Finnish Lapphunds: Trainable, Lovable, Cuddly Dogs of the North
Host Laura Reeves kicks off Love the Breeds month talking with Linda Marden, who imported the first Finnish Lapphunds to the US and worked to have them recognized by the American Kennel Club.
“I very pointedly and purposely set out to import Finnish Lapphunds and get them recognized by AKC,” Marden said. “It took pretty close to 25 years to get it done. I couldn’t find anybody that would export one to the United States. Back then, we didn’t have Internet or anything like that. To them, sending a dog to the United States was basically the same as taking it out and shooting it… it was never going to come back to them. It wouldn’t be part of their gene pool because once they’re gone and registered in the United States … at that point, because we weren’t AKC recognized, we couldn’t send dogs back to them. So that line, as far as they were concerned, was lost. Getting a dog was really difficult.
“When I first started, I had a breed which had a very definite well-recorded history and we had multiple generations pedigrees. This was not in any way shape or form a created breed. Every dog I imported had at least a three-generation pedigree, which was an AKC requirement. We never had anything that wasn’t three generations, and they still made us wait until we had 400 dogs in the United States before we could even take another step forward. When I first started working on importing Lappies. It was before AKC had the foundation stock service. So, it instantly became much easier once that got started.
“Finnish Lapphunds obviously are from Finland. That type of breed is all over the northern part of Europe. So, what actual breed you get depends on where in northern Europe you are. So, the “Lapphund” part comes from Lappland, which was an area of Europe that was never a country but “pre-countries” it was recognized area. It covers the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. And Sammies came from also basically the same area, but it was Russia. So, it’s just the area you were in because these were nomadic people that are relatively isolated. So, the breeds that formed, formed because of the human isolation.
“All of those breeds were kept by the nomadic people and their primary job was to help herd the reindeer. Now, the dogs were multi-purpose. They were not exclusively bred as herding dogs. So, we see differences in their temperaments because of that. They were also used to occasionally pull sleds. They were alarm dogs. They hung out with the people. We all joke that we know exactly what a “three dog night” is. It’s really cold. The dogs lived very closely with their people, and you can see that in their temperaments. All of those breeds actually are exceedingly people oriented because they lived in the tents with the people.”
For more information on the breed: https://www.facebook.com/groups/finnishlappundclubofamerica
Canine Herpes Virus from the Veterinary Perspective
Dr. Bruce Christensen, DVM from Kokopelli Assisted Reproductive Services, joins host Laura Reeves to talk about treating pregnant dogs and their puppies for Canine Herpes Virus.
Last week we heard from Alaskan Malamute breeder Wendy Korr on her experience with this potentially devastating disease in her litter. Today we are joined by the veterinarian who led the treatment of dam and puppies with a refresher course on CHV.
“Herpes virus is not something that we typically screen for on a routine basis with our breeding bitches,” Christensen said. “It could be argued that maybe we should, but I guess in our conversation today we can probably talk about why that is or isn’t so.
“The bottom line is that it’s a pretty common virus. And so most bitches, and stud dogs, have been exposed to it and have it essentially, although it’s not actively causing disease in most of them. However, the dangerous thing is if a bitch hasn’t been exposed to herpes virus and then she’s initially exposed to it while she’s pregnant, especially in that last half of gestation.
“That would be the most dangerous time because the first time that an animal is exposed to herpes virus, they have the strongest immune response and the least prepared immune response, so the virus has more of a head start. Since the body hasn’t seen it before, there aren’t any lingering antibodies to recognize the virus and mount a quicker subsequent response. So the initial response is a little slower at coming and gives the virus more time to do damage. And that damage during the second-half of pregnancy will involve the fetuses and potentially much more likely infect them.
“If a bitch has been exposed before, then she’ll have antibodies and she’s already got the virus in her, just in the latent state. And if it reproduces or comes back out, her immune system should be adequate enough to protect the puppies that are in utero. So if you find that she’s naive, in other words that she has not been exposed to herpes virus, then you need to be hyper vigilant about keeping her away from other dogs throughout the rest of her pregnancy because you don’t want her to be exposed for the first time during her pregnancy.
