Friday, July 23, 2021

The Neglected Hungarian Treasure, the Mudi

 


Getting Started

In the early years of the official FCI Mudi breed founding in Hungary (1963), there was a need to have an open studbook to bring in not pedigreed Mudis to the registered Mudi fold for further registered Mudi breeding, this is how every purebred breed was started.

In the Mudi, those dogs with less than 3 full generation pedigrees had a B in their registration number, for example 1/B/65, the registration number of the very first Mudi, Rigó (pictured above). When the pedigree contained 3 full generations, the B was removed from the registration number. In late 2006, the B was changed to an R, which also remains in the registration number until the pedigree contains 3 full generations.

What determines closure of a breed’s studbook can be based on various things such as number of registered dogs, length of time, lack of interest, and other reasons. The decision to close the studbook can belong to the founding members of the breed, the current breed parent club or the purebred dog registry (FCI, AKC, etc.).  It is likely different for every breed how and when it happens.

In the last century and the very early part of this one, it was highly recommended that these empty pedigree Mudis only be bred with 3 full generation Mudi partners.  That advice was not always followed and in the most recent decades it is not uncommon for two empty pedigree Mudis to be bred together.  There is no existing rule how the empty pedigree Mudi can be used in breeding.

Current Times

In 2003 the Hungarian Parliament declared that the Hungarian dog breeds are now considered national treasures. And in 2017, the Hungarikum Committee classified all 9 Hungarian dog breeds, as Hungarikum. The Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the management of these 9 breeds.  From time to time there have been developments made to help the Hungarian breeds. For instance, a DNA parentage verification process for pups of these 9 breeds, born and registered in Hungary, was introduced several years ago, and from January 2021, free pedigrees are provided to the 9 breeds puppies.

As of July 2021, the MEOESZ studbook for the Mudi is still open, even though it is highly unlikely there are any Mudis living in secluded gene pools in the rural areas of Hungary. Mudi breeders in the last 20 years have scoured the countryside taking all they wanted from those remote stockpiles, either in the form of a puppy or adult, or convincing the owner to get a B pedigree so they could breed with it.  For some Mudi breeders it was a side hobby to find new Mudis for breeding. Hungary is not a huge country, nor heavily sprinkled with isolated villages anymore, as it was 50-100 years ago.  There are simply no more untapped Mudi stashes, or at least not enough to support keeping the Mudi stud book open.

Additionally, the incidence of professional shepherds in Hungary that use Mudis for herding has dropped considerably over the last 20 years, not that is was very large to begin with. Furthermore, the past and present Mudi breeders helped themselves to the genes of those shepherd owned Mudis as well, especially since many of those professional shepherds used pedigreed Mudis.

Returning to the Fold

To get an R (Registry) pedigree, the owner of dog which resembles a Mudi, takes it to an official breeding exam in Hungary, once the dog is one or more years old. A hip check with a score of A, B or C, is also required before the pedigree will be issued. At the breeding exam, the presented dog must meet the Mudi breed standard characteristics to be given the R pedigree, they can give whatever date of birth seems to be appropriate at the exam. Upon breeding exam approval, this dog will be given a Mudi  R pedigree that has no parents’ names listed (examples provided below). Of course, it does involve paying a fee which is not cheap, but it is affordable. Where this ‘Mudi’ came from is not important for registration. To get breeding approval once the R pedigree is issued, this new Mudi must go to another breeding exam with a different judge than the first one that examined the dog. A DNA sample may also be taken at this time, but it may only come later when the new Mudi is bred.  Upon approval at the second exam, the R Mudi can now be used in breeding.

What is the benefit of accepting dogs into a breed that do not have a pedigree as members of that breed?  In animals, a restricted breeding group, over long periods of time, can suffer from lack of vigor and fitness, therefore the supplementation of different genes not present in the current gene pool, via the addition of new group members, is useful for improving an existing closed gene pools vitality and health, but only in those cases where these are truly different genes and not more of the same genes already widely spread in the current breeding population.

Why would someone want to pedigree their dog as a Mudi?  In the cities, towns and villages of Hungary, there are Mudi-like puppies often created that do not have pedigrees. Sometimes one or both parents of these pups will have a pedigree and other times neither will, however the creator of these ‘Mudi pups without pedigrees’ usually provides a detailed Mudi parentage history which encourages the purchase of the pups. For some people it is not important if their new puppy or dog has a pedigree when they take it home.  Many times owners of these pups decide to do dog sports and the pup and owner team turn out to be quite talented, which catches the attention of pedigree Mudi breeders and they convince the owner to get the dog an R pedigree so they can breed with it. A pedigree in some cases will also enable the owner to compete in a wider range of sporting events, so if your adult dog looks like a Mudi, you go to a breeding exam and the world of pedigree dog sports is now open to you and your Mudi as well as the world of Mudi breeding.  Also there are puppies born here and there in Hungary from once pedigreed Mudi parents and grandparents that a breeder finds and wants to bring into their breeding program, many times they are fully aware of the pedigreed Mudis behind these pups or adults and some breeders even openly share their heritage.  In either case, these are not newly discovered Mudi bloodlines, but Mudis that fell out of the registered gene pool for one or more generations, from once pedigreed parents.  These are in effect recycled Mudis, they are not new blood. 

While the Mudis in the above cases are rather innocently brought back to the registered Mudi fold by their owners, there are also planned ways to bring in R Mudis.

What are the rewards of an R Mudi in breeding? The advantage of an R Mudi is through the empty pedigree which offers certain benefits for breeding and puppy sales. It is easy to keep a puppy or two born in a litter out of the pedigree system. With an empty pedigree you can breed the R Mudi to its’ parent, sibling or offspring without anyone questioning the high inbreeding levels, as breeding with an empty pedigree R Mudi gives a 0.00% COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding). If the kennel, parents, or close relatives of the pup have known connections to any disease, temperament issue or other undesirable problem, the R Mudi will not have that association. You can claim at the breeding exam that the Mudi is older or younger, which can also have benefits. Possible breeding interest from other kennels is also a consideration.  Another incentive to make an R Mudi is the desire of some foreign Mudi owners and breeders for Mudis with low COI levels they can use in their breeding programs, as there is evidence that animals with low levels of inbreeding are healthier. There are also foreign kennel clubs which emphasize low inbreeding levels should be maintained in purebred dog breeds as well.  Unfortunately, in the case of these R Mudis, the low COI level benefit is artificial.

The purpose of the R Mudi registry is not to recycle previously registered Mudi stock. The R registry has run its course and it should be closed as the benefits no longer outweigh the risks of improper usage.

Muddying the Gene Pool

Where a new Mudi comes from might not be important at the breeding exam, however it is highly important in terms of the gene package that Mudi is now bringing to the Mudi breed gene pool.

