Sunday, August 28, 2011

"The Wrath of Irene" ~~ Kerry Jones, Wallkill, New York

Starting this morning at 8:52 am, in between mopping and sandbagging, Kerry Jones of Wallkill, NY has been "blogging" the ongoing saga of her family's closeup & personal experience with the winds and water of Hurricane Irene. She posted the closing chapter to the SB-L just a little while ago. Unfortunately, it sounds as though it will be quite some time before Kerry's family can write the closing chapter to all the damage that was done to their home by Irene, but in the meantime, I think you will find her account very inspirational.      VZ 

     It is now 8:52 AM. We have been up since 2:00A.M. We have trees down all over, one on the side of the barn and across our lane and torrential rains. Since we live on the side of a mountain, the water is gushing around the side into the back of my house, where it’s pooling. I myself have never experienced a hurricane; it is a very scary experience. The wind was so fierce that I could barely walk early this A.M. when I stepped outside. Debris filled the air and you could smell almost a fresh smell of ocean air. The temp dropped what felt like 15 degrees. It is back now to humid. The trees were bent in half from the wind. Our main phones are out and we did lose power for a short time. Thankfully we have a generator. Our upstairs is OK, BUT the downstairs of our home is 1 foot underwater. Thankfully all of our dogs sleep with us at night upstairs because our dog room where they eat is flooded and all of the crates are 1 foot under water, all of our crate pads floating. We have lost quite a few things, of course. I just went to Pet Smart and bought 8 bags of Purina Pro Plan. Fran's room (my mother in law) is under water and my son's room as well, so we have lots of damage and lost memories and personal items! What a mess! When things like this happen, it puts life into perspective. Every day is a gift and you never know what tomorrow will bring, and that all of the material stuff and ribbons in the world are not important.  It is those we love and our health that is everything! We had an earthquake 2 days ago here in the Northeast followed up by a hurricane. We were only slightly touched by this, but I can't help but stop and reflect, thinking back about all of the victims of Katrina. The devastation that those poor people felt losing all they owned, their pets and even some of their family! One of the true crimes of this country, in regard to the lack of response and help for those victims. Hopefully much was learned from that disaster! Our state did a great job preparing us. I am still not sure how NY City fared though.
     Thankfully all of my family and my four legged babies are fine; the area that flooded was the lower level of our home, and a refinished basement type of lower level. The upper main floors are fine and dry. My mother in law's apartment, our dog room and my son's room were completely flooded. We have spare rooms upstairs so they will be fine, until we get everything dry and cleaned up. We are sifting through everything now. I stopped for a quick rest. These are only material things, we are finishing with the wet vac and cleaning up all the water, large fans that I took from my kennel are blowing. Everyone is safe and sound.  Thank god I have fed all of my son’s friends for all these years because whenever we need them these 21-25 year old men come and bail me out. Only expecting dinner tonight as payment. They all have been here since 3:00AM helping us because my husband is unable. It was well worth the gallons of lemonade and Sunday dinners. It is still raining very heavily, the rain is pounding against the roof and there are small ponds all over the yard. The sky is black, it feels like it’s the middle of the night. The strong winds have now stopped. We have sand bags where the water came in and along the bottom of the sliding doors, and diverted the water to run down the hill instead of into my sliders. I am hoping the worst of it is over. . I am sure there are coastal areas that were hit worse, our location in the woods and on a hill made us prime candidates for trees down and water run off.
     Oh yeah and my kennel and boutique are fine as well. Just thought the Boxer world would like to know what is going on in the Northeast blow by blow. Wondering how our coastal friends fared near VA, Maryland, NJ and how the Carolinas and neighboring states did? Is every one OK?

Another Irene Update from Mid State NY

 Things are not any better yet, the water is now coming under the foundation on 3 sides of the house. Seven of us are squeegee’ing to try keep it out, but as quick as we push it out, more is coming in.. We have dug trenches on all sides of the house to guide the heavy flow of water. It looks like rivers coming toward the house, my koi pond is over filled to the point that the fish can almost swim out and on to the lawn which is also a lake! Sand bags are not doing anything because the ground is so saturated that the water is coming up from the ground and into the walls. We are doing our best to keep the water to a low level, but I fear we may have to let it go. Rains are still pounding us. Hoping it will end soon. I keep thinking, if my dogs were in their crates last night, we could have had something awful happen. Electrical outlets covered in water and water up to our elbows! No Insurance for Floods in NY makes this even more stressful.  BUT as I said before I still have my kids, family, friends and dogs! Thank you for all of the prayers. I will keep updating. It’s still raining heavily here. GOOD NIGHT IRENE!

Irene Update – She’s Gone!

     First I want to thank all of the wonderful folks that offered their services and care packages. We are doing OK and will be fine. The rain has stopped now and the wind has died down. Fingers are crossed that this is the end. So far the water is no longer coming in, We have the areas somewhat dry, fans are running. Carpets pulled up. Tons of sheet rock to replace .My hands and feet are like prunes. The place looks like it has been hit by a bomb, all of my beautiful gardens a mess, but with time, we will get it together. Many things were lost, some replaceable, many not. Baby pictures of myself and kids, childhood crafts of my kids and my husband and myself. Christmas treasures from years gone by, lots of sentimental things that we just shove on the side to organize later, many years of memories and accumulations of things. In 30 years we have never flooded in this manner. Many repairs must be done, many things lost, lots of trips to the dump to do, lots of money to spend. It will be a long time before everything will be like it was and is replaced, but it will be replaced......
     I still maintain that even with the challenge's that we face in the near future, life is good!!! We are above ground and breathing!! Friends are priceless and few and far between, life would be so lonely without them. Family so very important, and should never be taken for granted!! Boxers are special gifts from above!!!!, Health the most important, no person on their death bed ever said "I wish I had made more money."  STUFF is replaceable; lives NOT!  Lets hope this is it for a while, they say what does not kill you will make you stronger. It looks like Irene is on her way. Sometime's we all get so frustrated with the list, and each other. Things get turned around and people at times are cruel, I guess it’s the nature of competition!  Unfortunately, it can sometimes bring out the worst in people. All and all though at the end of the day, this common interest we all share, the love of this breed should keep us all connected. When things get bad for people it does seem that we all team up. It was so therapeutic for me to write down my feelings and hear the many responses, shared circumstances, loads of prayers and good thoughts. I want to thank all that reached out to us. Wendy said it best: Let’s be there for each other and count our many blessings, because at the end of the day, "My dog is prettier than your dog" is not that important!  
     We just got a call from a woman who has 6 rescue dogs, the river was washing her home away, she and her animals have nowhere to go and no money! I told her to come with the dogs and we will house them for free, until she figures out what to do. So many people have it worse then you! God bless and sincerely from the bottom of my heart thank you to all who offered their support. Stay safe!

