Monday 15 November 2010

And the AKC's decision re accepting the spotted mongrels is... defer to the very people who are fighting it.

Last week, the American Kennel Club met to discuss whether or not the AKC should register the backcrossed Dalmatians - dogs which don't suffer from the uric acid defect that effects the rest of the breed. This is a condition that, in the males,  can cause urate crystals to block the urethra - meaning the dog can't pee. Left untreated, the dogs die within 3-6 days.

According to the ACVS: "Dogs that are unable to be un-blocked, have a tumor of the penis, or are recurrent stone formers may require surgery to form a new temporary opening ("prescrotal urethrostomy") or permanent opening ("scrotal urethrostomy") to the urethra that will allow urine to exit behind the penis where the urethra is wider.  Scrotal urethrostomies are often required because calclui in the urethra may become trapped in scar tissue and therefore cannot be removed.  In dogs with penile tumors, a scrotal urethrostomy is performed and the penis is removed."

And that looks like this:

Yep, there are people out there who would rather their dogs went through this than allow just 0.3% of mongrel blood into the breed.

The AKC commissioned a bunch of scientists to explore the issue for them. The scientists' findings? Absolutely unequivocal:

"Because the introduction of the low uric acid dogs into the AKC registry gives Dalmatian breeders a scientifically sound method of voluntarily reducing the incidence of the condition, this committee strongly recommends some controlled program of acceptance of these dogs. Where the strict health and welfare of the breed is the over-riding concern, no other argument can be made."

And yet what does the AKC decide?

"The Board agreed to a proposed agreement, pending acceptance of the Dalmatian Club of America (DCA) Board, which would bring the matter to a vote by the DCA membership in June 2011. The AKC Board would consider this vote, along with other factors in reaching its final decision."

Given that the most vehement opposition to the dogs has come from the breed purists within the DCA, the chances of the dogs being accepted in June are pretty slim.  Hell, it wasn't very long ago that the Club even banned discussion of the dogs.

It's in AKC show rules that male dogs should have two fully descended testicles. Clearly the same does not appy to the AKC board.

(At least on this issue the Kennel Club here did stand up to breed club opposition and should be congratulated for it.)

In the meantime, I can enjoy reproducing the scientific report here in full. And to the continuing deniers of the suffering this defect can cause,  I would like to say: put this in your pipe and smoke it.

The question of registration of the LUA Dalmatians has been a contentious subject of debate. The committee has attempted to remove itself from any emotionally and politically charged issues, and instead focused purely on the following basic questions:

•    Should these descendants be considered purebred Dalmatians? 
•    What is known about Dalmatians and high uric acid? 
•    Are urate uroliths a significant health issue in Dalmatians? 
•    Are high levels of uric acid a predisposing factor to urate uroliths? 
•    Could selective introduction of the LUA Dalmatians into the AKC Dalmatian gene pool have a positive impact on the health and welfare of the breed?

Are the dogs in question purebred Dalmatians?
In the research phase identifying the single gene responsible for the uric acid defect, retrospective analysis of the LUA dog’s pedigree and parentage data, along with correlation to spot urine testing records, revealed that zero mistakes had been made in the record keeping. The DNA test results confirmed a 100% accuracy of the pedigree and urine testing records. With over twelve reported subsequent generations from the single cross breeding in the early 70’s, today’s descendants should be more than 99.97% pure Dalmatian. Surely this level of purity should pass a litmus test of being purebred.

What is known about Dalmatians and high uric acid?
The Dalmatian breed is known to be fixed for a medical condition which causes a metabolic abnormality in which uric acid is not efficiently converted to allontoin. As a result, abnormally high levels of uric acid are secreted in the urine of all purebred AKC Dalmatians (hyperuricosuria), which in turn often leads to crystallization of uric acid salts and/or stone formation (uroliths). This metabolic defect was shown to be inherited as a simple autosomal recessive trait by early investigators, and in the early 1970’s a single Pointer/Dalmatian cross breeding was done by Robert Schaible, PhD in an attempt to introduce a normal copy of the gene. Subsequent research has shown that the inability to properly convert and reabsorb uric acid is the result of a mutation in the SLC2A9 gene, a gene since widely documented to be influential in uric acid transport. All AKC Dalmatians are homozygous for the SLC2A9 mutation.

