respiratory obstruction
  • Hemivertebrae and increased risk of intervertebral disc disease
  • Eye problems including: overexposure predisposing to keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye) and eye ulcers, proptosis of the globe (eyeball popping out), laterally deviated vision, entropion
  • Excessive facial skin folds, leading to yeast dermatitis and chronic ear infections.
  • Hip dysplasia. Even though they’re little, they still get it surprisingly commonly.
  • Propensity towards obesity. This may be linked to the breed’s general difficulty exercising.

I think that’s enough problems to address to begin with. There’s too much flesh and not enough bone in the head. The breeding towards a curved tail, and a ‘double curled tail’ is still considered highly desirable in the show ring, has resulted in unstable backs and hemivertebrae. The desire for large, round eyes instead of more oval, typical eyes has resulted in bulging globes that easily pop out. And the ‘well defined wrinkles’ of the breed standard go too far, resulting in skin and ear infections and encouraging the breed to retain the excessive soft tissues of its head.

The purebred pug scene, and the desire to achieve a perfect ‘look’ has resulted in the suffering of this breed. The greatest opposition to change is the purebred pug clubs, because changing the breed standard would result in dogs ‘not looking like a pug’ anymore. They are also firmly against crossbreeding, even though we know that after 5 generations of crossing back, the offspring are indistinguishable from a purebred. Nevertheless, if I could change the world I would:

  • Change the breed standard to include a minimum nose length of 2 inches.
  • Allow a curled tail, but more than 360 degrees is too much.
  • Have all show dogs hip scored to compete. Spinal Xrays would be great while we’re at it.
  • Limit maximum size allowed for eyes, encourage more oval than round eyes.
  • Outcross to other breeds.

Personally, I think the Jack Russel Terrier, particularly the straighter legged ones, are excellent candidates to cross pugs to. The head is just lovely, they still have lots of energy, and most of their genetic problems don’t overlap. It means that instead of this:

You end up with something a bit more like this:

Really, the breed clubs need to ask themselves whether they really like the dogs or the look of the dogs. The breed deserves better.

Can you honestly say that this isn’t ‘pug’ enough to you? ‘Cause it ooks very puggy to me, but with much less suffering.

But what would I know? I’m just a lowly veterinarian.

snecko-my-eggo-deactivated20170  asked:

What's wrong with Dalmatians? Like health wise? I've been hearing lots of people they have poor health but no specifics.

Dalmatians have a number of health problems. The two most prolific issues are congenital deafness and a genetic defect which damages the liver’s ability to process uric acid, leading to high levels of uric acid which can cause kidney and bladder stones, kidney and urinary tract disorders, and a few other conditions (like Dalmatian bronzing syndrome).

Deafness is extremely common in Dalmatians, with between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 Dalmatians being born either unilaterally or bilaterally deaf, the highest rate of deafness in any dog breed. (In reality, the prevalence of deafness in the breed is likely higher but the Dalmatian Club of America recommends that breeders euthanize deaf puppies rather than placing them in pet homes.) Deafness is inextricably linked with the Dalmatian’s unique spotted coat, as the same genes that control pigment in the coat also control pigment in the inner ear, and lack of pigment in the inner ear damages melanocytes which are essential to normal hearing. Dalmatians with patches rather than the typical spots are significantly less likely to be deaf than spotted Dalmatians (10.45% vs 31.49% deaf), and Dalmatians with brown eyes are also less likely to be deaf than Dalmatians with blue eyes (27.66% vs 50.86%); however, patched Dalmatians are a disqualification according to the breed standard so breeding for patches is strongly discouraged by breed clubs even though it would greatly reduce the rate of deafness in the breed. Until the breed standard is modified to favor patched rather than spotted Dalmatians, it’s highly unlikely that the rate of deafness will decrease in the breed.

The other common issue is the breed’s high level of uric acid which leads to numerous complications, most commonly urolithiasis (urinary stones) and dermatitis. Until quite recently, every Dalmatian was homozygous for an autosomal recessive gene which inhibited the ability of the liver to process uric acid. Since every Dalmatian was homozygous for the defective gene, meaning none carried the normal gene, “breeding out” this defect without crossing to another breed was impossible. In the 1970′s, an outcross program was founded upon a single Pointer x Dalmatian cross which re-introduced the normal gene into the breed. The progeny of this outcross were backcrossed with purebred Dalmatians, and now their descendants are both phenotypically and genetically indistinguishable from “pure” Dalmatians other than the presence of the normal gene. In 1981, the AKC decided that LUA were phenotypically similar enough to “pure” Dalmatians to permit registering them as purebred, but the Dalmatian Club of America disagreed with this decision which stopped registration efforts. After being pressured by the AKC to permit registration of LUA Dalmatians despite the DCA’s stubborn insistence that these dogs should not be registered for several decades, in 2011 the DCA finally opened registration for LUA Dalmatians. As a result, it’s now possible to find Dalmatians without a propensity for the diseases associated with high levels of uric acid. While it’s theoretically possible for the entire Dalmatian breed to eventually carry the normal gene, it’s improbable that the defective gene will ever be completely eliminated from the gene pool and other congenital diseases could appear as a result of genetic bottlenecking unless further outcrosses are performed in the future.

