Our Experience with Alopecia X or BSD
We have been involved with Pomeranians for
approximately 40 years. When we started, we visited
several famous breeders and were surprised that many
of the dogs we admired were not shown to us. We
learned later that it was because many of the adult
males had lost their coats due to a condition in
this breed known as Alopecia X, or BSD. As we got to
know these breeders better and had demonstrated we
could be trusted, we were shown these dogs and taken
into the breeder;s confidence. This problem was
absolutely NOT discussed publicly, in fact we were
told if we did discuss it, we would be black listed
and it would be assumed we had the problem. But we
were determined that nothing can be fixed if it is
just left alone, so we started asking questions –
not pointing fingers, just asking questions, sitting
quietly while various Top breeders discussed their
experiences and discussed their own dogs and their
theories on BSD.
We started our own breeding program with a normal
coated son of Ch. Millamor’s Moon Rock, who was also
in full coat till the day he died. Medallion
produced many outstanding dogs that became top
winners and producers. Unfortunately several of
these offspring were affected with BSD. These
included two BIS winning bitches Ch. Chriscendo Coy
Coquette and Ch Chriscendo Carlotta. Although
Carlotta did have a litter before she became
affected, both of these bitches were put in pet
homes. We had another BIS Medallion daughter, Ch
Chriscendo Cover Girl, owned by the late Ed Jenner,
who became affected after her show career was over
and remained with Mr. Jenner as a pet for the rest
of her life. We also acquired another Moon Rock
daughter, a BIS winner, who became affected and was
placed in a pet home.
There were many outstanding dogs produced by
Medallion throughout his lifetime that were normal
coated; two of the most famous were Ch. Chriscendo
Causin' A Commotion and Ch. Chriscendo Calvin Klein.
From the beginning, we were fortunate to have earned
the trust of other breeders who allowed us to work
with them and borrow their stud dogs. It was one of
these instances that produced Ch. Chriscendo City
Lights. As a young dog he was sold on co-ownership
to the US and he did come back briefly to be used at
stud. Sadly, he also became affected with BSD later
We were very fortunate to work with the late Skip
Piazza who lent us Ch Great Elms Firestarter, a full
brother to Great Elms Prince Charming. Firestarter
may have given us other issues we would have to deal
with later but he produced two girls for us, both
normal coated, Ch. Chriscendo Classica and Ch.
Razzle Dazzle Classique, Classica, who was bred to
the stunning young dog Ch. Chriscendo Centre Stage,
a Calvin son and possibly the best dog we have ever
bred. This breeding produced Ch. Chriscendo Classico,
who was normal coated. Unfortunately Centre Stage
was affected and when we realized that we never used
Many of the pedigree's today feature Calvin and
Classico and together they stamped the look we were
trying to achieve and have become well known for.
We admired a young dog, Ch Starfire's El Hottie who
was normal coated when we saw him and who we felt
would be would be an outcross for us. The resulting
breeding produced two outstanding puppies. The
bitch, Ch. Chriscendo Chili Pepper, a very normal
coated BIS winner and her lovely brother Ch.
Chriscendo Coldplay who was not so lucky; and he was
removed from our breeding program. We recently found
out from his breeders that Hottie was affected.
More recently, Ch. Chriscendo Call To Arms, who has
become an excellent producer for us and many other
breeders, is in lovely coat today at 11 years old
but like many of the top stud dogs today has produced,
on occasion, affected offspring. We have kept, as
has always been our policy, normal coated daughters
and they in turn have been bred to several outside
dogs. Our policy has been to only breed to normal
coated dogs. We can do nothing about not being given
the information when we breed to outside stud dogs,
or breeding to a dog that later becomes affected.
We too have not only been betrayed but lied to, and
about, by others in an attempt to hide the facts.
No one is exempt!
In an effort to lessen the problem of BSD we
continue to work with other like-minded breeders and
use normal coated dogs from around the globe. Most
are from within the same family of dogs as we feel
complete out crossing would be counterproductive. We
acquired a young, normal coated dog, Ch. Silhouette
Say It Right who is producing quality offspring. We
also continue to buy and lease bitches from other
breeders to incorporate into our breeding program.
We also continue to co-own our outstanding young
dogs with other breeders and watch them grow up in
the hopes of being able to breed to them at a later
date, if they are not affected.