While DNA testing is available and affordable today, it still cannot detect the genes we want to avoid most in the creation of Mudi puppies, such as those that produce the many orthopedic issues present in the Mudi as well as epilepsy, hypothyroidism, several eye diseases and albinism.  There is quite a long list of health disorders that are appearing sporadically in the Mudi now and it is unlikely they will disappear.

The Mudi with an empty pedigree will not have any known connections to anything.  Which means breeding with or buying a puppy from one of these R Mudis is playing Russian Roulette when it comes to health issues they can produce.

Health issues are the most important concern for any dog breed, because without good health, a dog is not able to have an active role in breeding, task performance or sports, and in many cases, the companionship of health troubled dogs is seriously  compromised not only due to their physical inability, but from the financial and emotional costs as well.  Therefore, health must have first priority in any breeding program.

Recent B/R Contributions to the Mudi Gene Pool

B/R Mudis that were not bred do not cause irreversible negative effects on the breed. Some B/R Mudis simply wanted to be able to do sports where a pedigree was required.

B/R Mudis that were bred many times however, have the potential to create a very large negative impact through the health issues carried in the genes of their puppies.  I don’t think it was the intention for each B/R Mudi to be bred more than a few times, however that is not the case for many of them.

Some of the B/R Mudis used for breeding in the last 15 years which have created a serious negative impact on health issues in the Mudi breed are as follows. Please keep in mind that the number of litters and puppies I list can be much higher as I am not aware of every Mudi born and registered. Also there can be more health issues associated with these R Mudis that I am not aware of as well.

The following health issues have occurred in B/R Mudis puppies or grandpuppies born in the last 15 years:

R Male, born in 2010: 11 litters/35 pups/149 grandpups; some were affected with Hip Dysplasia (HD), Patella Luxation (PL), Spinal Anomalies (SA), Elbow Dysplasia (ED), Cataracts (Cat) or Epilepsy (Epi).

R Female, born in 2008: 10 litters/41 puppies/193 grandpups; some were affected with HD, PL, ED, Cat, Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM) or Epi.

B Female, born in 2005: 3 litters/10 puppies/72 grandpups; some were affected with PL, Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA), Auto-Immune Uveitis (AIU) or Epi.

R Female, born in 2008: 3 litters/6 puppies/29 grandpups; at least one was affected with Epi.

B Female, born in 2004: 5 litters/10 puppies/51 grandpups; some were affected with HD, PPM or Epi.

R Female, born in 2010: 2 litters/6 puppies/24 grandpups; some were affected with HD, SA, Distichiasis (Dist) or Epi.

R Female, born in 2008: 5 litters/16 puppies/107 grandpups; some are affected with Hypothyroidism (THY), SA, Missing Teeth, Retained Testicles or Early Age Blindness (EAB).

Other B/R Mudis bred in the last 15 years have also been the parent or grandparent of Mudis affected with the above health issues, as well as: Allergies, Extra Teeth, Deafness and more.

Many other R Mudis are just starting to be bred and it will be a few years before their negative contribution to the gene pool will be seen.

Of course Mudis with full pedigrees produce health issues too, but they were not taken into the breed with the intention that their contribution would be of benefit to the Mudi, as is the belief and reason behind allowing these R dogs into the breed – the R Mudis are supposed to bring good things to the breed, but that is obviously not the case.

Also the empty pedigree of a B/R Mudi does not allow cross referencing of health issues to other members of the pedigree which helps to avoid crossing of affected lines, which is known to reduce the occurrence of any health issue.

Of course not all B/R Mudis have created a health issue, mostly because they were only bred once or twice, thereby limiting their influence to a smaller portion of the future population, this is how they were meant to be used, instead the B/R privilege has been abused.

Push the Powers

All 9 Hungarian dog breed owners and breeders need to put pressure on the agencies that can correct these issues and others, that affect not only the Mudi, but the other 8 Hungarian breeds as well. These agencies are: the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture which manages the 9 Hungarian Dog Breed Treasures, the MEOESZ (Hungarian Kennel Klub), the Hungarian dog breed clubs and the MKOE (Hungarian Small Animal Orthopedic Association).  These agencies need to promptly accomplish the following tasks for the immediate benefit of these 9 treasures:

MKOE: you need to have an official website listing the orthopedic test results for the 9 Hungarian breeds so breeders and puppy buyers can support those breeders that do health testing, as well as have confidence in the health test results being official (and not digitally altered).  Ideally all test results should be made public, but if that is not possible, then the results the Hungarian breed clubs agree on as publishable, should be made available on an internet accessible list on the MKOE website.

Ideally MKOE orthopedic screening should be mandatory for breeding dogs, with breeding ability not connected to test results, which means dogs with any test result can be bred as long as the test result is made public.  This would significantly increase the testing being done on the 9 Hungarian breeds and quite possibly improve their orthopedic health.  This practice is successfully installed in many other FCI countries.

Any owner or breeder that brings a dog to an MKOE veterinarian for health screening must allow the x-rays to be sent to MKOE for evaluation, they cannot withhold possible poor scoring films from being sent in to MKOE for grading.  This rule is also applied in other FCI countries, so it can be applied in Hungary as well. This way the MKOE will have a clear picture of the level of orthopedic issues occurring in these 9 Hungarian breeds.

Orthopedic screening and research should be done with the 9 Hungarian breeds to determine their status and make recommendations to the breed clubs for improving the orthopedic health.  For example, determining which orthopedic screenings need to be evaluated for each breed’s specific areas of concern. There should be national grants available for such research.

Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture: all puppies/adults of the 9 Hungarian breeds cannot be advertised as being a Mudi/Puli/Pumi/etc., unless they have a pedigree.  A pedigree is a birth and identity certificate. Without a pedigree one dog is not different from another, but with a pedigree it becomes an official member of that breed and should have the benefit of being considered a national treasure in Hungary most of all, as the official decrees made in 2003 and 2017 intended.

Currently anyone can advertise in any public media outlet in Hungary that they have Mudi puppies for sale that do not have a pedigree and will not ever have a pedigree. This practice needs to be forbidden.  Only Mudi puppies with pedigrees or have pedigrees applied for, should be actively sold on any public media source as Mudi puppies. 

If you can only name a sparkling wine that was grown in a particular region of France, from particular grapes, Champagne, then only puppies with a pedigree can be called Mudi (Puli, Pumi, etc.).  You cannot call any cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan), Mozzarella di Bufala Campana (Mozzarella), Roquefort or Stilton, that was not made in those areas either.  You cannot call any sweet wine Tokaji.  So why should any puppy/dog that does not have a pedigree be called Mudi (or Pumi, Puli, Kuvasz, Komondor, Vizsla, Drótszőrű magyar vizsla, Magyar agár, Erdélyi kopó)?

