Painted Mountain Ranch
AKC Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs


 Health Concerns

 

At Painted Mountain, our goal is to produce Swissys that will live a long healthy life.  We take this goal very seriously and screen all of our breeding Swissys for the absence of hip and elbow dysplasia and eye diseases, prior to ever using them for breeding.  Unfortunately, this does not provide us with an absolute guarantee that our puppies will never develop any hereditary health problems, as we are producing a living being!  (Due to the nature of genetics and that currently there is only the technology available to screen for normal phenotypic structure, a defective gene can slip through that we are unaware of until it actually develops into a problem.)  Breeding sound Swissys does of course significantly improve our probabilities of producing Swissys without these problems, however it does not guarantee it.  Therefore, we can not realistically guarantee that one of our puppies will never develop a genetic problem, however we do guarantee what we will do if a genetic problem does develop. 

The following list of health concerns are ones that are more prevalent in the breed:
 
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) and Splenic Torsion:

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), more commonly referred to as Bloat and torsion, is a very serious medical condition, which can be fatal.  This is probably the leading cause of death of Swissys.  To date researchers do not know the exact cause of bloat/torsion, and what part, if any, heredity factors play.  The risk of bloat/torsion increases as a Swissy ages with the majority of cases occurring in dogs over five years of age, however, Swissys as young as one year have died from this condition.  In bloat the stomach abnormally fills up with air, food or water and puts pressure on the other internal organs. Once filled, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, thus pinching off the blood supply. Once this rotation (volvulus) occurs and the blood supply is cut off, the stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted and the dog's condition begins to deteriorate very rapidly.  Immediate medical attention is imperative, as any delay at this stage can result in the death of the dog.  Symptoms of GDV can include:  abdominal swelling and tenderness, unsuccessful attempts to vomit, panting, excessive drooling, restlessness, whining, and/or pale gums.  Even with treatment it is estimated that at least 35% of the dogs with gastric dilatation and volvulus die. Understanding the symptoms, prevention and need for prompt treatment will help reduce the risk of mortality if your Swissy develops this problem.  Additional information on this condition, treatment and prevention is available at the following links:

Dog Owner's Guide: Bloat

Great Dane Bloat Book

Bloat Notes from the Purdue Study

Splenic torsion can occur in conjunction with stomach torsion or may occur on its own.  Splenic torsion occurs when the spleen rotates around its own axis, resulting in the spleen abnormally filling with blood.  When this condition occurs the spleen can expand to several times its normal size.  Signs of splenic torsion, without GDV, might include some or all of the following:  general listlessness, lack of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, low grade fever,  tucked up abdomen, tenderness of the abdomen or slight abdominal distention, roached back and/or pale gums.  As with GDV, the cause of splenic torsion is unknown, but we do know that it is very serious and requires immediate surgical attention as death is imminent. 

Epilepsy:
 
Epilepsy is the term most experts use to describe the condition of frequent seizures.  The intervals between recurring seizures may vary widely.  Some dogs are seizure-free for weeks or even months, while others are not.  Epilepsy can be inherited or acquired.  Genetic epilepsy is an inherited predisposition toward epilepsy that shows up in certain bloodlines within some breeds.  (Because it is difficult to trace genetic epilepsy, some people call it idiopathic epilepsy, epilepsy of unknown cause.)  Epilepsy that is not inherited (acquired epilepsy) can stem from causes such as poisoning, infectious disease, trauma and brain tumors.
 
Idiopathic epilepsy appears to be present in all lines of Swissys.  Seizures from  genetic epilepsy generally start sometime between one and three years of age.  At this point there is no test to identify carriers of this disease, but rather breeders will not breed a Swissy who has had seizures or has produced seizing offspring.  Painted Mountain Ranch, along with many other Swissy breeders and owners, are participating in the on-going research to identify the DNA genetic marker for epilepsy being conducted at the University of Missouri/Columbia.  We are all hopeful that this important research will eventually allow us to identify the carriers of genetic epilepsy, so that one day we might eliminate this frightening disease.

Same additional information on this subject can be found at:

Canine Epilepsy

Canine Epilepsy Links

Orthopedic Problems:

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD):

CHD is the faulty development of the hip joint.   This occurs when the muscle or soft tissue falls behind the rate of the skeletal growth, the muscles are unable to hold the joint together and the femur (thigh bone) partially dislocates from the acetabulum (hip socket), which can result in looseness of the hip joint and subsequent abnormal wear and arthritis.  Events leading to CHD begin very early in life and are a result of both genetic and environmental influences.  

All of Painted Mountain's breeding dogs have been certified as having normal hips by either Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP).  Although  OFA or PennHIP certified dogs may produce dysplastic offspring, studies have shown that breeding dogs with radiographically normal hips will significantly reduce the prevalence of hip dysplasia. 

Elbow Dysplasia (ED):

ED is the generic term to cover many different abnormal conditions of the elbow,  which can include fragmented coronoid process (FCP), osteochondrosis (OC), ununited anconeal process (UAP) and degenerative joint disease (DJD).  Due to the complex nature of these conditions an inheritance pattern has not been established.  However, as with CHD it is predicted that breeding dogs with radiographically normal elbows will reduce the prevalence of ED.  

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD):

Osteochondrosis is a defect that occurs only during the growth period of the bone, when areas of  joint cartilage do not remodel properly from the original cartilage of a puppy to the thin smooth cartilage of an adult.  Thereby leaving thick areas in the cartilage that can eventually loosen creating an OCD flap.  This OCD flap will move loosely in the joint resulting in severe pain and can cause arthritis in the joint.  Affected joints can include the shoulder, elbow, stifle and hock, however in Swissys the most common site is the shoulder.  The symptom seen is lameness, usually beginning at 5 to 10 months of age, worsening with exercise and improving with rest.  The OFA is currently running a two year data base to study the impact of breeding only those Swissys that receive a clear evaluation of no OCD on shoulder radiographs.  Painted Mountain is participating in this study, however at this time it is not known if this will reduce the prevalence of shoulder OCD in the breed.

Additional links to information on orthopedic problems:

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia Directory

Osteochondritus Dessicans (OCD)

Eye Problems:

Distichiasis (extra eyelashes or row of lashes growing from the lid margins):

Nonclinical distichiasis, or a few extra eyelashes, is very common in Swissys but generally does not cause any particular problem.  However, on occasion a Swissy will have clinical symptoms, which would include excessive tearing, discharge and squinting.  If left untreated this could potentially result in damage to the cornea.  This clinical problem can generally be successfully corrected with minor surgery.


Disticiasis, as well as other infrequently occurring eye problems in Swissys, such as entropion and cataracts, can be screened for by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) so as to avoid breeding those Swissys that might have clinical problems.  

Links to additional information on eye concerns:

Districhiasis (eyes)

Cataracts

Other:  Of course there are many other diseases that are known to occur within the breed, however the above are the most common and thereby the most prevalent concerns within the breed.  If you have any questions on these health issues or would like to discuss others please do not hesitate to contact us!

 


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