Catahoula Issues » Genetic Anomalies  

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There have been very few studies concerning genetic diseases that affect the Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog. The studies that were made have not been well publicized. It must be understood that these are incomplete studies, and that there has never been any funding for genetic research on the Catahoula alone. Some Catahoulas have been used as participants in genetic disease research projects, and those findings are available, but locating them is very difficult. I have listed the genetic anomalies that can affect the Catahoula.

We, as breeders, have an opportunity to curb the genetic problems that have plagued other breeds. The quantity of Catahoulas are not in the same range as other breeds, but we can learn from the research on those breeds. With this knowledge we can begin to eliminate some of the disastrous problems that have plagued other breeds.

Those people interested in Catahoulas should understand that most breeders are doing the very best they can to produce a dog that is true to the standard and without genetic defects. Unfortunately the diseases mentioned here are referred to as Polygenic. This means that the offspring of a healthy breeding pair may show positive for a specific genetic problem. This happens when a particular disease is randomly selected and two like genes carrying the specific problem are connected. Controlling this type of disease is possible, but eliminating it at this time is not. Until some serious research is performed to isolate the cause and find a means of eliminating these diseases from all affected breeds, we, as breeders, are left with an educated guess when breeding our dogs. Because of the unknown factors in the genetic makeup of our dogs, testing should be viewed as a snapshot in time, leaving us with the understanding that Testing is a Tool, not the Rule.

There are a number of breeds that are plagued by these diseases. Not all dogs will be affected, but could be predisposed as a carrier. The list below shows the diseases that have been identified as being present in the Catahoula.

  • Hearing
    The Catahoula has the genetic trait to produce offspring with either bilateral or unilateral hearing deficiencies. This problem is an undefined one. It is believed that the Merle gene is the cause of this problem, but there are factors that lend credence to the presence of the Piebald gene in the Catahoula being masked by another gene.
  • Skeletal
    Jaw - Abnormal growth of the lower jaw resulting in what is defined as an under bite.
    Dysplasia - Both the hip and shoulder joints can be affected, causing pain and lameness.
    Panosteitis - Resulting in the dog's showing a lameness that shifts from one side to the other. A fever may be present, and the dog may also show signs of anorexia, and/or lethargy. It has been recommended that foods generating rapid bone growth not be used, as this could be a contributing factor to some of these problems. There is no definitive proof that this is true.
  • Eyes
    Blindness and Malformed pupils. Generally recognized as: 1) a pupil that is fixed and will not dilate, making it harder to see at night;. 2) a pupil that appears to be spread out, or is off center; 3) a pupil that is not formed to a circular pattern.
  • Liver
    Diabetes - the accumulation of sugar in the blood due to the inefficient use of insulin. Signs are excessive water consumption, frequent urination, and strong smelling urine.
  • Thyroid
    Hypothyroidism - Signs are dry, flaky skin, excessive weight gain, lethargy, and hair loss. It is also counterproductive to reproduction, causing small litters or no litters after being bred. Blood tests including T3 and T4 screening will aid in the determination of its presence.

Unfortunately, we may never know the cause of these problems because of the lack of grant money for research into these matters. The United States Department of Agriculture, which licenses and regulates most commercial breeding kennels, and establishes the laws concerning canines, does not allocate any of its millions of dollars of research money to any grants in the field of canine genetic research. Without grant money or donations to a specific project, we may never establish the research required to determine the causes and/or cures of these diseases. Being given that information would enable us to curtail the genetic disease based problems within our breed and many other breeds, as well.

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