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MEDICAL PROBLEMS IN THE ALASKAN MALAMUTE

Hip Dysplasia
Affects bone in the hip ball and socket. The mode of inheritance is polygenic (controlled by a number of genes) and can skip several generations without showing up. Environmental factors also influence the soundness of the hip joint. Controlled breeding programs offer the only means by which the incidence can be reduced. Only dogs with good hips as determined by hip x-ray should be bred from, however, pups from x-ray cleared parents can still be affected, although the likelihood is reduced. Relief can be provided to affected dogs by medication or surgery. Prospective buyers should make certain both parents of the pup have been x-rayed and passed for hip dysplasia before choosing a pup.


Chondrodysplasia
(Dwarfism) Affects bone development and growth. The mode of inheritance is simple autosomal recessive, meaning that both parents of an affected animal must carry the gene, but may not be affected. The symptoms are shortened, deformed front legs with a downhill posture. Diagnosis by radiographic examination is fairly reliable before the age of three months. Pedigrees can be submitted to the NZ Chondrodysplasia Certification Committee for analysis and determination of the probability of that dog carrying the gene for Chondrodysplasia.


Day Blindness
Also known as Cone Degeneration. Vision in bright light is affected. Mode of inheritance is simple autosomal recessive, meaning that both parents of an affected animal must carry the gene, but may not be affected. Affected pups may appear clumsy in bright light, stumbling over obstacles, feeling their way with their nose and paws and are unable to catch an object thrown to them. These symptoms disappear in dim light. Suspected cases should be checked by a veterinarian and can be confirmed by Electroretinograph (ERG). Affected dogs which have learnt their way around their home can lead a restricted but happy life - they must be kept on lead in strange environments.



There are many forms of Cataract, and distinctions between these can only be achieved by examination of the lens by special instruments. Most cataracts develop slowly and the age of onset varies between cataracts and breeds. Categorisation of Cataracts can be made by several methods. Some are acquired as a result of trauma or developmental problems, while others are clearly inherited. Some are congenital (present as soon as the eyelids open) while others occur late in life. Annual eye checks should be undertaken to ensure breeding stock is unaffected.


Hypothyroidism
A hormonal disorder arising from deficient production of metabolic hormones by the Thyroid Gland. The most common sign is lethargy, but symptoms may also include dry, coarse and sparse coat and obesity. Diagnosis is made by a blood test. Successful treatment of this condition requires an adequate level of hormone to be given each day to compensate for the deficiency in secretion.


Epilepsy
A functional disorder of the brain characterised by symptoms related to the nervous system including convulsions, hysteria and unusual behaviour patterns. Epilepsy can be due to parasites, exposure to toxic chemicals or hereditary factors. The clinical signs may include the dog convulsing, with or without loss of consciousness, and may be followed by drowsiness and disorientation for several minutes after the attack. Dogs which have suffered an attack will appear very tired afterward and will need to be rested. Medication can be dispensed during stressful times to help prevent an attack. Dogs with a history of epilepsy should not be bred, and owners of related animals should be notified.


Coat Funk
The clinical term for Coat Funk is Canine Follicular Dysplasia or Canine Alopecia in Alaskan Malamutes. The condition occurs in dogs around 4-5 years of age. Mostly males are affected (although there has been one reported case of a female affected).
Those affected usually have a healthy coat at a young age, but as they get older, an abnormal coat condition begins to appear. First the guard hairs (outer coat) around the neck begin to break off. Then the rest of the guard coat begins to break off or fall out, leaving behind only a "woolly" looking undercoat (similar looking to a soft sheep’s coat). Two areas may appear untouched by this condition; the head/face and the spine. The tail may also become affected at any point.
The dog may also have a "reddish tinge" due to the dead hairs and possible sun damage of the abnormal old hairs.
A similar condition exists in Siberian Huskies but the age of onset is much younger.
At present there is no known cause or long term cure for Coat Funk.


Gastric Torsion & Dilatation
(Bloat) This condition can occur in any breed of dog at any age, but is more prevalent amongst large, deep chested breeds such as the Malamute. Bloat results from the dog’s inability to pass food through the stomach into the lower intestines and, in cases of torsion (twisting) of the stomach, inability to vomit. The symptoms appear shortly after the dog has eaten and may include distension of the abdomen, restlessness, excessive salivation, unproductive attempts to vomit and reluctance to move or lie down. The situation worsens rapidly with the dog going into shock, indicated by pale mucous membranes, rapid heartbeat and weak pulse. Death is rapid and painful. Suspected cases must be taken immediately to a veterinarian for urgent treatment. Studies have indicated that overeating, swallowing large amounts of air whilst eating (gulping) and exercising shortly before or after eating may predispose a dog to this condition.


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