In order to receive reliable X-ray results for HD, ED and LÜW, all breeding candidates must present an X-ray evaluation by an appropriate specialist from the GRSK e.V. (Society for X-ray diagnostics of hereditary skeletal diseases in small animals). Currently this is Dr. Witteborg, founding member of GRSK and special evaluator for collies.
HD (hip dysplasia):
Hip dysplasia is a malformation of one or both hips. Fortunately the American Collie is not a breed that is largely affected by HD; almost all of them have HD A. To maintain this situation, only dogs that are not affected by HD and have been radiologically examined as being HD A (free) or HD B (borderliner) are accepted for breeding. At least one mating partner must have achieved the result HD A.
ED (elbow dysplasia):
ED summarizes several malformations of the elbow. Here again, the American Collie is not a breed that is largely affected by ED; almost all of them have ED 0. Only dogs that have radiologically been examined as being not affected by ED – with the results ED 0 or ED border liner – are accepted for breeding. At least one mating partner must have achieved the result ED 0, if the dogs have been radiologically examined. ED examination is not mandatory for accepted dogs originating from another association, if they already were X-rayed for HD and the ED examination has not been mandatory at that time in the other association. This is because they should not be exposed to the risk of anesthesia for X-raying, as low as this risk may be. New breeding candidates though should have the ED and LÜW examination ideally together with the X-raying for HD.
LÜW (lumbar transition vertebrae):
LÜW means changes in the area of the lumbar transitional vertebra. The primary concern is data collection in connection with the GRSK. However, the goal is that collies are only bred from, if they are free of the relevant health restrictions, i.e. LÜW 0 (free) or LÜW 1 (transitional type). At least one mating partner should have achieved the result LÜW 0, if the dogs have been radiologically examined. When mating LÜW-X-rayed dogs, at least one parent should have achieved the result of LÜW 0. LÜW examination is not mandatory for accepted dogs originating from another association, if they already were x-rayed for HD and the LÜW examination has not been mandatory at that time in the other association. This si because they should not be exposed to the risk of anesthesia for X-raying, as low as this risk may be. New breeding candidates though should have the LÜW examination ideally together with the X-raying for HD. A good HD X-ray is usually sufficient for this. If not, an additional x-ray must be made. It is best to point this out to the X-ray doctor right away.
An Ophthalmologist (eye-specialist) of the ECVO (including DOK) or ACVO for hereditary eye-diseases, like RD, CEA, PRA and KAT, must have examined all breeding candidates. The Ophthalmologist must be one that is explicitly accepted by the “American Collies Europe”. Only dogs that are free from inherited eye disease will receive a breeding license. An exception applies to CEA-CH (Chorioretinal hypoplasia) or MPP (PPM) affected dogs who can receive a breeding license if their vision is not impaired. Nevertheless, they must not be mated with other dogs that are CEA-CH affected.
MPP (Membrana Pupillaris Persistens):
During the embryonic phase the eye is covered with a fine membrane. This recedes until the eyes open up. But sometimes small tissue remnants remain. These are called MPP (or PPM = persistent pupillary membrane) and can be found among many breeds. Usually they are rather marginal among collies and do not lead to a restriction of visual capacity. These dogs can be accepted for breeding, but it is recommended to mate them only to MPP unaffected dogs.
This intolerance for multiple drugs is very common amongst herding dogs and thus this is also the case for collies. Usually unaffected genes cover affected ones. It's different here, because MDR1 carriers (MDR1 +/-) can also react a little more sensitively to some medications and anesthetics. The treating veterinarian should always be informed about the respective MDR1 status. When the puppies MDR1 status is not finally determined by parenthood, every puppy must be genetically testet. So the exact MDR1 status is always determined for every puppy. For the American Collie we fortunately have a large genetic pool of healthy genes in Europe. For that reason at least one mating partner must have a status of being genetically unaffected of MDR (MDR1+/+). By this, the birth of MDR1 affected puppies can completely be prevented within the association "American Collies Europe"!
DM (Canine degenerative myelopathy):
DM is an incurable disease of the nerve tracts with progressive signs of paralysis starting at the hind legs and the dogs being fully conscious. Unfortunately it is yet unknown which genes are responsible for this in particular. However, the risk factor Exon2-mutation in the SOD1-gene has been detected by all tested collies suffering from DM. Due to the large genetic pool of healthy genes we decided that at least one mating partner must be genetically unaffected of DM (DM (Exon2) +/+, respectively N/N). By this, the birth of DM (Exon2) affected puppies can completely be prevented within the association “American Collies Europe”!