If the government wants to preserve and protect these 9 Hungarian breeds, then they need to start by legally declaring only pedigreed individuals have the right to use these 9 Hungarian breed names in Hungary in any way, shape or form.  The selling of unpedigreed 'Mudi' puppies on internet sales websites, and all other public media sources, as Mudi puppies or adults, when they do not have a pedigree, needs to end now.

Stopping the advertised sales of unpedigreed Mudis as Mudis, will also have the effect of creating more pedigreed Mudi puppies, which is what the gift of free pedigrees for the 9 Hungarian breeds was also meant to support.  

Additionally, provide grant funding for MKOE research and other beneficial research for the 9 Hungarian breeds, such as DNA genetic disease identification that specifically affects the 9 treasured breeds.  For example, CDA (Color Dilution Alopecia) in the Mudi. 

MEOESZ: you need to close the studbook for the Mudi as of December 31, 2021. The R registry no longer serves the purpose it was intended for. At this point it does more harm than good for the Mudi breed as shown above.

You need to make sure the pedigrees for the 9 Hungarian breeds are processed fast and correct so puppies may be advertised as their treasured breed name and the pedigree is ready to go home with the puppy.  The pedigree application process should be given priority for the 9 Hungarian breeds to enable this.

Closing the studbook will also stop the sales of unpedigreed Mudis that are often promoted to have the ability to become an official Mudi by procurement of an R pedigree later on.  When this R pedigree loophole is closed, unpedigreed Mudi puppies will become less popular and therefore less likely to be produced.  Pedigreed Mudi puppies will become the only Mudi puppies available, as it should be.

Hungarian Breed Clubs: You need to make sure your responsibility in the pedigree process is handled quickly and efficiently and the pedigrees are checked for obvious errors before they are handed to the breeder.  If the pedigrees are incorrect, as does happen, you need to make sure they are reprocessed rapidly.

You need to list the litter applications in process on the club website so the breeders can advertise their litters for sale with properly identified pedigree processing underway, so buyers wanting pedigreed pups know which puppies are available that will have a pedigree.

 

These are just a few things that these agencies can do to assure that the 9 Hungarian Dog Breed Treasures have the bright future they deserve and the Mudi is no longer the neglected treasure.  Apart from the needed research grants, these things are not expensive to enact and would likely provide additional revenue for these organizations.  


Mudi R Pedigree Examples



References, Sources and Links



Hungarian Mudi Club:  https://www.fenyesmudiklub.hu/

Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture:  https://2015-2019.kormany.hu/en/ministry-of-agriculture





Friday, July 9, 2021

Until It Was

 

The Rise Of Elbow Dysplasia In The Mudi

Up until last year (2020), I was under the impression that Elbow Dysplasia (ED) was not a serious problem in the Mudi breed.  This is the problem with assumption, it often makes fools of us, and this is certainly the case with ED.  ED was not considered a Mudi breed problem…...until it was.

Elbows are usually checked at the same time hips are checked about 57.5% of the time. (In my database I have 1506 hip checks and 866 elbow checks = 57.5%.)  Although elbow checking is much more common today than it was 20 years ago, it is still not widely done. 

Patella Luxation (PL) has been a known Mudi breed problem for a longer time, and in a future article I will cover PL as well as one more orthopedic problem that is on the rise.

In the past months, I have learned of 2 young Mudis that have undergone bilateral elbow surgery due to ED, before they were 2 years of age. There are 24 other Mudis that have a score lower than the normal/0 score that elbows which are free of any signs of dysplasia are given by the various orthopedic associations. This adds up to a total of 26 known ED affected Mudis.

What Is ED and How Does It Occur In A Breed

The purpose of this article is not to discuss the diagnosis details, process or treatment of ED, you can find that information in the Reference and Source List at the end of this article.

The grading of elbows will be discussed in more detail later in this post, what is most important to know at this point is that 0, 0/0, Free, Mentes (this term means `free` in Hungarian) and Normal are official scores given to dogs with no signs of elbow dysplasia.  Any other score means the dog has some level of dysplasia in one or both elbows.

Symptoms of ED usually appear between 6-12 months of age but affected dogs may not be visibly lame until they are much older (4-6 years of age).  The typical signs of ED are lameness and an abnormal gait. ED is often bilateral (affects both elbows rather than just one) in 20- 35% of affected dogs (across all breeds), meaning it only affects one elbow in the majority of cases. Males are more frequently affected than females (across all breeds).  

Unilateral (affects only one side, left or right) ED, which is more common, is also inherited, meaning that parents having only one affected elbow pass off the genes for ED just as they do when affected with bilateral ED and their puppies can have one or both elbows affected with ED as well.  

ED can appear in puppies born from 0/Normal parents too, however, according to research, it is more likely to appear in puppies that have one or more affected parents, and the more serious the ED grade of the parent is, the more likely the puppies are to inherit ED, which shows that there is a moderately high component of heritability to elbow dysplasia.

Elbow dysplasia can be extremely painful for the affected dog, severely limiting activity and quality of life for the dog and its family. The onset of symptoms is usually early (under the age of 2 in most cases), and a significant number are bilaterally affected (both legs). Currently there is no satisfactory medical protocol or surgical procedure that would significantly alter the progression or cure the disorder. This poor response to medical and surgical management makes it increasingly important to reduce the incidence of the disease through selective breeding. By breeding only phenotypically normal individuals (only those with a score of 0/normal), a reduction in the incidence of ED has been shown to occur in other breeds. 

Multiple studies support the theory that the various components of ED are inherited. Although the heritability index and incidence does vary by the various factors studied, it does appear that ED is inherited polygenically with development being multifactorial, that is, both environmental factors and the additive effect of many genes contribute to expression of ED in affected dogs.

Until a DNA test is available for the detection of dogs genetically predisposed for ED, genotype can only be estimated by knowledge of the evaluations of the extended family and through elbow screening of as many dogs as possible, in particular, those dogs involved in breeding, those dogs which show symptoms, and those dogs which are closely related to ED affected dogs.

Breeding of dogs with 0/1 or 1/1 elbow results should be avoided, however if done with proper research and procedural implementation, it could be permitted with a limited number of dogs.

Any dog with a higher than 1 score should not be bred under any circumstances as the more serious grades of ED (2 and 3) have a higher chance of producing affected offspring according to research.

Evidence Supporting Genetic Inheritance of ED In The Mudi

For ED to be considered as a genetically inheritable disease in the Mudi breed, there must be some solid evidence.

