OFA and Health Testing
Registries are data information "banks", where results of health screenings are evaluated, rated, and certified. OFA is the most recognizable in the U.S.A.
Registries were formed with the intent to give Breeders data on dogs which have been rated "acceptable" by the Registry's criteria. This data would then be used to make decisions on acceptable breeding stock, allowing breeders to better the health conditions within a breed by selective breeding practices. To a large extent, these registries have been successful in providing the data tools.
Unfortunately, this is not the whole story, as genetics (and modes of inheritance) is complex science. The information on dogs that pass is very, very useful. But so is the information on dogs that don't certify to be truly effective, one needs data on as large a group of animals as possible, both good and bad. In an optimal situation, a breeder would want to know both good and bad in the bloodlines they are considering breeding. In that way, one could balance the good against the bad, and assess any risks which might not be currently obvious, breed towards the good and away from the bad. This leads to a discussion of open registries vs. "closed" registries. This would seem to be "no-brainer" idea, being able to use data on both good and bad. But some registries leave you the option of not registering your "bad" results and some breed clubs do not participate because they seem to think "breeders won't participate with failing dogs", "what's our liability", "too much effort and too much cost" seems to fly in direct contradiction to the breed club's responsibility in making this a better breed.
The OFA has both types of registries. The OFA Hip and OFA Elbow Registries are "closed", in that only the dogs that pass certification have information published and available to the public. Strongly to their credit, OFA recently has adopted a more progressive stance, and instituted the OFA Heart and OFA Thyroid Registries as "open" registries where all data (option checked by the owner) is available for use.
You can make a difference. Purchase from breeders who believe in health testing.
Health and OFA Testing
We do health test our dogs and register the results with the OFA (www.offa.org) We test for Hip Dysplasia, Eyes, Cardio and PRA.
All dogs must past these tests in order to be used in our breeding program.
Although overall Siberians are very healthy, they rank # 158 out of 164 breeds with Hip Dysplasia. They still have a chance of producing a dysplastic pup the chances are lessened by having the parents, grandparents, sibling's etc. tested by the OFA and by not using dogs with a less then fair rating. Ratings come back as Fair, Good or Excellent anything below Borderline, Mild, Moderate or Severe should not be used in any breeding program. Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in dogs. Gender does not seem to be a factor, but some breeds are more likely to have the genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia than other breeds. Large and giant breeds are most commonly affected. Rarely, small breed dogs can also be affected, but are less likely to show clinical signs. The hip joint is composed of the ball and the socket. The development of hip dysplasia is determined by an interaction of genetic and environmental factors, though there is a complicated pattern of inheritance for this disorder, with multiple genes involved. Hip dysplasia is the failure of the hip joints to develop normally (known as malformation), gradually deteriorating and leading to loss of function of the hip joints.
Inherited eye defects are also a health concern in the Siberian Huskies.
What follows is a brief explanation about each of the disorders that has been known to affect Siberian Huskies, their genetic inheritance (put in simple terms), and the suggested strategy for breeding. This article has been put together with information from Dr. Robert Stanley from Animal Eye Care, Malvern Victoria, along with several web pages which are stated at the end of the article.
The most common in Siberians are juvenile cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and progressive retinal atrophy.
The term “cataract” refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts, and some breeds are especially at risk. Cataracts are more common in older animals but can be present at birth or develop very early in life. Cataracts affect a dog’s vision and can be progressive, in some cases leading to blindness.
Causes of Cataracts in Dogs.
In dogs, cataracts typically have a strong hereditary component. Other contributing causes include nutritional deficiencies, low blood calcium levels, exposure to toxins, diabetes mellitus, radiation, electric shock and blunt or penetrating trauma. Cataracts can occur spontaneously for no known reason. The actual biological cause of cataracts is a change in the protein composition or arrangement of the fibers of the lens of the affected eye.