CEA (collie eye anomaly):
This comprises several stagnating genetic changes of the retina in the eye. This is very common amongst herding dogs, especially collies. It is assumed that approximately 67% of the collies are affected by a mild form of CEA (chorioretinal hypoplasia or CEA-1) which does not mean a restriction to visual capacity for most collies because the changes of the retina are comparably slight. These changes can often be verified best at the age of 6 – 8 weeks by an ophthalmologist. After this age the changes are often superimposed by pigments. Such dogs are also called “go normal”. Evidence can be achieved by CEA-CH genetic examination because all affected dogs are also genetically affected (CEA-/- respectively CEA/CEA). Approximately 13% of the affected collies have a coloboma with a key-hole shaped bulge at the visual nerve. Usually these changes are minor and restrictions to visual capacity are rare. Nevertheless these dogs are excluded from breeding as well as the in the end only 3% of the collies that suffer from the most severe form of CEA that is accompanied by internal bleedings sometimes as far as retinal detachment which inevitably results in blindness.
Because nobody wants this to happen, there is need for action. As so many dogs are affected, not all of them can be excluded from breeding as it would mean that only the remaining 33% would be available. If we additionally would only breed with MDR1 non-affected dogs, the available gene pool would drop to merely 2%. If additional factors would be included, we would end up at nearly 0%. This way we would not get very far. This is the reason why collies with a mild form of CEA are accepted for breeding if they do not have any restrictions to their visual capacity. Nevertheless, the mating of two of such dogs is not allowed as it unnecessarily increases the probability that the puppies come down with the severe form. Ideally, they should only be bred with non-carriers, i.e. CEA +/+ or N/N.As we have a rather good gene pool of singular healthy genes amongst the American Collies in the meantime, we can go as far as demanding that at least one partner be genetically unaffected (CEA+/+, respectively N/N) or at least be carrier (CEA+/-, respectively N/CEA). With this measure we could achieve to lower the risk for visual inabilities – depending on the particular mating partners – to a probability that lies between 0% and 1.5%! Since every puppy has an eye examination carried out by a specialist, the exact clinical status of each puppy is also determined before it is handed over.
rcd2-PRA (progressive retinal atrophy):
This widespread incurable heritable eye disease that affects many breeds gets increasingly worse and finally leads to blindness. The gene pool in Europe is sufficiently large in regards to the American Collie. Consequently one mating partner must be genetically unaffected (rcd2-PRA+/+, respectively N/N). By this, the birth of rcd2-PRA affected puppies can completely be prevented within the association "American Collies Europe"!
GCS (Gray Collie Syndrome):
This leads to a cyclical decrease of neutrophil granulocytes which are of very high importance for the immune defense. Affected dogs usually die early because of infections. Due to the large genetic pool of healthy genes, at least one mating partner must be genetically unaffected (GCS+/+, respectively N/N). By this, the birth of GCS affected puppies can completely be prevented within the association "American Collies Europe"!
DMS is an autoimmune disease, similar to JDM (Juvenile Dermatomyositis) among humans. DMS primarily appears among Shelties and Collies every now and then. Crusty lesions evolve on protruding bones that are sparsely covered with muscles, especially in the face, on the tip of the tail and on the legs. The skin is sometimes flaky, reddens and the fur falls out. It is typical that the affected regions do not itch, especially in the early stages before a secondary infection appears. Wounds heal in mild cases, although most of the times spots remain changed for a long period of time, shaped by dark or stained pigmentation and ongoing loss of hair. In serious cases, muscles are affected to such an extent that e.g. drinking or eating (chewing and swallowing) becomes increasingly harder as well as walking (muscles of the feet and the legs). Humans experience a pain that reminds of sore muscles. Dogs are often susceptible to infections (fungal, bacterial, viral), especially during an immunosuppressive therapy. Treatment is very often difficult, despite the fact that they are caused by germs that would not even harm a healthy dog. Sensitivities of the gastrointestinal tract may occur too. In later stages, dogs may lose single claws that usually grow again later.Genetic modifications and environmental factors play an essential role. The skin lesions seem to be triggered by stress factors like virus diseases, vaccinations or traumatic experiences. Hormone changes can have an intensifying effect (bitches: heat, pregnancy, false pregnancy / male dogs: hormonal boosts), vaccinations (overly extensive vaccinations, leptospirosis, rabies), increased stress, likelihood of infection and intolerances (food, medication, allergens). DMS can break out at any age, but the most common breakout is during the first year of age. Good treatment success (but not complete cure) can be achieved by using Trental (Pentoxiphyllin), Vitamin E and in serious cases also steroids. Castration often helps if the dog reacts strongly to hormone changes. Preventive measure in cases of increased risk, is to avoid possibly amplifying triggers. Healthy nutrition without much chemical ingredients but with optimal composition can surely be supportive. Extensive vaccination (too often or too much in one go) can be prevented by testing the titer for the respective antibodies and only vaccinate when really necessary. Same is true for worm treatment where fecal samples can be tested.
