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Health Concerns for Farmdogs and Links


Health Testing for Breeding the Farmdog



I recently have been trying to breed my bitch (and running into a few problems with mother nature- the south does not handle winter well) and had some people ask me about health testing- I thought it may be helpful to some of our newer people to go through the different health tests and why we do them.


We veterinarians see genetic disease daily in practice although there may not be applicable health tests for many diseases.  Mixed bred dogs have just as many genetic diseases as purebred dogs, but as producers of purebred dogs we have a responsibility to try to make our puppies as healthy as possible.  This is easier said than done.  It is absolutely heartbreaking to plan a breeding, raise a litter, select your keeper, raise and train her, and then have a health issue pop up that means you cannot breed her.  It is much easier to judge other breeders and say they should not breed a dog with whatever issue than to do it yourself.  There are many people (especially in breeds with small gene pools) that do breed a dog with a minor issue and carefully select a mate to minimize this, and this is fine as long as the information is passed on to puppy owners. 


So here are some of the most common health tests that people have done on their Danish-Swedish Farmdogs before breeding.  Not every dog needs to have every test done in order to be bred, but here are some of the tests people do:


1. OFA hip radiographs- this is a specific x-ray done by a veterinarian after the dog is 2 years old, then sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to be graded.  Many of these x-rays are done with sedation and do require a vet who is familiar with the process to get good images.  Hip dysplasia is relatively rare in the small Farmdogs, but this is an important test- dogs should not have any evidence of dysplasia in order to be bred. 


2. OFA elbow radiographs- similar to above, but tests for elbow dysplasia, usually sent in with the hip x-rays


3. OFA/CERF eye exam- this is an examination of the dog’s eyes done by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist.  Ideally this exam should be done every few years while a dog is being bred.  This checks for any issues with the eye or vision that could be passed on. 


4. BAER testing on puppies for hearing – done to determine if a dog is deaf in one or both ears


5. OFA shoulder x-rays can be done as well


The OFA tests are listed in a giant database that compiles years of testing for hundreds of breeds.  The following DNA tests can be submitted to OFA for recording as well, although most people just keep the copies of reports themselves.  There is some debate on the testing labs, and the general Embark panels that test for “all” genetic diseases may not be as accurate as the diagnostic labs (I use UC Davis.)  Again, not all breeders test for these markers and dogs can still be bred without testing or even if they carry a copy of a gene, but probably should not be bred if they carry two copies of a gene. 


1. Primary Lens Luxation or PLL- DSF is a breed that is affected by this gene, and it causes the lens in the eye to move position and affect vision.  Approximately 15% of DSF carry one copy of this gene, so carriers should not be bred to each other.


2. Chondrodystrophy (CDDY) – this is one of the genes that causes long backs, short legs and cute faces in breeds like Dachshunds, but also makes them prone to getting issues with their spinal cord.  Dogs can sometimes be affected with one copy of this gene, but in order to make sure that the gene does not get set in the Farmdog population, and to move away from it as much as possible, dogs with one copy should only be bred to dogs clear of CDDY.  Approximately 10% of DSF carry this gene.


3.   Hyperuricsuria (HUU) is excessive production of uric acid in the urine which can lead to bladder stones.  This is rare in DSF.


4. Enamel Hypoplasia (EH) affects the enamel of the teeth.


Either pedigree or DNA evaluation of Coefficients of Inbreeding (COI) should be done as well in order to make sure the long term genetic diversity of the breed remains as high as possible. 


The other genetic diseases that are very heritable but do not have good tests include allergies (the most common genetic disease in dogs according to Dr. Bell with OFA), and of course the all encompassing temperament.  Purebred dogs are loved for their predictability and genetic diseases are part of this- we have an idea of what to look for and responsibility to decrease the likelihood in each generation.  Thanks to all the researchers that are making this possible! 15

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