 Kerry Jones and family
Pheasant Hollow Boxers

Saturday, August 27, 2011


This was posted to a Dobe email list by Marie-Alice Rousselle ( with permission to cross-post. VZ

I’m a Katrina survivor, living in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.  Because of my Dobes, I’ve been evacuating for hurricanes since Andrew.  I had evacuated 6 times before Katrina.  I’ve developed a system, and thought I should share some ideas.

I didn’t flood after Katrina, but did not learn that for a week after Katrina.  That first week, I did not know if I had a home to return to.  And I was not able to return home to live for 3 weeks.   Jefferson Parish was barricaded for the first week, then we were only allowed to ‘look and leave’ (clean up fridges, secure property) between 10am and 4pm for 4 days, before the parish was on lockout for another two weeks.  Even then, only 1 grocery was open in Metairie for a couple of more weeks; no drug stores, only 1 or 2 gas stations for over a week after the return.  Luckily, few residents returned to live for the first 4 or 5 weeks, so lines were relatively short.

Down here, our big threat is hurricanes.  In other parts of the country, the threat may be flooding, blizzards, tornados, earthquakes or wildfires.  With hurricanes, we do have the advantage of usually at least 3 or 4 days warning, even a week or so of warning, while the other threats don’t usually provide such luxury.

Decide where you will go if the authorities declare an evacuation.  But don’t wait for an order of mandatory, or even voluntary, evacuation.  With dogs, we have to get out early – shelters don’t take animals, although since Katrina authorities have recognized the necessity of providing for pets.  (Many of those who died in New Orleans during Katrina had stayed behind because of difficulty of evacuating with pets).  There is now recognition of the need to consider pets, but this may mean a separate evacuation of pets to an animal shelter – not to the same shelter you may be forced to seek if you wait until l the last minute.

Don’t wait until the last minute if you suspect an evacuation will be necessary.  You don’t want to evacuate at 5 mph in gridlocked traffic.  If an evacuation is even considered, get out early!  Gas up your vehicle well in advance of an evacuation.  Don’t wait until the last minute or you might end up sitting in a gas line for hours.

Plan a destination.  If you live on a coast and will be fleeing a hurricane, identify locations far enough inland to stay safe.  For example, I always evacuate at least 3 hours north from the New Orleans area.  It may be necessary to consider a destination to the northeast or the northwest, depending on the forcast track.  Make hotel/motel reservations early enough.  If staying with friends or family, make those plans well in advance.

Start your Evacuation Things-to-take List.  Don’t wait until you are on the way out of the house to decide what to take.

Plan ahead for your immediate needs.  Clothing, medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), personal care items, ‘comfort’ items (a favorite robe or pillow can mean a lot during a lengthy evacuation).   Consider getting hardcopy prescriptions for all meds you take.  If you evacuate out of state, pharmacies may not be able to fill those prescriptions, but you should be able to get a doctor in the evacuation area to write prescriptions based on the hardcopies you carry.  I also keep a hardcopy of my latest prescription for eyeglasses in my evacuation kit.  Add to list.

Consider vital records.  You may want to keep a ‘grab at the last minute’ emergency file with these items.  Things such as: insurance policies (home, car, flood, fire, earthquake, etc), your health insurance cards, copies of house deeds or mortgage papers and car registration.  I always take the latest copy of all bills, such as utilities, credit cards, etc.  These were useful during the 3 weeks we were prohibited from returning after Katrina.  I was able to pay bills by phone or online with account numbers readily available.  Don’t forget your credit and debit cards and checkbook and extra books of checks.  After Katrina, some could not return home for a couple of months.  Some lost everything left behind.  It’s easier if you plan ahead.  If you haven’t done so yet, set up online banking and online access to your investment accounts.  Get extra cash early. Even if power is not lost, there may not be anyone to refill ATM’s at the last minute, and the lines could be very lengthy.   Add to list.

Pack both your home and car chargers for cell phone, GPS, and other electronic devices.  Add to list.

Stop and think – what items do you value the most?  Family photos, dog photos, dog collectibles, family heirlooms.  All of us have things we treasure.  Every time I have evacuated, it’s been with the understanding that I might never be able to return to my home.   What items are most important to you?  Plan to pack them.  (I always evacuate with the urns with my Dobes’ ashes.  I have been known to leave my jewelry box, and take my Utility Dobe’s scent articles!  

Back up vital files on your computer to a flash drive.  Bring the laptop with you.  You may even wish to bring the CPU from a desktop computer if you don’t have a laptop.  Have ahardcopy list of user id’s and passwords for online accounts, etc.  Add to list.

Bring a list of addresses and phone numbers for friends and family.  Yes, you have them in your contact list on your cellphone, but what if the phone battery dies?  And cellphone coverage can be very spotty in a disaster.  Don’t forget the old-fashioned hardcopy.  Add contact information for your employer.

Establish an out of town contact, a friend or relative, in a distant location.  This person can serve as a means of contact for your family and friends who may also be on the run.

Prepare an evacuation list for your dogs and other pets.  Have all their microchip numbers in one list.  Have a good color photo of each pet, in case one gets lost along the way and you need to identify it or make a ‘lost pet’ flyer.  Include current vet records – vaccine records, meds, special needs for each pet, a brief history of any serious health conditions.  Include on your list ‘comfort items’ for each pet.  Yes, you will probably remember crates, meds, food/water bowls, food and water.  But don’t forget that pet’s favorite blankie!  A favorite toy, extra collars and leads. A baby gate may come in handy if you are staying with family or friends.  Add to list.
Finally, pack your DPCA membership list!  We are blessed with a built-in network of ‘Dobe people.’  If you are on the run in my area, feel free to contact me for help.  I’m sure others will feel the same.  I had met the woman I got my last Dobe from only once – we had kept in touch by email, but were not close friends.  After Katrina, when it appeared the entire New Orleans area had flooded, she immediately emailed me to offer the loan of an RV.  She offered to drive it across half the country, hook it up, let me use it as long as necessary, then come back to drive it home when no longer needed.  Other Dobe and dog friends had similar offers of help from Dobe/dog people.  Friends moved in with obedience friends in other cities or states; one friend was offered an in-law apartment at the home of her dog’s breeder.