While cataracts always affect a dog’s vision, they do not affect its health. Most dogs adjust to their vision deficiencies extremely well. Surgical treatment for cataracts is highly successful, and the prognosis for dogs with cataracts is excellent if the condition is identified and treated early. Owners should know that not all cataracts are progressive, and not all affected dogs need surgical correction. Testing does not show dogs who are carriers of the recessive gene for Juvenile Cataracts or Corneal Dystrophy. If a carrier dog is bred with another carrier dog, they will produce a certain number of pups who will get cataracts or Corneal Dystrophy. There is currently no way to tell if your dog is a carrier.
Appearance: By definition it is opacity of the lens. Therefore, any coloration, or partial coloration of the lens could possibly be a cataract. One eye or both eyes may be affected.
Possible Problems: Can cause altered vision or blindness, though the most common type experienced by Huskies is slow to progress, and rarely causes vision problems.
Treatment: When blindness has occurred, or rapid formation of cataracts is affecting both eyes, complex surgery can be an option to retain the dog's vision.
Genetic Inheritance: Generally thought to be autosomal recessive (a dog needs two copies of the bad gene to have the problem), research is being undertaken to produce a DNA test, assisting in identification of carriers, however unfortunately this has been ongoing for years so hopefully soon a test will be available.
Breeding Protocol: Affected dogs are not recommended for breeding, as those dogs who express the disorder would produce 100% carriers in the puppies, and 50% possible affected dogs if they are bred with an unidentified carrier. The future availability will assist breeders to recognize potential carriers, preventing the breeding of puppies with this defect.
Confusion often arises over the use of the term "corneal dystrophy" in dogs. Technically, "corneal dystrophies" are diseases of the cornea that are bilateral, non-inflammatory and inherited. The confusion arises because the term "corneal dystrophy" is sometimes used to refer to a disease with similar clinical signs but is not hereditary. A more appropriate term for the non-inherited conditions is corneal degeneration. Siberian Huskies have a form of corneal dystrophy which is properly called "crystalloid corneal dystrophy." it is inherited as a recessive trait and appears round or horizontally oval. It begins as a diffuse, gray haze in the anterior stroma and may progress to crystals or gray-brown smudgy deposits in the anterior stroma, or involve the posterior part of the stroma or the entire stroma. This form of dystrophy usually begins between 5 and 27 months of age. The opacities usually progress but in some cases they remain static. Their progression may be very slow and may or may not lead to blindness. The mode of inheritance varies among breeds and in many breeds it is unknown. In the Siberian Husky, Corneal Dystrophy has been shown to be a recessively inherited trait with variable expression. Corneal dystrophy is usually seen in young adult dogs and may affect females more than males. Vision is seldom affected and no effective therapy for the condition exists at this time. Recent genetic tests are suggesting that a recessive gene with variant expression transmits this disorder.
Testing does not show dogs who are carriers of the recessive gene for Juvenile Cataracts or Corneal Dystrophy. If a carrier dog is bred with another carrier dog, they will produce a certain number of pups who will get cataracts or Corneal Dystrophy. There is no way to tell if your dog is a carrier.
Appearance: Round or oval areas of the cornea appear opaque (milky or metallic), usually beginning within the first two years.
Possible Problems: These deposits are not likely to cause blindness.
Treatment: Removal of the fatty deposits which cause the opacity do not appear to assist, as the opacity will re-occur.
Genetic Inheritance: In this form (as for the Siberian Husky particularly), the disorder is a recessive trait, which varies in degree of expression. Therefore, only those dogs who carry two genes for the defect will express it, though the severity may vary.
Breeding Protocol: As it is considered more of a 'blemish' than a disorder which impacts on the life of the dog, it is considered to be at the breeder's discretion that an affected dog be used. To better the breed, it is suggested not to breed affected dogs. If an affected dog is bred to another dog, there is a chance that this dog, who does not express the problem, may be a carrier. If this is the case, each pup has a 50% chance of expressing the problem, and the pups who do not express it will be carriers. If the unaffected dog used for breeding is not a carrier, each puppy will be a carrier. Having large numbers of carriers in the population would make it difficult to breed away from this defect.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
PRA is a recessive gene that is found in all dog breeds. It can be found in any size, breed, gender, including the good old fashioned mutts. As long as both parents carry the gene. However there are breeds where it is more prominent. PRA does not cause discomfort nor is it the cause of any other neurological or heath issues. Most dogs adapt to their lack of vision, and live happy, normal lives. Fenced yards and never leaving the house without a leash is very important. Also, rearranging furniture or moving to a new home will cause the dog to become disoriented until he becomes used to the new layout.