“So that dog needs to be on real lockdown and isolation from any outside dogs. If you have dogs in your household that will have contact with her ’cause it just be too difficult to keep them apart, they need to be tested. And if they’re negative, then they could continue to have contact with her and no other dogs. If they’re positive, then you probably wanna temporarily rehome them to keep them away from her during that pregnancy so that they don’t potentially spread it to her while she’s pregnant.
“Most species have their own herpes viruses and they’re not communicable between species. We all know coronavirus jumps between species because of what the world’s gone through in the last couple years, right? Herpes virus doesn’t do that. It pretty much stays true to the species it’s evolved with.
“But once you get a herpes infection, the viruses pretty much behave the same. They go into your cells and they stay in your cells for your lifetime. Now they’re usually quiet and just sit there, not replicating, just quiet inside the cells. Usually, it’s in times of stress that they are triggered. Everybody listening to this podcast is going to be familiar with herpes virus in people, ‘Damn it, I got a cold sore.’ So that’s because the virus. Once you’ve got it, it’s in your body forever and during times of stress it’ll come out and cause those annoying problems. In the dog, it’s the same.
“Once a dog becomes exposed to herpes virus, it’s in the dog for life, but most of the time it’s just quiet inside the cells. During times of stress, it can come back out. And interestingly, in dogs, the clinical signs usually are not necessarily like cold sores, but not too far off. They give blister-like lesions on mucosal surfaces, so it’s similar to a cold sore, but you’ll see these little blisters on their gums or if they’re male dog on their prepuce, if they’re female on their vaginal mucosa, and you’ll see that and that’s it. They don’t cause anything except maybe some minor discomfort. But they are at that point shedding, and they can pass it quite easily from one dog to another.
“The virus is really weak outside the body, so it’s not like it’s gonna live very long in a kennel or in a backyard. Any kind of cleaning product will kill it. Sunlight is gonna kill it. It doesn’t live long like other viruses can in the environment. But passing from dog to dog, you know, they meet each other, they lick each other, they smell each other. They can pass it quite easily that way. And once you’ve got it, you got it.
“One of the major things that keeps herpes virus at bay and just causing these little blister-like lesions and not more is that it doesn’t replicate very well at normal body temperature. So for a dog that’s 99 to 101-ish degrees Fahrenheit and it doesn’t replicate well at that temperature. But if it gets below 97, then now it can replicate pretty fast and furious. In those puppies that are colder than that, if their environment doesn’t keep them warm up in the 99 plus range, then it will do more than blisters. It will attack their kidneys, it will attack their liver, it will attack their lungs. It’ll attack all the major organs of their body and cause very rapid death within a couple days.
“Whether they’re born by C-section or natural, one of the most important things you can do for the puppies is to keep them warm. Remember that their little internal thermostats don’t start fully functioning until they’re somewhere between two and three weeks of age. So up until that point they’re really like little lizards, crawling around and relying on their environment to keep them warm. So, the mother does a good job at that, but she’s not always there so you have to keep the nesting area warm.”
Canine Herpes Virus: Early Detection Saves Puppies
Alaskan Malamute breeder Wendy Corr joins host Laura Reeves to share her story of early detection of Canine Herpes Virus in her pregnant bitch and how she managed the situation to produce healthy puppies. This is the first of a two-part series which also includes an interview with Corr’s lead veterinarian.
Corr said she had never really thought about CHV much, as a long-time breeder, but had recently heard a presentation on the dangers of the disease to pregnant females. On a whim, she asked her veterinarian, Dr. Bruce Christensen, to pull blood a CHV titer test on her confirmed pregnant 3-year-old Malamute.
She was shocked to hear back a couple weeks later that the bitch had titer levels off the charts.
At the direction of Dr. Christensen and his team at Kokopelli Assisted Reproductive Canine Services in Sacramento, CA, Corr started her bitch on a course of acyclovir, a human anti-viral.
Corr, who is a clinical nurse in human medicine, said she was concerned about potential side effects from the drug, which could include cleft palate, but committed to the treatment with that understanding. She also opted for a C-section, rather than a vaginal whelp, in order to limit the puppies’ exposure to the virus in the dam’s body.