Other considerations will involve protecting your home.  Put up hurricane shutters if you have them.  Some turn off natural gas at the meter before evacuating (most of those house fires you saw burning in New Orleans after Katrina were due to broken gas lines, not looting!).  And with major hurricanes, I’ve added a new item to my To-Do list.  I will now turn off the faucets leading to my washer.  When I returned after Katrina, I found the washer half-full with water.  My niece found the same.  I assume the low pressure a major hurricane brings opened the check-valves into the washer, allowing the water to flow.  Luckily, the low pressure didn’t last long enough to allow the washer to overflow.  I’d hate to have the only damage from a hurricane be an overflowing washer!  So now I will turn off those faucets before evacuating.

It is prudent in hurricane country to keep only a minimal amount of food in refrigerators and freezers during the worst two months of hurricane season.  And you may wish to discard perishable foods before evacuating.  Three weeks without power turns your fridge into a Petrie dish!  It’s amazing what grows there.  (Those feeding the raw meat diet? Well, let’s just say their freezers weren’t a pretty sight!)

The most important thing – plan today!  Having a good plan, with lists of items you will evacuate with, destinations, etc, long before it is needed will make the stress of an emergency evacuation a little easier.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The DM DNA Test + a Personal Question for Breeders

Sunday before last, we published a blog entitled, "When Is It Time?"  Two days later, it was time for me to take my DM-affected boxer Bobby on his last trip to my vet's office. Unlike his sire Max, who was affected later in his life than Bobby but maintained his cheerful, animated demeanor to the end, Bobby seemed far less resilient in the face of the rapid loss of his mobility. Perhaps because Bobby also had cardiomyopathy and was exhausted by the effort of going through what used to be the routine motions of living in this oppressive Florida heat?  I don't know, but Bobby was very subdued – uninterested in even his favorite foods -- for the last week or so of his life.

Although I thought I had resigned myself to the inevitable, when I got to the vet's office I found I wasn't such a tough cookie after all, and neither was my vet or her staff. I drove home vowing that I would never again breed a litter that might contain an at risk puppy. I suspect that everyone who has just lost a dog to DM says the same thing.

And of course, it’s an easy thing for me to say: I’ve been breeding and showing boxers since 1973, and at this point will probably breed only one or two more litters in my lifetime. But how easy is it going to be for the next generation of breeders to avoid breeding At-Risk puppies while trying to consider ARVC, SAS and myriad other health concerns, along with temperament, head type, conformation and movement? Not easy at all when you consider this update from Dr Joan Coates (taken from the October 2010 ABCF Messenger at

Results on genetic testing for the Boxer breed so far…
As of 10/1/2010, we have tested 1987 Boxers.  The genotype total includes 251 clears (12.6%), 608 carriers (30.6%), and 1128 (57%) AT-RISK. The allelic frequency takes into account the number of chromosomes with the mutation. The allelic frequency is 72% in the population of Boxers tested.” 

I also took a look at the information sheet that was included with the OFA DM certificate I just received for one of my dogs, and under Explanation of results this was the explanation for At-Risk:

AT-RISK (A/A): This dog is homozygous A/A, with two mutated copies of the gene, and is at risk for developing Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). The research has shown that all dogs in the research study with confirmed DM have had A/A DNA test results; however, not all dogs testing as A/A have shown clinical signs of DM. DM is typically a late onset disease and dogs testing as A/A that are clinically normal may still begin to show signs of the disease as they age…Research is ongoing to estimate what percentage of dogs testing as A/A will develop DM within their lifespan. At this point, the mutation can only be interpreted as being at risk of developing DM within the animal’s life. [Emphasis mine.]

Then under Guidelines for Breeding, Dr Coates wrote:
“…The “A” (mutated) allele appears to be very common in some breeds [over 70% of boxers have the allele].  In these breeds, an overly aggressive breeding program to eliminate dogs testing A/A or A/N might be devastating to the breed as a whole because it would eliminate a large fraction of the high quality dogs that would otherwise contribute desirable qualities to the breed....A realistic approach when considering which dogs to select for breeding would be to treat the test results as one would treat any other undesirable trait or fault. Dogs testing At-Risk (A/A) should be considered to have a more serious fault than those testing as Carriers (A/N)….the test result should be one factor among many in a   balanced breeding program.”  Good, conservative advice: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Now go back up to Dr Coates’ explanation of At-Risk and reread the parts in bold print. While I was writing this blog, I was emailing back and forth with geneticist and boxer breeder Dr Bruce Cattanach. Due to my own personal experience with DM – so far, 100% of my At-Risk dogs and their At-Risk close relatives have developed DM – I have always been of the opinion that if an At-Risk boxer lived long enough, he or she was going to develop DM. But after reading the following in one of Dr Cattanach’s emails, I had a “light bulb” moment, and finally understood what Dr Coates has been saying about At-Risk, and why her breeding guidelines are so cautious and conservative.

Here’s what Dr Cattanach wrote: 
OK, here is something factual.  57% of the breed is homozygous At Risk.  But does over half the breed die of DM – no they die of cancer or ARVC, etc, as well. But of those that don’t die of these other things, do more than half get DM?  I am fairly sure this will not be true.  Hence, as Joan Coates says, there is a question of penetrance.  Only a proportion of these gets DM. Do 80% get the disease? Or, say, only 20%?  This would make a big difference to me about how I thought about breeding from or producing DM homozygotes.”

 I hope Dr Coates’ research will give us the answer to the question of penetrance one day, but in the meantime, I’d be very interested to hear your answers to this question:  How many of the breeders and owners who are reading this have DM At-Risk boxers that are 10 years old or older, but have not yet developed DM?  Unfortunately, I know what the penetrance rate is for my own dogs so far, but I would be very curious to know if my dogs are typical. This is not a formal survey, so names of dogs and owners are not important. Just email me privately at, or if you prefer, comment on the blog.  I will publish the results of the survey in a couple of weeks’ time. Thanks in advance for your responses.    

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When Is It Time?

When Drs Joan Coates and Gary Johnson of the University of Missouri announced their discovery of the SOD1 gene in 2009, Max, my first DM-affected boxer, had already been gone for nearly 3 years.

Actually, I say that Max was my first DM-affected boxer, but the truth is, if I had been more observant and had known what DM "looked like" at the time of his dam's death at the age of 10 in 1999, I would have recognized that she was showing the first signs of DM just months before she succumbed to congestive heart failure.