Other congenital health problems reported in Dalmatians include (according the the Canine Inherited Disorders Database and Dog Breed Health):

  • Atopy
  • Bloat
  • Cancer (various)
  • Cataracts
  • Ceroid lipofuscinosis
  • Copper toxicosis
  • Dalmatian bronzing syndrome
  • Demodicosis / Demodectic mange
  • Dermoids
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Ectropion
  • Entropion
  • Epilepsy
  • Galactocerebrosidosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Globoid cell leukodystrophy (galactocerebrosidosis)
  • Hepatitis – copper associated chronic hepatitis (autoimmune liver disease)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypertonic myopathies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Microphthalmia; ocular dysgenesis
  • Myelopathy
  • Pannus - chronic superficial keratitis
  • Peripheral neuropathies
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Sebaceous adenitis
  • Shoulder osteochondrosis
  • Spina bifida

Anecdotally, the vet where I work does a lot of work with a large Dalmatian rescue, so I’ve seen quite a few Dalmatians over the past few years. Other than the prolific issues of deafness and urolithiasis, the most common issues I’ve seen firsthand are chronic atopy/dermatitis, dilated cardiomyopathy, glaucoma (requiring enucleation [surgical removal of the eye] in both cases), and laryngeal paralysis which most commonly manifests as megaesophagus (the only cases of megaesophagus I’ve ever seen have all been Dalmatians).


Veterinary Diaries #1: Pyometra 

10-year-old FS Chihuahua presented with lethargy, fever, and brown discharge from the vulva. Top differential: Pyometra 

Pyometra: Life-threatening infection of the uterus.

The only way to be absolutely certain that this will not occur in your female dog is to spay her. The only treatment for a pyometra is an ovariohysterectomy. A pyometra is 100% preventable, please help spread the word of how important fixing your animal is! 

A 2# infected uterus was removed from a 9# dog. The dog was treated surgically and also with IV antibiotics. Unfortunately, she made it through the surgery but not the recovery process. I have attached first the pyometra uterus and what the uterus should look like. Can you imagine how painful this would be? 

Friendly reminder that it is so very important to muzzle train your dog, no matter how friendly they are. Daenerys got a nasty tick bite at the base of her ear over the weekend that got infected. And while she normally loves our vet, today we had to muzzle her because he had to remove a great deal of infected tissue and it was a bit painful, and he wanted to take precautions in case she made her displeasure known.

In the end she stood very still, but was trembling all over, and honestly, who knows how she might have reacted without the muzzle in place.

I know my dog and I know she’s a very confident and loving girl with a great and kind personality. But sometimes situations come up where a muzzle will be necessary, even if just as a precaution for the sake of the veterinarian’s safety. And it is always better to be prepared for such a situation and get your dog used to the idea of a muzzle.

I’m so thankful we worked on muzzles before today, because she handled it like a champ, even though she was obviously terrified.

dogmart  asked:

do you know of any articles/ effects about bull terriers and the shape of their heads?

Though the head shape of the Bull Terrier is certainly extreme, I’ve been unable to find any research which indicates that their head conformation is directly related to any specific health problems. It does however affect their bite and hence their ability to work, which is why old type Bull Terriers, which were still used for work, and modern working line Bull Terriers do not share the overly exaggerated egg-shaped heads that their conformation line counterparts display.

Bull Terrier c. 1890

Modern working line Bull Terrier.

Modern conformation line Bull Terrier.

However, it is interesting to note that while the phenotype for the egg-shaped head is not known to be harmful in and of itself, it seems that breeding for Bull Terriers with no stop and eventually convex skulls led to a lot of heavy inbreeding in the early days of the breed when breeders attempted to “fix” the desired head type in their dogs through intense linebreeding. I recall reading about a particular popular sire in the breed which first displayed this ideal head type and was therefore overused in breeding; unfortunately I can no longer find the source where I first discovered this information so I’m unable to link to it, and I may be recalling incorrectly. :/ I do know that Lord Gladiator was the first Bull Terrier to be bred to have a total lack of a stop in 1917 (though even his head conformation was not nearly as extreme as modern Bull Terriers), but I’m unable to find information on whether it was Lord Gladiator himself or rather one of his progeny that was the breed’s most popular sire in the earlier days of the breed. (If anyone can find information about this and send it to me, it would be greatly appreciated! I’m kicking myself for not saving the original article I found.)