The American research group led by Leigh Anne Clark and Jacquelyn Evans at Clemson University succeeded in developing a genetic test based on three risk factors that they discovered in connection with DMS (http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id= 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006604): As with JDM, immune system variants can promote an outbreak. In dogs, it is the MHC-II class leukocyte antigens, more specific the DLA genes (DLA-DRB1/-DQA1/-DQB1). They are coded in number combinations. Unfortunately, variations are very sparse among Collies. In the study, Collies almost without exceptions showed the combinations 002:01/009:01/001:01, rarely the combination 015:01/009:01/001:01 and later was added the very rarely combination 020:01/009:01 /001:01 added. As a result, there is unfortunately a fundamental breed-related tendency to DMS, with 3%. There is another extremely rare DLA variant, with the combination 006:01/050:11/007:01. Because of the small number, it is unfortunately not yet possible to say whether the risk is lower here. But even if it were, a breeding selection would hardly be feasible due to its rarity. Since the greatest variance occurs with DLA-DRB1, we suggested that this value be given on the reports instead of the DQA1 value as before. Nowadays, to simplify things, it is common to designate the most common variant 002:01 with the risk gene "C" and all other variants, such as 015:01, 020:01 and 006:01 with a "c", although not really it is certain that the risk is actually falling, that remains to be observed, they will be given further on. The other two factors are two high-risk genes called "A" (PAN2) and "B" (MAP3K7CL). The affected genes are important in the area of inflammation regulation. DMS can also be described as an inability to properly regulate inflammatory reactions. Since the genes are always duplicated (alleles), they can be intercepted by free genes "a" and "b" ("Aa" or "Bb"), so that the risk of the disease is reduced. In general, "B" is less common than "A" in Collies. Interestingly, merle gen is always linked to an "a". According to the research results of 2016, the risk assessment of the genetic test is enclosed:
Basic risk (ca. 3%): aa bb
Low risk (ca. 4%): Aa bb & aa Bb
Moderate risk (ca. 39%): AA bb & aa BB & Aa Bb
High risk (ca. 90%): Aa BB & AA Bb
Very high risk (ca. 97%): AA BB
The risk test is not a means of detecting the disease, this can only be done via appropriate biopsies on the affected areas. It is merely a risk evaluation. This also does not mean that every genetically affected dog will automatically become ill, it just has a moderate or high risk of developing the disease. Conversely, there is a dog with the lowest possible risk, but still a residual risk, of developing the disease, since there is no level, of no risk, according to current scientific knowledge. Even if up to now, according to the current state of knowledge, in our association "American Collies Europe e.V." Since no puppy has yet been born with DMS, it is particularly important to us that only Collies are born in the future that do not have a high risk of developing this disease. Therefore, ideally at least one breeding partner should be genetically free for the respective risk genes "A" and "B", i.e. DMS "aa" and "bb". This can also be alternating, i.e. one breeding partner is free for the risk gene "A", i.e. "aa" (noncarrier) and the other breeding partner is free for the risk gene "B", i.e. "bb" (noncarrier). In this way, the risk for the puppies that are born can be reduced to the lowest possible level of 3% or 4% in the long term. However, since only 22% of all collies currently have the combination aa bb, the problem cannot be solved overnight, otherwise the collie breed would soon no longer exist. In addition, the DMS risk was also caused by too narrow breeding selection and because Collie breeding worldwide is based on very few collies. If you then consider that only comparatively few collies traveled from Europe to America and only a few of them were used to breed there, then that didn't improve the situation. So the first long-term goal is and remains heterozygosity, in which affected genes are covered by free ones in order to generally reduce the risk in the breed. Ideally, collies with higher risk should only be bred collies with a lower risk.
