Miniature American Shepherds

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Health Testing

As a veterinarian and enthusiast for purebred dogs, one of the most important things I recommend people who are looking for the right puppy to add to their family ask the breeder about is health testing. Health testing however varies greatly from breed to breed as what is important based on the problems seen in that breed. Below is testing that is done on every Miniature American Shepherd that I own and breed and why it is important. This testing is recommended by the Miniature American Shepherd Club of America. I encourage families to ask all breeders they are considering purchasing a pup from about health testing that is done. Regardless of the breeder, all of the following testing should be completed on Miniature American Shepherds before they are bred to ensure that breeding is being done to improve the breed AND so that families know everything possible is being done to ensure that they get a healthy puppy. 

1) OFA Hips, Elbows, and Patellas: OFA stands for Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and this organization is responsible for helping to ensure that appropriate health testing is complete for breeding dogs. 

     ~Hips: for certification of hips radiographs of taken of a dog after the age of 2 and graded as to whether they have              signs of hip dysplasia or not. This is only done once after the age of 2.

     ~Elbows: for certification of elbows radiographs are taken of each elbow after a dog turns to and graded as to whether      they are normal or not. This is only done once after the age of 2. 

     ~Patellas: for certification the dog is examined by a veterinarian for palpation to see whether the patella (also known        as knee cap) luxates from its normal position. This test is only done once.

2) CERF: A CERF Exam is completed by a veterinarian that is board certified in ophthalmology which usually requires that a breeder go to a specialty clinic. This exam is done YEARLY to check eyes for any defects in the retinas, cornea, lens, etc. This exam should also be done on puppies at 8 weeks old before they go to their new home to ensure that their eyes are normal and free of genetic defects. All of our puppies go home with a CERF exam form.

3) Genetic Panel: The most common company used for genetic health testing is Pawprints. This company is the one I use because not only do they test for all of the inherited diseases recognized in Miniature American Shepherds, but when you send a swab in for testing they test it twice to ensure correct results which is extremely important for breeding. There are 9 diseases that every Miniature American Shepherd I breed is tested for and they are listed below as well as with a brief description of each disease...

     1) Collie Eye Anomaly: this is an autosomal recessive gene meaning that both parents must be a carrier of the disease for a pup to have it. This disease causes the choroid of the eye to be affected such that the retina does not receive appropriate blood flow. This can lead to blindness, retinal detachment, and other eye problems.

     2) Cone Degeneration: this is an autosomal recessive gene meaning again that both parents must be a carrier of the disease for a pup to have it. This disease causes degeneration of cells called cone receptors which result in dogs being blind in bright lights as well as the day light. 

    3) Degenerative Myelopathy: this is an autosomal recessive disease, however it is believed that there is not only a genetic component, but possible environmental factors. This disease causes degeneration of nerves such that dogs loose control of their hind legs. This disease is not well understood and is common in many breeds of dogs, however to do everything I can to avoid its appearance in my breeding program I test for it.

    4) Hereditary Cataracts (Australian Shepherd type): this disease can occur even when only one parent has a copy of the affected gene so it is important to note if either parent is affected with HC. A dog with only one copy of the gene will have more slowly progressing and less severe cataracts compared to a dog with two copies that has severe and more rapidly progressing cataracts. In either case it is important to make sure breeders screen for this disease. 

    5) Hyperuricosuria: this is an autosomal recessive disease meaning that both parents must carry the gene for a pup to be affected by it. Hyperuricosuria is a disease that causes dogs to have increased uric acid in their urinary tract which can in turn lead to bladder stones. This is complicated by the fact that stones in the bladder from uric acid are not visible on radiographs making them difficult to diagnose and often leading to a frustrating experience for both veterinarians and owners. 

    6) Multidrug Resistance 1 (MDR1): this an autosomal dominant disease meaning that dogs can be affected even if they only carry one copy of the mutated gene. This disease causes dogs to be sensitive to one of the most common dewormers used in both canine medicine as well as in live stock, Ivermectin. Dogs that are MDR1 positive that are exposed to ivermectin can suffer from severe neurologic complications and death if given ivermectin. In addition to ivermectin dogs with MDR1 can also be sensitive to a variety of other common medications used in veterinary medicine

    7) Canine Multifocal Retinopathy: this is an autosomal recessive disease meaning both parents must carry a copy of the affected gene for pups to be affected. Affected dogs suffer from retinal detachment which leads to blindness. 

    8) Neuronal Ceroid Lipofucinosis: this is an autosomal recessive disease meaning that both parents must carry a copy of the affected gene for pups to be affected. Affected dogs lack an enzyme for normal metabolism allowing waste products to accumulate in the nervous system. Affected dogs are typically humanely euthanized by 2 years of age

    9) Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): this is an autosomal recessive disease where both parents must have a copy of the affected gene. In this disease the retinal degenerates leading to blindness and glaucoma. 

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