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists/Canine Eye Registry Foundation (ACVO/CERF) criteria for defining a disease as hereditary include:

1) There are published reports in the literature regarding a condition in a particular breed with evidence of inheritance.

ED is shown to be inheritable in several dog breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland and Rottweiler (see reference list below for published reports).

2) The incidence of affected animals is greater than or equal to 1% of the examined population with a minimum of five affected animals per five years period.

The ED examined population is 866 Mudis, the number of affected Mudis is 26, which means the incidence of affected dogs is 3% (which is 2% greater than the required 1%) and there have been five or more ED affected Mudis in the last 5 years officially graded as having 1, 2, or 3 level ED. (Later in this article the ED affected Mudi statistics are provided.)

Direct family relationships to ED:

-2 littermate brothers (2007) are affected with scores of: 0/1 and 1/1

-2 littermate sisters (2014) are affected with scores of: 1/1 and 3/0

-One ED affected male with a score of (1/1) produced 3 affected puppies with 2/0, 1, and 3/3 scores

-One female that is either untested or has a non-publicized score, has produced 2 affected puppies with 1 and 1 scores each and is grandmother to 2 affected puppies with 0/1 and 2/0 scores

-One ED affected (1/1) male has produced one affected puppy 1/0

There are many other family connections between most of the 26 affected Mudis in just the first 2-3 generations of their pedigrees – that is, many share the same relatives or relatives that are closely related to them.

The data above clearly shows that ED is inheritable in the Mudi.

ED History In The Mudi

The first ED screening was made in Finland in 1995 with one Mudi, born in 1993.  The score was 0/0 as were the scores for the next few years.

The next ED screening took place with four Mudis born in 1996, examined in Finland (2), Norway (1) and Sweden (1).

Mudis have been screened for ED since the late 1990’s in increasing numbers, in 24 countries around the world.  The leaders in ED screening are Finland (363), Hungary (128+), USA (120+) and Sweden (104).

The numbers of ED examined Mudis worldwide for the last 6 years, by year of their birth:

2015 – 74

2016 – 64

2017 – 68

2018 – 101

2019 – 42

2020 – 8

Data Base Rules

I categorize the ED exam results by year of birth of the Mudi as the very first examined Mudis did not always have the date of the exam available. But mostly, as the age at which official scoring can take place has varied over the years and still varies by country today, Year of Birth is the unifying factor that makes the most sense.

While I know of 866 Mudi ED exam results, I do not know of every result, particularly in some countries, for example Hungary, this is why I follow the number with a + plus sign, as there are surely more than this number of screened Mudis in that country that I am not aware of, with both normal and below normal scores.

I do know of 99.9% of the exam results in Finland, Sweden and Norway as these countries list all results, pass or fail, on their kennel club websites.  It is my understanding that all Mudis undergoing orthopedic exams in these 3 countries will have their x-rays submitted, as there is no option to not send in the films. (So far I have confirmed this is true in Norway, I wait for confirmation from Finland and Sweden that this is still the case.) In these three countries, orthopedic screening is mandatory for litter registration, which joints have to be checked and what score is allowed for breeding, is possibly different in each of the 3 countries however. 

Of course there can be situations where a pre-screening has shown a less than normal expected score, which was not sent in for official evaluation.  Not sending x-ray’s is not helpful to those wanting to avoid mating of two carrier lines to avoid producing dysplastic pups, which the not submitted Mudi x-ray information could have provided. I believe this is why these 3 countries (and maybe some others I am not aware of) made submission of all x-rays mandatory with all results being made public as well. There is great benefit for breeding plans in knowing the below normal scores, as well as the normal scores. I truly hope more countries will provide this level of open database program soon.

Missing information is a much larger problem in those countries that allow the keeping secret of less than normal results, such as happens in the USA and Hungary.  Hungary has the more serious gap as there is not even a public list of normal, not dysplastic Mudis.  This loss is further compounded by Hungary having the largest population of Mudis, currently and historically.  This is a serious fault of the MKOE (official Hungarian orthopedic agency), the Hungarian Mudi breed clubs and the Hungarian government which oversees the management of the 9 Hungarian breeds.  The MKOE once had a public list, it disappeared many years ago, why, I do not know.

As I have done with epilepsy, I also do with orthopedic and other health issues, I keep track of the affecteds (A) and mark their parents as carriers (C), as well as their offspring.  Grandparents are marked as suspect carriers (SC). Incidence of ED can be seen on the 5 generation pedigree I have for each of the more than 10,000 Mudis in my database.  Only 5 generations are considered in health risk assessment.

Comparing Official Elbow Scoring Associations

ED scores of 0, 0/0, Free, Mentes or Normal, mean the dog is ED free. 

FCI country’s use scores of BL, 1, 2, 3, Enyhe (mild)=1, Közepes (moderate)=2, Súlyos (serious)=3, represent the various levels of ED found in the examined elbows. Some FCI orthopedic associations give one number score (2), and some give two numbers (2/2).  A slash / between numbers is used to separate the left elbow score / right elbow score. A score of 3 or 3/3 is the most serious level of ED. BL is borderline which is given in a few FCI countries for elbows that are not 0/0 free, but also not 1/1. I mark BL as .5 in my database as BL is not an ED free score. BL does not indicate if one or both elbows are affected. I am aware of only two countries with resident scored Mudis that use BL for elbow scoring, Germany and Greece. Every FCI country has its own system which tends to change from time to time, but most FCI countries use only numbers now.

For those FCI scoring associations that only use one number scores, the general rule is to use the score of the more seriously affected elbow, for example in the case of left elbow is 1 and right elbow is 2, the score will be 2. 

OFA uses the word Normal for ED free and Grade I, II, III for levels of ED.

The FCI countries allow Mudis as young as 1 year of age to be screened for orthopedic evaluation (hips, elbows, patellas, shoulders, spine).  Public score listing is dependent upon the Kennel Clubs in each FCI country. 

The OFA requires Mudis to be 2 years of age for all ortho screening.  You can submit x-rays younger than 2 years of age and get a Preliminary score, but in this case the films are only graded by one vet, not the usual team of 3 vets.  In my experience, the Prelim score is usually not the same result as the official score, so spending money on Prelims is not recommended. OFA will list all scores on their website if the owner of the Mudi being graded agrees.  Many owners and breeders only allow public listing of passing results. 

BVA (British Vet Association) uses the grading scheme of 0 = normal/free, and grades 1, 2, 3 for the varying stages of elbow degradation; they give the overall grade that is the worse of the two elbows, meaning, if one elbow is 1 and the other is 0, the grade will be 1, as they use the single number system for scoring.

BVA screening requires all dogs to be at least 12 months old before they can be officially scored under the BVA/KC Canine health scheme.

PennHip does not do elbow screening.