The DMS test (note: special restrictions when choosing a laboratory) is strongly recommended for all breeding dogs. This test is only voluntary, if a breeding partner can prove the genetically low risk DMS aa bb. Otherwise, both breeding partners must have been genetically tested for DMS or the genetic status must be clearly verifiable through parenthood. In this way it can be ensured that no puppy is born in the “American Collies Europe e.V.” association that has a high risk of DMS.
IPD (Inflammatory pulmonary disease)
IPD is a recurrent inflammatory lung disease with an inherited background. It usually breaks out at the breeder's home a few days after birth. The dogs suffer from repeated foamy vomiting, nasal discharge, fever, only breathe shallowly, have increased breathing noises and cough. Medications, such as antibiotics and secretolytics, only help for a short time, after which there are rapid relapses. Two long-haired collies described in one study were still alive after three years with frequent yellowish nasal discharge. The rare disease appears to occur predominantly in British Rough Collie lines. Usually only homozygous affected animals show symptoms. So, it seems to be inherited recessively and both parents must carry an affected gene. There was also found that an inheritance must be involved, since an accumulation of this disease occurred after mating with a certain male (the name is not published publicly). This shows how important it is to deal with problems openly and pass them on, so that such clusters are noticed at all. Ultimately, it's about the health of our breed. On the initiative of some breeders, in collaboration with Laboklin and Prof. Leeb from the University of Bern, a corresponding mutation for IPD in the so-called AKNA gene (which regulates inflammation) was identified and a genetic test developed for this purpose, which has recently (2019) on the Market is (Laboklin). The study is available here: https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4425/10/8/567/htm. Ideally, at least one breeding partner should be genetically free (noncarrier), i.e. IPD + / + or N / N, so that the birth of affected puppies can be completely ruled out. If the risk situation worsens, at least one mating partner must be genetically unaffected (IPD +/+, respectively N/N). By this, the birth of homozygous IPD affected puppies can completely be prevented within the association “American Collies Europe”! In general, efforts are made to ensure that Collies are tested with a possibly increased risk.
MH (Maligne Hyperthermie):
This genetical defect can occur among all breeds, but fortunately is rather scarce among collies. It is a drug intolerance that affects specifically the striated muscles. Massive cramp attacks, cardiac arrhythmia as well as rise of body temperature (hyperthermia) culminating in disintegration of the muscle cells (rhabdomyolysis) can be caused by administration of particular medicine for inhalation anesthesia or muscle relaxation. The metabolic products can cause massive kidney problems right up to organ failure and death, if not treated immediately in a competent manner. The test is voluntary as the disease rarely occurs among collies. Here again one mating partner should ideally be genetically unaffected (non-carrier), i.e. MH+/+ resp. N/N to avoid the possibility of affected puppies.
HUU (Hyperurikosurie / Hyperurikämie):
This is a genetical defect of the urea metabolism (purine). In contrast to humans and if the dog is healthy, the end product uric acid is further degraded to allantoin that is better water soluble. This process is impaired if the dog is HUU affected by a mutation of the SLC2A9 gene. This can lead to gout and formation of urinary calculi by subsequent crystalline residues. The test is voluntary as the disease rarely occurs among collies. Here again one mating partner should ideally be genetically unaffected (non-carrier), i.e. HUU +/+ resp. N/N to avoid the possibility of affected puppies. In the past, HUU was listed under the name SLC.
AVK (Ahnenverlustkoeffizient = ancestor-loss coefficient for preservation of the genetic diversity of the individual):
To preserve the genetic diversity of each individual dog to a high degree, the AVK of the puppies must not fall below 86% over 4 generations. This implies the prohibition of inbreeding or tight line breeding. Only with as many diverse genes as possible (heterozygosity) the individuals of a breed can remain as healthy as possible in the long run. It is possible to obtain an exemption for an AVK of at least 80% for the mating with imported dogs from America - that are often bread very tightly - or their descendants in the first or where appropriate second generation. In these cases it must be ensured that there will be no further deprivation of the ancestors. Finally, the breeding commission decides by the majority.
IK (Inzuchtkoeffizient = inbreeding coefficient):
The IK – in contrast to the AVK – also incorporates the closeness of relatives. Thus, double ancestors that are more distant (like great-great grandparents) have less severe influence than if e.g. the father would appear several times. It is recommended that the IK of puppies should not exceed approximately 6%. Furthermore, the circumstance of double ancestors should generally be avoided during the first three generations to preserve and promote the diversity and variety of genes.