In any case, once a DNA test was available and Dr Coates started publishing statistics showing the extremely high incidence of DM in American boxers, it was obvious that we breeders had dug ourselves into a deep hole that we weren't going to climb out of anytime soon. As for trying to assign blame or trace this hereditary affliction back to its source, what would be the point? DM is a late-onset disease, so breeders and owners didn't know back in 1989, when Max's dam was born -- or even in 1994 when Max was born -- that their dogs were affected until years after they'd been bred, and in many cases they never knew.  If a dog or bitch that carried two copies of the mutant gene died at 7 or 8 or 9 of heart disease or cancer, how could an owner have known?

Despite that Dr Coates' research has been published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals and that no one to my knowledge has ever reported a DM clear or carrier boxer that developed DM, Dr Coates has acknowledged from the beginning that she doesn't have all the answers and actively continues to research the disease and the SOD1 gene. She has also declined to offer hard and fast breeding recommendations, instead saying, "...We recommend that dog breeders take into consideration the DM test results as they plan their breeding programs; however, they should not over-emphasize this test result. Instead, the test result is one factor among many in a balanced breeding program." Source:

Even without Dr Coates' cautions and caveats, it should be plain that we cannot all breed to the less than 13% of the breed that's DM clear; and that therefore, we cannot sit in judgement of the breeding decisions made by our fellow breeders.
But deciding how to plan your breeding program around the DM carrier or at risk dog or bitch you already own is just one of the hard choices we have to make. Since many of us are already living with an at risk or affected dog, we also have to make a decision about when to release our longtime companion and protector, super performance competitor, or once-in-a-lifetime winner and producer from his or her failing body. And since this is a decision that those of us who are caretakers can't delegate, I strongly believe that we need to choose the time that is right for ourselves, as well as for our dogs. Because just as we cannot judge others' breeding decisions, I also believe we cannot judge the end-of-life decisions of the boxer owners who are faced with the reality of a paraplegic dog.

For Max and me, it was finally time when he became incontinent (part of the ugly progression of the disease) and I had to leave him unattended 10 hours a day while I worked. For Max's son Bobby, pictured below, it will be time when his feet slip from under him again on the "path" of non-skid throw rugs that lead from his crate to the back door, and he can't get back up by himself. Because the fact is I am no longer able to lift an 80 lb dog.

For other boxer caretakers who are younger and stronger than I, or who have a partner who can help with the care of their rapidly deteriorating companion, a cart may provide a temporary respite and enable them to delay the inevitable decision. And for a few incredibly selfless and dedicated boxer owners, it is time when they can arrange to travel to a university vet school so their boxer's untimely death can contribute to DM research, which may some day result in the development of a treatment for dogs with DM and humans with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease).

With Max, I allowed someone who loved him, but was not responsible for his daily care, to pressure me into maintaining Max in a "half-life" long past when it was time for him to go. Unfortunately, there are too many people, family, friends and complete strangers on Internet lists, who think they know better than even an affected dog's owner when it is time. Don't listen to them -- they cannot know what's right for you.

Goldspring's Bobby McGee
Dec 22, 2001 - Aug 16, 2011


Thursday, August 4, 2011


With heart disease at the forefront of many present-day American boxer breeders’ concerns, the ABC Health & Research Committee invited Dr. Bruce Cattanach, Bsc, PhD, DSc, FRS, to give a presentation at the 2001 ABC on the UK Heart Control Scheme for Aortic Stenosis. 

Dr. Cattanach presents at the 2001 ABC.
Dr. Bruce Cattanach presents the
UK Heart Control Scheme for Aortic Stenosis.
Dr. Cattanach has been a noted breeder/exhibitor of boxers in England since 1949 under the Steynmere prefix. Ch. Steynmere Night Rider had a strong influence on boxer bloodlines in the UK, and English Ch. Steynmere Summer Gold - imported to the US as an adult - appears in many North American pedigrees through his descendents, Chs. Berena’s Gemini Splashdown and Tribute to Fa Fa. Dr. Cattanach is a geneticist by profession, and has specialized in the cause and analysis of genetic defects. Until his recent "semi-retirement," Dr. C. was Director of the Medical Research Council Mammalian Genetics Unit in the UK. He also worked on the genetic effects of radiation in the USA in the 1960s, and in fact, on his return to the UK in 1969 he took a Cherokee Oaks bitch back to the UK to found his present-day Steynmere breeding.
Dr. Cattanach was instrumental in eradicating the crippling, hereditary, neurological disease, Progressive Axonopathy (PA), from the British boxer in the 1980s, and is currently working with British cardiologists and breeders to lessen the very widespread incidence of Aortic/Subaortic Stenosis in British bloodlines. At the end of Dr. C.’s talk, he received a standing ovation from the 200+ people who attended. 
Dr. Cattanach has added a postscript to his ABC talk as a result of subsequent discussions of AS on the Showboxer-L e-mail list. The postscript also answers questions and issues raised during Dr. Cattanach’s presentation. It appears at the end of this article.
Editor’s note: The following notes are taken from Slides used by Dr. Cattanach in the course of his presentation. These illustrate his main points. VZ

 copyright 2001 Dr. Bruce M. Cattanach

Slide 1 The start/initial findings:
1. Breeder reports to the Breed Council of heart associated deaths among young boxers in the late 1980s: some 30 cases had been reported over the two previous years.
2. A heart survey was conducted at the British Boxer Club’s 1990 championship show:
  • About 30% of 125 dogs tested had heart murmurs of a type consistent with a heart disease known as aortic stenosis.
  • The veterinary literature recognised the Boxer as a breed in which aortic stenosis occurred.
  • The condition had a genetic basis -- it was inherited (data from a study of Newfoundlands).
  • The Edinburgh cardiology group reported that about 45% of all cases of aortic stenosis across all breeds referred to the university were Boxers...and that the incidence had climbed greatly over the previous 10 years.

Slide 2  Actions taken:
1. A panel of three breeders was set up by the UK Boxer Breed Council. This included Dr. Cattanach as geneticist and a specially interested cardiologist, Virginia Luis Fuentes, from Edinburgh University.
2. The panel’s goal was to recommend a means of dealing with the problem.
The following descriptions of the problem and the available diagnostic tests were given:
Aortic Stenosis: A narrowing (stenosis) of the aorta:
  • Typically, narrowing is below the valve, subaortic (SAS), but can locate above, or even affect the valve itself.
The condition shows a range of effect:
  • The severest form comprises a fibrous ring.
1. The ring narrows the aorta, increases blood velocity, and reduces blood supply to the body/brain.
2. The increased blood velocity causes noise, i.e., heart murmurs.
3. The redeuction in blood supply to the brain may lead to fainting and even death.
Milder forms exhibit fibrous nodules or a roughening of the walls of the aorta.
1. Nodules/roughness cause turbulence in the blood flow.
2. Turbulence causes noise, i.e., minor heart murmurs.
3. No restriction of blood flow need occur.
4. Murmurs may have no functional significance.

