Imports and Immunological Concerns

Importing dogs is a decision that needs to be made with care and concern. Importing dogs from countries with clear veterinary standards, the risks are very low. Most Hamiltonstovare in America have to be imported well over 3,000 miles from the place of their birth. In almost every single case, the climate is different and the types of disease to be exposed to is different. Generally speaking most European imports to America have very little exposure to tick borne illnesses but are otherwise immunologically healthy.

For example, when I imported Alice, her first vet did a full blood test to test for various communicable diseases that are common here. Alice tested completely negative, no trace ever, of antibodies of any tick borne illness. While that is awesome, it can be very bad. The very bad side is that Alice’s body does not know how to respond to low doses of tick borne illnesses, so that means that the possibility of a bad reaction is much higher than other dogs born in America. So every year, I run a tick panel on Alice and Rolo to make sure that everything stays as it should. Most dogs born in America have some trace antibodies of some tick borne illnesses, such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the theory is that those trace antibodies help prevent the disease from being bad. As Alice and Rolo don’t have those good antibodies, the potential for a lethal reaction is much greater.

Dogs that are imported to America by individuals are generally incredibly healthy and well cared for. The owners know what to look for, know how to prevent the spread of disease and understand the inherent risks associated with importing dogs.

What is incredibly shocking is that rescues import dogs from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Russia, China and South Korea at a staggering number. Those dogs are generally feral or farmed and in horrible condition. Most of those dogs have not had appropriate veterinary care that is in line with standard American practices. These dogs are brought over to meet the ever increasing demand of shelter dogs. The problem is that most of the general public has no clue of the needs of an import. Another issue is that these imports are completely unregulated, most requirements are just a need to be vaccinated against rabies. Quarantine is NOT required to any imported dog in America, regardless of country of origin. As long as the person or organization has a “health” certificate that declares them healthy at the time of import then everything is ok. Rescues do not understand that importing these incredibly hardy dogs poses a risk to dogs here. Some evidence is showing that excessive vaccination and use of monthly pesticides have weakened the immune systems of our native dogs. So to bring over a very hardy group of dogs that had to live Darwin’s laws of survival of the fittest means that some of these imports can and are carriers of disease that can be transmitted to other dogs here with ease.

The main case in point is the dog flu outbreak in the Midwest right now. The variety of the flu is of Asian origin and the theory is that it was brought over by rescues/shelters importing dogs that are visibly healthy. Those visibly healthy dogs are potentially patient zero of this outbreak that has caused thousands of dogs to be sick, lost revenue for boarding and training facilities, and in some cases the death of an innocent dog. I am all for saving dogs and rescue but never at the risk of others. Importing street dogs and meat farm dogs is dangerous and walks a tightrope.

To me the main solution is to regulate the import of rescue dogs, the new USDA APHIS laws apply to rescues but it only requires rabies, standard vaccinations and a visual health certificate. There is absolutely no requirement that dogs be isolated and in a quarantine situation even though some street and farmed dogs have been exposed to highly communicable diseases. I personally believe that no rescue should import dogs from another country until their local rescue problems are solved. Imports require special care and as a stop-gap measure, all adoptive owners should be informed where their dog was born so that appropriate care can be made. 

Color and Coat Genetics for the Hamiltonstovare

I am fascinated by canine genetics in general but especially canine color genetics. I could go on about other genetics but for right now lets just stick with color and coat genetics. The Hamiltonstovare color has never been truly studied. There are a few assumptions that can be made just by the way that the color is expressed. 

The main assumption is that the majority of the population does not carry the liver gene (b) and are probably homozygous dominate for black (BB). Another assumption is that they do not carry the blue dilution (d) and are probably dominate in that gene as well (DD). We can also assume that they have some sort of Irish spotting gene and tan marking gene. 

The difficulty with breeding Hamiltonstovare comes with the Irish spotting gene and tan marking gene. Hamiltonstovare does not appear to have the piebald gene (sp) or the solid gene (S). The Irish spotting gene (si) causes the color to be much more static and you can almost predict that the color will appear in certain areas. The one area where there is flexibility is the neck. Currently, it is unknown what causes a white collar or no white collar. For example, in my most recent litter 2 puppies were born with very little white on the neck, one had a large white spot and another had a white collar that faded to a partial white collar. The parents have very little while on the back of the neck. 

Another part of flexibility is the tan markings, there are 2 parts of flexibility there. The first part is how much tan is seen and the other part is the color itself. It is currently unknown why the tan creeps into the black because genetically all saddle tricolor dogs have similar color genetics to Bernese Mountain Dogs, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, and other Swiss mountain breeds, which is (atat sisi). The theory is that there may be an unknown modifier on a different gene that influences the expression of the amount of tan. Some Hamiltons have large saddle with a minimal amount of tan and others have a slightly smaller saddle with more tan. The color of the tan varies and is related based on Intensity gene (I). The theory is that the variations on the I gene will cause a darker to lighter tan. 

The Black gene (BB) within the Hamiltonstovare and other breeds does control the pigmentation of the nose and eye rim pigment. So the Hamiltonstovare will always have a black nose and eye rim pigment. The exception is where white is, there may be some pink pigment mixed in with the black. For example, Hamiltonstovare should have spotted paw pads, this is indicative of the Irish spotting gene. 

There is a different black gene (K) that is assumed to be that Hamiltons have the kk gene due to the tan markings and lack of brindle gene (kbr) in the breed. There is an assumption that the recessive red gene (e) is very rare in the breed. The Hamiltonstovare does not have the ticking gene. Some Hamiltons may have the occasional spot on the legs or belly but that is more like a random freckle in humans than a true ticking pattern. 

This lack of flexibility within the genes of the breed mean that the only color that Hamiltonstovare will be is tricolor that will change from a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog tricolor to a more traditional hound tricolor as they age. The change should be complete by the time the dog is 2 years old. 

Hamiltonstovare should have a double coat that is very dense and short. Hamiltons coat texture will change as they age but the double coat will stay regardless of age. There have been rumors that single coated Hamiltons are in certain lines but I have not seen any proof of that. I also have not seen any studies that show what gene is responsible for a single coat like a Great Dane and a double like Hamiltonstovare. 

I hope that there is a study one day to determine the true genetic make-up of the Hamiltonstovare coat. I think that they would be an ideal breed to finally figure out where the modifier of the tricolor saddle lives, as they only produce that color.