No Popular Sire Syndrome (preservation of a large gene pool for the whole breed):
The excessive use of an individual stud dog should be avoided to preserve the genetic diversity of the breed. The more dogs are related the smaller the gene pool of the breed will get. Some diseases and other defects only develop at a higher age. Should affected dogs have produced abundant offspring, there is the danger that these defects have spread unintentionally.
The aspired goal is to have at least 50% (good if more) of American bloodlines (collies bred in the U.S. or Canada over several generations). More important for preserving the breed however is in the long run the conservation of the genetic diversity (of the individual) as well as the large gene pool (of the breed). Especially important is appearance (according to the original American breed standard), besides character etc. of mating partners particularly with regard to the expected puppies.
It is very important that character and temper are taken into consideration when choosing mating partners. It should especially be looked at how already existing offspring developed. It should be considered whether I want to breed rather calm dogs or very active ones. Do I have enough interested parties being able to meet the particular challenges? Or should I rather aim at breeding dogs of medium temper.
The goal of breeding always is to breed for a dog that resembles the ideal picture of the American Collie most closely. To achieve this, one has to deal with the potential of available mating partners. Good judges and breed wardens can surely support with this. While choosing mating partners it must never be forgotten that it is not a question of breeding the dog with the optimal health values, but rather the overall package has to be right.
Color variants like Double Merles (genetically homozygous carriers of Merle (M/M), originating from a mating of two dogs carrying the Merle factor) are excluded from breeding according to animal protection laws. Even an envisaged mating that might result in such puppies is not allowed! Only one mating partner may carry the Merle factor at maximum, as a heterozygous carrier of the Merle Gen (M/m). Should the Merle status of a dog not be ensured, especially if Merle is available by the parents and grandparents, but also if there is a risk for Cryptic Merle (genetically heterozygous carriers for Merle that is not visible), the dog must be genetically tested before the breeding application to be able to exclude later mating of two merles. Ideally, every breeding candidate will be tested for Merle. Even when mating with a Merle, the Merle factor should ideally be determined for each puppy so that it can be registered in the pedigree. For puppies born by such a Merle mating and no visible Merle, this ensures that there is no unknown hidden Merles (e.g. Sable Merle, Cryptic Merle, Minimal Merle, Mosaic Merle). Buyers of puppies with Merle factor must be informed by the breeder before purchase that the dogs must never be bred with other Merles! It must also be pointed out that in many dogs the Merle factor is not visible, so that no "accidents" must occur, so that the birth of Double Merles can safely be excluded. This ensures that the eyes (retina, etc.) and ears (inner ear) always have enough pigment to function fully. Harlequins must not be bred with collies that have a White factor and/or a blaze that extends to the forehead. With all White variants (such as Piebald & Irish Pattern) it is always important to ensure that the head remains completely colored (color head), as required by the breed standard. This also means that excessively large blazes are undesirable. Ideally, dogs with very large blazes should only be bred with those without blazes. A split face is undesirable.
Bitches must be at least 22 months of age for breeding, stud dogs must be at least 18 months of age.
Quality before quantity:
Besides complying with above mentioned values that ensure and enhance the quality, it must also be considered that a dog should not be used for breeding excessively. For the stud dogs this was described under the point “Popular Sire Syndrome”. Bitches should be used for breeding in a way that there is at least a period of one year between successful mating. One should also aim at a recovery period of at least on year between litters; our bitches are no birthing machines! An overuse will inevitably result in a decrease in quality of the puppies and this must never happen! This is the reason why only four litters are allowed for a bitch throughout her lifetime.
The breeding permission for a bitch expires when the 7th birthday is reached. A one year extension can be acquired if a health certificate together with a clearance certification for further breeding issued by a veterinarian is presented. Concluding, the breeding commission decides by the majority.
The breeding permission for stud dogs expires when the 8th birthday is reached. An extension can be acquired, especially if the sperm of the dog is very valuable for the breed. Concluding, the breeding commission decides by the majority.
To be able to keep high-quality standards long-term and to optimize them further, it is essential that irregularities (anomalies, diseases, etc.) are reported to the stud book office. The data is collected and interpreted. According to the cause, frequency, etc. further appropriate measures can be applied to optimize future breeding further.