Health Concerns for Farmdogs and Links
Health Testing for Breeding the Farmdog
If you haven’t read Danika’s article on the DSFCA website yet, please do so, but this is a brief review/assessment of some of the key points. Danika is a veterinary genetic expert at UC Davis and we are lucky to have her in our breed club! The fact that our small breed club has so many veterinarians is actually an amazing testament to the health of these dogs and the fact that we feel we can stand behind them. These dogs have wonderful long healthy active lives and while there may be a few different tests that can be done, the fact of the matter is that average lifespan is 13-17 years, and that is almost unheard of in most breeds.
The most important fact is that temperament, structure and diversity comparisons are the most important “health tests” at this time. We have been very lucky to have the European breeders give us such healthy dogs to start with. Obviously asking your breeder about any issues their dogs have personally had is important, as things like skin allergies are certainly genetic but do not have any tests that can be done (yet anyway.)
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 of course, although we are quite lucky with DSF that there is high genetic diversity and overall very low risks of health issues. In fact, DSF are much healthier and longer-lived than the average dogs in Sweden!!!
So here are some of the most common health tests that people have done on their Danish-Swedish Farmdogs before breeding. Dogs do not need to have any of these tests done in order to be bred, and none are currently required in Denmark or Sweden. The larger DNA panels like Embark may not be as accurate for testing for these specific genes, so it is best to send out specific tests to a veterinary lab such as UC Davis.
1. BAER testing on puppies for hearing – done in puppies to determine if a dog is deaf in one or both ears
2. DNA test for 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 be affected with one copy of this gene, but in order to move away from it as much as possible, dogs with one copy should only be bred to dogs clear of CDDY, and puppies can be tested at birth to help determine keepers. Approximately 22% of DSF carry this gene.
3. DNA test for 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 17% of DSF carry one copy of this gene, so carriers should not be bred to each other. This is a recessive gene, so dogs need to have two copies to be affected.
4. Amelogenesis Imperfecta (AI) also known as Enamel Hypoplasia (EH) affects the enamel of the teeth, and about 11% of DSF are carriers. It is also recessive.
5. OFA hip radiographs- this is a specific x-ray done by a veterinarian after the dog is a year 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 very rare in the small Farmdogs, but it also tests for Legg- Calves-Perthes disease.
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.
There is merit to the current approach in the home countries in Denmark and Sweden to not relying on any of these health tests- we in the USA like to have written down things that we can say are "good" and "bad" for breeding but it is never that clear- the long term health of the breed and diversity demands us to keep an open mind. I am of the mindset that testing and knowing about the different things is useful but I am not culling Mouse from the breeding pool simply because she carries one copy of CDDY and PLL. She is a wonderfully athletic healthy dog and is the best training partner I could hope for. Her relatives that have a copy of CDDY are living long healthy active lives.
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 it in future generations. There are a number of other genes that will be monitored in the breed and it is important to note that likely more genetic diseases will be identified over the years. This is thanks to dedicated researchers and not decreased health in breeds.