HEALTH WATCH – Finnish Spitz Breeding
Courtesy of Joan Grant
FOR A HEALTHY LITTER:
When researching possible breeding, remember to also check for potential health concerns. We are fortunate with the Finnish Spitz in that many breeders are very open in discussing their own dogs and dogs with which they are familiar. Some of the questions breeders should be asking include what the potential is for any Finnish Spitz to be carrying the gene for a problem that is considered hereditary. These include:
- Cleft palate:- This appears to be a simple recessive. Any pup born with this will starve, as nursing is impossible. In early writings, this was not named, but it was said that pups died at birth.
- Aesophigal Stenosis, known as achalasia: – This causes swallowing problems when solid food is introduced. This appears to be a multiple recessive and it can occur in various degrees of seriousness. Some pups out grow it, but will likely have problems later in life. In very early writings, this was not named, but pups were said to die at weaning.
- Patellar Luxation: – This can cause very painful displacement of the stifle joint, and any operation to correct can be very expensive.. Breeding for correct angulation is believed to reduce the incidence of this. The standard describes the correct angulation.
- Deafness: The standard calls for dark pigment and this is due to the gene for white which, if doubled, can result in deafness in one or more pups in a litter. It is important to only use breeding dogs with good black pigment.
- Epilepsy: – is known to show up in the breed and studies are being done in Finland to learn if it is hereditary. Meanwhile breeders need to be aware of the potential risk.
- Unhealthy Eyes: – The standard calls for dark eyes. This is a Nordic breed and light eyes could mean snow blindness. Other problems that have occurred are watery eyes, caused by duct inefficiencies, and yellow eyes.
- Hip Dysplasia: – Another problem in canines that is not yet proven to be hereditary, and which is not often seen in FS, but the possible occurrence should be considered.
ONCE THE LITTER ARRIVES:
Immediately after the arrival of the whelps the breeder needs to compare them in size and vitality. If there is one that is noticeably smaller than the others it could be just a coincidence of location in the uterus, or it could indicate a problem, such as a heart defect. Does each and every pup begin to nurse on its own, or is one having problems about locating and securing a site? When all are firmly attached to the milk source, does each suck heartily without any spillage of milk through the nose or side of the mouth? If a pup has milk in the nostrils, have you checked for cleft palate? Not always easy to spot, this must be identified, or the pup will simply starve to death, for nursing is not possible. Such a pup could be raised with special effort, only to have sinus problems all of its probably short adult life. If a pup is unable to nurse without assistance, yet has no cleft in the palate, then have the heart checked for abnormalities.
If a pup is not near the mother when all the others are feeding, do not assume the mother does not want the pup and pushed it away. I cannot believe this of any canine who is so keen to protect and care for pups. However, in cleaning them from the first breath, the bitch does a lot of vigorous licking and a pup can be tossed around, upended, and pushed aside. A healthy pup struggles and fights and returns to the warm spot it craves, right at the milk source. A pup with a problem might not be able to get back.
From this time on, you, as the breeder, need to watch the pups day by day. Watch them each and every one, and be ready to remember or record what you are seeing. -Don’t just a quick glance, do a thorough visual check-up. When sleeping, are they piled, side by side, in small groups, or are there singletons? When in deep sleep, does every pup twitch and jerk, or paddle the legs, or make sucking efforts with the mouth, or is there one that sleeps very still? When Mom returns, is each pup immediately actively searching for her and for those ever-ready milk bottles, or is one slow to react? I am not saying you do not pick up and handle each one, but a true watch should take place first.
Have you a way to distinguish individuals you need to remember if they all look very alike? One suggestion is a spot of nail polish on the top of the head. Use different colors, apply and allow to dry thoroughly. This way you will recognize them individually long before any real differences in appearance are visible. Note when they get to the toddling age, then the wrestling and growling age, then the investigating age, and you will have the background knowledge to go with watching them at the nearly ready to leave the nest age when the big decisions must be made. You will be in a position to decide which are pets, and why, which are top prospects and why, and which are somewhere in between. Again, sometimes this is a heart problem.
Sleep twitching is the best sign of all. A twitcher is a healthy pup. This includes outright jerks, signs we think of as signs of dreaming, and also sucking motions. The jerks can be strong enough that any pup foolish enough to be sleeping on top of another can be bumped right off! If a pup is sleeping still and calm, then be suspicious of its health. I especially watch this if any pup has had a slow or difficult delivery. When I see every pup twitching I begin to relax.
Although it is hard for some to believe, handling in early days is a stress factor to these pups. Without stress as they develop they are not as well equipped to handle stress later time to watch and time. I urge you to provide ‘stress’ from the first check up to look for sex, bite, markings, throat, and feet, to the day the pup leaves your care.
For additional questions, feel free to email Joan Grant.