Lord Gladiator

Due to this heavy inbreeding, Bull Terriers are one of the least genetically diverse dog breeds and therefore suffer from numerous health problems. In this study of the genetic diversity in 28 dog breeds, Bull Terriers are the least diverse by far. Their level of heterozygosity* was measured to be .387. The next least heterozygous breed was a tie between the Boxer and Miniature Bull Terrier at .474. In contrast, the most heterozygous breed in the study was the Jack Russell Terrier at .758.

There is one known prominent health problem that is directly related to the Bull Terrier’s phenotype: deafness in white Bull Terriers. This study on the prevalence of deafness in various dog breeds found that 20.4% of white Bull Terriers are either unilaterally or bilaterally deaf. By contrast, color Bull Terriers only had a 1.3% rate of deafness. This is due to the relationship between pigment and normal development of the ears. Dogs that have little or no pigment in their skin, which produces a white coat color, also lack vascular melanocytes in their ears, which causes the cochlear hair cells, cells that are necessary for hearing, to die. White Bull Terriers have a higher rate of deafness than any other breed except for Dalmatians, which have a 28.9% rate of deafness according to the same study. To me, that’s a serious enough issue to stop breeding white Bull Terriers altogether, but unfortunately they remain fairly popular and can be shown.

*Moderately long rabbit trail explaining the basics of why low heterozygosity leads to health problems below the cut:

Keep reading

forallthatyoucantleavebehind  asked:

Hi! You've done a lot of research on genetics and health tests so I was just wondering if you could help me. I'm unsure which health tests are important for the breed I want. There's a lot of tests available and some test for everything possible whilst others only test one or two. After reading some of your genetics pieces I'm thinking more isn't necessarily better so I'm unsure. I'm looking at standard poodles (UK if it makes a difference) and any advice would be very appreciated. Thank you :D

Unfortunately, Standard Poodles are in dire straits genetically, which means that they have a lot of health problems and getting a healthy one will be a bit of crapshoot even with a great breeder. The breed underwent a severe genetic bottleneck in the 1950′s and 60′s, resulting in a very small gene pool, which is now causing rising rates of congenital disease in the breed, especially autoimmune disorders. Quoting a study on sebaceous adenitis in Standard Poodles and other breeds:

Autoimmune disorders, affecting a wide range of organs and tissues, are becoming increasingly common in pure breeds of dogs. The main reason for this increase is inbreeding with a decrease in genetic diversity within the various genes of the DLA complex.

The most serious common genetic diseases found in Standard Poodles are autoimmune disorders, primarily sebaceous adenitis and Addison’s disease. This is very bad news since autoimmune disorders are directly linked with high levels of homozygosity (low genetic diversity) in the Dog Leukocyte Antigen (DLA) complex, which means there’s no way to test for them and they can only be staved off by outcrossing. Because of this, when looking for a SP breeder, I would place a heavy emphasis on finding someone breeding outbred litters who possibly does genetic diversity testing to select away from high levels of homozygosity. UC Davis offers a genetic diversity test specifically for SPs, and most breeders who utilize these tests will be happy to share their results. MyDogDNA is another test which tests for a list of genetic disorders in addition to genetic diversity.

Regardless of whether a SP breeder utilizes genetic diversity testing, they should share the COI of their litters. Ideally, the COI should be calculated by going back to the breed founders, but since it’s a bit impractical, it’s likely not common practice. At a minimum, the COI should take into account at least 10 generations; anything less than that is potentially skewed by lack of data. You should be looking for COIs that are less than the breed average. In SPs, this is about 10% (0.1) when going back to founders, and 15% (0.15) when going back 15 generations. In an outbred litter, the COI of the pups will be less than (or equal to) the highest COI of the parents.

COI is especially important in SPs because there’s recent evidence that lower COI is associated with a decreased risk of cancer and bloat as well as a longer lifespan in SPs specifically.

