Inherited and Other Diseases in the Samoyed
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) keeps databases for a number of diseases that might occur in the Samoyed. These databases can be accessed at https://www.ofa.org/diseases/breed-statistics#detail. More information is also available at the Samoyed Club of America Education and Research Foundation (SCARF) web site, and the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation site.
Some areas of health concern are listed below. We encourage you to check the SCARF web site for a more comprehensive list and more detail about the issues mentioned here.
- Skeletal System
- Circulatory System
- Immune System
- Digestive System
- Metabolic System
Among diseases that MAY be inherited (there are other causes), hip dysplasia is of concern, since a malformed hip socket does not properly support the upper bone of the leg. If you are thinking of purchasing a Samoyed puppy, you should be sure both its parents and preferably grandparents too have been certified clear of dysplasia after the age of two. Below are some X-rays SAC members have provided to give you an idea of what Samoyeds of some hip conditions look like. There are other pictures and descriptions of the degrees of dysplasia on the OFA hip site.
|Female- 4 years – OFA Excellent||
Female – 2 years – OFA Good
|Female – 2 years – OFA Fair||Female – 2 years – OFA Fair||Female – 2 years – OFA Excellent|
|Female – 2 years – OFA Excellent||Female – 2 years – OFA Excellent||Male – 2 years – OFA Good||Male – 2 years – OFA Good||Male – 2 years – OFA Excellent|
|Male – 2 years – OFA Excellent||Male – 3 years – OFA Moderate Dysplasia|
As with hip dysplasia, this malformation of the elbow joint is diagnosed by x-ray. Although relatively rare in Samoyeds, this condition can be a cause of lameness and pain and symptoms should be investigated by a veterinarian. More information is available on the OFA elbow page.
We recommend that all Samoyeds be checked by a veterinary cardiologist before being bred or before taking part in strenuous exercise. Cardiac issues are not common in the breed, but they can occur, with the two most common conditions being pulmonic valve stenosis and (sub)aortic stenosis. Stenosis means an abnormal narrowing of part of the heart and/or associated blood vessels, making it difficult for enough blood to circulate.
There are two methods used to evaluate heart function: auscultation (listening to the heart using a stethoscope) and the echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart). Of the two, the echocardiogram is the most effective in identifying problems.
Samoyeds. like other dog breeds and like people, can suffer from a variety of eye problems that can affect their vision. Not all of these conditions are inherited, but genetic testing can screen for some and where screening is possible, it is important that the parents and grandparents of a puppy be tested. Organizations such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals provide eye certification programs.
Eye abnormalities include, but are not limited to:
- Glaucoma – is a condition where pressure inside the eye increases and this can result in damage to the optic nerve and the retina of the eye. This condition is extremely rare in Samoyeds.
- Cataracts – or clouding of the lens in the eye, are usually associated with advanced age in both dogs and people, but they can occur in young dogs. They may be inherited or they may result from environmental influences such as injury, diabetes or poor nutrition. It is because of the possibility of them being inherited that breeders should have their dogs checked annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist. There are several types of cataracts of concern, including
- Juvenile cataracts are not often obvious in very young puppies, but may show up as the dog gets a bit older.
- Punctate cataracts are small points of cloudiness in the lens. If they are inherited, they often become larger with age, but otherwise they often stay the same throughout life.
- Y-suture cataracts form during embryonic formation of the lens, which involves merging of 3 developing regions of the lens with the “Y” forming where the 3 parts come together. Cataracts here often do not increase in size with age.
- Nutritional cataracts are often associated with arginine deficiency and appear when puppies are weaned. They often improve with age.
- Distichiasis – is a condition where eyelashes grow on the inner rim of the eyelid and this may cause eye irritation (redness, excessive tearing). This does occur in a small percentage of Samoyeds.
- Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM) – also rare in Samoyeds, results with the blood vessels covering the developing foetal eye do not disappear by the time the puppy is three months old. A veterinary ophthalmologist should always check puppy eyes for this condition before they move to their new homes.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – as the name suggests, refers to a group of conditions associated with deterioration of the retina that becomes worse with age and can initially cause night blindness. Although rare in Samoyeds, the X-linked form of PRA (XLPRA1) can occur and there is a genetic test for it. X-linked means that the gene affecting the condition is on the X-chromosome (or “sex” chromosome), and a mutation in the gene can be passed to offspring. It is inherited as a recessive condition so carriers will show no signs (see the diagram below, since this form of PRA is inherited in a similar fashion to Familial Enamel Hypoplasia). It is therefore important that the parents of a puppy be tested clear of this condition.
- Retinal Dysplasia – is an abnormal development of the retina that is present at birth and is an inherited condition for which there is a genetic test. It can be identified in a visual exam by a veterinary ophthalmologist, but prospective parents should be screened for this before breeding. There are degrees of retinal dysplasia, ranging from retinal folds (which may be transient, disappearing as puppies grow), through geographic dysplasia (localized irregularities in the retina) to retinal detachment.
- Samoyeds should be tested for the genetic form of retinal dysplasia associated with oculoskeletal dysplasia (OSD) – the RD/OSD test
This results from a recently identified genetic mutation and is characterized by the complete or almost complete lack of the white enamel covering in the adult teeth of a Samoyed – there are no signs of the condition in the puppy teeth. This results in a number of problems for the affected dogs, including cavities, tooth sensitivity, abnormal wear of the teeth and yellow teeth with an abundance of tartar, as seen in the following picture provided by a club member.
This mutation may be present in a number of Samoyed lines because until the condition was described in 2017, and a DNA test for FEH was developed, responsible breeders had no way to determine if their dogs were carriers. This test is now offered by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of California Davis.
The genetics of FEH are straightforward since it is an autosomal recesssive trait. This essentially means that the trait can be carried by either males or females, and both the mother and father of a litter have to be carriers for the condition to show up in a puppy. If only one of the parents is a carrier, no puppies will be affected, but they may be carriers. This makes it almost impossible to determine if your Samoyeds are carriers without proper genetic testing. The graphic below was developed by a club member to demonstrate the way the condition is passed from one generation to the next, and the chances of a puppy being affected.
Bloat refers to a condition where the stomach is distended with gas and the digestive tract may be twisted (volvulus), cutting off blood supply to the tissues and making it hard for the dog to breathe. Surgical intervention is usually required.
GDV is a life-threatening condition which requires immediate emergency veterinary care. If your dog shows signs of bloat (drooling, abdominal pain, retching or vomiting without results, a full & tight abdomen, roached back, restlessness and/or a fast heart rate) seek help immediately.