Important Note: *Hungary does score the elbows separately on the official exam result certificate, the official score only lists a single score such as Mentes (which = Normal/Free/0) or Enyhe (= Mild/grade 1) etc., this means without my seeing the second paper that comes with the official certificate that gives specific exam details, I cannot know if the score was the same for each elbow or different, therefore it is not possible to know on all Hungarian results if the elbows were unilateral or bilateral affected.  Free/Mentes/Normal results can only be 0/0 ED free if both elbows are clear.

Mudi Breed ED Statistics

I will use the FCI scoring system for listing of scores to make the statistics easier to follow: 0/0=Normal or Free; .5/BL, 1/1, 2/2, 3/3=levels of ED.

Out of the 866 Mudis Tested since 1995, 26 have been scored with .5/BL, 1, 2, 3 grade elbows. (840 scored 0/0)

These 26 scores equate to 3% of the 866 tested Mudis having dysplastic elbows.

The first Mudi to have a below normal ED score was in Hungary, she was born in 1999 and the score was 1/0. The second was also in Hungary, she was born in 2002 and the score was 1/1.  The third below normal score was also a Hungarian tested Mudi, he was born in 2003 and his score was 3/3.

The sex ratio of below normal ED scores is: 14 males to 12 females, the difference is not significant statistically.  Although the research ratio across all breeds shows a higher percentage of males having below normal ED scores, the lack of sex ratio difference in the Mudi can be due to the lower number of known results. Also more Mudi females than males have been screened: 419 males / 447 females.

Two of these 26 ED affected Mudis have required bilateral elbow surgery, both were under two years of age at the time of surgery and both were females. Year of birth is 2012 and 2020.  One is in Hungary, the other lived in South Africa at the time of surgery.

ED Score statistics:

0/0 ED grade: 840

.5/BL ED grade: 2 males, born 2015 and 2018; tested in Germany and Greece

1/0 or 0/1 ED grade: 9 Mudis; 4 males, 5 females; born from 1999 to 2017; testing done in Finland, Hungary and Norway

1 ED Grade: 2 Mudis; 1 male, 1 female; born in 2015 and 2019; tested in Sweden and USA

1/1 ED grade: 4 Mudis; 2 males, 2 females; born from 2002 to 2014; testing done in Finland

1/1 or 1/0 ED Grade: 4 Mudi males; born from 2007 to 2014; testing done in *Hungary, see note above

0/2 or 2/0 ED grade: 1 female born in 2018; tested in the USA

3/0 or 0/3 ED grade: 1 female born in 2014; tested in Finland

3/3 ED grade: 1 male, 2 females; born from 2003 to 2020; tested in Hungary and South Africa

Unilateral grade = 11 --> 4 males; 7 females

Bilateral grade = 7 --> 3 males; 4 females

Unknown = 8 (ED score does not indicate unilateral or bilateral diagnosis) --> 7 males; 1 female

ED below normal scores, by Year of Birth:

1999 – 1

2002 – 1

2003 – 1

2007 – 4

2008 – 1

2010 – 1

2011 – 1

2012 – 2

2013 – 3

2014 – 3

2015 – 2

2016 – 1

2017 – 1

2018 – 2

2019 – 1

2020 – 1

Of these 26 ED affected Mudis, 14 have been bred further, 12 have not been bred. 

These 14 ED affected and bred Mudis, have produced 255+ puppies in 50 litters (+ = I am missing complete litter data for one male).  These litters were produced in Finland, Hungary, USA and Greece.

The ED scores of the 14 below normal parents which produced litters range from: .5/BL to 2/0, with the majority having 1, 1/1, or 1/0 ED scores.

My Personal ED Experience

The second Mudi affected with a lower than normal grade score was born in Hungary in 2002, the score was 1/1 and this Mudi happened to be my own Mudi, Angel (Ôzugrató Angyal).  When I publicized my litter plans, I always included all health test results for the parents, so her 1/1 ED score was not a secret.

In the first years of this century, ED knowledge was not widely available, but common sense told me to breed only to 0/Normal males and that is what I tried to do, however in those days, most Mudis were not even hip checked, and elbow checks were extremely rare, with only 44 Mudis being ED checked in Angel’s age group (born from 1993-2002) from the entire Mudi population. 

Angel had 5 litters (21 puppies total) with 5 different males, which had 0/0 elbows (2 males) or had no elbow check (3 males).  I knew these males and they showed no signs of limping, nor had I heard of any problems in their pups with other females.

In the first decade of this century, ED was just not thought of as a health concern to Mudi breeders or owners and 1/1 elbows was not considered to be a serious issue by vets or breeders at that time.  Angel lived to be 14.5 years old and never showed any signs of elbow pain or abnormal gait.  Of her 21 puppies, 7 were elbow scored and all given 0/normal.  Of her tested grandchildren, all tested normal/0. None of her pups or grandpups owners reported an elbow problem.

Do I consider Angel elbow dysplastic now, yes of course, her elbows were not 0/normal, which means her relatives were also responsible for her 1/1 elbows.  Over these past years of tracking ED, her pedigree showed other relatives being connected to ED in her 3rd and 4th generations (several Mudis born in 1991). 

If I consider what I know about ED now and look at the pedigree risk today for the males Angel was bred to, it would not have been impossible for some of the pups to have had elbow problems.

Sires of Angel’s 5 litters:

Bajnok is listed as an ED Carrier in my database as he parented the first known Mudi to have a 0/1 score, she was born in 1999. He also has numerous ED-SC’s on his pedigree.

Csoki (ED 0/0) is an ED-SC in my database, which means he is the grandparent of a puppy with a below normal grade score. He also has numerous ED-SC’s on his pedigree. Csoki’s uncle is Bajnok.

Betyár’s (ED-0/0) parents are carriers as he has a close relative that has a serious ED score.  Although Betyár himself is not listed as a Carrier or Suspect Carrier, his parents and grandparents are, but they are the only ones on his pedigree.

Cimbora has one parent that is a Suspect Carrier and one grandparent is a Carrier.  There are a few ED-SC’s in the later gens of his pedigree. This was probably the least risky male of the 5.

Lantos is an ED-Suspect Carrier as he is connected to a below normal ED score grandpuppy. He has one other ED-SC on his pedigree.

Knowing the ED history of these males, it is doubtful I would have chosen any of them to breed to Angel today and looking through the males born in the last decade, while not impossible, it would be a challenge to find a suitable mate without close connections to ED for her.  

ED In The Mudi Gene Pool

How can the genes for ED be so widespread in the Mudi gene pool so quickly since ED is only now coming to the forefront of Mudi breed health problems?