Primary among the handling of the four healthy puppies at birth (none with clefts) was incorporating an incubator to keep their body temperature above 99 degrees, the point at which the virus cannot replicate, for the first 2 ½ weeks. Putting the puppies on to nurse every two hours, monitoring temps and keeping mom and puppies content during that time was a daunting challenge, Corr said.
“We had friends who brought us dinner,” Corr said. “We had people who offered to come in and just sit with the dog so I could sleep or take a shower or we could go grocery shopping.”
The entire process took place during the height of COVID lockdowns, enhancing Corr’s challenges.
Stay tuned next week for insight from Dr. Christensen directly on his experience and recommendations on the topic.
Consistency is the Key to Successful Dog Training
Trainer and author Shannon Riley-Coyner joins host Laura Reeves to talk about the key to successful dog training – consistency.
“Really, consistency is something that even as humans, we thrive on,” Riley-Coyner said. “Like if we have a relationship, whether it’s with our children, our spouse, our friends. Inconsistency really creates fear. It creates anxiety. It creates a lack of trust.”
Five Ways to be Consistent
- Be clear about what you are expecting. Does down mean get off or lie down?
- Make a doggy dictionary. What is the word for each behavior?
- Be clear about reinforcement. Clicker? Food? Verbal? Be consistent with the reinforcer!
- Nail your timing. “A punishment that happens 3 seconds after a behavior can be very stressful for a dog. A reinforcement like treat that’s given three seconds after the behavior, it will be confusing. But it won’t be necessarily be stressful.”
- Consistent technique. “Inconsistency is very stressful for a lot of dogs. That’s why it’s so important to have that timing and your techniques be consistent.”
Clarity is kindness
“We need a way of communicating with (our dogs),” Riley-Coyner said. “If I don’t have some consistent words that mean something, we’re going to have a hard time communicating because dogs don’t talk in language like this. They talk with body language and we need to know about these things.”
Consistency for the dogs within the family is critical, Riley-Coyner said. Which is why using consistent words, rules and a similar tone should be part of the family meeting for any new dog.
“Tone will amp up a dog or bring a dog down,” Riley-Coyner said. “It’s a lot of training ourselves.” Consistency from the beginning and building a foundation, she added, enables us as trainers to show our dogs that “clarity is kindness.”
Intussusception and Other GI Accidents
Dr. Marty Greer, DVM is back with host Laura Reeves to discuss Intussusception and other GI related accidents that may affect our dogs.
“Intussusception is when the intestinal tract invaginates, or folds up on itself, so accordions on itself,” Greer said. “So, a piece of the intestine slips into another piece of the intestine, all aligned. And unfortunately, what happens when that occurs, is the blood flow is compromised to that part of the intestines and very quickly the dog gets into trouble.
“(They have) vomiting, diarrhea, they look really sick, really fast. So, it doesn’t look like your garden variety, ‘I ate grass and vomited’ or, you know, those kinds of things. It ranks up there in severity with parvovirus (and bloat). There’s a lot of different GI things, intestinal and stomach things that happen as intestinal accidents.
“So, it’s one of those intestinal accidents that happen. If intussusception happens, they’re almost always young puppies. They’re almost always associated with a heavy parasite load.
“Any parasite, usually roundworms, but any parasite, anything that can make the gut hyper motile. So, increase the motility of the activity of the gut to the point that it gets really angry and it just sucks in. It’s sort of like if you take off your sock and you kind of pull it wrong side out for part of it. That’s kind of how it looks. It has this double loop of intestines, so it’s usually because of hypermotility, although it can happen also with linear foreign bodies.
“A linear foreign body is something long and skinny that gets swallowed that shouldn’t be swallowed. It’s a non-food item, so it’s pantyhose, it’s string, it’s yarn, it’s balloon strings. Those long strands that come off of the rug. Those throw rugs, rope toys when they pull bits off the rope toy. So those are the things that tend to cause foreign body intestinal intussusception.
“Most of the time those dogs and cats end up in surgery because of the risk of intussusception or sawing effect of the long string foreign body kind of thing that just cuts through the intestinal wall. It can be pretty ugly.
