Genetics & Health

MDRI Gene
The MDR1 gene Is the abbreviation for the gene called Multi-Drug Resistance 1. This mutation causes sensitivity to a number of drugs/medications. Dogs with the MDR1 gene mutation will react to certain drugs. Dogs with the mutation have a transport defect to these drugs - the drug enters their brains but fails to be transported out. This causes a build up to toxic levels. This causes extreme neurological problems including seizures and sometimes death.Australian Shepherds, along with several other herding type breeds, can carry this genetic mutation.Here is a list of drugs that will cause the reaction: * Acepromazine (tranquilizer and pre-anesthetic agent)* Butorphanol (analgesic and pre-anesthetic agent). * Emodepside ( deworming drug) approved * Erythromycin. (antibiotic) * Ivermectin (used in heart worm medication)* Loperamide (used for diarrhea)* Selamectin, milbemycin, and moxidectin (anta parasitic agents)* Vincristine, Vinblastine, Doxorubicin (chemotherapy agents). PERCENTAGE FOR BREEDS THAT ARE AFFECTED: Australian Shepherd 50% Australian Shepherd Mini 50%, Border Collie < 5% Herding Breed Cross 10 %. MDR1 drug reactions are not a form of epilepsy, however since the frequency of the MDR1 mutation is so high in Aussies and Mini Aussies, it is possible that an epileptic dog could also have the MDR1 mutation. Such a dog would have two diseases, not one. An extremely accurate DNA test is available that will let you know whether your dog has this mutation. This can be done by your veterinarian or on line where you can order a kit and mail in a cheek swab.
 
Order a testing kit by contacting the Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology Laboratory at: Washington State University: www.vetmed.wsu.edu/vcpl or by phone 509-335-374. Medic Alert Dog Tags are available at many sites on the web.
Double Merle (Lethal Whites/Homozygous Merle)
Double merle or homozygous merle occurs when the resulting offspring of two merle parents inherit two copies of the dominant merle gene. Double merles often have excessive white andcan have hearing and/or vision problems as a result of having two copies of the merle gene. Deaf and/or blind Aussies can make wonderful pets given if you can accommodate their special needs. They are a highly intelligent breed and can learn hand signals easily. The term "lethal white" originated from horses born with "Lethal white syndrome," and has since strayed to often describe dogs born with the double merle trait. This trait is found in many breeds, but most commonly found in Australian
Shepherds. The name "lethal white" is a misnomer as this genetic condition is not lethal to the dogs, but it is the breeder who is lethal to the pups by culling them immediately after birth. Irresponsible and ignorant breeders will breed merle to merle knowing the consequences.
 
When breeding a tri Aussie to a merle Aussie, they will likely not have a litter of all merles. As the merle coat pattern is more in demand and often results in a higher price tag, the greedy breeder will take the chance of having a few defective pups in order to have a litter of all merles, as they lack any sense of humanity or conscience. These ignorant sub humans will often 'cull' the pups at birth (a cowardly word for kill) or dump them at a local shelter like yesterday's trash. The most irresponsible may even sell their "defective puppies" as normal, without providing the adoptive family with (any information of the likelihood of problems. Scientific explanation: A merle color gene is dominant (M), a solid color gene is regressive (m). A solid color puppy will have an mm combination. A puppy with the Mm mixed gene will be merle. A puppy with the MM homozygous gene will be a double merle/lethal white. While many would consider a lethal white genetically flawed, others embrace the unique and special canines, considering them exceptional, and provide them with a lifetime of love.

