Many German Shepherd lovers have seen, known, or loved a dog that suffered great pain, even had to be put down at a young age due to Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD). Though we love this huge breed, the question begs to be asked-Is it worth the risk to purchase and fall in love with a dog only to watch is struggle to stand up when it should be in the prime of its life?
Through the lifetime dedication to her dogs, Tina Barber has created a breed that holds all the traits of the German Shepherds of old, without one critical characteristic-bad hips. Too good to be true? No. Through her Litter Mate X-ray program or LMX, she has answered the prayers to every brokenhearted shepherd owner by producing Shiloh Shepherds that are 97% dysplastic free.
Let’s start at the beginning. First, in simple words, what is Canine Hip Dysplasia? Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is a truly crippling disease. It causes weakness, deterioration, and ultimately arthritic hips in dogs and is considered a genetic trait. Understanding that this condition is primarily genetic is the key Tina has used to produce Shiloh’s from her kennel who are 97% dysplasia free.
It is simple genetics to understand that an inherited trait is a characteristic that is passed from parents to offspring, each parent offering fifty percent (50%) of the offspring’s total genetic makeup. We have all said something like You have your mother’s blue eyes. That’s simple genetics. So, the knowledge that CHD is genetic is understandable, but how do we avoid the passage of that trait? The answer seems easy, know the parents. If mom and dad are clear of hip dysplasia, the puppies will be fine-right? Wrong! It is easy to spot a genetic trait that both parents display, back to the example of blue eyes. But what about that child that has those same beautiful blue eyes when both parents have brown? Here lies the key Tina Barber has found to practically rid the Shiloh Shepherds of hip displays ia.
Tina’s LMX program (Litter Mate X-rays) has taken the genetic study of her Shiloh’s to an entirely new level, and is a unique program to Shiloh Shepherds. Many understand the concept of dominant and recessive genes, again basic genetics. Dominant is what you can see (known as phenotype) and recessive is what you have but don’t see (genotype). Why is this information important? Just because the parent dogs don’t, themselves, have hip dysplasia does not mean they don’t carry the gene. So, can this gene show itself through puppies if it does not show in either parent? You bet.
For each dog you see, there is also what can be thought of as a shadow dog. The traits of a dog that is in each dog, but cannot be seen. Therefore, an offspring of a dog that does not have hip dysplasia can suffer from CHD. The first situation to illuminate this point– each parent does not have the phenotype for hip dysplasia, yet carry the genotype. Therefore, both parents carry that recessive. As a result, a dysplastic puppy can be born from parents that do not themselves have hip dysplasia. Another scenario, a puppy may not display actual dysplasia, but is a carrier since it got the recessive gene from mom or dad. Now, this puppy is ultimately bred with a dog who also carries the recessive, again, you have a dysplastic puppy.
This knowledge would solve it all if we could determine the genotype, or recessive qualities of each parent dog. Unfortunately, that is not possible. However, Tina discovered if x-rays were taken of not only dogs that were intended for breeding, but of all litter mates born, those genotypes or recessive genes would reveal themselves allowing to only breed those dogs who did not carry the gene causing hip dysplasia. This brings out that shadow dog through x-rays. If a parent dog does not have CHD, but is passing on the gene, that dog is no longer used for breeding. Without data on litter mates, it would be impossible to reveal the recessive gene.
This is not theory- data is the key to Tina’s research, but it is also the key to proving her success. Numbers don’t lie! To restate the most impressive statistic, her kennel is 97% free of hip dysplasia. How does this compare to today’s German Shepherd?
The GSD is at 16% dysplasia with only 1% of dogs being x-rayed. The bad x-rays are not being reported. So the gene for those bad hips simply passes on to the next generation. It is stated by the OFA that hip dysplasia can only be reduced by selectively breeding for normal hips! Since it is now a fact that CHD is caused by inheritance, it is imperative to know about your dog’s entire gene pool!
There is a philosophical difference between puppy producers and breeders. The end result of a true breeder is to continue to better the breed and produce puppies that are products of optimal specimens. They are after more than selling puppies for high dollars. You don’t have to be a huge puppy mill to behave in a manner that is harmful to dogs and future owners. It is also the small breeders that over breed, don’t monitor genetics, and allow substandard examples of a breed to reproduce and allow flawed genetics to continue pass to litters that should never be born. If a puppy is born with less than desirable traits, that puppy should not be bred. We are not dealing with a minor genetic flaw; we are dealing with hip dysplasia-a trait that can only cause pain and suffering to the dog. The LMX program is NOT based on theory. The LMX program has the backing of facts proving it is a successful method in ridding dogs of this painful condition!
The dedication to the LMX program extends back to 1962, decades of genetic data gathering. Although it is impossible to see that shadow dog in Tina and her breeders’ dogs, they have a valid blueprint due to the knowledge of a vast amount of ancestors and puppies born to their dogs. Since the Shiloh has entered the Rare Breed world, a computer system as been designed that provides information on dominant and recessive faults and virtues. The LMI program, or Litter Mate Information, is only an extension to the original LMX program that has been the key to reducing hip dysplasia in the Shiloh Shepherd.
There are some key factors that make this program effective, or ineffective if not completed correctly. There can be no conclusions drawn from incomplete data. For example, if a litter only has 3 puppies, all with good hips, the assumption cannot be made that had the litter been larger there could have been pups with bad hips. In such a case, it is vital to research the litter mates of the parents of the three puppies. The progeny they produced will be helpful to complete the data. Additionally, research into the siblings and ancestors, preferably 7 generations, is the only way to complete the genetic picture. Simply stated, the more genetic pieces one can collect, the more the shadow dog can come to light.
Another key is quality x-rays. If poor x-rays are sent to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)a perfectly healthy and genetically strong dog could be classified moderately dysplastic. This misinformation can lead to excluding dogs that have the potential to produce outstanding litters. Shiloh’s tend to have a tendency toward mild subluxation a young age. If this dog is x-rayed a year later by a more proficient clinic ,he could certainly receive a good OFA rating. Recent research with Penn Hip – developed at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, has proven this. This method takes x-rays from a different position than OFA x-rays. Many dogs that have been rejected by OFA have receive good ratings through this new system. Using both systems will allow a better understanding of the dog’s true hip quality. Documentation is paramount. In order to eliminate CHD guessing cannot be an option. The collection of valid data not only protects from poor genetics, but will protect an excellent dog from falling by the wayside and not passing on quality genetic traits due to poor data.
In conclusion, the LMX program helps remove the wondering of what genetics a dog may process but are not visible. It goes far beyond mom and dad’s traits. It tracks traits down through siblings and ancestors. It is thorough documentation in tracing key genetics and has allowed breeders to expose that shadow dog. The program can only be effective, however, if breeders and owners participate in the program. Those who love the breed and want the continued success of excellent hips must cooperate. Anyone wishing to purchase a Shiloh Shepherd must do their research. The I.S.S.R breeders are committed to this breed and do all they can to promote these amazing dogs. They follow the strict guidelines set fourth by Tina and work as productive team to maintain high standards for each and every dog. This cooperation in the LMX program allows the I.S.S.R Shiloh’s to live a long and healthy life, free from the crippling effects of hip dysplasia.