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Wake Up And Smell The Coffee

by Joy Ritter, Mystiwind Samoyeds

I have had a very rude awakening as a Samoyed breeder of nearly 15 years.  I have had two cases of congenital heart defects diagnosed in the past month in dogs I've bred. TWO DIFFERENT DEFECTS: Neither one listed as being "found in Samoyeds", and neither one detected as puppies by regular veterinarians.

Up until this point I have never encountered any abnormalities, so was very complacent about it.  I skipped reading articles relating to heart defects in Samoyeds and other breeds because "it didn't apply to me", which was a really stupid move on my part.  Consequently, I've put two different people, whom I care about, in agony because they have to live with the fact that their dogs are going to die as young dogs. Not to mention the cost of diagnosis and treatment (which I've paid part of), not to mention the fact that these dogs were shown and finished to their championships by me, so that I was very close emotionally to them, not to mention all my hopes as a breeder.........

I have seen "heart clinics" put on in our area (Portland, Or) by the Golden Retriever people, and didn't know what it was for. I just ignored it because "it didn't apply to me". I have recently found out that a cardiologist can examine your dog, listen to it, and certify that a dog has no evidence of congenital heart defects. These certifications, as well as certifications on 'affected' dogs, can be sent to OFA to be included in their database. I also found out that it doesn't cost much more than a CERF exam. I have since taken all my dogs in to be certified, including my stud dog who sired the two dogs with heart conditions. I would strongly recommend that everyone with access to a cardiologist do the same. The wealth of knowledge that can be gained for future breeders is well worth the $39 office call.

I have never heard any discussion on heart problems on chat lines, etc., either because of ignorance or an avoidance of an issue that IS DEFFNTELY OUT THERE. I'm speaking of MY ignorance and avoidance here, not speaking about others. Since these kinds of problems are polygenic, like hip dysplasia, they are not easily gotten rid of. But, the first step is to start checking dogs before they are bred, be honest with your findings, and don't avoid the problem by believing it doesn't exist. I am here to tell you it does.

I have a list of board certified cardiologists throughout the United States and Canada should anyone want to get this information. Contact me through AYS or email at Mvstiwind@msn.com.

For the record, the two cardiac defects that I've produced are Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia, diagnosed with Xrays, echocardiograms, doppler radar studies, and physical exams, and Subaortic Stenosis, diagnosed with the same tests. Both occurred in males. One dog had a murmur present; one did not. BOTH HAD BEEN THOROUGHLY CHECKED BY REGULAR VETS, in two different locales. The point here is that a regular vet doesn't always have the expertise, time or equipment do the checks to catch this kind of thing.

A cardiologist can catch a murmur at a very young age (3 months). And certainly before a dog/bitch is bred, they should be checked out and certified, for their own health and the health of the breed. No, it isn't feasible for everyone; no it won't prevent everything, but it is time for more Samoyed breeders to step up to the plate. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE, before you have to go through what my puppy people and I have gone through. Believe me, the $39 is worth it.

For more reading on Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia:

For information on SAS (subaortic stenosis);

Thank you Joy for the wake up call.  I applaud your honesty in dealing with this problem.  Note:  This article first appeared in the March, 2001 SCA Bulletin.