Life with Keller - The Double Merle - By Amanda Fuller

Scrolling through Facebook one day I saw a picture of this little white puppy and after one look at her,I was in love. Being an Aussie owner,I was aware of the fact that a white puppy usually isn’t a good sign. I didn’t have much knowledge on double merles, but I couldn’t resist that sweet face in the picture. After doing A LOT of research,I decided that I could handle it.The puppy had been rescued from a breeder who was going to kill her purely because she was deaf with possible vision impairments.Keller joined our family in July of 2013 and has been such a blessing. A deaf puppy isn’t a curse and it shouldn’t be a death sentence. Keller is 100% deaf and has slight vision impairment, but when you meet her,you would not expect her to be any different. While her deafness has been a challenge,we have learned very much and developed away of communicating through signs. Being an Aussie, she is very smart and picks up on things in an instant. Within the first night of being home she had already mastered the sign for sit. She now knows sit,down,come,and stay. We are working on some other signed commands, but I’m happy with her just knowing the basics .I personally feel that because she is deaf,she is much more reliant on my self and my hearing Aussie, Kai. She’s constantly with us and looking for clues as to what she should do next.We’ve faced many challenges in such a short time.One big thing is holding her attention for any extended amount of time. With a hearing dog you can squeak a toy,whistle,or call their name and you’ll have them looking at you ,not the case with a deaf dog. It’s very frustrating when you can’t get their attention.I often find my self outside in the yard jumping and waving my arms around trying to catch her eye. You also have to keep in mind that they can’t hear, which I know sounds obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how fast you forget. Yelling or raising your voice at them doesn’t work;you have to find a signal to express anger or bad behavior, as well as a signal for praise. Since we have gotten Keller,she has come along way. She’s currently in her second session of agility classes. To my surprise, she is excelling and I may even be able to enter her in trails. She’s become a best friend to my Aussie, Kai. They are inseparable. We honestly couldn’t imagine life without her.
Tips to make life easier (in my opinion)
  1. A hearing/seeing mate will work wonders. Your double merle will rely on them and they
    can help to teach them the ropes and rules
  2. Establish signs and stick to them. Pick a sign for good girl/boy and always use it when they
    do something good/ We use thumbs up.) Same goes fora no or bad signal,stick with the same sign (shake a finger as if I am saying no no). ​
  3. Use a leash unless you are in a completely enclosed area, always. Keller has slipped out
    of our yard twice and it was the scariest thing II have ever
    experienced.
  4. Use Laser pointers and flashlights can be your best tool. I use a laser pointer in the
    house to catch Keller’s attention. She will then follow the laser light all the way to my
    feet and sit. Outside at night, flash
    light or porch light can be used to grab attention.
    Flashing the light on or off will grab their attention and you can sign for come.
Medical Conditions
Australian Shepherds are genetically prone to specific medical conditions. Here is a list of some of the more common conditions:
 
  • Nasal Solar Dermatitis: Aussies are particularly susceptible to nasal solar dermatitis, sunburn of the nose, due to sunlight sensitivity. This condition usually occurs in dogs who have little to no pigment in their nose. Pink or ulcerating lesions with develop around the nose and eyelids. The symptoms of this problem mimic skin conditions caused by autoimmune problems, so any change to your pet’s nose is a reason for an exam by one of our doctors. To help prevent this potential problem, minimize exposure to the sun and use sun block if possible.
  • Eye problems: Cataracts are easily the most common of the breed's several eye diseases. A cataract is an opacity of the lens of the eye that causes difficulty with vision. Not all cataracts are hereditary, so it is important to have the dog examined by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist to determine the cause. small eyes (micropthalmia), Distichaisis, Corneal Dystrophy, IrisColoboma, Collie Eye Anamaly, and retinal problems called progressive retinal atrophy are also eye problems seen in the breed. ​
  • Hip dysplasia: Since they are a very active dog, Aussies are prone to traumatic injuries, especially when running. This is a heritable condition in which the femur does not fit correctly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. It was first discovered in the breed in the early 1970's. Even though responsible breeders have been screening for many years, it is still a common problem due to its complex inheritance. The most serious cases are crippling and painful.
  • Epilepsy: Epilepsy resulting in seizures, once rare have increased over recent years and is perhaps the most frightening disease that an Aussie breeder or owner may deal with. There is no screening test available to determine if your dog is prone to epilepsy, however it will usually manifest itself between one and three years of age. Although .the most common seizures are of the idiopathic form, there are a variety of reasons that your dog could have seizures besides epilepsy, so it is critical to bring your Aussie to your veterinarian for a complete examination and work up. ​
  • Heart Disease: Ductus Arteriosis is a heart disease that seems to effect more female than male Australian shepherds. Symptoms can include difficulty breathing which is aggravated by extreme or even moderate exercise.
5. Buy a crate and use it. Keeping a puppy out of a crate when you’re out of the house is dangerous enough, much less a puppy that can’t
   see/hear. A crate is a safe place for your puppy when you are unable to be there. If they cry in the crate, try putting a blanket over it.
   They will most likely just fall a sleep since they can’t see their surroundings.
Visit Keller on Facebook! Just go to Facebook.com/kellerthedm
 