Slide 3   Tests for Aortic Stenosis (AS/SAS):
1. Pathology (autopsy):
  • As used in the Newfoundland research on inheritance.
2. Auscultation:
  • Use of the stethoscope to assess the magnitude of murmurs.
  • Cannot distinguish between AS and PS (Pulmonary Stenosis).
3. Phonocardiography:
  • Use of this equipment to assess the magnitude of murmurs.
  • Probably cannot distinguish between AS and PS.
4. Doppler echocardiography:
  • Measures the velocity of blood flow attributable to narrowing (stenosis).
  • May allow a visualisation of the abnormality that is causing the murmur.
  • The classical tool for clinical (severe) cases.

Slide 4   Heart murmurs, Doppler blood velocity and AS:
No murmur (Grade 0):
  • May be considered free of AS (big question on that point)???
  • Doppler scan results of 0.8 - 1.4m/s (in non-AS breeds).
Grade 1 murmurs:
  • Described as "flow" murmurs.
  • The dog is clinically normal (has no symptoms).
  • The murmur has no functional significance (causes no impairment).
  • A Doppler scan is likely to be under 2.00m/s.
  • The dog may have a mild form of AS.
Grade 2 murmurs:
  • The dog is clinically normal.
  • The murmur has no functional significance.
  • The Doppler scan may range from about 1.7 - 2.5m/s
  • Almost certainly some degree of AS/
Grade 3 murmurs:
  • May be clinically significant.
  • Functional problems are likely.
  • The Doppler scan may range from about 2.0 - 3.0m/s.
  • Clearly AS.
Higher grade murmurs (4 - 6):
  • Clinically significant AS.
  • Functional problems expected/certain.
  • Doppler scans up to 6.00m/s.
  • Liable to fainting/sudden death at exercise.

Slide 5   Selection of a test system:

Auscultation:Doppler Echocardiography:


  • Simple/available in the UK.
  • Economical.
  • Allows whole kennels to be screened.
  • Screens for all levels of AS.
  • Distinguishes AS from PS.
  • May firmly diagnose the condition (at more serious levels).
  • Offers prognosis/evaluation.
  • 2D echo may allow visualisation of abnormality.
  • The veterinary tool of choice for diagnosis.

  • Variable (at least one grade range).
  • Does not distinguish AS from PS.
  • Hypothetical risk of misdiagnosis.
  • Limited availability.
  • Costly.
  • Limited application for whole kennels.
  • Does not recognise most minor levels of AS.
  • Can be variable (0.5m/s variability expected).
  1. Good correlation between murmur grade and blood velocity with murmur grades 2 - 6 only.
  2. Auscultation screens for PHYSICAL abnormality. Doppler screens for FUNCTIONAL abnormality.


The Heart Panel made the following recommendations, which were accepted by the Breed Council:
1. Primary test system should be auscultation carried out only by cardiologists experienced in Boxer heart testing 
  • on grounds of economy
  • greater potential application
  • believed greater sensitivity
2. Tests applicable only to dogs over 1 year old.
3. Grade 0 (murmur-free) and Grade 1 accepted as normal.
4. Retesting Grade 2s two or three times is recommended, and the "best" score is accepted.
5. In addition, for Grade 2 males, Doppler, as carried out only by experienced cardiologists, is suggested. A normal blood velocity is taken to be under 2.00m/s (too high, in Dr. Cattanach’s opinion).
6. Dogs with Grades 0 and 1, or with accepted Doppler blood velocities may have their names included in a Heart List, with owners’ permission.
The Heart List is available to all in print format through UK breed clubs and is now on a web site
** Dr. Cattanach illustrated his talk with a graph showing the results of breeding dogs with different grade murmurs together and a table of the grades of dogs tested at shows from 1997 - 2000. The graph showed that the severity of heart murmurs in the progeny were dependent upon the severity of heart murmurs in the parents. The table showed the unfortunate effects of increasingly "tougher" and more standardised heart testing over the years. Both the graph and table may be viewed on the UK Heart List web site. **

Slide 7  Summary of Results:
1. From a very high rate of referral of Boxers with severe clinical AS in the 1980s, there are now almost none -- across the whole country.
2. The incidence of dogs tested at shows and found to have Grade 3 and louder murmurs has now declined significantly. Therefore, selective breeding for dogs with minor or no murmurs, as detected by auscultation alone, is effective in reducing the incidences of clinical AS -- in Boxers.
3. It may be difficult to reduce the incidences of dogs with Grade 2 murmurs, due to the influence of untested parents, of pet dogs of unknown breeding coming to be tested, and the uncertainty about the genotype of murmur-free dogs.
4. Further veterinary and genetical research upon AS in Boxers is needed.

Slide 8  What further can be done?
1. Investigate the pathology of murmur-free and Grade 1 dogs. Do they have any pathological changes indicative of AS?
2. Re-test, by auscultation, Grade 0 dogs under rigorous conditions. Do any remain murmur-free? Perhaps re-test with other methods also, Doppler, 2D echo. Do we have any Boxers that are truly free of AS?
3. Investigate litters from matings of any genuine Grade 0/AS-free parents. Do genuine Grade 0/AS-free Boxers breed true?
4. Identify the litter sizes of dogs with/without murmurs. Questions 3 and 4 are genetic questions. The answers could indicate the mode of inheritance of AS.

