Friday, 9 August 2013

The Ridgeback Gene

 You don't have to have Rhodesian Ridgeback in a mixed breed dog for it to inherit a ridge! There is some association of the ridge gene with a dermoid sinus or cyst - essentially they can get a small tube in their skin that goes from the surface of the skin as far as the spinal cord. Not a common thing but it can happen.
 This dog inherited a ridge but you can see from the chart below there is no Rhodesian Ridgeback in his ancestry at all.

The green cluster on the chart above is the genetic signature of the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and yet the tiny blue spot in the middle of the red cluster is where this dog's genetic ancestry lies.  The Rhodesian Ridgeback ancestry may be many many generations back and cannot be traced.

Basically the ridge is a dominant trait in genetics. If one of the parents carries the ridge gene (even though it might not have a ridge itself) it is possible that a ridge will be passed to any of the puppies in a litter.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Limber Tail

 I love a mystery!  There is a painful condition which can effect working gundogs, particularly Labradors known as Limber Tail syndrome. Actually it has been called quite a few names, cold water tail, wet tail, broken tail, .. and my favourite broken wag.  This is a painful condition whereby the dog's tail may stick out just a few inches from the base, then just hang down lifeless.  Sometimes the hair around the base of the tail may stick up, but many vets are not aware of this painful condition, which affects dogs which have been working or in particular, swimming.  The cause is largely unknown... but I have a theory.
Owners of gundogs and gundog trainers are more familiar with this condition. Reserach has shown that the condition is muscular in nature and scans have shown there is abnormal electrical activity in the area at the base of the tail. The muscles effected are the ones used during lateral flexion (that's wagging to you and me).  Now here is the good bit.
Whilst talking to a gundog trainer this weekend, a credible cause has been suggested.  Now if you are of a sensitive nature it would be a good idea to close your eyes while reading this next bit...
Dogs which walk or wade into water to retrieve don't usually suffer with this condition, but dogs that jump into water, COLD WATER do suffer.  Cold water can enter the dog's rectum via the anus whilst entering the water - as in the photo above.  It is the shock of the cold water inside the rectum at the base of the tail which makes the muscles go into spasm.  In order to test this theory, (now don't try this at home boys and girls) a long time ago this gundog trainer simulated this effect by squirting cold water into said area..... immediately resulting in muscle spasm and Limber tail.   This condition usually lasts a couple of days and can be treated with anti inflammatories by a vet.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Tail Docking

 The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes the docking of dogs' tails a criminal offence.  There are however, some exceptions to this law for example where it is a working dog that might damage its tail in the course of a working day, or for medical reasons.  The docking of tails is unrestricted in Ireland, so perhaps they came over from there.  Certainly many dog rescue charities bring dogs over from Ireland.
 So why did I see so many dogs with docked tails yesterday at a fun dog show?  Was this a working Rottweiler, or was it over 6 years old.  There are many reasons why I might have seen so many docked tails legally, but there were just so many that it just seems that people are still getting away with docking tails.
 Was this a working terrier?  It might have wagged its tail so hard that it was damaged and had to be surgically amputated, or it might be owned by someone who uses it for vermin control. I wonder..  Actually I did see a Doberman with cropped ears yesterday!  Definitely not legal in the UK.
And what about this Boxer puppy?  Was it born in Ireland? Did it have an unfortunate wagging accident in the last couple of weeks?  Does anyone in the UK pay attention to the Animal Welfare Act?  I'm sure if asked, all these owners would have a legitimate reason for owning a dog with a docked tail.  I am just wondering why there are still so many around.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Silver Labradors - The Truth