Appearance: It is not visible without ophthalmology until the very late stages, where cataracts may occur. The noticeable signs begin with the dog being apprehensive about going outside or getting around in the dark (night blindness), which progresses into the same types of problems in unfamiliar surroundings during the day. This can occur at any age, but is most common between five months and three years.
Possible Problems: Mild blindness progresses into total blindness.
Treatment: No medical treatment is available, however lifestyle changes and training prior to the dog becoming blind can assist the quality of later life once blindness occurs.
Genetic Inheritance: In the Siberian Husky, inheritance is sex-linked. This means two things. Most evidently, more males suffer from the disorder than females. At the level of genetics, the disorder is carried on the X chromosome, of which there are two in females, and one in males. When a female inherits one X chromosome containing the disorder, the corresponding gene can compensate, making the female not a sufferer, just a carrier. When a male inherits an X chromosome with the disorder, the Y chromosome is unable to compensate, making him a sufferer. A female sufferer has two X chromosomes with the disorder, and a carrier has only one defective X chromosome. When puppies are produced, each male inherits one X chromosome from the mother, and a Y chromosome from the father, and females receive an X chromosome from each parent. An affected male matched with a female will not produce male offspring with the disorder unless the female he is bred with is a carrier. He will however produce females who are all carriers if the female he is bred to is not a carrier, and if she is a carrier, he will likely produce affected females.
Breeding Protocol: Affected dogs and bitches should not be bred from. The recent establishment of a DNA test will make avoiding PRA much easier in the future. It is therefore recommended that females are tested for carrier status prior to breeding. All of our dogs or their parents have been tested and are Clear for PRA. Insuring a puppy from us will not get PRA.
Other Conditions Mistaken for PRA
Not all vision loss in Huskies are caused by PRA. There are reports of acquired (not inherited) retinal changes that have been mistakenly diagnosed as PRA. Since the DNA test for PRA is completely accurate and specific, it can be used to differentiate the inherited form of PRA from the acquired retinal abnormality. A dog clinically diagnosed with an acquired retinal abnormality that is similar to PRA will not test affected for PRA.
Entropion - inward rolling of the eyelids
Appearance: Usually occurring within the first two years, the lower eyelid rolls inward onto the eye. Eyeballs may be small in comparison to socket size.
Possible Problems: Scarring of the cornea can occur. Generally the condition is very painful.
Treatment: Surgery is required in most cases, with severe cases requiring more complex treatment.
Genetic Inheritance: Suggestions of a dominant gene and multiple genes have been made. It is also felt that some facial characteristics (associated with proportions of eyeballs and sockets) contribute.. The condition can be caused by injury or surgical scarring, but is mostly inherited.
Breeding Protocol: Due to the severity of effect and the unknown nature of genetic inheritance, it is suggested that affected dogs are not bred from. This is a rare problem in Siberian Huskies, thus breeding affected dogs would bring increased problems into the breed, which is an easily avoidable situation.
Distichiasis - extra eyelashes
Appearance: Not easily visible with the naked eye, Distichiasis is the condition of eyelashes coming out of an abnormal position such as the glands that are located along the eyelid edge.
Possible Problems: Can cause scarring on the retina, discomfort, excessive tearing, or corneal ulcers. Thick, hard eyelashes, and those more central to the eyeball can cause this pathology, though Siberian Huskies have soft eyelashes and generally do not experience any pathology. Not to be confused with Ectopic cilia (hairs which grow towards the eyeball from the inside of the eyelid), which usually cause pain and pathology.
