One of our goals as a custodian for the WSSD breed, is to ensure the future health of the breed by maintaining a health database of breed stock and determining applicable health testing to be done by breeders to ensure healthy progeny. This means keeping track of known abnormalities in the breed, as well as abnormalities in the breed that we share common ancestry with, the GSD. In order for a dog owner to receive a CHIC certificate (which for our breed is an indication of COMPLETE health testing) we require dogs be tested for all applicable genetic health anomalies that affect the White Swiss Shepherd Dog as well as monitor hearts and eyes. This breed is overall a healthy one, but no breed is completely free of health concerns.
Although our breed’s genetics were intertwined with the GSD for decades, we have approximately 25% tighter hips on average than the German Shepherd Dog as per PennHip data (PennHip 50th percentile being ~ .35 and .45 respectively in the WSSD and GSD). Our breed standard calls for a very balanced structure, with no topline slope desired. Excessive front and rear angles, which are found commonly in the GSD, are serious faults in competitions of conformation (beauty) in this breed. WSSCA is a supporter of both testing OFA hips as well as with the PennHIP method. For CHIC, you may submit PennHIP results instead of an OFA result in order to receive a CHIC certificate. PennHIP results will be considered final for any dogs tested at the age of 8 months or older. OFA hip testing will assess the overall formation of hips, however this method have no ability to actually assess the laxity of the hip, given that their evaluation is based on a single view. PennHip on the other hand, gathers its information from three views: distraction view, compression view, and hip-extended view. With these three views PennHip is able to measure the percentage of laxity by taking an actual measurement of movement within the joint by comparing the multiple views. The more laxity, the looser the joint. The looser the joint, the more likely that injury, arthritis, or dysplasia will present. In our opinion, any WSSD with a .50 or above should not be bred. Given the occasional incongruence of results between the OFA hip and PennHIP evaluation, it may be beneficial to test using both methods in order to obtain the most data.
Testing for elbow joint issues is done only through OFA. There is no PennHip
equivalent test for elbows. Elbows can develop dysplasia just like hips, and
breedstock should be tested prior to being bred. Issue with elbows can arise in
several ways. Injury can easily occur to an elbow joint, that is completely
unrelated to genetics, due to the fact that much of the joint actually does not
harden into bone until 6 or 7 months of age. This makes elbows and relatively fragile in young puppies.
Problems can also arise from improper feed, causing malgrowth of bones, usually
caused by ‘over-nutrition’. In a nutshell, a dog can be forced to grow too fast
if its diet is not proper for the dogs specific needs at the time. Too much protein
or incorrect ratios between
the various parts of the diet. A diet designed for large breed puppies will
prevent joint issues due to overnutrition if the puppy is kept in proper weight.
The third way elbow joint can have a problem is through genetics. A poorly structured and weak elbowed parent, will contribute its DNA to its offspring, and pass on a negative trait. A good breeder will monitor all possibilities, and weed out dogs that are passing on weak elbows genetically.
Multi-drug Resistance 1, is a gene mutation that is found in many herding breeds, including this one. It is not a disease per se, but gene is responsible for the production of P-glycoprotein, which is normally responsible for transporting certain drugs out of the brain. Dogs that have a mutation in the MDR1 gene, which inhibits their ability to remove certain drugs from the brain and can lead up to a buildup of toxins, may have severe adverse reactions to some common drugs, including seizures, tremors, disorientation, blindness, lack of muscle control or even death. A dog with two copies of the mutation will always be “affected”, and a dog carrying one copy of the mutation, has some possibility of being affected, but usually to a lesser degree than having the full mutation. If you are not sure whether your dog carries the mutation, have your dog tested, or notify your vet to avoid the following list of drugs (reference from https://vcpl.vetmed.wsu.edu/problem-drugs):
- Ivermectin (antiparasitic agent)- While the dose of ivermectin used to prevent heartworm infection is SAFE in dogs with the mutation (6 micrograms per kilogram), higher doses, such as those used for treating mange (300-600 micrograms per kilogram) will cause neurological toxicity in dogs that are homozygous for the MDR1 mutation (MDR1 mutant/mutant) and can cause toxicity in dogs that are heterozygous for the mutation (MDR1 mutant/normal).
