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AKC’s refusal to register and allow LUA (low uric acid) Dalmatians into the gene pool as a means of correcting the genetic problem of STONES is a complex debate.

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AKC DALMATIAN BREEDER’S PERSPECTIVE

by Sharon Boyd, Cottondale Dalmatians, Since 1972, TheDogPlace.org March 2011

 

As a long time Dalmatian breeder, I applaud Fiona’s accomplishments and congratulate her owners and breeders. However, the recent article in TheDogPress, authored by Marion Mitchell[1], contains a few inaccuracies which I feel are important to clarify.

 

For instance, Ms. Mitchell states that “The AKC club (Dalmatian Club of America) is opposing registration on the grounds that the Low Uric Acid Dalmatians aren’t pure enough.” This statement is grossly inaccurate. In 2006, the DCA membership voted to continue the research and breeding of the backcross dogs. A subsequent vote in 2008 resulted in the decision that it was not yet time to consider registration. This later vote was based primarily on the lack of any scientific evidence that incorporating the backcross dogs into the general population gene pool would abolish stone disease in Dalmatians.

The Harvard geneticists who discovered the Dalmatian gene for high uric acid in 1938 made it a point to illustrate their article showing that low uric acid Dalmatians bred by backcross techniques displayed spotting patterns that did not approach that which is called for in the AKC standard of the breed. We have seen strong evidence of that finding in the majority of the Low Uric Acid Dalmatians of today…. 73 years later. The question then becomes “what else, less visible to the naked eye, came along with this mutated gene and what are the affects of these other things, if any, on the Dalmatian for now and in the future?” How can that serious concern be considered irresponsible? What is the hurry in registering the dogs before we know the whole picture? Shouldn’t the DCA membership be respected for wanting to protect and defend the breed rather than being vilified?

Dr. Joseph Bartges, the recognized expert on canine stone disease and author of text books on the subject, has said that “the definitive mechanism(s) of urolith (stone) formation in Dalmatians is unknown.” Dr. Bartges states in an email exchange with the former DCA Foundation President and made public by his specific permission that “there is more to urate stone formation in Dalmatians than uric acid…. ”. He adds that he worries... “that eliminating uric acid as the ‘cause’ of stone formation in Dalmatians may result in formation of other stone types in those Dalmatians that carry whatever gene(s) predispose to stone formation – wouldn’t matter the mineral type…”. His opinion is that “decreasing uric acid will likely help with decreasing urate stone formation in Dalmatians but perhaps not stone formation in general”.

In short, removing the high uric acid in Dalmatians could cause them to be less likely to form URATE stones but might do nothing to stop the formation of, for example, calcium oxalate stones which, unlike urate stones, are not soluble and can only be treated by surgery. This would mean that if a dog carries the as yet unidentified predisposition to form stones, he WILL form stones of some composition. So, what modifying factors play a role in stone formation? In a textbook authored by Drs Bartges, Ling and Osborne, all of whom have spent their careers studying this subject, 23 other known risk factors to canine stone disease are listed. Do we really care what TYPE of stone blocks our dogs? Wouldn’t it be better to KNOW rather than speculate?

DCA commissioned a committee comprised of knowledgeable people interested in the backcross experiment and asked them to report to the Board of Governors. In their “Final Report” they acknowledge that the experiment is “not a formalized project or study”. They go on to explicitly state that there “is no scientific research protocol” and that “several breeders of (backcross) Dalmatians conduct their own breeding programs using these dogs, just as any other breeder… conducts and manages their own breeding program.” Are we then to irreversibly alter the genetic makeup and the phenotype of our breed based on this acknowledged total lack of scientific research???


The AKC Health and Welfare Committee, on which not one stone expert sits, reported that the Minnesota Urolith Lab diagnosed 9,095 Dalmatians presenting with stones, or almost 500 Dals per year, over a 20 year span between 1981 and 2001. However, according to AKC records, over 370,000 Dalmatians were registered with AKC during that same time span to say nothing of the purebred Dals who were not AKC registered for whatever reason. If we use the Minnesota numbers as a sample, compared to ONLY the number of Dals registered in this 20 year span, we see a prevalence rate of less than 1%. It is important to note that the Minnesota Lab was considered the primary diagnostic facility used by vets and vet hospitals for two reasons:

     1.) their extreme expertise in the field; and

     2.) there was no charge for the assay.

The nationwide veterinary practice of Banfield Pet Hospitals reported that 4,264 Dalmatians were seen in their clinics during 2009. 19 of these (or .445%) were diagnosed with stones and the majority of those diagnosed were reportedly 10 years of age or older.

In an article published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) and dated August 15, 2005, by Dr. Carl Osborne, a recognized stone disease expert and author of Veterinary textbooks, he reminded members of the association , “…for as yet unidentified reasons, not all Dalmatians with abnormal uric acid in their urine form urate stones.” (p. 565). In a paper appearing in the JAVMA in 1993, World famous stone expert Dr. Gerald Ling of the University of California – Davis says, “Although all Dalmatians excrete relatively high quantities of uric acid in their urine apparently only a small percentage form urate stones.” (p. 857)

Although all AKC Dalmatians carry the gene for high uric acid, only a relatively small percentage of them become urate stone formers according to all veterinarians specializing in Dalmatian stone disease. (It should be noted that although we accept the statement that all AKC Dals are high uric acid, there has never been a report or study identified which scientifically confirms that this is true.) Dr. Bartges has been granted funds by the DCA Foundation to research this phenomenon but it is premature to expect even preliminary results on such a complex and far reaching subject. It is hoped the answers will become available this year. No scientific research into the theory has been initiated by the backcross proponents. No medical data has been provided about the backcross dogs being free of stone forming. No statistics are known about the number of backcross progeny demonstrating typical backcross frosting. Fiona, although she does seem to demonstrate smaller spots, might be an exception to this typical frosting pattern. If so, what are the contributing factors to this variation?

The DCA membership has expressed a need to see the backcross theory proven by scientific methods producing hard data before registration is considered. We want data which supports the claims… not conjecture. Research has told us that the typical age of onset (of stone disease) is 1 to 6 years of age. We want records on puppies from the project maturing into adults none of which are more than approximately 5 years old now. We want to be sure that altering the genetic makeup of our breed will provide the health benefit that has been nothing more than suggested at this time. We want evidence that nothing else is altered to change the essence of our breed or introduced to harm it. “Purity” is not the issue by any means. More research is needed to confirm that high uric acid is the single cause of stone forming.

Who among us could refuse to embrace a theory which could improve the health of our breed, albeit on a small percentage of affected individuals, if it was PROVEN to work? Any scientific theory must stand up to review. Why should this one be any different?

 

Reference and related Dalmatian Information:

LUA Dalmatian Makes Breed History At Crufts

Dalmatian Dogs - High Uric Acid, DNA test Eliminates Genetic Defect

Deaf Dalmatians Hear With Their Heart

AKC Accepts LUA Dalmatians

113   http://www.thedogplace.org/GENETICS/Dalmatian-UricAcidStones_Boyd-113.asp

 

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