Treatment: One or two complex surgeries would permanently remove the offending eyelashes.
Genetic Inheritance: Although it has been established that this is an inherited trait in many breeds, it is rare in Siberian Huskies and has yet to be defined.
Breeding Protocol: It is difficult to predict what would occur when breeding an affected dog. Severe cases and those which have been problematic, may be more likely to reproduce in that form. Breeder discretion is advised.
Siberians are also more prone to irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea than many other breeds. Feeding them the proper food with good probiotics will usually stop or limit it.
Anyone purchasing a puppy should be aware of this parasite, it lives in almost every dog or puppy. Coccidia are tiny parasites that live in the cells of a dog's intestines. IT IS VERY COMMON in dogs/puppies to have this parasite and when a dog/puppy is stressed (such as moving to a new home, shots, worming, shipping, etc.) this parasite may surface. So the puppy can leave for their new home showing no signs at all, even be negative by doing a fecal exam, then show signs a few days later at their new home.
Symptoms: Loose stools, usually with mucus but not always. Coughing, acting depressed, not eating or drinking. Sleeping a lot more than a normal puppy should.
Giardia are protozoa that live in the small intestine of most mammals. Giardia are found throughout the United States and in many other parts of the world. Most infections with Giardia are asymptomatic. In cases which it occurs, younger animals are usually affected, and the usual sign is diarrhea. The diarrhea may be acute, intermittent, or chronic. Usually the infected animals will not lose their appetite, but they may lose weight. The feces are often abnormal, being pale, having a bad odor, and appearing greasy. In the intestine, Giardia prevents proper absorption of nutrients, damages the delicate intestinal lining, and interferes with digestion. The cysts can live several weeks to months outside the host in wet, cold environments. So lawns, parks, kennels, and other areas that may be contaminated with animal feces can be a source of infection for your pet. You should keep your pet away from areas contaminated by the feces of other animals however this is not always easy.
As many as 50% of all Siberians carry one or both of these in their intestines.
Their immune system will usually keep coccidia or giardia in check but if their immune system gets suppressed they may get one or both of these and the pup may get diarrhea. They will then need 7 days of Metranidazole or Albon to "wash" the excess out so their immune system can get it back into check.
Food: Changing food/water too quickly or overfeeding. Never change your puppy’s food/water in the 1st week. Do not feed Science Diet or any other hills/prescription brand.
Bottled water is best for the 1st week and gradually mix in your water to not upset a puppies delicate intestinal balance.
Stress: Moving to a new home is a scary, life changing event for pups and can be stressful. They have been taken away from everything and everyone they know. This should subside within 24 hours, Make it easier on your puppy and keep him home (other than the vet if you already have an appointment) for the 1st week.
Even though all puppies need to be socialized at an early age, it is best to avoid taking your pup to the park, walks in the neighborhood, or around other unknown pets until it has been fully vaccinated and has a fully developed immune system (16 weeks of age). Until your new puppy has a full set of vaccinations, its immune system is not properly equipped to handle diseases. Your puppy could easily get worms, parvovirus, coccidia or giardia from contaminated ground. I have made every effort to insure that your puppy will not be exposed to any disease. Unfortunately, these diseases can live in stray animal feces and on the ground for many days, even years and can be easily transmitted to a puppy.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Avoid contact with other animals and unknown places prior to full vaccination of your puppy. Have those people who handle your puppy wash their hands before handling. Since parvo can also be carried on the bottom of your shoes, it is a good idea to keep shoes that you wear outdoors from contacting any area where the puppy sleeps or plays. Seek veterinary treatment IMMEDIATELY if your puppy has come in contact with any of these diseases as they can possibly cause death in your puppy.
By now, if you have followed the page down, our beliefs are pretty obvious. If not let us repeat. We believe in healthy dogs, good nutrition, understanding genetics, proper vaccinations, health certification by OFA/CERF/VETGEN and Open Registries for sharing of genetic data. Only with these tools can we breed better dogs with improved health and temperament and with a much lower incidence of diseases.