- Selamectin, milbemycin, and moxidectin (antaparasitic agents)- Similar to ivermectin, these drugs are safe in dogs with the mutation if used for heartworm prevention at the manufacturer’s recommended dose. Higher doses (generally 10-20 times higher than the heartworm prevention dose) have been documented to cause neurological toxicity in dogs with the MDR1 mutation.
- Loperamide (ImodiumTM; antidiarrheal agent)- At doses used to treat diarrhea, this drug will cause neurological toxicity in dogs with the MDR1 mutation. This drug should be avoided in all dogs with the MDR1 mutation.
- Acepromazine (tranquilizer and pre-anesthetic agent)- Based on collaborative research, the VCPL has determined that dose reductions are required for dogs MDR1 mutant/mutant and MDR1 mutant/normal.
- Butorphanol (analgesic and pre-anesthetic agent)- Dose reduction required for dogs MDR1 mutant/mutant and MDR1 mutant/normal.
- Chemotherapy Agents (Vincristine, Vinblastine, Doxorubicin, Paclitaxel)- Based on collaborative research, the VCPL has determined that dose reductions are required for dogs MDR1 mutant/mutant and MDR1 mutant/normal in order to avoid SEVERE toxicity.
- Apomorphine - this drug is used to induce vomiting in dogs that have ingested poisons/toxins. It can cause central nervous system depression in dogs with the MDR1 mutation at standard doses.
Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. In the GSD and our breed, it has become known that the current test for DM is not necessarily accurate in determining whether a dog will get DM or not. There are cases of dogs with the mutation never getting DM, and cases of dogs without the mutation actually getting DM. This is likely because DM is either a polygenetic disease or has an epigenetic component not yet discovered.
Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) is often described to be a common and usually mild, inherited bleeding disorder in both people and in dogs. Because of the deficient clotting of their blood, dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease bleed excessively when injured - similar to hemophilia in humans. Due to the genetic history of our breed being tied to the German Shepherd Dog, who has a higher than normal instance of this disease, we encourage dna testing for this mutation.
This is another disease that we recommend testing for that possible due to common ancestry with the German Shepherd Dog. This disease consists of a tendency to uncontrollable bleeding at the slightest trauma. It is a sex-linked inherited deficiency of the blood clotting Factor 8 (F V111). This is an essential co-factor in the intrinsic pathway of coagulation, and deficiencies of less than 20% of normal blood will give rise to a bleeding tendency. The FV111 gene lies on the X chromosome and any male with a defective X chromosome will be affected by the condition. All confirmed published data on German Shepherd Dogs suffering from hemophilia in the European countries can be traced back to one dog: Canto von der Wienerau. Canto was born in 1968 and lived only 4 years, however reportedly sired over 100 litters. All his daughters were carriers and half of their offspring would be affected males or carrier females.
How to have genetic, soft tissue, and radiographic tests done
Forms for submission of health tests of for our breed are to get submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals(OFA). OFA is where you will submit all test results. All health tests performed will automatically be tabulated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). Recommended health tests to perform include:
- Hips (PennHIP and/or OFA)
- Basic cardiac exam
- Companion Animal Eye Registry(CAER)
- MDR1 (Multi-Drug Resistance 1)
- DM mutation (Degenerative Myelopathy)
- Optional test: OFA Dentition
Hip and elbow radiographs can be performed by a regular vet so long as they are certified, and qualified, to perform them. Basic cardiac , thyroid blood draw, and dentition can also be handled through a regular veterinarian, while DNA testing can be performed by you. You just purchase a DNA kit from an approved company like Wisdom Panel and Embark. The eye exam is he only exam needing to be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
We recommend using a full panel DNA testing service like Wisdom Health’s Genoscoper/Optimal Selection or Embark for breeders for your DNA testing. These services also test the amount of genetic diversity.