First: the earliest occurrence of a below normal ED score was from a Mudi born in 1999, that’s more than 20 years ago.  Since that time, below normal scores were occurring and more than half of these below normal ED Mudis were being bred to make 50 litters which produced 255+ puppies in several countries of the world.  The pups from these litters were also bred and some were exported to other countries to become breeding stock. Many were not elbow tested.

Second: not enough Mudis are being screened for ED.  And some that are examined and have below normal scores are not being revealed publicly. This has gone on since ED screening began.  This does not help breeders to avoid putting two carrier lines together.

Third: breeding quick and for quantity (lots of puppies to sell), size (medium class agility sized Mudis), sports performance (aiming for behavior and temperament traits assumed to secure high level competition success), and other single goals, does not allow room for consideration of health issues as much as would be required for maintenance of health in a breed. 

Fourth: many breeders think you can only get a good sport or show dog by breeding a good sport or show dog to another good sport or show dog, thus severely limiting the available mates they can choose from.

By following these styles of breeding today, and not recognizing the presence of ED years ago, the Mudi gene pool was able to become infected with carriers over the last 20+ years.

Connecting The Dots Of the Affected Mudis

Important note: If an ED affected Mudi came from two parents from the same kennel, but was born under another kennel name, I considered the kennel of the parents to be the reference kennel.  In mixed kennel parentage, the name of the kennel which produced the litter was used.

Seven Mudi kennels produced 16 (of the 26) below 0/normal ED grade pups, this means that 7 kennels are responsible for 61.5% of the affected pups.

Ten Mudi kennels produced only 1 ED affected puppy (of the 26) which is = to 38.5% of the affected pups.

Two Mudi kennels had littermates with below normal grade ED scores, one set was brothers and the other set were sisters. Both litters had a very low COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding).

With further regard to COI, the range of the 26 ED affected Mudis is:  0.00% to 18.31%.

Six below normal ED grade Mudis had what is considered to be a high COI (above 12.5%). One kennel produced 3 of these high COI puppies, including the one with the highest COI.

A COI of 6.25% or lower is considered optimal for a breed, 8 lower than normal ED grade Mudis were 6.25% or lower.

A COI between 6.50-10% is still within preferable limits, 11 lower than normal ED grade Mudis were in this category.

A COI between 10.25-12-50% is still within acceptable limits, there was 1 below normal ED grade Mudi in this category.

It is very complicated to correlate COI to a health issue directly, ED is not an exception.  If I were to do a simple percentage rate calculation, 6 high COI Mudis = 23.1% of the 26 affected Mudis.  While this is not insignificant, it does not give any clear association between ED and high COI.

However, if you look at the 6 high COI affected Mudis, 50% are coming from just one kennel which is a cause for some concern, as the other 3 high COI ED affecteds come from 3 different kennels.  This indicates inbreeding within the same lines can cause more ED affected individuals to occur which is one of the well known side effects of high inbreeding levels.  Therefore inbreeding on higher risk ED lines is definitely something to be avoided.

Another important note:  Not all COI’s are created equally.  I have seen many COI’s being given for Mudis or Mudi litters that are not correct.  I saw the mistakes in this COI providers database several years ago.  As this provider is also a breeder and tends to do line breeding, the errors are compounding behind the mistaken parents they have entered. In most cases the COI they provide is noticeably lower than the one I provide, and in a very few cases the COI they give is higher.  Having a precise database, means everything when it comes to COI accuracy.  While getting a COI that is approximately 2-3% lower than it really is, may not seem to be that much of a difference to some people, it is of critical importance to those that want a low COI Mudi.  If you want to cross check any COI with me, you are very welcome to do so, it only takes a minute or two in most cases and I don’t ask questions about why you are asking.  If there is a difference, I can often explain why.  Also, I always compare my pedigree based COI to the Embark GCOI (Genetic COI) and my COI in the vast majority of cases thus far, is very close to Embarks.  If you would like to share your Embark GCOI with me, I welcome the opportunity to compare!

Reducing Occurrence of ED In The Mudi Breed

To stop the continuing occurrence of Elbow Dysplasia in the Mudi breed, there are several things which must happen, and it has been proven that taking steps through testing and breeding guidelines can reduce the occurrence of ED in a breed. What are these steps?

1) ED screening must be done on as many Mudis as possible; it is best if done around 2 years of age.

2) ED screening is mandatory on all breeding Mudis.

3) ED screening results must be made public, regardless of score; there are places to do this if your country does not have an open access database, such as the FB group Mudi Health, which has more than 1,000 members from around the world (link below).

4) Breeding of only 0/normal, ED scored Mudis should occur.

5) Use lines that are low ED risk when breeding with higher ED risk lines, and only breed puppies from litters that have all 0/normal ED scores for every puppy. (I give free ED risk scores for any planned or existing Mudi litter, or any individual Mudi, to anyone.)

6) As there seems to be a possible connection between high levels of inbreeding within the same related lines, linebreeding with COI levels above 10% should be strictly avoided. (I give free Mudi breed COI’s to anyone.)

7) Support breeders and owners that make ED exam results public.

8) Do not buy a Mudi puppy from parents that do not have a public ED test result of 0/normal or will show you the exam certificates when asked (it’s better if they have them available without asking on their social media platform or another publicly accessible website) – only support those breeders with your patronage that are trying to reduce the incidence of ED in the Mudi breed.

9) In very rare cases, the use of an ED 1/1 or 0/1 score Mudi in breeding can be done, but only with extreme caution, research and planning. The mate must have a 0/normal ED score and come from very low risk lines.  All of the puppies in the resulting litter must be ED tested at 2 years of age (not younger) and the results must be published, and no breeding of these pups must take place without the entire litter having a 0/normal score. Further breeding of the ED 1/1 or 0/1 parent would need to follow the same litter planning, however no more than 2 litters should be bred.

10) Mudis with elbow grades of 2 or 3 have a significant chance of ED being passed on to the offspring and should not be used in breeding under any circumstances.

Elbow evaluation should be one of many mandatory aspects of a comprehensive Mudi breeding program.

Mudi puppy buyers have an obligation to their new canine family member and the Mudi breed, to source their Mudi puppy only from a responsible breeder.