Are urate uroliths a significant health issue in Dalmatians?
Studies at the urolith laboratories at the University of Minnesota, UC Davis, and the University of Guelph have all shown that Dalmatians have a significantly higher odds ratio of urate stones than any other breed, and male Dalmatians have an exponentially higher incidence than female
Dalmatians. While the exact frequency of urate stones in Dalmatians is unknown, based on the published data, the frequency of stone formation in male Dalmatians has been reported in peer reviewed scientific journals between 13.8% and 34.3%. In a twenty year survey of the Minnesota Urolith Laboratory, 9,095 Dalmatians were diagnosed with urate stones. This represents almost 500 Dalmatians a year from this center alone.

Are high levels of uric acid a predisposing factor to urate uroliths?
It is true that while all purebred AKC Dalmatians exhibit high levels of uric acid; not all of them form stones, not all stone formers block, and not all dogs with blockages require surgical intervention. Continued research is warranted to determine what additional genes or environmental factors may influence the actual formation of stones. However, given the genetically fixed condition of hyperuricosuria in Dalmatians, and the data regarding urate stone frequency compared to other breeds, there is no question that high levels of uric acid are a significant predisposing factor.

Could selective introduction of the LUA Dalmatians into the AKC Dalmatian gene pool have a positive impact on the health and welfare of the breed?
 Urinary obstruction due to uric acid stone formation is also a significant problem in Black Russian Terriers and Bulldogs. Affected dogs in both breeds have been shown to have the exact same SLC2A9 mutation as found in the Dalmatian, though at a much lower frequency. However, since the mutation is not fixed in these breeds, breeders can use the available genetic test to selectively breed away from the mutation – thus preventing the production of dogs liable for uric acid stone formation. This will allow a reduction in the frequency of the disease over time.

Unfortunately, since AKC Dalmatians are 100% homozygous for the mutation, the only way to correct the genetic defect is through the introduction of the normal SLC2A9 gene. The addition of the LUA back cross descendants (those heterozygous or homozygous for the normal SLC2A9 gene) would enable breeders to voluntarily introduce the normal gene into the gene pool, and would yield immediate benefits in reducing uric acid levels and the liability to form urate stones.

A PDF of the AKC minutes and the full scientific report can be downloaded here.

If you feel strongly about this, please, please write, call or email the American Kennel Club and tell them that it's time they put the dogs first. If there's enough pressure, they will have to make the right decision.


  1. "It's in AKC show rules that male dogs should have two fully descended testicles. Clearly the same does not appy to the AKC board." -- Jemima Harrison

    Thank you Jemima ... the AKC Board should be ASHAMED of themselves. "Let's send it back to DCA for a vote ..." The AKC's own Blue Ribbon Panel of EXPERTS has made VERY clear what should be done ... but lacking testicles, the AKC Board are unable to take a stand and do what's RIGHT 'for the dogs.' They have completely disregarded the decision of their Blue Ribbon Panel and have sent it back to the idiots in the DCA who don't understand basic 5th Grade science and have been fighting this issue for over 30 years. It boggles the mind!

  2. I breed and I show dogs. A life long passion for dogs and my breed specifically. I agree that there are breeds that ought not exist and it hurts me when I see them and cannot understand why their owners don't see the suffering. HOWEVER, I do not support PETA, RSPCA or even you because I believe the aim is to stop us all and like PETA, prevent any of us keeping pets full stop. Extremists are never right. Mark's comment that you agree with that Dog Shows are a 'parade of mutants' is bollocks and shows you both to be closed minded. THIS is why the 'dog world' have such a negative view of you. You ARE right in much of what you say about some breeds however by expressing yourself in such an extreme way where you make people like me feel you hate us, you are NOT helping your aim-that of stopping the cruelty.You have made YOURSELF very famous. In such a campaign it is important to keep the focus on the issue not on one's ego. IF one can put and to certain breeds, good, but it can be done without making all dog exhibitors and breeders to be evil monsters who care not for our dogs.