“But intussusception is unique unto itself because it may or may not be related to a foreign body. It may look like parvo, ’cause, it’s a young dog, comes in acute abdomen, vomiting, anemic, sick. The real interesting thing is either you can feel it or there’s sort of a characteristic. look of how intussusception looks on ultrasound.
“So, if you have the suspicion of this, a good diagnostic tool is ultrasound. It’s much more effective than X-ray in making the diagnosis, but feeling it is oftentimes what we can do. I’ve seen this in puppies as young as six or seven weeks old, and those puppies are relatively easy to feel because they’re not very big and there’s not a lot of body fat.”
Rights and Responsibilities of the Stud Dog Owner
Dale Martenson of Touche Japanese Chin joins host Laura Reeves for a deep dive on the rights and responsibilities of the stud dog owner. The two long-time breeders break down the top five considerations for owners to consider as they decide whether and with which females to breed their male dogs.
Stud dog owners typically will choose to either receive a stud fee or the choice of a puppy from the resulting litter in lieu of a stud fee. The amount of the stud fee, timing of when it’s paid and choice of puppy are all items up for discussion amongst the parties, Martenson noted, but whatever is decided should *always* be put in writing in a contract.
Pick and Choose
Owners of popular stud dogs will be in a position to select the ideal mates for their dog. But that requires having specific criteria, knowing the broad background of the breed, the pedigree of both dogs, the health, temperament and potential disqualifying faults and, finally, the ethics of the breeder with whom they are doing business.
Popular Sire Syndrome
Knowing what the “bottlenecks” are in a breed are part of the stud dog owner’s responsibilities. Population genetics come in to play as stud dog owners balance a desire to see beneficial aspects of their dogs used to strengthen the breed with a question of when does that become “too much” and impact the long-term health of the breed as a whole.
Within small gene pools and truly rare breeds, owners of stud dogs will often make different decisions about allowing their dog to be used than owners of more popular breeds. For breeds with these “gene puddles,” the implications of using or not using a particular stud dog carry significantly more weight simply due to the sheer numbers or lack therof.
“Establish a relationship (with the stud dog owner),” Martenson said. “Because I think right now, breeding requires more of a relationship than it did before. I think that you have to have that. You’re just not going to take a phone call and someone comes by with a brucellosis test and breed their bitch and take their check. That’s just not today’s environment.”
IKC “Phoenix Rising” Blends History into the Future
Scott Pfeil and Erika Wyatt join host Laura Reeves to share their excitement about the International Kennel Club of Chicago’s new shows.
IKC was a privately owned kennel club founded in the early 1900s. When the club’s owner, Lou Auslander, passed away in 2018, more than 100 years of tradition came to an end. Scott Pfeil and Erika Wyatt have taken on the challenge of resurrecting the “Phoenix from the ashes” and creating a new breed of dog show – embracing history while building the future.
“I started when I was a kid showing dogs,” Pfeil said. “It was just the most iconic show to me. You know, there are very few really iconic shows. You always go to the Garden. It was some of those experiences, like Tuxedo Park. It was that emotion that got me. How do we bring something like that back? This was something that meant something to somebody.
“Chicago is an amazing city and we’ve lost our Inner City shows, they just don’t exist anymore. And when (IKC) went away, to me, it was heartbreaking. (The show) was exciting because the people were excited. The energy in the room was like, you couldn’t believe it. And simply, that’s why. It’s that excitement. That is why we’re putting our asses on the line here, just to make sure that we can bring something like this back to one of the greatest cities in the world, as far as I’m concerned.”
“It will not be benched,” Wyatt said. “The dates of the show will be Aug. 25-27, 2023 at McCormick Place. We looked really hard at (benching). Historically this has been a huge spectator show. Throngs of families from Chicago come through this show. We wanted an opportunity for the public to become educated, be able to actually see breeds of dogs, put their hands on breeds, learn about breeds and we didn’t think that in today’s climate that benching was the best avenue for that.
Meet the Breeds
“So instead, we are partnering with AKC and we’re holding a full-blown Meet the Breeds within the show. I think this will keep the show dogs that have just been groomed and their handlers not being interfered with. And it will give the public the opportunity to come and see dogs, get information and learn about purpose-bred dogs. It will be a better experience for both exhibitors and spectators.
