HEALTH ISSUES IN POODLES TODAY
NEW DNA TESTING AVAILABLE FOR JRD AND NE
***Please note that new testing is now available for JRD - Juvenile Renal Dysplasia - a kidney condition that is fatal in young puppies. It has now been determined that both parents must be carriers (recessive gene) for puppies to be afflicted with this. It usually shows up when up puppy is in it's fast growth stages. Dogenes in Canada now has a DNA test for this disease. Please see our links page for links to all testing website.
***Please note that new testing is now available for NE - Neonatal Encephalopathy - a fatal disease in new born puppies, and again caused by a recessive gene - so both parents have to carry it. Starting in January of 2008 we will not offer stud service to any bitch that has not had this test. Canine Genetic Diseases Network has the info for the DNA testing for this disease. Please see our links page for links.
Note: Penn Hip is a method of x-ray developed by Pennsylvania State University. It is a series of three x-rays, instead of just one for OFA, in three different positions. The results when read produce an actual measurement of each hip, and a percentage of where a dog falls within it's breed. It is a much more accurate breeding tool as with that measurement you can actually breed to improve hips in offspring. Many dogs that were OFA'd Fair to Excellent have been found on Penn Hip to not be as good as once thought, and many have shown extreme signs of osteo arthritis as well. With an actual measurement we can take a bitch scoring 50% to a male scoring 80-90% and know that there should be improvement in the majority of the offspring. We spay/neuter any female pups that do not score above 40%, and only use those at the 40-50% if they have passed all of their other genetic testing and would be decreasing the gene pool by removing them from the breeding program. Our male pups must score 50% or above.
According to Orthopedic Specialists associated with GDC (Genetic Disease Control) there are five genes that contribute to hips dysplasia - the gene that determines the length of the tendon that holds the ball into the socket (short - keeps excess motion and wear and tear to a minimum, too long - allows excessive movement within the socket, causing wear and tear at an early age), next is osteo arthritis being one of the biggest contributing factors, and metabolism another one, along with osteo porosis. Diet and adequate exercise are critical in early prevention of hips dysplasia, as is not breeding females too young, who do not have their own full bone development yet. As I learned in my dairy goat husbandry full bone development is very essential, especially of the rib cage. Extra calcium and phosphorus are stored on the ribs of the dam for helping to produce good bone in fetuses and for drawing on for good milk production. Bitches bred before they have full bone development are apt to produce puppies with incorrect bone density, and may lack milk - especially in the first week, or their milk may be deficient in the essential minerals for good bone development in the puppies.
General on VonWillebrands (VWD)/Addisonians/Epilepsy/Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)/Bloat
Having the gene marker for VWD (VonWillebrands - the bleeding disease) has been a blessing, as now through DNA testing this disease can be entirely eradicated from the poodle breed. It will be even more of a blessing when we have DNA testing for Addison's, Epilepsy and SA (sebaceous adenitis - the skin condition where all the hair falls out and does not regrow) as then these conditions can also be eradicated. If we remove every dog from the gene pool on a "suspicion" that they might be carriers we would be doing a disservice to this wonderful breed, as the forms of testing at this time are not conclusive as to who is a carrier and who is clear. Only when a dog actually becomes afflicted do you know that the sire and dam may be carriers. The latest research in Addison's has proven that both parents need to be carriers. The problem with Addison's & SA is that dogs are well into their breeding years by the time offspring may show the symptoms leading to a diagnosis. Because a dog in a litter becomes afflicted, does not mean that all of the littermates will be afflicted, or even that all of the littermates are carriers, and there lies the problem for the breeder. The lower the inbreeding co-efficient, and especially the lower the percentage of influence for dogs in the ancestry known to be heavy contributors to these conditions, the fewer number of puppies in every litter are apt to be afflicted or to be carriers
Specific on Sebaceous Adenitis (SA)
The only testing available for SA continues to be the semi-annual biopsies, which just confirm that a dog does not have SA on that portion of their body at that time,and often the readings can be inconclusive due to other factors (i.e. - allergies, vaccines given, flea preparations used, excessive sun exposure, etc). I have had many calls with standard poodles having a skin outbreak or hair loss where vets have often contributed it to SA and suggested spaying/neutering their dogs without even having the biopsy results, stating that it is SA. A few of these calls have been for poodles of our blood lines, just as many have not been. My advice always is to bath the dog with a 1/3 Woolite 2/3 Water shampoo, then rinse with straight old fashioned original Listerine - leaving it on. An old groomer taught me this almost 25 years ago for skin problems with our goats. There are a lot of bacteria and parasites as well that can affect the skin and give the same symptoms as SA, but not be SA. We continue the Listerine rinse every other day until the condition is cleared up, and repeat the bathing once a week until everything is back to normal. It is amazing the number of conditions that we have used this treatment on and it has worked. Special shampoos from the vets are very expensive. Woolite is for natural fibers (the finest of woolens). Our creams and apricots (Cassie) have been bathed in Woolite with a cap of Mrs. Stuarts Blueing added to a pint of soap solution for over 10 years and we have never had flaky skin, brittle dry hair, or any skin problems whatever. The blueing is great for taking out saliva stains (orange spots from licking themselves) and other stains on the coat (don't use extra blueing or you will end up with a blue dog).