  3. ^ The dogs can't speak for themselves; who else is going to do it for them? When breeders, those who show the dogs and the Kennel Club all close ranks, what other avenue is there?
    Jemima's arguments are always backed up by scientific fact and clinical findings, yet the counter arguments so often aren't. And ultimately, if there is even 1% risk that any breed would be disadvantaged by a practice or breeding programme, isn't that 1% too many, when often there are feasible alternatives? Would you want to be that puppy living a life of pain and/or discomfort? Would you condone the same for a human life?
    If you care for your dogs, can't you see that the fundamental issue here is the health and wellbeing of the dog? It's not about personal glory or gain, it's about ending the blinkered practices that go on.

  4. So, tell us, Jemima, may we expect a sequel film, focused on the USA, soon? And to "Anonymous--16 November 2010 02:42" above, who wrote: "Extremists are never right." Wrong!!! And foolish!!! The world needs certain extremists, when the rest of the world veers from a moral path. The "egotist" argument you make proves you have little substantive to say. -- Marcus Steed

  5. Weird thought processes......Perhaps the 02:42 Anonymous will tell us why someone who owns multiple dogs, and runs a rescue service, would want to stop people from owning pets?

  6. As someone who's dog has had that surgery I can say even that is not the end all and be all because of all of the complications that come with it. Yes, it can prevent the dog from blocking and has been very successful with my dog. It also causes regular urinary tract infections due to the hole being open. It has been about 2 and a half years since my dogs surgery and he has been on antibiotics for infection 8 times. Now, my 7 year old dal will be put to sleep soon because of complications from stones and all of the surgeries he has had for it and the meds he has had to take. I guess that is all part of loving the breed though, right. Oh, and I now have a normal uric acid dal and will not own another AKC one until the NUA's are approved.

  7. It's really scary that two organizations that can do so much to promote the well being of dogs can be so obstinate when it comes to accepting facts.
    And these facts are that dogs with LUA can live healthy and happy lives though their colorings may not be ideal to certain breeders of esteemed repute. Do the dogs care, only if they can't pee properly and so should the breeders.
    After all, what is more important, being able to properly pee or looking good? Surely the breeders who insist on "purity of the breed" have never had a kidney stone, nor have they equated any of their own genetically based illnesses to that 50% chance they lost in the game of genetics.
    So give the dogs a break, let them piss on everything they deserve it.

  8. In their own words, from the 2007 CHF Summary Report:

    The Dal club is controlled by horrifically ignorant, egotistical people. There is no other breeder culture of domestic animals that hold to such an extreme fanatical devotion to 'blood purity above all else' as most show dog people. And the dogs are the martyrs for their belief system.

  9. Thank you Jemima Harrison for undertaking the task of educating the kennel clubs and dog breeders. I hope you have some experience with "special education" because they seem to be very slow learners, even the basics of PDE has not sunk in yet. Good Luck!

  10. What makes a dalmatian a dalmatian? His spots...take away the spots and what do you have? Ticking, patches, all white, all black...those are not dalmatians. I'm not saying dalmatians are just pretty spots. They are much more than that. They are a vibrant, funny, loyal, enthusiastic dog.
    Dals as a breed have fewer health problems than other breeds...diseases such as cancer, hip dysplasia, etc are rare. If we introduce this new DNA into the gene pool what will the long term effects be? Are we adding anything that will come back to haunt the breed at a later time? I do not believe we have seen any NUA X NUA breedings done at this point yet.
    Even the proponants of the backcross dals will admit that they are not aiming to eliminate the HUA dals instead they will breed some dals that are NUA but still continue to produce more HUA or as they call them "diseased dals." So then is this really THE answer? I do believe it is AN answer...but I am not willing to take the risk yet...I would like to see much more carefully collected Longitudinal data to see if there indeed any long term effects of introducing this one pointer gene into the breed's gene pool and to see what the result of carefully collected data on whether or not any of the NUA dals will form stones in the future. And again, to see what the result is of the get produced by breeding NUA to NUA.
    Yes, just as all dalmatians have spots so do all dalmatians have HUA. BUT,interesting enough, not all dals form stones. I was recently informed that the original data on the number of stone forming dalmatians that was collected for the backcross study was done at a time when the popularity of dalmatians was high...perhaps that gives us an unrealistic number?
    I am just as passionate about this beautiful breed as the proponants of the backcross dals. I just don't feel that right now, we should take the risk of introducing the backcross dals into the population without making sure it is a safe thing to do.