“We wanted to do something with an open show because we want to give people with foundation stock service and miscellaneous class breeds the same opulent stage that the recognized breeds get.
“We wanted to do something to recognize owner handlers because there are so many owner handlers out there, and owner handlers deserve to be recognized for the fabulous contribution that they make this sport. And we wanted to have a special award to recognize a special dog in Chicago at the Chicago show.”
Chicago Challenge Cup
Winner of the Chicago Challenge Cup will receive $20,000, with an additional $5,000 donated to a charity of their choice.
“How do I know I’ve put on a great show?” Scott asked, “When all the great dogs are there.
“How do we do that and how do we bring them together? I think this competition really allows that to happen. In a nutshell, it’s all of the winners of the FSS group, of the Miscellaneous group, of the owner handled groups and of the regular groups over the three days in Schaumburg (IKC’s January show in Schaumburg, IL). So, if you win any of those groups, on any of those three days, you’re going to get a certificate that’s going to invite you to participate in the semifinals of the Chicago Challenge Cup.
“Canine Chronicle is partnering with us to also invite the top 10 dogs in each regular group for the first half of the year.”
How to Develop a “Political IQ” with Patti Strand
Patti Strand, founder of National Animal Interest Alliance, has spent 30 years working within the political system to advocate for dog breeders and owners. She joins host Laura Reeves to discuss how to develop YOUR political IQ.
“At the very beginning you said that you think we need to be involved,” Strand said. “And I just could not agree more. There’s a bunch of old sayings, one is that we all wind up with the government we deserve.
“I do not have a negative idea about politics overall or I couldn’t participate in this. I have to stay open-minded and I consider the possibility that some of the people who are there, and it’s true, some of the people I’ve met are very sincere. They care very deeply. But they have not heard from us, is the big problem.
“In the 30 years that I’ve been involved, I would say that there is greater involvement now and by quite a bit than there was before. But that means like going from zero to something like 20 percent. I’m serious. Our community, they pretty much get engaged when there’s a crisis, when the wolf is at the door…
“It is kind of an art form for people to get involved. The first step to getting involved is deciding that you’re going to. Right now, because it’s an election season, is the time to make that commitment.
“The biggest thing, though, is to figure out how to get access. Because usually when we’re facing legislation, most of the people in our group don’t know anybody, and they don’t know anybody because they haven’t taken advantage of moments like now, which is an election season. There are all kinds of opportunities right now to become involved, get to know a few people. It’s about voting. It’s about actually being involved with process.
“But right now, while you have an election season, there are a number of different ways that people can get involved. If you see somebody’s campaign that’s interesting to you, you can go to their website, you can, you know, study them a little more. Study a lot of different politicians and not just at the state level or federal level. But also the local level, your city council, your county commissions. Look at all of those candidates and do some sleuthing. Educate yourself, develop a political IQ.
“I think volunteering is really important. Once you get involved, voting is the obvious biggie as far as being involved is concerned. But volunteering and donating also gets you access, and that’s what we’re after in politics, the ability to talk to people. When an issue comes up and have your name be recognized so that you’re not just a total stranger to them. They have some idea of who you are and what you stand for, and volunteering is a really good way to do that.
“After you’ve done your due diligence and figured out who you think might be a good person to represent you, go to their website. They’ll tell you what they need and everybody has a few minutes that they can spend a week on helping. Now you can do something as simple as promising to deliver 10 yard signs or to deliver bumper stickers to a group that you’re involved with, some kind of way that you can get the word out that you support them and they can get the materials into a lot of people’s hands.
“You really need to know who’s representing you. If you don’t know who’s representing you, they’re probably representing somebody else. And that’s, of course the big issue that we had when I first got involved.
“The Big National Fundraising groups that promote so-called humane ideas, usually that have no subject matter expertise, they’re just philosophers with a bank account, that was who had educated everybody I talked to. They were there, they were involved, they were in the ring, they were donating money, volunteering for campaigns and they were telling the politicians what they should think about animal issues.
