Spring is in the air, and so is Puppy Fever! Our Facebook feeds are overflowing with photos of new litters born, puppies ready to go home, and people welcoming new members into their families. All happy moments.
While all of this is all fine and dandy, we need to take a moment and reflect upon why it is so important to choose where you are purchasing your puppy carefully. No one anticipates that new puppy that comes home could end up living in pain, having to have major issues managed medically, all in completely preventable, heritable, disorders. But it can, especially if your breeder isn't taking the proper precautions to screen their lines for the most common heritable disorders found in the breed.
Below we'll discuss some of the most common issues found within our breed, how these disorders are screened for, and the unfortunate costs associated with treating a dog with such afflictions.
Our information has been gathered through various veterinary sources, SHCA.org, OFFA.org, and the Siberian Husky Health Foundation.
Canine Hip Displasia
Thankfully the Siberian Husky ranks fairly low in occurrence of canine hip dysplasia. Though it does still exist, especially in lines that are not properly screening.
Dogs considered for breeding should be radiographed once they have reached 2 years of age to evaluate the formation and fit of the femoral head into the pelvic socket. The X-ray will then be sent, by the veterinarian, to the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) for official certification. Cost will vary by veterinarian, typically $100-$300 for the x-ray, $32 for certification. This test only needs to be performed once. The cost of ignoring the hip health of your lines, lets take a look.
Non-surgical treatment options for mild cases may only cost a few hundred dollars, based on medication and duration of treatment required.
Physical Therapy for more moderate cases to help manage your pet's symptoms will range from $80-$300 per session.
Surgical Treatment for more extreme cases will range from $1,000-$3,000 add in medications and physical therapies for the long term care of your pet you could easily be looking at $5,000-
In extreme cases euthanasia may be the kindest options.
Unlike hips, there are a plethora of eye issues that are prevalent within the breed. Eyes need to be screened annually by an ACVO licensed veterinarian. These exams can be certified through the OFA CAER program or SHCA's SHOR program.
Juvenile Cataracts (Heritable Cataracts)
Manifested by opacity in the lens of a young dog as early as 3 months of age, usually presented by 2 years of age. A cataract can cause a mild decrease in eyesight to complete blindness in severe cases. Cataracts can further be classified by location and stage of development.
Surgery to remove the lens is typically suggested and has an 95% success rate. Cost range from $2,100.- $2,300 per eye. Maintenance eye drops for the duration of the dogs life $50/mo.
Recent DNA research indicates that juvenile cataracts may be carried by a recessive gene. Genetic research is presently under way to develop a simple DNA test to identify dogs and bitches that carry the recessive gene for cataracts.
Currently annual eye screening performed by an ACVO licensed veterinarian is the best form of preventative care within the breeding community. Cost $100-$300, CAER certification $32 initial $8 renewal (free if the exam finds failing eye health), SHOR $6 initial free renewal.
Onset occurs between five months to two years of age and is gray and oval.
The cost of ophthalmologist assessment varies from $100 to $250. Treatment of a hard-to-treat ulcer can range from $300 for basic management to more than $3,000 if surgery is required to save the eye. Eye removal is typically a $500 to $1,500 procedure.
Recent genetic tests are suggesting that a recessive gene with variant expression transmits this disorder.
Currently annual eye screening performed by an ACVO licensed veterinarian is the best form of preventative care within the breeding community.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) affects the retina, the light-sensitive inner lining of the posterior part of the eyeball.
The Siberian Husky has a unique type of PRA that is only found in Siberians and man. This type of PRA is called XLPRA (X Linked PRA) since it is transmitted through the "XX" chromosome of the female. It will cause a loss of night vision followed by a loss of day vision, eventually blindness.
The recessive gene for XLPRA is situated on the "X" chromosome of the female. Females who inherit a defective gene on the "X" chromosome from one parent and a normal gene on the other "X" chromosome from the other parent, will not be seriously affected. They will be carriers with very subtle retinal defects and no loss of vision.
The male puppy from a carrier dam will receive either a defective gene or a normal gene, depending on what chromosome was copied in the DNA replication. If he has the defective gene, the dog will be affected with PRA since males carry an "XY" chromosome. The disease in males can be devastating with loss of vision as early as 5 months of age. (courtesy SHCA.org)
There is no treatment, there is only prevention. Testing cost $150
A genetic test available, through Optigen, to identify Siberians that carry this gene or genes, thus this test can help eliminate XLPRA from breeding programs.
Characterized by an elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) which causes optic nerve and retinal degeneration and results in blindness. In Siberian Huskies glaucoma is usually due to narrow angle glaucoma in which the eye’s drainage channels do not allow the normal outflow of the eye’s fluid causing its buildup and the increased eye pressure. This is a very painful condition! Primary glaucoma most commonly afflicts dogs at 3–7 years of age but can occur at any age.
On average, the cost of this surgery falls in the $3,000 – $4,000 range.
Eye drops may be prescribed if caught early enough, prices range from $20-$150 per month and may be required for the life of the animal if the eye is not required to be removed.
Cryptorchidism or retained testicles, is one of the most common congenital developmental defects in dogs. Either one or both testicles can be retained.
Cryptorchidism affects approximately 14% of the males in our breed affected dogs should NOT be bred.
Neutering a cryptorchid is more along the lines of a spay as your vet will have to open the abdomen and search for the retained testicle(s). Average expense $350. Recovery will also be longer.
The majority of hypothyroidism is caused by auto-immune thyroiditis (ATD), a hereditary disease that causes an immune reaction against the thyroid gland.
Diagnosis of hypothyroidism requires a full thyroid panel to be done (consisting of checking T4, T3, Free T4, Free T3, cTSH, and TgAA) and not just testing T4
The Siberian Husky had 13.5% of the blood samples tested positive for ATD which is higher than the all-breed average and the numbers are statistically significant.
Based upon the results of this and other studies, a recommendation was made by MSU that all breeding Siberians be tested for thyroid disease. Dogs should be tested every 2 years since a normal test does not mean that hypothyroidism will not develop in the future.
The medication to treat hypothyroidism itself is not terribly expensive. $8-$20 per month. The expense occurs in reoccurring blood work every 6-12 months to make sure the medication is doing it's job. $100-$300 depending on your vet.
Considered genetic, baring all other causes are ruled out. Heritable epilepsy may occur very early though most dogs are diagnosed before the age of 5. Seizures in dogs beyond 6 years old are typically asked to seek a neurological consult and are not typically associated with heritable epilepsy.
The cost of medication to control seizure activities are relatively low cost, depending on medication and what works for your pet. Some of the more expensive medications may run the cost of treatment up substantially. The more expensive medications can cost between $500-$5000 annually. More commonly, however, expense occurs in frequent blood work, expect costs annually of $300-$400.
There is no testing available to screen for epilepsy. The only prevention is for breeders to carefully select their breeding stock, eliminating dogs with or that have produced epilepsy from their breeding programs.
Currently DNA mapping is underway to hopefully identify a marker to screen for in the future.
Growing up in Montana my love of the Siberian Husky started at a young age. It has been quite a journey so far. There has been much to learn and still a lot more yet to learn! I truly believe that we are never too old, too experienced, or too full of ourselves to learn something new. I also believe that knowledge is useless unless we are willing to share it with others.