  11. The definition of 'correct spotting' depends on what the BREEDERS choose to call correct, it's not an objective fact. You only have to read the earliest descriptions of 'ideal spots' in the breed to see this:

    And as to the 'wait and see' attitude, it's amazing that 35+ years of backcross Dals is not a long enough observation period of the results for some people.

  12. And as to the 'wait and see' attitude, it's amazing that 35+ years of backcross Dals is not a long enough observation period of the results for some people.
    Sure, 35 plus years but records of those early dals were not carefully kept! Science has improved greatly since then and the project almost died but was brought back! NOW, there is more scientific data being collected! I see some nice looking dals coming out of the recent litters and it seems as if the project is moving along nicely...but...let's see an NUA X NUA breeding and see if any surprises pop up!

  13. Curious as to what you mean, anonymous, because there have already been breedings of LUA to LUA which have produced homozygous pups.

    Here are two homozygous Dalmatians:

  14. Actually, Anonymous(from 3 posts prior), I would be interested if anyone does know of NUA/NUA breedings and if there are any issues with the resulting puppies; any throw-backs to the pointer type, or health problems, etc.
    35 years post-intro of this new gene you would think there would be at least a few litters of NUA X NUA. If anyone has links, please post them.
    I am not a dalmation owner and don't think I would ever be one (I'm a retriever person) but dog genes/health issues interest me, and I am sort of in the background, curiously watching to see how this all works out.

  15. "Actually, Anonymous(from 3 posts prior), I would be interested if anyone does know of NUA/NUA breedings and if there are any issues with the resulting puppies; any throw-backs to the pointer type, or health problems, etc"

    I am curious as well! On one of the other blog
    entries it was posted that there have been "many" homozygous NUA breedings done to date! I do know of a few LUA X LUA breedings done which in turn produced the homozygous NUA dals. I was not aware that any of these NUA dals have been bred together. I would LOVE to know the results of these breedings! I have not found any record of them yet!

  16. Thanks, Jess, it looks like you could read my mind before I posted.

  17. One more thing: Does anyone know where the Canadian Kennel Club stands on all this? Or if there are breeders of LUA/NUA dals in Canada?

  18. Anonymous, breeding two homozygous dogs at this point would defeat the purpose of bringing in the normal gene. You want to breed those homozygous for normal dogs to homozygous for abnormal dogs, producing pups with one LUA gene, lots of them. This reduces the frequency of dogs homozygous for defective gene in the population. As the numbers of heterozygous dogs grow, the number of LUA x LUA breedings which produce homozygous dogs will grow, reducing the gene frequency of the defective gene across the population. Here is a helpful link about reducing gene frequencies:

    A homozygous to homozygous breeding would simply produce more homozygous dogs. They wouldn't look any different than their parents. If the parents, being homozygous, aren't exhibiting any Pointer traits or other abnormalities, neither will the offspring. At this point, any phenotypic Pointer traits have been heavily selected against, resulting in dogs where about the only Pointer gene left is the normal uric acid gene.

    This isn't rocket science. Through rigorous selection, it is certainly possible to breed out the Pointer influence until the only characteristic left is the one you did the cross for in the first place.

  19. Dalmatian breeders, like myself know the right diet prevents problems with uric acid. Also when you introduce another gene into the stream are you increasing the chance of ANOTHER health issue by cross breeding. Dalmatians are one of the healthiest breeds to own and the introduction of further cross breeding WILL introduce the chance of possible other health concerns. ALL breeds of dogs have some form of health defect as do we as humans.