 I came across this wonderful Silver Labrador at a dog show last weekend.  I had been interested in the genetic diversity within dog breeds, and also the prejudice that some pedigree breeders and indeed the Kennel Club insistence that they are not pure breeds, and their old arguments about purity of lines etc..
I spoke to the owners of this lovely puppy, it was bred in the UK from pure breed Silver Labrador parents which had been imported into the UK from the USA.  It is thought that this silver colouring is a variation on the standard brown or chocolate colours which are accepted by pedigree breeders.  DNA tests have PROVED that these are pure bred Labradors and they have not been crossed with another breed.   The most common explanation given is that when the first Silver Labradors appeared they must have been crossbred with a Weimaraner.  The problem with this is that the first Silver Labs appeared in the USA way back in the 1930s, but there were no Weimaraners in the USA until after 1940.  The other problem with this theory is that BOTH parents have to posess the dilute gene for silver puppies to result becuse the dilute gene is recessive.   A mating between a Labrador and a Weimaraner would not result in silver puppies unless the Labrador already carried the gene too!
 This silver colouring is produced by a gene which is called Dilute.  This dilute gene is a recessive trait and a Silver Labrador dog would have to have inherited a copy of this dilute gene from both parents.    The dilute gene in black Labradors produces Charcoal puppies.  In Yellow Labradors the puppies would be Champagne coloured (not visible but dogs have a grey nose!)  and the Chocolate Labradors bred with the dilute gene produce these Silver Puppies. The recent explosion in the Chocolate Labrador population has substantially increased the chances for silver Labradors to appear naturally. 

This dilute gene is also found in many other dog breeds and the silver colouring which results is accepted by the Kennel Club in Chows, Chesapekes, Newfoundlands, Weimaraners, Whippets, and many other breeds.  

The known origins of the Labrador retriever started out in the areas of Newfoundland and Chesapeke, where it started life as a St Johns Water dog.  As both Newfoundland and Chesapeke Retrievers can posess this dilute gene, it is likely that it has been in the genetics of some Labradors all along!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

First Aid for Dogs

 I have always wanted to learn about First Aid for Dogs! Nothing could be more frightening than watching your beloved dog suffer an injury or accident and just having to stand by helpless for not having any knowledge of what to do.  So today I rectified the situation.
 The lovely people from Animal Aiders run first aid courses for cats, horses and dogs, so today we learned some basic first aid bandaging, basic anatomy, life saving and common ailments. But if any of you have ever been on a human first aid course you will be familiar with the 'resusci Annie' mannequin to practice CPR.
 So after we had bandaged ears, paws and tails on these willing subjects..
We learned about resuscitation and CPR on this wonderful 'resusci doggy'   learned about mouth to snout resuscitation, heart massage and where to feel for a pulse on a dog.  A wonderful day with wonderful people.  So if you don't want to just stand there and feel helpless when a dog is in distress right in front of you, you should try this.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Genetic Diversity

 There is infinite diversity in nature.  This infinite diversity is being artificially channelled into very specific lines by pedigree breeders.  A particular set of criteria is laid down as being the pinnacle of breed purity and any diversion from this blueprint is seen as undesireable.  Just look at this gorgeous long haired Rottweiler who happens to have inherited the gene for longer hair.  The guidance for breeders and judges in the pedigree world is as follows, "If a dog possesses a feature , characteristic or colour described as undesirable or highly undesirable it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring."    So what happens if a slightly different puppy appears in a litter?
 So once in a blue moon a puppy is born different, like this silver coloured Labrador.  It is NOT a crossbreed, but has  just inherited a rare genetic marker for the silver colour. Unfortunately people have thought it would be interesting to find a male and female silver Labrador and try to breed a new coloured dog.  Such a narrow gene pool is fraught with danger.
And every so often a red coloured Rottweiler is born in this way.  The official advice is, "Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect on the health and welfare of the dog."
Nature is wonderful, its infinite diversity is wonderful.  Yes occasionally a person gives birth to someone who grows to the height of 7ft and plays basketball for their country. They are not crossbreed humans, they are just different and wonderful.  The sad fact is that some dogs  do not come up to the high standards of pedigree breeders.  Is this bigotry or racism?