We have also recently tried an experiment, that
other breeders are claiming success with, to
determine if young dogs are affected. Our young dog
Can/Am Ch. Silhouette Surrender To Chriscendo had as
a puppy a grey puppy coat that we thought might be
suspect, so we shaved him down and put him on
melatonin for a few months. Our experience with
melatonin is that if a dog is affected the re-growth
either does not happen at all or comes in as a
cottony textured coat without guard hair. Within a
month he began to grow his coat out, and within 6
months had grown a brand new, healthy double coat
and won back to back Bests in Show his first two
shows as an adult. Since then he won BW at the
DeMoines Pomeranian Specialty where the judge
commented on the correctness of his coat. What is
more encouraging is that now as a two year old he
has gone through a normal shed and continues to grow
healthy orange hair. Unfortunately the usefulness of
this experiment won't be known until the end of the
life of the dog.
We were very pleased with the progress to date but
until a genetic marker can be found we must consider
all Poms as carriers until we can prove they are
not. We have seen progress in our puppies in 2010.
We have produced only one with a suspect coat and
she will not be used for breeding. All of the dogs
and bitches in our breeding program today are fully
coated. We will not knowingly breed to an affected
dog and we will eliminate any affected dogs from our
program. We continue to evaluate our puppies show
potential based on normal coat growth coming in at 4
months as one of the criterion.
We continue to participate in any medically based
research and supply blood samples and pedigrees for
testing. We extend an open invitation to any breeder,
worldwide, who wishes to visit our kennel.
Our continued research into Alopecia
has lead us to discover that an intollerance to Gluten(
Grain) is know to cause Alopecia. With this new knowledge
we began feeding all the poms only grain free foods
from weaning to adult. This was about 4 years ago
and the results appear very promising. Since changeing
to this diet we have not produced a single puppy with
an abnormal coat. Usually there would be a percentage
of abnormal coats even using fully coated dogs for
Our Statement regarding
euthanizing juvenile BSD puppies.
Our litters are registered at about
3 weeks old which indicates the number of puppies
in each litter. Each puppy is easy to account for
and full records are made on their individul pages
indicating their new homes at 3 mths. .Puppies that
we run on after 3 mths are either kept, placed, or
go to show/breeding homes depending on their potential.
Each and every puppy is easily tracked. Ourbreeding
records, if audited, would prove that no puppies are
euthanized fo BSD. Our Veterinary records have been
examined by staff and we have a signed letter from
our Vet Clinic that not a single puppy has ever been
euthanized for BSD. We also have signed lettersr from
former employees who lived on the premises over the
past 40 years which state that they have never seen
or known of a puppy or adult euthanized for BSD. Any
statements contradicting the above would be false.
Genetic Management or Misery?
By: Catherine McMillan
In the early 1970s, Miniature Schnauzer breeders embarked
program unprecedented and unduplicated in any popular
eliminate the genetic defect that caused juvenile
had established that juvenile cataracts (CJC) were
autosomal recessive with complete penetrance and were
birth. Early diagnosis permitted the use of test-breeding,
by the national breed clubs, in which certified affected
paired with mates whose status was unknown. A litter
of normal eyed
puppies was known to generate a mathematical probability
tested dog was clear (the more normals, the better
his or her odds),
while the diagnosis of a single affected puppy proved
the dog a
There is no argument that the program met its goals.
A breed with an
estimated 40% carrier rate emerged from two decades
of test breeding
with show lines cleared of the defect. It was a spectacularly
successful example of how a breeding community can
come together to
eradicate a defect? and cause devastating damage to
the gene pool.
Enter Stage Left
It has been written that, as a result of the process
CJC, over 200 American Champions were retired from
Important kennels quietly closed up shop, taking distinct
branches with them, and bitches were sent exclusively
stud dogs. It was a lonely time for an untested male.
Around the same time as CJC was defeated, PRA made
its entrance. In a
few short years, several leading sires were revealed
to be carriers
and retired. There was no test-breeding program for
this late onset
defect, so it became a lonely time for the stud dog
or bitch with a
carrier ancestor. The gene pool contracted again.
Had this been the end of the troubles, there may have
been time to
pause and reflect on what was happening in the big
picture, but this
was not to be. A novel defect appeared on the scene
? a muscular
disorder called myotonia congenita. This problem found
a solution in
short order as a DNA test was developed, allowing
identify carriers with a simple blood test. Those
were retired, too.
My choice of the word "retired" has, of
course, been deliberately
inappropriate here. In the world of dogs, "retired"
is usually a
euphemism for "sterilized". As a device
for preventing genetic
defects, it must rate as one of the most destructive
In a sensible dog world, quality carriers of genetic
disease might be
pulled from widespread use, but they'd come out of
special occasions (i.e., for research breedings and/or
advancement and preservation of rarer family lines).