“So, if you’re not there not at the table, somebody else will take your place and it’s just absolutely where we are today.”
Dr. Donald Sturz on Building Community and Continuing Education
Don Sturz, psychologist by day, dog show judge on the weekend, provides insight on safe space at the dog show and the importance of continual learning.
Sturz has discussed being bullied as a child at school and finding dogs and dog shows a “safe space.” He shared his insights on how to make dog shows more welcoming for all exhibitors.
“That’s something that depends on individuals being able to choose situations that are safe,” Sturz said. “People go into situations without full knowledge and wind up in situations that are toxic. It’s up to each individual to know what is their safe space.
“I also think clubs should view the dog show as more of a community event, more than just a dog show. Not just the dog show community, but also the community around it. How do we help people have a good time here.
“(At) Westminster (Sturz is the AKC delegate for Westminster Kennel Club) the club members think a lot about the exhibitors, what makes it pleasant for them. Clubs should be thinking in terms of the human aspect of this. When the atmosphere is devoid of connection and positivity, the activity itself can get really intense. People’s emotions can run high. If you proactively set a tone or atmosphere that is more celebratory, it helps balance that out a little bit.
“People get jaded, lost in the fog of yesteryear. If you have the relationship, you can help provide a reality check. These can be meaningful conversations, if you have them with the right tone. It’s more inquiry, not confrontation.
“I do think one area that is different now, I think people hung around more (in years past). People’s lives are busy now. It diminishes the dog show experience (because they don’t have time to) watch and sit. People could do more of that. Watching other breeds, having conversations with people from other breeds.
“Also, listening. A lot of people like to talk, not a lot of people like to listen. Listening is much more valuable than feeling the need to weigh in.”
Sturz described a recent experience attending the Pekingese national, “not even about judging, just a breed that fascinates me. I was like a kid going off to the first day of school.”
The experience “impacted how I judged. My brain was worked up and tuned in.”
Sturz offered his three best tips for how to learn at dog shows.
- Know who to learn from. This is key. Seek out individuals you don’t have a natural connection to.
- Be clear on the purpose. What are you seeking, what do you want to get?
- Know yourself as a learner and how you learn.
Umbilical Hernias – What are they and what does this mean?
Dr. Marty Greer, DVM shares a deep dive into the question of hernias, different types, and whether dogs with hernias should be included in breeding programs.
By Dr. Marty Greer, DVM
An umbilical hernia is a weakness or opening in the muscle wall of the abdomen where the umbilical blood vessels pass prior to birth. Frequently abdominal fat is in the hernia but the skin is intact across the hernia, so there are no exposed abdominal organs. The fat may be omentum or part of the falciform ligament.
There are several disorders seen in mammals that are similar to an umbilical hernia and may add confusion to the discussion.
Other types of hernias
Gastroschisis is when a puppy’s intestines protrude outside abdomen through an opening off to the right side of the belly button/umbilicus with a bridge of skin between the umbilicus and defect. The intestines and abdominal contents are not covered by a protective membrane. Because the intestines are not covered by a sac, they can be damaged by exposure to amniotic fluid in utero, which causes inflammation and irritation of the intestine. This can result in complications such as problems with movements of the intestines, scar tissue, and intestinal obstruction. It is also difficult to keep the intestines and other organs sterile, moist, contained, and undamaged during birth and handling shortly after birth.
Omphalocele occurs when the newborn pup’s intestines, liver or other organs protrude outside the abdomen though the umbilicus. Embryologically, as the puppy develops during the first trimmest of pregnancy, the intestines get longer and push out from the belly into the umbilical cord. The intestines normally go back into the belly. If this does not happen, an omphalocele occurs. The omphalocele can be small, with only some of the intestines outside of the belly, or it can be large, with many organs outside of the belly.
In this situation, the organs are covered with a thin, transparent sac of peritoneal tissue. There are often other associated birth defects including heart and kidney defects. Additionally, the abdominal cavity may not be large enough to accommodate the organs when replacing them surgically. In humans, it is associated with heart and neural tube defects as well as other genetic syndromes. An omphalocele is worse than gastroschisis – it has more associated anomalies and a higher rate of mortality than gastroschisis.