 

Score Charts


 



FCI


 

Reference and Source List:

file:///C:/Users/user/Downloads/elbowarticle.pdf

https://dogwellnet.com/content/health-and-breeding/screening-tests/non-dna/elbows/elbow-dysplasia-r213/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6883289/

http://www.vet-iewg.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/proceedingsiewg2012.pdf

https://cgejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40575-015-0021-x

https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/canine-elbow-dysplasia

https://vetspecialists.co.uk/fact-sheets-post/elbow-dysplasia-fact-sheet/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9760396/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18547017/

https://physio-vet.co.uk/blog/is-elbow-dysplasia-in-dogs-genetic/

https://www.ofa.org/diseases/elbow-dysplasia

http://www.fci.be/en/Hip-and-Elbow-Dysplasia-162.html

https://www.vin.com/apputil/content/defaultadv1.aspx?id=3859093&pid=11223&print=1

https://www.hamptonvetcentre.co.uk/practice/bva-scoring/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/295882233792474

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Faces of Epilepsy


(Ez a cikk magyarul megtalálható ezen a blogon - Az epilepszia arcai)


Each of these beautiful Mudis in the above photos were created with a great deal of love and concern for not only their future, but also the future of the Mudi breed.

They were born into a litter of 5 puppies on June 28, 2018.

The breeder carefully considered which male to use to make the litter, what owners to place the puppies with and kept in close contact with the owners after they went home.

The breeder did everything right, but still it went wrong, very wrong.

How did this happen if such great attention to so many important details was carefully considered?  We can ask many questions, unfortunately, there is just one answer: idiopathic epilepsy is the devil that hides in the details. 

Idiopathic epilepsy is quite possibly the most dreadful disease that affects purebred and mixed breed dogs alike: it is genetic, there is no DNA test or any other indication a parent carries the genes, it appears in unexpected places, it doesn’t appear in the expected places, it has variable seizure types and presentation, it terrifies both breeders and owners, and in the end the dogs are the biggest losers as they often pay with their lives. Those “lucky” dogs that don’t die from the seizures or medications used to treat them, pay with a much lower quality of life.  The owners incur costly vet bills, experience high stress levels and heartbreak.  There is no cure, euthanasia is often the best, if not only, option.


Further insult to injury comes from announcing to the Mudi community that your Mudi has idiopathic epilepsy, this is far too often almost as bad as the disease itself, and this is a burden the owners should not have to additionally face. The Mudi community should be ashamed of itself for the way it handles difficult realities – this must change.


These are the details of the litter:
- Kennel name: Bohemia Paws, in the Czech Republic, this was their first Mudi litter
- Mother (Tiszai Hullámtörô Ágyas) was 4 years old, father (Wartownik Wiatru Versor) was 6 years old; this was the mothers first litter and the fathers second, fathers first litter was born earlier in 2018 in Finnish kennel Takkutukan
- COI is 4.50% based on a 32-generation pedigree, 4 full generations; the genetic COI given by Embark for “Kafka” (one of the puppies in the litter) is 10%
- The epilepsy risk score for this litter, given before the litter was bred, was 38 moderate, epi risk was mainly on one side of the pedigree – the mothers
- An updated score, knowing what is known now about the carriers on the father’s side that I did not know then, but should have, would have given a minimum epilepsy risk score of 44 moderate; not a large increase, but now the pedigree for the pups has risk on both sides (mothers and fathers) which increases the chances to produce an epileptic; and additionally, a second score type that I now also provide, because of what happened with this litter, would have been 69 high; if these risk scores on the father’s side had been known before the litter was bred, another sire would possibly have been chosen that offered a lower risk
- The puppies were placed in homes in 4 different countries, Czech Republic, USA, Italy and Belgium
- “Kafka” in the USA started to have seizures in December 2018 at almost 6 months of age; he was euthanized a year later due to complications of his epilepsy treatment
- “Abby” in Italy started to have seizures in June 2020 at almost 2 years of age, she is currently on anti-seizure medication, her future is uncertain
- “Ean” in Belgium suffered a medical event, similar to a seizure, while under anesthesia, in June 2020, he did not survive, he was being castrated, this was his first time under anesthesia, he showed no signs of epilepsy prior to this; it is important to note that his brother Kafka also had a full body seizure while under sedation


Kafka and Abby were diagnosed by veterinarians to have idiopathic epilepsy after significant testing.  Ean’s vet could not be sure what happened, but it is highly suspected that he suffered a seizure while under anesthesia and could not be revived.

Kafka’s seizure presentation and age of onset was very similar to another Mudi in Finland named “Vinka" (Mustantassun Mauno).  Vinka and Kafka are related via sisters from one kennel on their father’s sides and via several shared relatives on their mothers sides; however without a DNA test, I cannot be exactly sure which grandparents gave the required genes to the parents, but as these two litters have shared relatives that are connected to other diagnosed epileptics, a pattern of inheritance is clearly evident. The path of transmission is more clear on the fathers sides, than the mothers. 

There are rumors that a sister of the mother of Kafka died from a seizure (this would be Kafka’s aunt). Her son is also rumored to have seizures (this would be Kafka’s cousin). If one or both of these rumors are true, the epilepsy in this line is particularly fierce.  Now more than ever, it would be vital to know how many other Mudis, not only in this line, but in other lines, have epilepsy.  Sharing your Mudi’s epilepsy will help stop the stories that are yet to come by providing wiser litter planning.


The confirmed epileptic count is now 39.  There are 16 possible epileptics as well.  There are rumors of many others. In the confirmed cases, males outweigh the females by 22 to 17. In the possible cases, females outweigh the males 11 to 5.  But as we do not know all the affected Mudis, there is no way to know if one sex is more affected than another.  COI is also not seen to have an effect at this point, but more research is needed in that area before any connection can be ruled out.

How common is it that more than one puppy in a litter has seizures?  I can only answer that with regards to the Mudi.  The Bohemia Paws A litter (born 2018) and two separate (with different parents) litters in one Hungarian kennel each had at least two epileptics (born in 2000 and 2002), and a Finnish kennel also had one litter with two epileptics (1988 litter).  Several kennels have had related litters with epileptics as well: Hungary (3 separate litters in one kennel in 2006-2007), Sweden (1998 and 2009 litters), another kennel in Hungary (2002 and 2009 litters) and Finland (1987, 1988, 1989 litters). Of course, these are only the epileptics that have come forward, there are surely others.  At this point in time, there is no kennel or line that does not have some connections to epileptics in their 5 generation pedigree.

I have also been told by several owners that their epileptics also had fear issues and other behavioral problems, particularly in this Kafka-Vinka line.  Is this a sign, is there a connection?  I do not know without more information being shared.

Kafka and Vinka both began to show a very similar type of seizure at almost 6 months of age. Vinka’s epilepsy progressed more slowly than Kafka’s.  At 2 years of age Vinka’s seizures became worse and more frequent and he was put on anti-seizure medication.  Kafka’s seizures progressed more quickly, while Abby’s seizures were serious from the very first one.   