Postscript to Dr. Cattanach’s ABC talk on the UK Heart Scheme
I have just returned from a trip to find a mass of e-mail writings on my ABC heart talk. The volume has dropped sharply in recent days, and I hesitate to bring up the subject again, especially as my points all seem to have been recognised and some level of agreement reached. But several pertinent questions were asked and require answers and certain other issues perhaps should be emphasised again. So let me try and deal with these -- in sequence:
Ques. 1. Has the severity of cases referred to vet schools changed since the breeding control scheme was introduced?
Ans. - Only severe cases are ever referred to vet schools.
Ques. 2. Has there been any change among the vets at vet schools in the UK?
Ans. - There has been little or no change. In any case, almost all the results come from those selected vets who are experienced with Boxer heart testing.
Ques. 3. Has there been any change in Boxer lifespan since the inception of the control scheme?
Ans. - We have no information at all on that point. This needs an epidemiological study.
Ques. 4. What pathology data exist?
Ans. - The information available is very limited. The problem is that British Boxer breeders are reluctant to have hearts sent for pathology when their dogs die, despite the availability of forms that can arrange matters in advance of death (see the UK Heart web site). The drive (such as it is) has been focussed on checking what, if any, AS there is to be found in dogs which had been tested earlier and shown to have murmurs of different grades, notably the minor murmurs. My own dog, as shown in the last photo at ABC, had a Grade 1 murmur and a 1.7m/s Doppler velocity and was found to have minor changes consistent with AS at death from other causes (about 10 or 11). There have been others. So some Grade 1 dogs do have AS detectable on pathology.
Ques. 5. How many dogs were involved in the breeding study?
Ans. - About 2000 dogs contributed to the data. Most parents were Grade 1s and 2s, with a good number of Grade 0s and far fewer Grade 3s and 4s. Since data are approaching a point where they will be submitted for publication, I am reluctant to make every aspect public knowledge in advance.
Ques. 6. Low grade murmurs have been found without Doppler evidence of obstruction and vice versa. Does this not call into question the validity of scoring heart murmurs?
Ans. - Exceptions must always be expected. For example, a badly affected heart may be too weak to pump blood hard enough to cause a murmur, even through there is a narrowing of the aorta (stenosis). And the opposite is also true. Large hearts in fit dogs such as the racing greyhounds can pump blood rapidly and with few beats, and this results in spurious murmurs. Neither situation is expected with Boxers presented for examination at shows.
Ques. 7. Isn’t Doppler the best test system?
Ans. - Vets are understandably eager to say whether an individual dog is affected/clear, just as the owner is anxious to know. But from the breeder/genetics point of view one wants to know the broader picture for the majority of dogs. We need on average to identify the best. We do not need an absolutely perfect answer. All we need is a guide to which dogs are the best such that we have an opportunity for selective breeding. This is almost like selective breeding for show purposes. We don't ask judges to say what is perfect and then only breed from the perfect specimens. We don't even ask for the very best, the champions say. We all try to breed better from what we have, and with AS, the UK concept is to provide the estimation, or the assessment of the most normal. And, recognising that the scoring is never precise, we have flexibility built into the breeding recommendations so that there are no absolute dividng lines. The breeding control scheme provides recommendations that people can follow with whatever breeding stock they have got.
Ques. 8. Is there really a correlation between loudness of murmurs and degree of obstruction?
Ans. - Auscultation and Doppler measure somewhat different things. Auscultation measures physical abnormality and Doppler measures function. There should still be a relationship between the two scores, and I have the data to illustrate this point. The problem is that the relationship only holds true at higher grades. At the lower end, where velocities are normally somewhat variable, the Doppler scoring becomes meaningless. Murmurs are found further down the scale where Doppler is not sensitive enough to distinguish from normal. Maybe auscultation can confuse AS with PS (pulmonic stenosis), but then we don’t want PS either. Mis-diagnosis (PS for AS) is not a problem for breeders, but would be for genetic studies.

So, let's say it again -- auscultation is more sensitive, cheaper, more easily attained, more readily repeated than Doppler. That it is variable is no special disadvantage, as Doppler is variable too.
Ques. 9. Must not the gold standard for AS be based on pathology?
Ans. - This is certainly true, but the old Newfoundland work, plus that of other researchers, established that all test systems relate to the pathological changes. Otherwise none would be used.

Just an add on: A big difficulty as I tried to point out is that the same words are used to mean slightly different things. Is AS strictly only a narrowing, an obstruction, associated with an increased blood flow through the aorta; or is it also the lumps and bumps, the roughening of the aorta walls that do not restrict blood flow but are manifestations of AS nontheless?
The cardiologists in the UK have recognised all to be the same thing. For me as a geneticist with a very different view from the vets, based on many studies with mouse mutants, this is exactly what I would expect -- a range of effects (irrespective of the exact mode of inheritance); and every single reader will recognise this themselves with everyday Boxer breeding.
Take brindle/fawn; there is a range of brindle effect from near fawn (let's call this grade 1) through to reverse brindle (let's call it grade 6). We can all see this by looking, but if we could not do this directly but had to try and work out what was brindle and what was fawn from hair samples ( like the cardiologists working with ausculation, Doppler, 2D ultrasound, etc), we might conclude that lots of black hair means strong brindle, lesser amounts of black hair probably means brindle, but what about the least amount of black hair?? Some might conclude that such a dog is a light brindle. Others might conclude it is fawn. But there is black hair in the coat of fawns so the exact "diagnosis" is not clear. There is all sorts of scope for argument with an imprecise scoring system.
What the UK system specifies is that we don't want the bad hearts (= reverse brindles) and we will encourage breeding from the best dogs, be they absolutely normal (= fawn) or grade 1s (= the lightest brindles). We all know that some lines tend to be dark brindles and others light brindles. We therefore can select for whatever we want. This applies to AS too.
So, as the astute will have noticed, I presented the UK scheme, its rationale, its problems, etc., so that you in America, should you wish to do anything about AS, will see what we have tried to do, what has gone wrong, what we have had to do to fix things, and in total, avoid all the pitfalls that we met. The concept and types of problems apply to BCM as well. You don't at all have to follow the same route, but standardising the diagnosis across the country is one essential need, and setting up an agreed written protocol or guidelines for breeding, with flexibilty to meet different situations, is another. This applies, as far as I am concerned, across the whole spectrum of dog abnormalities, not just with regard to hearts.
About your dog: The selective breeding is the key -- a fair system that everyone can use. You don't want to continue testing for the rest of time, do you? One might say that this is the case for PRA. PRA testing has been going on for 30 years or more.
Bruce M Cattanach

On Animal Law: A Different Perspective~~~by Theresa Donnelly

I read Jennifer Walker’s position on animal legislation in the ABC newsletter, and I am writing to express my respectful disagreement on a few key points. While not all laws are well written, many states like Hawaii need stronger laws so law enforcement can effectively prosecute people who mistreat animals. Before Hawaii updated their animal cruelty statute in June 2010 with the pet confinement bill, there were cases in which authorities were aware that a breeder was raising animals in substandard conditions, but the law was so weak they could only issue a warning. 