Breeder, Owner & Veterinarian Responsibility
We now register all of our puppies ourselves, and then send the registration papers to the new families to transfer into their names. Out of Cassie's first litter of 12 puppies (when we were new to all this) only one puppy was actually ever registered. This means we cannot track any of her puppies from that litter for research projects. Not unless we contact the original owners, talk them into registering the puppies, in which instance since it is over a year since the birth we would have to write a letter for every family stating why they have not been registered, and the family would have to pay all the late fees. By the time I discovered this, when we wanted to participate in a researh project and wanted as many of her offspring tested as possible, most of the families had misplaced their original applications for registry, so we would also have had extra fees to pay to get them replaced, before they could ever be processed. We also found several of those who did get their papers completed had altered the names and removed Friendships from the front of the puppies name. Friendships is how all of the puppies for Friendship Farm 'n More are registered. By doing this when we go to a research facilties website to look up records we can just type in Friendships and the results of all of our puppies will be listed (as well as other breeds using the same name). This method often keeps us informed of our puppies sold as pets that have been tested and the results. As a breeder it is my responsibility to participate in as many research projects as I can, so that eventually we will have DNA testing for Addison's, Epilepsy, SA and many other problems that can affect all breeds, as well as the poodles. As a breeder it is my responsibility when I receive results of a diagnosis pertaining to a puppy produced by Friendship Farm 'n More to inform any research facility of the diagnosis and provide the identification number, registration number and five generation pedigree. It is the owners responsibility to notify Friendship Farm 'n More, and to have the examining veterinarian send any diagnostic reports to the breeder for forwarding to the research facilities. The biggest problem of all is that pups are known at the veterinarian offices only by "call" name. Veterinarians do not ask for registration numbers or registered names and do not send their diagnostic reports to any research or breed facility. Therefore at least 75% of dogs in the breed never have their medical problems known to the breeder or to the research or breed facility. The four reported problems in the poodle breed are hips dysplasia, VWD, SA, and PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy - causes blindness). We as breeders also know that there is an even larger problem with poodles being diagnosed with Addison's and Epilepsy. We have also become aware than VWD which was thought to be affecting mainly standard poodles, is also a problem with Miniatures, as several families have come to us to replace miniatures that they have lost to this horrible disease. Only when Breeders, Owners and Veterinarians will all start working together, and assisting the research facilities and breed clubs - especially those working toward gene markers to get DNA testing for these conditons - will we start seeing improving overall health results in the poodle breed, or any breed.
Inbreeding Coefficient (COI)
Dr. John Armstrong is sorely missed, but his influence will be ongoing for generations for his research into the genetics of the poodle breed. His website, still being maintained by his family and the University of Ottawa, CAN - called Diversity in Poodles is a wonderful source of information. Through his website, and through his seminars (available through PCA on videos) many poodle breeders have learned a great deal on the importance of genetic diversity in the poodle breed, due to the concentration of a few dogs in the ancestry of almost all poodles that contributed to the health problems in this breed.
Our COI studies are done on the full 10 generation ancestry behind a poodle, however not only are we looking to produce puppies with a COI below the safe level of 6.25%, we are also looking to reduce the influence of about 14 standard poodles, and an almost equal number of miniature poodles that are known producers of the genetic problems in the breed, or conformational problems in the breed..
Line breeding has a place in the industry, but only as a tool - and only when the genetics in the ancestry are known to be comparably "safe". Inbreeding (mother to son, father to daughter, brother to sister) does not have a place in the industry - it is a short cut to "setting conformation", however it also multiplies every other genetic factor that can lead to the diseases and compromised auto immune systems in the puppies produced, also in many cases drastically reducing life span.
The goal at Friendship Farm 'n More is to produce healthy puppies, of good temperament and personality, with good conformation according to the breed standards for a working/show dog with line breeding separated by 3-5 generations, and only once in the top portion and the bottom portion of the pedigree. We learned in our study of Dairy Goats and years of breeding and being involved in "Delinear Evaluations" (an actual measurement of all the bone structure and musculature of the dairy goat) how important breeding body type was. Over a period of time generations of goats could be studied through the Volumes put out on the breeds with "Delinear Evaluations". When this form of evaluation became availabe, and was used as a tool by breeders Nation wide (and eventually World Wide) it was amazing the improvement that was seen within 10 years in the Dairy Goat World. I wish something like this was available in the dog world today.
With every litter we produce we now do a three page Temperament Test and a three page Conformation Evaluation at 7 1/2 - 8 weeks of age, to help us determine which puppies are of the quality for utilizing. Keeping only those that test at the very highest for retaining for our own future use or for placing with a breed/show family. What hampers the breeder today is not having "hands on" experience with grandparents, great grandparents, siblings of the dams and sires they are wanting to use. In animal husbandry often it is not the parents that are seen in the offspring but the grandparents. Very seldom are a number of generations and siblings all available at a kennel for "hands on" conformation evaluations.
Our evaluations always start with the feet, if the feet are not of the proper type for the breed, they will not be used correctly and the wear and tear on the joints above the feet will be increased, until all of the joints are involved. Sound feet and legs, just as with humans are the foundation of the dog. The same is true with Dairy Goats (my experience) and with horses (Karin's experience - especially as she was also a Farrier - horse shoer). Splayed toes and flat feet are something we are seeing more and more in poodles (all three sizes) today. The other weakness we are seeing is in front shoulder assembly. Shoulder placement is too often incorrect or wrongly angulated, giving the poodle the appearance of having a shorter neck. All poodles are born with the same number of vertebrae, it is the placement and angulation of the shoulder that makes some look shorter in the neck than others, and creates difficulty for the dog to have a long reach in the front, and also causes a head carriage that is too far up and back (ewe neck). This causes a prancing gait, rather than a reaching gait. The poodle has been judged for years with a very long, heavy mane coat, which has hampered judges from seeing and feeling for proper bone structure of the shoulder. They are also judged in a non-sporting class in the AKC, instead of with either the working class, the herding class, or the sporting class - of which the poodle fits all three with their capabilities. The poodle is one of the most versatile of all breeds (See website: Versatility in Poodles), and many poodles have a list of titles behind their names showing that they have fulfilled those capabilities in competition.