When a puppy is born with intestines exposed, whether an omphalocele or gastroschisis, immediate surgery is necessary. If the pup is born at the veterinary hospital, there is a better chance of successful interventional surgery. However, despite the best efforts of the veterinary team, some pups cannot or should not be saved. Surgery includes protecting the organs while transporting and preparing for surgery, keeping more intestines from pushing out of the abdominal cavity while handling, keeping the intestines sterile, and protected from damage, anesthesia of the newborn pup, enlarging the abdominal wall defect to reposition organs into the abdominal cavity, appropriate suture techniques, post op antibiotics, and post op pain medications.
For most pups born at home, this cannot be accomplished. For some pups born by c-section, this can be accomplished with quick thinking veterinary team members, a skilled surgeon, owners willing to put forth the money and effort, no additional genetic disorders, and a lot of luck.
Other hernias seen in humans and animals include inguinal hernias (in the groin region), diaphragmatic hernias, peritoneal-pericardia diaphragmatic hernias (PPHD) and traumatic hernias anywhere on the body cavity. Inguinal hernias are second to umbilical hernias in frequency. An open thoracic wall rarely occurs. In this case, the pup can rarely be saved as there is usually inadequate chest wall (ribs and skin) to close. Additionally, surgical intervention is too slow to keep the pup breathing during intervention.
Other midline defects also include cleft palate, cleft lip, open thoracic wall, open fontanelle and spina bifida.
Back to umbilical hernias
It is generally considered that umbilical hernias have a genetic basis. Despite the wish that umbilical hernias are caused by trauma to the umbilical stump at birth, this is rarely the case. Veterinary staff is very careful to tie and handle umbilical cords carefully. Even when a bitch is aggressive while chewing the cords, they do not result in hernias.
There are some veterinary experts who recommend avoiding breeding all dogs umbilical hernias, stating that these dogs when bred will have progressive severity, resulting in gastroschisis and omphalocele. Other veterinary experts do not believe this is the case.
Should you allow a dog with an umbilical hernia to be used in a breeding program? That depends on several factors.
There is no perfect dog. In my opinion, we need to rate genetic and congenital disorders based on severity. I rate disorders on a scale of one through three. To me, level one is a minor disorder that is easy to live with or easy to correct. This includes umbilical hernias, distichia (extra eyelashes), entropion (rolled in eyelids), and retained testicle(s).
Level two are disorders requiring long-term management but that are not life-threatening or life-altering. This includes hypothyroidism, anxiety, and allergies. These require life-long medication and management but other than the associated costs, do not seriously impact the dog’s quality or quantity of life.
Level three includes life-threatening, life-altering, or life-shortening disorders. This includes bad temperament, seizures, orthopedic disorders (hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cruciate disease) and at some point cancers (when we can DNA test for these). These cancers will include lymphosarcoma, malignant histiocytosis, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma. Many people make excuses for bad temperament, but when a dog is a threat to humans, I am of the opinion that these dogs should never be in a breeding program.
The biggest problem with the level one disorders are that veterinarians and breeders can detect these at an early age. As a result, these pups are booted out of a breeding program before other disorders can be detected and eliminated. In many cases, by the time level two and three disorders are found in a dog or line of dogs, it is too late – they have already produced pups. Once we have better DNA tests, we can do a better job of eliminating some of these disorders.
Another concern many veterinarians have is the risk of abdominal organ strangulation and/or entrapment if the umbilical hernia is left unmanaged surgically. According to the unpublished literature, this condition is rare and is easily managed if it becomes a concern. The AKC and AVMA allow and encourage the surgical correction of umbilical hernias should this be medically indicated.
If a pup or pups are produced that do have umbilical hernias, the recommendation is to correct them surgically if they don’t close on their own (many do) and at the time of spaying or neutering if they don’t close.
In summary, umbilical hernias are genetic disorders in most breeds and most cases. However, they can easily be corrected surgically if indicated. It is exceptionally rare to need to use mesh or other complex surgical techniques to close the vast majority of umbilical hernias. This single genetic condition should not be a reason to eliminate mildly affected dogs from a breeding program if the dog has other qualities that merit the inclusion in a program.