So the blanket comment about enforcing "existing laws" is just not accurate for every state and I wonder if Jennifer would have the same thoughts if she interviewed animal control officers and other folks who work in law enforcement in every state, as I have done here in Hawaii. The unannounced inspections for puppy mills are a critical part of licensing breeders. Without these inspections, you must get a warrant and have probable cause to enter the property. This gives bad breeders plenty of time to clean up. And, without a strong pet confinement bill, the breeders get away with being unscrupulous. How is licensing a breeding business any different than licensing personal trainers, or running a family restaurant?

Another advantage to having breeders licensed is the fact that in order to advertise, perhaps they could be required to have a number, like a contractor. Then, a public education campaign could center on encouraging the public to only purchase animals from licensed breeders. And I don't think this should only cover large-scale breeders.  In Hawaii, I have seen that the “backyard” breeders are the largest contributors to putting out sick puppies in substandard conditions.  There is also no oversight of animals in pet stores or shelters. It is entirely a complaint-driven process for animal welfare violations.

My biggest sticking point with AKC and other national breed organizations is that they oppose all new laws, yet offer no solutions to combat pet overpopulation on the enforcement side. Education is only one part of the issue. Breeding is very profitable in Hawaii, as animals shipped in must go through strict quarantine, so pet-quality litters can go for thousands.  Before people make broad-brush generalizations on the status of animal legislation, I would like to hear more about these cases where ethical breeders lost their animals due to bad laws or overzealous animal control divisions. I don't see that here, or in my research elsewhere. If people want better, stronger, enforceable laws, we all have to sit at the law-drafting table and have a voice. All I have seen from the AKC is opposition. The Hawaiian Humane Society even complained to the American Kennel Club about our recent Waimanalo puppy mill case and no action was taken. It's sad too, because AKC has a lot of great community education programs. I realize that AKC may only have a handful of inspectors, but where is the information on what those inspectors are doing, or their efforts to wipe out AKC puppy mills?

Breeders provide the public a service, and if I was breeding regularly, I would have no problems opening my home during regular business hours for inspection and paying a fee (which could go toward animal welfare enforcement).  As for witch hunts, and “catching breeders” at a bad time, I don’t buy it. Animal control is swamped as it is, they are not out to get the breeders who do things right. That is not what I have seen personally, or by extensively studying this issue.

Another point on existing’s not just writing more laws. It’s making sure our animal control divisions are staffed and funded to handle the degree of enforcement needed to hold people accountable. Before we all jump to conclusions that all states have everything they need to hold bad breeders accountable, my recommendation is that folks talk to animal control, the police department, game warden, etc, and find out what it is they need to be more effective. I think it’s the right mix of public education and accountability. Do the bills that go before our legislatures need to be rewritten so they don't say things like "an animal requires unfettered access to the outdoors"?  Yes, they do. But, this is where breeders and animal control must be sitting at the same table, making all of our states safer for all animals (not just cats and dogs). And, we must ask the right questions - do these organizations have the funding to carry out their mission?  If not, what can communities do to combat pet overpopulation? How can we reduce pet euthanasia? This is not a shelter issue.  It’s our problem.  Euthanasia is a hard reality, but I lived in a third-world nation, where diseased, mangy animals roamed the streets. That is the unfortunate alternative. 

I hope all Boxer clubs are taking an active role in making our states better for animals. In fact, many clubs do, as I hear about their involvement with Boxer rescue all the time. The Boxer Club of Hawaii not only has members testifying on animal bills, but we assist with providing referrals for fosters for puppy farm dogs, with education on all aspects of pet care, and we closely follow all animal welfare news. We also encourage our members to take an active role in many animal nonprofits.

I agree with Jennifer – reputable breeders are the experts on the breed. They should get their message out and work hand-in-hand with rescue and other organizations to enact positive, meaningful change.  
Theresa Donnelly
Secretary, Boxer Club of Hawaii

Monday, August 1, 2011

SAS: An Opposing Viewpoint~~~by Jennifer Walker

In a recent Boxer Underground article, Virginia Zurflieh discussed Aortic Stenosis in Boxers, and the apparently subjective criteria for determining whether a dog is normal, equivocal, or affected. Virginia asked several questions, including:

Has acceptance by board certified cardiologists of a higher aortic flow rate in boxers over the last 8 years led to the production of an increasing number of boxers that are being diagnosed by some cardiologists as "Equivocal"?  Are dogs with flow rates that would not have been graded as clear/normal 8 years ago being bred to one another and producing a percentage of puppies with even higher flow rates? Or with SAS?  In the absence of a fibrous ridge or turbulent blood flow, is SAS merely what an individual cardiologist decides it is...or is there some objective standard that ALL cardiologists adhere to? …. [A]re we asking for trouble by accepting higher flow rates as normal? Or are boxers really "different" from other breeds regarding SAS because they have narrower aortas, and should they therefore be diagnosed and graded differently?  What do you think?

The first few questions are really unanswerable at this time: as far as I’m aware, no one keeps centralized statistics on dogs diagnosed with AS in any year. (OFA statistics are not useful, since most owners of non-normal dogs do not bother submitting the results to OFA.) Nor do we receive any useful feedback from the annual Doppler Echocardiograms performed at ABC each year. We should be requiring that information – we wouldn’t need specific information on the dogs, but if we knew the number of Dopplers performed each year, along with the number passed, number graded equivocal, and number affected, we could track trends in the breed, instead of speculating as we are now. (I will say that when I discussed the status of the breed with Dr. Meurs in 2007, she felt we’d made significant progress in reducing the incidence of AS in the breed since she first began performing Dopplers at ABC.)

So, we don’t really know whether we have more dogs with higher flow rates or not. Dr. Baumwart told me this year that he had 8-10 dogs that did not pass their Dopplers in 2011, out of 160 tested; one of those was severely affected. That puts us at about 6% equivocal or affected, with 0.625% severely affected. Virginia finds that fact worrisome – I find it quite encouraging, considering 10 years ago we were told about 60% of the breed was affected. If Dr. Baumwart was including his "high number of equivocal results" in that, we can speculate that at least 7 of those dogs were equivocal. That brings us to at most 3 affected dogs out of 160 – a 1.875% affected rate that frankly, I don't think you'd avoid no matter what kind of screening you did.