However, the dog
fancy ? and, by extension, breed clubs ? have never
been famous for
our ability to apply knowledge sensibly. There is
a common caution
against throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
In purebred dogs,
there is a tendency to gather up the siblings, cousins
and throw them into the dustbin as well. We "improve"
our breeds by
killing them off one family branch at a time.
When I first began breeding nearly 30 years ago, I
conventional wisdom that largely prevails to this
day - that genetic
defects are the exception, that carriers should be
removed from the
gene pool and that health is more important than beauty.
But, as John Maynard Keynes said: "When somebody
persuades me that I
am wrong, I change my mind. What do you do?"
Managing the Unmanageable
A few years ago, some bright bulb at the Canadian
launched a grand scheme to create a Code of Ethics.
One of the rules
proposed for this set of stone tablets was "Thou
shalt not breed a
carrier". I recall writing to one of the Board
members at the time to
congratulate the CKC for devising an edict that would
result in the
immediate eradication of a number of breeds. For there
today in which every single member is not merely a
carrier, all or
nearly all are affected with a genetic defect. The
peculiar nature of
Dalmatian urine chemistry is the most famous example.
Even in breeds with more moderate disease rates, the
have eventually resulted in genetic collapse and extinction.
because every normal living being is thought to carry
in the range of
5 disease mutations in their DNA. In breeds with few
extreme bottleneck events, that average may be much
molecular genetics digs into the DNA of our four footed
is revealing gene frequencies that are nothing short
of staggering in
some breeds. In English Springer Spaniels, for example,
that elevates the risk of PRA has been identified
and a DNA test
developed at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Of the dogs tested,
only 20% have been found to be clear of the gene while
tested as affected. Dobermans have similar carrier
rates for the
bleeding disorder, vWD.
Time for a Change?
The purpose of this article is not to cover the ground
of nuts and
bolts genetics. There's simply not enough space and
I don't have the
right letters after my name. There are many good texts
cover the science, as well as a number of authoritative
sources. It is recommended that you seek the most
recent material you
can find as many of the popular canine genetics books
of the past are
What I hope to provoke is an examination of some of
held beliefs. "Thou shalt not breed a carrier"
served us well enough
when diagnostics were primitive, most carriers escaped
conditions now known to be inherited were dismissed
or simple bad luck. This is no longer the case.
Unfortunately, a little knowledge can be dangerous.
The discovery of
extreme carrier rates in a breed has the potential
breeders who have always held that their primary goal
was to produce
healthy dogs. It's depressing to think of how many
accepted as an article of faith that quality foundation
intentions and careful testing would result in good
health - only to
fail. They'd start over, fail again, become discouraged
and move out
of the sport. Now we know why.
The bottom line is that much of what we thought was
wrong. Now, for
the sake of our breeds, we need to change our minds.
It is no longer
a question of "eliminating" gene defects
from a breed. We can only
ask which ones, how quickly and should we even try?
For this reason,
it is imperative that breed clubs take the lead and
notions about "ethical" breeding practices
and the advisability
of "retiring" animals before they can leave
positive contributions to
the gene pool.
Diversity is Key
One of the most important factors in maintaining a
population is preserving genetic diversity. Genetic
important for survival and adaptability within species,
breeds are not species. They are purpose-bred populations
undergone selection for specific traits or behaviours.
It is not
enough to simply survive; they have a job to do. Nonetheless,
closed gene pools, genetic diversity is central to
resistance and the availability of normal alleles
There is little disagreement on that point, but there
can be great
disagreement on the best means to achieve it. One
camp believes in
outcrossing, de-emphasis of "show ring"
traits and performance
standards, and even selected infusions of other breeds.
holds that a healthy diversity of successful breeders
who work to
preserve and develop distinct family lines is the
best way to
preserve genetic choice. I happen to belong to the
Before one begins, however, one must first define
rather, one must understand how success is defined
in any breed. It
is not a matter of interpretation; it is a matter
A few years after I began showing and breeding Miniature
I realized that no historical archives existed for
in Canada, in the way they have always been catalogued
in the US. So,
I began gathering the data from old CKC stud books
and issues of Dogs
In Canada, starting with the first recorded champion
Somewhere in the middle of the project, I had an epiphany.
that I had been told to believe was wrong: Health
is not more
important than beauty. Beauty is more important than
Next Issue: It isn't important that we all do the
right thing, it is
only important that we don't all do the wrong thing.
everyone to do the same thing risks forcing everyone
to do the wrong