Another relative named “Leo” also suffered from odd unexplainable behaviors, and severe fear issues that progressed over time, eventually resulting in euthanasia. It was denied by his breeder that it was epilepsy and there were many rumors that it was or wasn’t true. I believed the breeder, this mistake haunts me to this day.  It was not until after I heard about Kafka (who had similar seizures to Vinka and was related to Leo, as is Kafka) that I did serious investigation which concluded that Leo was indeed epileptic, especially in light of his family connections to Kafka and Vinka and another relative from Leo’s kennel that also exhibits odd behavior and was diagnosed as likely being epileptic. If I had done the proper investigation sooner, this litter may not have been sired by the father that was finally chosen because he appeared to be the least risky. We now know that was not the case.


While the tragedy of this litter is unimaginable, it could have been worse and the knowledge that was gained, provides a little bit of solace.  This litter clearly shows that waiting till the parents are older to breed them, and not breeding litters in rapid succession, prevents more affected puppies and carriers being born that will continue the spread of this disease. Hypothetically speaking, if the breeder chose the most common age (2 years old) to start breeding her bitch (instead of waiting till she was 4 for her first litter), this could have been the likely result:

-Mother Ágyas is bred at 2 years of age to Father Buksi, they have 5 pups
-Mother Ágyas is then bred at almost 3 years of age to Father Samu, they have 4 pups
-Mother Ágyas is bred at 4 to Versor, they have 5 pups, some pups in this litter are diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy
-All pups in first two litters are now likely carriers, and should not be bred, nor should the pups in the affected litter, nor any in any following litters; litters the father of the epileptics has produced with other bitch’s should also not be bred
-In the meantime, Mother Ágyas may have even had another litter AND the pups in the first litter may also have had a litter.  All this in just the span of 2-3 years.  How many Mudis are instantly removed from the gene pool due to this speed breeding style?

This is why breeding too young (before 4 years old for both males and females) and breeding litters closer than 2 years apart is harmful to a breed that has epilepsy. Breeding the Mudi in the traditional or ultra-modern ways will not work to slow the spread of epilepsy.  We must choose another method which is: waiting till breeding dogs are 4 years of age and spacing litters 2 years apart.


It’s time for you to meet Vinka and the Bohemia Paws littermates that have epilepsy and hear their stories and see their videos, I hope it will help you to understand epilepsy from the closest perspective and realize why it is so important to not let epilepsy take our dogs and this breed away from us.  There is still a chance, but the clock is ticking, and the window will close, please don’t let that happen.  If you have an epileptic Mudi, please tell someone about it and let them share the story of your epileptic Mudi if you cannot do so yourself. Do it for your Mudi, because they would do it for you.

This is a video of Vinka experiencing focal type epileptic seizures:




This is a video of Kafka experiencing focal type epileptic seizures:






Abby and Ean’s stories will be posted as soon as the owners are able to write them, it is a very difficult task for them at this time.





This article was written with the approval and collaboration of these owners and the breeder of these pups.  I hope that more owners and breeders will work together to raise epilepsy awareness.  It is not your private shame, it is our shared burden and we must all carry it together.



Bohemia Paws Alpine Leopard, ‘Kafka's’ story:



As a puppy, Kafka was uncertain about strangers, not unlike many Mudis, despite being very well-socialized and adored by his breeders. He would generally warm up after a little bit or he could be desensitized to odd objects with a little click-and-treat work. Over time, however, his fear of other people became worse and he would try to scare them away. I noticed a sharp decline in the month or so before his seizures started at 5.5 months.

In late December 2018, Kafka started having repeating focal seizures involving a head tremor without loss of consciousness. You could interrupt him with food. But, the seizures kept coming and kept getting worse. After a day or two, we went to the emergency clinic at a veterinary school where they did a basic neurological exam and bloodwork, including thyroid and tick-borne disease testing. Kafka had not had any vaccinations in the weeks before the seizures started, nor was he taking tick or heartworm preventatives at the time. Nothing showed up on his exams and the tremors kept happening. Taking him to any vet was hard, because he was so afraid of contact with strangers.



After all the basic testing was done, we were referred to one of the top neurological programs in the country, at University of Wisconsin Veterinary School. In the exam room, Kafka had seizure after seizure. We subsequently did an MRI and a spinal tap to analyze spinal fluid for evidence of any infection that had crossed the blood/brain barrier. Nothing was found. Because he was so young, no one wanted to jump to the diagnosis of idiopathic epilepsy. Instead, we kept looking for alternative causes. We tested his blood to see if he might have had lead exposure as a puppy; we examined his ears to see the head tremor might have been caused by an inner ear issue; we examined his eyes to see if he had a vision problem. Again, nothing. We tried changing his diet to a prescription food formulated for neurological issues. No improvement. Other veterinarians around the country were consulted about his case.

One alternative diagnosis that was considered was "idiopathic head tremor syndrome" which also involves focal seizures, but does not respond to anti-seizure medications. But Kafka had a full-body seizure while under sedation, and responded to anti-seizure medications. Subsequently, he was started on Keppra (levetiracetam) which worked for about a month to stop the seizures, and then failed. (This is apparently typical of refractory cases.) We switched to a combination of Zonisamide and Gabapentin, along with behavioral medications for his fear, which continued to intensify. The Zonisamide/Gabapentin would work for a while, and then the seizures would start again. When they restarted, we would increase the dosage. After a few months, 28-pound Kafka was taking enough drugs to leave dogs twice his size groggy and immobile. That was still not enough, so we tried CBD oil too. His seizures could be controlled for a while, but if you watched him carefully, you could see slight head movements or shaking of the head that suggested to us that seizure activity was on-going, just at a lower level. Because he did respond to medications, even if imperfectly, the neurologists ultimately decided to diagnose Kafka with idiopathic epilepsy, meaning that there were no known physical causes and it was likely to be genetic in origin. 



Tragically, the constant seizure activity seemed to heighten his fear, and his fear heightened his seizure activity, creating a terrible downhill cycle. We consulted with professional veterinary behaviorists across the country, including Dr. Karen Overall. He was sweet and loving and a perfect dog with his family, but very suspicious of anyone but his people. He could not go outside our property without a muzzle. Even when we had worked with a trainer for weeks, and he seemed to have grown accustomed to her, he would suddenly turn without any apparent cause and try to attack her. He started having problems with dogs inside the household too. After a year of fighting the diagnosis and doing everything we could for him, we ended up making the painful decision that he was too much of a risk for others, and that the confinement that was necessary for him was exacerbating his epilepsy and his behavioral problems. We spent his last months trying to make sure that he experienced joy every day, that he played with the one dog who could manage him, that he had off-leash adventures on our property, and special one-on-one time with us. And then we said good-bye.

Though, of course, it was not really a good-bye because a dog like that will stay in your heart forever, and the scars of losing him will never leave you. The memories are still painful, but I hope that making his story public will help save some other family from repeating the same pain.