    Do we choose to prevent people with food intolerances from having kids? See how silly it sounds. Feed a Dalmatian right NO PROBLEMS. its about education of this breed not discrimination.

  20. Breeding two homozygous NUA Dals won't produce anything new--just more homozygous NUAs.

    The gene not inherited, whether it be NUA or HUA, has no effect on the offspring.


  21. "Feed a Dalmatian right NO PROBLEMS"

    Try telling that to Armstrong's owner as he nears the end of his life, and to many others whose stone formers continue to form stones, despite a low purine, low protein diet, which brings its own problems, cardiomyopathy for one, and see how they respond. I am concerned if, as a breeder, you are telling your prospective customers that their new puppy who will become their much loved pet, is guaranteed complete freedom from stones if he is placed on a special diet. Very misguided information!

    Liz S

  22. Feed a Dalmatian right No problems

    Find Liz S comments odd, as the importer of this Dalmatian is quoting just that. In nearly 50 years of breeding Dalmatians I have never had a stone former from either puppies I have bred or sired by my dogs. The only dealings I have had is approximately 5,not of my breeding where owners have contacted me concerning diet and after a slight adjustment they have all gone on and lived a long and happy life. The breed has always been healthy and long lived so I find this mass hysteria that has suddenly occurred somewhat media driven

  23. It's inconceivable to me that any person who purports to love a breed can be so obsessed with "purity of bloodlines" and what size and shape a dogs spots are that they are unwilling to add in these out-crossed dogs that could solve a serious problem.

    Dalmatians are a "healthy breed?" Really??? If they cannot digest food normally, that is not healthy. And that's not even covering their issues with deafness, epilepsy and temperament.

    I have owned and loved 2 Dals in my life, and both have had health issues. For that reason alone, I will never own another one. Its too heartbreaking!

    Anyone who has the most basic understanding of genetics would understand that increasing the gene pool for a closed group can only be a good thing. Suggesting that somehow these dogs will contaminate the current gene pool is ridiculous.

    Is it inappropriate to say to Dalmatian breeders: if you love your breed as you purport, get your collective heads out of your collective asses and do something sensible about the problems!

  24. In answer to the question of how many UUs there I believe it is 7. 4 were in the same litter ! there is a litter due next month which will produce some UUs and another breeding planned in December. As of now there is no thought of breeding a UU to a UU as they are too young and too closely related. Our focus is to obtain as much diversity as possible. Every breeding is carefully thought out ahead of time. No unis or blue eyes are bred. Temperament is also looked at carefully . The science is sound the AKC Blue Ribbon Panel gave us a big thumbs up.

    There has been a big change in spotting for the better. If you look at go to "meet the LUAs the first pup on the list is Selia who is a UU. She is Fiacre's Seeing is Believing a very apt name for such a beautiful pup.

    Sadly there is much inacurate information still floating around. We are at the 15or16 generation the only Pointer gene left is the good gene that is present in all dogs except dalmatians . The have been NO pointer throwbacks, no health issue . I think some have forgotten their high school genetics :-)

    If you wonder who "we"is it's the North American Dalmatian Club commonly known as DNA

    NUA and LUA are the same thing Low Uric Acid dogs it's confusing I know but a couple of years ago we were calling them NUA ( Normal Uric Acid) but Dr Shaible who started the program off in 1973 preferred LUA.

  25. I'm surprised that the AKC would consider this, given that 2 of it's board members are DCA. The AKC also recently brought up the question of allowing deaf dogs to compete in AKC agility and it was completely turned down, mainly (according to info I have received) due to the DCA members on the board. It has been proven that deaf dogs can compete in agility very well. It's time the Dal clubs started concentrating on more responsible breeding principles (by not re-breeding a dog that produces a deaf pup) to eliminate a problem that was originally bred into the breed and quit using the 'easy way out' of destroying the deaf pups. Some breeders will also destroy patch puppies because it doesn't look 'good' for their line. It's time for the Dal clubs to change their leadership so their archaic rules and opinions can be brought into the 21st century.