Regarding genetic diseases found in SPs in general, here’s a list of disorders reported in the breed according to the Canine Inherited Disorders Database:

  • Cataracts
  • colour dilution alopecia
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (bloat)
  • Glaucoma
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s syndrome)
  • Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s disease)
  • Idiopathic epilepsy
  • Malassezia dermatitis/otitis
  • Microphthalmia; ocular dysgenesis
  • Mitral valve dysplasia
  • Optic nerve hypoplasia and micropapilla
  • Persistent pupillary membranes (PPM)
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Retinal dysplasia
  • sebaceous adenitis
  • von Willebrand’s disease

Those in bold have a genetic test available, which breeders should definitely utilize. As you can see, most of them don’t, which is why health can be such a crapshoot.

Phenotypic tests like hip scoring are far less predictive than genetic disease testing, and they’re generally inefficiently utilized unless a breeder uses that phenotypic data with an EBV database. However, they’re certainly not useless and while good test results don’t guarantee healthy puppies, it’s still good to know that a breeder isn’t breeding unhealthy dogs and a breeder not doing any phenotypic tests would raise a red flag for me (unless they had a good explanation of why they don’t test). In SPs, it appears that the most common and important tests are cardiac, eyes, hips, and thyroid.

Finally, here’s a little more disease prevalence data for SPs specifically in the UK (from the 2004 KC Health Survey) to get an idea for what problems are most common and cause for concern:

Hope that helps you in your search!


Bloating Akita caught on film. 

A must watch for dog owners. Know the signs; it could save your dog’s life.  

Love at first analysis

It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with every puppy you come across. But when it comes to guide dogs, pairing the right one to a blind or visually impaired owner requires much more than puppy love. Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a non-profit guide dog organization, uses Watson Analytics to screen over half-a-million canine health and temperament records in the IBM Cloud. That’s hundreds of data points for each pup to help increase the chances of a successful pairing.

Read more about training guide dogs →


Horse, Dog and Soldiers With Gas Masks

Though many filtering masks existed for both mining operations and chemical exposure before the First World War, they were not widely known, and many of their designs could not have stood up to the chemical attacks that were perpetrated on a scale never before seen by humanity.

The first mass use of poison gas (chlorine, specifically) at the Second Battle of Ypres was a massive failure - though many Canadian soldiers were exposed, the prevailing winds shifted, and the German troops that deployed the gas were overcome. Still, this battle showed the Allies that the Germans were serious about using chemical agents, and both sides began to develop gas masks not only for themselves, but for their combat animals.

Dogs and horses both had specially-fitted gas masks, and while the canines learned quickly to work with theirs, horses had the significant problem of mistaking their breathing-boxes for feed bags, since the shape and feel was so similar. This was overcome by training and lengthening the gas masks, so that the filter boxes did not touch their lips.

National Museum of Health on Flickr. USA Army Signal Corps, ca. 1915-1918.

One of the best ways to get over self doubt is to speak those negative thoughts out loud to your dog.

“I feel so incompetent.”
“I’m going to sit in your lap now so you can pet me.”
“I feel inadequate.”
“I am going to smoosh my face against your hand now.”
“I feel like I’m failing.”
“I love licking your face off.”

It’s hard to doubt yourself in the face of unconditional love.

"Do we really know if dog breeds used to be healthier than they are today?"

Even as I’m focusing my energy on creating my breeding project website, I still remain prone to writing lengthy comments in FB discussions about dog breeding. This is an adaptation and expansion of one of those comments. It’s obviously not an article with citations, but rather my thoughts on an interesting and frequently raised question. I thought I would share it for the sake of giving y'all some brain fodder to mull over and to provoke discussion. 


A question that’s often raised in the discussion of genetic health in dogs is whether we definitively know that dogs today are more sickly than they once were. 

This question is actually a red herring in the wider discussion of breeding and genetic health. 

Since there’s no good data on the disease prevalence of the dog breeds of the past or measuring disease prevalence in breeds over a significant amount of time, it’s an unanswerable question. In many situations where this question is raised, the fact that we can’t definitively answer this question is actually the point of raising it. This is because it shifts the focus of the conversation to the presumed importance of monitoring disease prevalence in specific breeds instead of addressing the basic, undeniable fact that congenital disorders DO have a genetic basis and CAN be effectively prevented with proper breeding techniques. 

It also suggests the possibility that purebred dogs are “supposed” to suffer from a certain level of genetic disease. This is, of course, an unfounded belief as we know that breeds of other animals exist without the alarmingly high rate of disease found in purebred dogs. 

Further, it potentially suggests that the breeding techniques of yesteryear are something to be held up on a pedestal. The fact remains that the earliest dogs of our breeds may not have been more or less healthy because of the methods used by the breed founders but perhaps in spite of them. After all, the basic principles of dog breeding, such as the concept of blood purity and breeding only the best as a means of improving the breed, have remained largely unchanged in mainstream dog breeding culture to this day. Some of the specifics, like the implementation of genetic health and diversity testing, have changed, but the underlying principles are essentially the same as they were a century ago. 