Allergies
The three most common allergies in dogs include dog food allergies, flea allergy dermatitis, and environmental allergies. Dog Food Allergies: If your Aussie is allergic to their food, it can take from weeks to years to figure it out But, once the allergy has presented itself your Aussie will continue to show an allergic reaction to the food and, since allergy symptoms can mimic other health issues, it could be quite some time before your veterinarian determines that the dog food is the actual cause of the sickness. Numerous dog food companies use the same common ingredients, and quite often these basic ingredients are the root cause of the allergy. For dogs, the most typical source of allergies are in dairy products, beef, wheat chicken, pork, and corn. ​ One of the most typical signs that your Aussie is allergic to his food is vomiting, gas and/or diarrhea. Other health problems can cause these symptoms, but if it is an allergic reaction to the dog food, the vomiting, gas and/or diarrhea would be ongoing rather than intermittent.
If your Aussie continues with these symptoms, he can become dehydrated, causing possibly more serious health issues to include problems with the mouth, throat and digestive tract. Another indication you might notice of dog food intolerance is skin problems and sudden fur loss. Fur loss can be the result of a multitude of problems , but if you notice that your Aussie is suddenly losing a lot of fur and has bald spots on his coat, or leaves a large chunk of fur on the floor when getting up, consult your veterinarian. Skin problems can include excessive scratching and skin redness and irritation. There are other less common allergic reactions such as red eyes, nasal discharge, inflamed ears, swollen paws and asthma. If your Aussie has been displaying these symptoms, it is recommended that you take him to your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will discuss options of other dog food that may be easier on your Aussie and help him to get healthy once again.
 
  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Flea allergy dermatitis is not an allergic reaction to fleas, but to the flea saliva and is a very common condition in dogs. It is not the flea bite that causes most of the itching in dogs ,it is the saliva. The saliva causes irritation way out of proportion to the actual number of fleas on the dog. Most dog owners assume that if their dog isn't infested with fleas, the itching can't be caused by fleas. But if your dog has this allergy, the saliva of just a few fleas can make him extremely itchy and miserable for several weeks, even long after the death of those fleas. If you feel your dog has Flea Allergy Dermatitis, you should bath him often with an herbal shampoo. This will relieve the itchiness and he will feel some relief. Use natural, not chemical pest repellent and comb his fur with a dog flea comb daily. What you may think is dirt you are combing out of your dogs fur could actually could be flea feces. A little rubbing alcohol can confirm this as the dirt will turn red verifying it is blood and not dirt.
  • Environmental Allergies: Dogs with environmental allergies are most often genetically predisposed. Hypersensitive antibodies release an extreme amount of histamine which in turn causes the allergic reaction when your dog comes in contact with the allergen. The most common environmental allergens in dogs are dust mites, animal dander, airborne pollen and mold spores. The most common reaction is skin irritation, and most commonly effect the ears, groin, armpits, muzzle, eyes and feet. Our pets are also much more sensitive to second-hand smoke and other airborne toxins than we are. Their noses are six to seven times more sensitive than ours when it comes to identifying toxins in the air.  Your dog can only sweat through his nose, and the bottom of his feet. and they pick up outside pollens, ragweed, molds, spores and bring them into your home. The best things to do are to bathe your dog, makes sure he has clean water and clean air to breath. Also evaluate your dogs daily exposures to air born toxins/chemicals and never over medicate one.
Additional Items that Are Toxic or Cause Allergic Reaction
  • Rhubarb Leaves
  • Chocolate Coffee and Tea Products
  • Almonds and Macadamia Nuts
  • Beer and Hard Liquor
  • Any Spoiled Food
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Tomato Stems/Leaves
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Pits and Seeds from Plums Apricots, Peaches and Apples
Additional Items that Are Toxic or Cause Allergic Reaction
  • Rhubarb Leaves
  • Chocolate Coffee and Tea Products
  • Almonds and Macadamia Nuts
  • Beer and Hard Liquor
  • Any Spoiled Food
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Tomato Stems/Leaves
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Pits and Seeds from Plums Apricots, Peaches and Apples

© 2016 by Australian Shepherds Furever

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