Tag Archives: Siberian Husky

Why huskies have blue eyes

DNA testing of more than 6,000 dogs has revealed that a duplication on canine chromosome 18 is strongly associated with blue eyes in Siberian Huskies, according to a study published October 4, 2018, in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics by Adam Boyko and Aaron Sams of Embark Veterinary, Inc., and colleagues.

Embark is a dog DNA startup company headquartered in Boston, MA, and Ithaca, NY, and research partner of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. According to the authors, this represents the first consumer genomics study ever conducted in a non-human model and the largest canine genome-wide association study to date.

Lakota

Embark dog, Lakota, shows off bright blue eyes. Credit: Jamie Leszczak CCAL

Consumer genomics enables genetic discovery on an unprecedented scale by linking very large databases of genomic data with phenotype information voluntarily submitted via web-based surveys. But the promise of consumer genomic data is not limited to human research. Genomic tools for dogs are readily available but the genetic underpinnings of many important traits remain undiscovered. Although two genetic variants are known to underlie blue eye color in some dogs, these do not explain the trait in some other dogs, like Siberian Huskies.

To address this gap in knowledge, Boyko, Sams and colleagues used a diverse panel of 6,070 genetically tested dogs with owners that contributed phenotype data via web-based surveys and photo uploads. They found that a 98.6-kilobase duplication on chromosome 18 near the ALX4 gene, which plays an important role in mammalian eye development, was strongly associated with variation in blue eye color, primarily in Siberian Huskies but also in non-merle Australian Shepherds. One copy of the variant was enough to cause blue eyes or heterochromia (blue and brown eyes), although some dogs with the variant did not have blue eyes, so other genetic or environmental factors are still involved.

Future studies of the functional mechanism underlying this association may lead to the discovery of a novel pathway by which blue eyes develop in mammals. From a broader perspective, the results underscore the power of consumer data-driven discovery in non-human species, especially dogs, where there is intense owner interest in the personal genomic information of their pets, a high level of engagement with web-based surveys, and an underlying genetic architecture ideal for mapping studies.

Aaron J. Sams adds: “Using genetic data from the pets of our customers, combined with eye colors reported by customers for those same animals, we have discovered a genetic duplication that is strongly associated with blue eye color. This study demonstrates the power of the approach that Embark is taking towards improving canine health. In a single year, we collected enough data to conduct the largest canine study of its kind. Embark is currently pursuing similar research projects in a range of morphological and health-related traits and we hope to continue to use our platform to move canine genetics and health forward in a very real way.”

Source:  Science Daily and PLOS Genetics

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Massage for dogs with neurological conditions

I love working with special needs dogs of all kinds.  Last month, I had the privilege of working with two very special puppies at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary – Kit and Caboodle.

These puppies, Siberian Husky crosses, are brother and sister and were abandoned at the age of 8 weeks in Missouri.  They found their way to Utah to be cared for and rehabilitated.  Their kennel is lined with layers of pillows and blankets because both dogs struggle to stand up, although they are getting stronger every day thanks to caregivers and volunteers who work with them on a regular basis.  They even have purpose-built mobility carts to help them!

These kids are approaching their first birthday and have puppy levels of energy and are interested in all that is going on around them; the veterinary team has managed their conditions through medications for nausea and nerve pain….

During my session, we filmed a number of videos with two of the volunteers observing what I was doing with the dogs – so they could replicate some of my actions.

With both dogs, I was interested in calming their central nervous system, relaxation, and lots and lots of stretching since their limbs are working very hard.  Despite their neurological status, both dogs had trigger points just like ‘normal’ dogs do.

I am very grateful for the staff who organized my work schedule so I could offer my skills to 10 dogs at the sanctuary.

And I watch with interest on the progress reports about my neurological babies.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The shoplifting dog

Some dogs will do anything for a treat.

This Siberian Husky walked almost 12 miles (round trip) for a rawhide chew – with the added excitement of an illegal trip into the grocery store!

What lengths has your dog gone to for a treat?

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

Hapless huskies, dumped dalmatians: let’s stop treating pets as disposable

I like this opinion piece which discusses puppy mills, exotic pets and even the link between popular culture (movies, etc.) and the demand for certain breeds of dog.

Mr Barkham (no pun intended) talks about the need to strengthen requirements to underpin a culture that expects responsible pet ownership.  My favourite quote “Buying a big pet should be like obtaining a mortgage – an agonising process with loads of ludicrous red tape that ensures we really want the burden of an animal in our lives for a decade or more.

Click on the link to read more:

Hapless huskies, dumped dalmatians: let’s stop treating pets as disposable | Patrick Barkham | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

'The Blue Cross has seen a 700% increase in husky-type dogs being given up or abandoned over the past five years, with 78 taken in last year.' Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

‘The Blue Cross has seen a 700% increase in husky-type dogs being given up or abandoned over the past five years, with 78 taken in last year.’ Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

 

The ancestral roots of your dog

A genetic study by Peter Savolainen, a researcher in evolutionary genetics at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, has found that dog breeds from North and South America have Asian ancestry.

The Chihuahua definitely has Mexican heritage

The Chihuahua definitely has Mexican heritage

The native breeds have 30 percent or less modern replacement by European dogs.  It had been thought, prior to this study, that when Europeans settled in the American continent their dog breeds successively replaced the genetics of the native breeds.

Savolainen’s research group, in cooperation with colleagues in Portugal, compared mitochondrial DNA from Asian and European dogs, ancient American archaeological samples, and American dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, Peruvian hairless dogs and Arctic sled dogs.

They traced the American dogs’ ancestry back to East Asian and Siberian dogs, and also found direct relations between ancient American dogs and modern breeds.

The research confirmed conclusively that the modern day Chihuahua has Mexican roots.  The breed shares a DNA type uniquely with Mexican pre-Columbian samples.

The team also analysed stray dogs, confirming them generally to be runaway European dogs; but in Mexico and Bolivia they identified populations with high proportions of indigenous ancestry.

Source:  AlphaGalileo Foundation news release

Christmas skijor anyone?

For those in the northern hemisphere, Christmas is a winter holiday and why not enjoy it with your dog?  Skijoring is a winter sport where a cross-country skier is drawn across the snow pulled by their dog.  In some cases, skiers will skijor with more than one dog.  In Norwegian, the term literally means ‘ski driving.’

Breeds like Huskies, Malamutes and Samoyeds are obvious choices for this sport, where the owner and dog get their exercise together.  However Pointers and Pointer crosses are also good sled dogs (Daisy likes that idea – although at her advanced age she will be a spectator only).

Skiing with dogs 2 Skiing with dogs 3 Skiing with dogs

In this sport, the cross-country skier provides power with skis and poles, and the dog adds additional power by running and pulling. The skier wears a skijoring harness, the dog wears a sled dog harness, and the two are connected by a length of rope. There are specialist suppliers of skijor equipment to get you started.

Of course, careful winter paw care is needed and some dogs may be fitted with protective footwear for the sport.

Christmas skijor anyone?