The truth is that the lack of data on the health of the dogs in the past is irrelevant as even today, there’s not really reliable data on the prevalence of health problems within particular breeds. Most of what we know is self-reported data from breeders in breed health surveys (hardly complete, certainly not randomly selected samples, and arguably biased) and a couple of datasets collected by veterinary hospitals (which only record the number of reported cases of diseases and do not evaluate what percentage of dogs within a breed have those diseases). 

However, what we DO definitively know is that an increase in homozygosity, caused both by inbreeding and other factors like genetic drift, creates an increase of disease expression and a decrease of fertility, lifespan, and immune function. Most of the studies on this are done on livestock (Wright first formulated the COI in the early ‘20s based on livestock studies), but the principles are the same in dogs. There are a few studies in dogs which corroborate these findings, all of which are available on the ICB website. 

Ultimately, I think too many breeders get caught up in trying to assess disease prevalence rather than simply applying known principles of genetics to guide their breeding practices. Once a genetic disorder becomes a noticeable problem, the gene pool is already going to be full of carriers, making those disorders impossible to “breed out” without reducing genetic diversity so much that another disease becomes a problem. This is what happened with Basenjis when breeders were overzealous about eliminating carriers for PRA from the gene pool, inadvertently causing Fanconi Syndrome to become a fixed trait and requiring an outcross to COO dogs to save the breed. With immune diseases, the problem is even worse, as immune health is founded in the diversity of DLA haplotypes rather than the absence of specific deleterious alleles. Once you lose enough of that diversity to cause immune disease, there’s no way to get it back without opening up the gene pool and widely disseminating the genes of many crossbred dogs to even out allele frequencies. No matter how much data you have on disease prevalence, it’s irrelevant as it does not facilitate the improvement of breed health in and of itself and typically comes only once it’s too late to utilize any simple solutions for the problems that have appeared. 

Ideally, breeders SHOULD focus on crisis prevention and not damage control. Of course virtually no breeders do this and the way registries and clubs are currently run make it all but impossible for breeders to attempt it even if they wanted to. Closed studbooks, strict breed standards which often vary from country to country, and differing regulations on what can be registered as “purebred” are huge obstacles to restoring and protecting genetic diversity in dog breeds, which have effective population sizes so small that maintaining a closed gene pool forever is impossible. 

For some breeders, there will NEVER be enough research or data to justify crossbreeding for improved health. This is a huge problem in Italian Greyhounds, which suffer from more immune diseases than any other breed. IG breeders continue to chant, “We need more studies before we change our breeding practices,” while the small window of ability to save the breed continues to close. Empirically proven methods for reducing the incidence of genetic diseases in animals are already well-studied and widely applied in other animal breeds and species, but they are intentionally ignored by the breeder community who insist that somehow, a vast body of breed-specific research is necessary to make smart breeding decisions. The truth is that nobody actually wants to change their traditional mindset and practices regardless of what modern science indicates. They simply want to find data to justify their presuppositions about breeding, and they will wait until hell freezes over to get it. 

Lack of data is NOT the problem. Lack of scientific education, a refusal to apply all of what modern science has taught us about genetics rather than picking and choosing bits to support traditional practices, and an unrealistic determination to cling to outdated breeding principles as though they were quasi-religious truths transcending time and culture are the REAL roots of the problems our breeds face.

You may not remember what you were doing a few minutes ago. But your dog probably does.

A study of 17 dogs found they could remember and imitate their owners’ actions up to an hour later. The results, published in Current Biology, suggest that dogs can remember and relive an experience much the way people do.

That’s probably not a big surprise to people who own dogs, says Claudia Fugazza, an author of the study and an animal behavior researcher at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. Fugazza owns a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog named Velvet.

“Most dog owners at least suspected that dogs can remember events and past experiences,” she says.

But demonstrating this ability has been tricky.

Your Dog Remembers Every Move You Make

Photo: Mirko Lui/Cell Press
Caption: Comparative psychologist Claudia Fugazza and her dog demonstrate the “Do As I Do” method of exploring canine memory.


The first picture is a plain radiograph of a dog’s abdomen, investigated for stranguria and haematutia.

The second image is a negative contrast radiograph, where air has been introduced to the bladder in order to dilate it. I was hoping to find some nice chunky bladder stones, but instead identified a suspect tumour lesion in the dorsal bladder wall.

This trigone area of the bladder is a common location for Transitional Cell Carcinoma.