It’s also important to keep in mind that equivocal does not mean affected – it means the results were unclear, and the dog should be tested again. It may well be that nervousness or excitement, hormonal changes, unknown infections or illness, etc, contributed to the issue, and that those dogs will pass easily upon re-evaluation. Research in Scotland showed that Doppler readings can vary by as much as 46.3% from day to day; most variation was less than 20%, but for some cardiologists that can still mean the difference between normal at 1.9 m/sec and equivocal at 2.3 m/sec.

Virginia then asks, “in the absence of physical evidence, is AS simply what each particular cardiologist decides it is?” Based on anecdotes from breeders around the country, the answer is “Yes, it is.” This of course is extremely frustrating, especially when, as in Virginia’s case, a cardiologist changes his criteria for apparently no compelling reason. (The “new” ACVIM guidelines were released to coincide with the formation of the ARCH – the Animal Registry of Certified Health, the ACVIM’s alternative to the OFA. They do not appear to be significantly different from the OFA guidelines, except that the cut-off for normal is 1.9 m/sec rather than 1.7 m/sec.)

What is Aortic Stenosis?

Perhaps this question is the crux of the matter. A high flow rate by itself does not equal aortic stenosis. We may have done ourselves a disservice by trying to simplify the description of the disease: We say that AS is a “narrowing of the aorta” at or below the aortic valve, but we forget to mention that there is a detectable physical abnormality responsible for the narrowing. The Merck Veterinary Manual categorizes AS as an obstruction of the outflow tract, noting that the most common form in dogs is a fibrous ridge of tissue below the aortic valve. The Manual also notes that flow rates are used to determine the severity of the condition, rather than to diagnose it.

This is hardly the first time cardiologists have imposed their own viewpoints about Boxer heart issues on breeders. I still recall the situation with a cardiologist down in Florida who, upon seeing the holter report from a young dog with six single VPCs, diagnosed the dog with FVA (as it was called at the time) and recommended he be neutered. We’ve been told that currently a prominent cardiologist in the East has increased his criteria for passing a dog, and is now "screening out" dogs that he would have graded normal for breeding a few years ago. Apparently, he feels we've made such progress in decreasing the incidence of AS that it's time to raise the standards.

While I’m glad to hear confirmation of the notion that AS is declining in our breed, I’m bothered, if not surprised, by the arrogance of a cardiologist in deciding on his own what the criteria should be for the breed. That is not a decision a cardiologist should be making unilaterally. The American Boxer Club Health & Research Committee has published guidelines for acceptable test results, based on peer-reviewed published research, establishing a system that will remove most affected animals from breeding while keeping the highest number of clear animals. Currently, that guideline is a maximum accepted blood flow velocity of 2.4 m/sec, if there is no evidence of structural abnormalities.

It is fine for a cardiologist to present their personal opinions and cautions to owners of dogs whose flow rate is acceptable per the ABC guidelines. Many owners already prefer a lower flow rate and will not breed a dog with a rate above “their” number, even if the dog is considered normal by the guidelines. The cardiologist should be passing those dogs, however, with a caveat if they wish, until and unless the ABC changes their position. If the guidelines do need to be changed, then cardiologists and breeders should work with the Health & Research Committee to effect that change.

(It's the same as judging, really. How irate would we get if a judge decided an underbite was not a healthy jaw structure, and refused to award wins to Boxers with such a bite? The judge has the responsibilty to judge the dogs according to the standard set by the parent club of the breed, not to impose their own personal opinions and "fail" dogs that are correct per the standard. If the judge feels the standard is unhealthy for the breed, they should take that up with the breed club; if the breed club does not agree, the judge can either judge according to the standard – while, perhaps, explaining to exhibitors how their personal opinion differs – or they should stop judging Boxers altogether.)

Are Boxers Different?

The reason for the higher allowed flow rate in Boxers is that, as Dr. Meurs’ research found, the breed in general has narrower aortas than other breeds of the same size. The study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association (July-August 2006), found that “Indexed LVOT [left ventricular outflow tract] areas in Boxer groups were not different, but were significantly smaller than those of non-Boxer dogs.”

Researchers at Tufts confirmed these findings. Their study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (July-August 2008), concluded that “Differences in weight-based ERIs [echocardiographic ratio indices], which reflect increased thickness of the left ventricular free wall (LVW) and interventricular septum (IVS) and smaller aortic size, were found in overtly healthy Boxer dogs compared with normal non-Boxer dogs.”

Logically, it makes sense that if the LVOT is smaller, the normal blood flow velocity will be higher, when comparing dogs of the same size. Liquid will flow faster through a smaller opening than it will through a larger one; you can test this theory using an ordinary garden hose and pinching it to decrease the size of the opening through which the water flows.

(I realize that it may seem anomalous to those who know me to hear me supporting Dr. Meurs’ research, given the issues I have with her ARVC-1 genetic test. The two situations are very different, however. The AS study is peer-reviewed, published research and has been duplicated by independent parties. The higher allowed flow rates, in the absence of structural abnormalities, is based on logic and documented fact. The ARVC-1 test, on the other hand, is less defensible. The only peer-reviewed, published research relates to the method of finding the gene, and NOT to the relationship of the gene to ARVC in Boxers. The breeding recommendations contradict logic, remove healthy dogs from breeding, and allow affected dogs to be  bred. By all means, breeders should be performing the test to improve our knowledge of the gene and where it occurs in the breed, but we should not be making breeding decisions based solely on the ARVC-1 test results.)

Looking for Trouble

Sometimes I think we're just looking for ways to eliminate dogs from breeding. I think we are so focused on "perfect" that we're passing over "perfectly acceptable." A soft murmur and increased flow rate in the absence of physiological changes is normal in the Boxer; at least two independent studies have shown this, and other studies show that a significant percent of Boxers have murmurs without the presence of cardiac disease. (In fact, Dr. Baumwart told me that he doesn’t even mention murmurs to owners when he’s doing a Doppler, because in his experience almost every Boxer has one.)

Studies around the world also show that screening for AS (auscultation, with a Doppler if a murmur is detected) has decreased the incidence of the disease in our breed. Cardiologists have noted the same in the US, even with the increased flow rates allowed over the last eight years. According to my personal conversations with cardiologists, both the one I use and those at ABC each year, even among Boxers that are diagnosed with AS we are seeing fewer dogs with severe disease.

We have a system that is working, that is decreasing the overall incidence of disease and minimizing it when it does occur. Yet for whatever reason we cannot take pride in our accomplishments; we cannot use our success to emphasize the value of testing to those breeders not yet doing so. Instead, we must find fault with the system, find ways to undermine its value to the breed, so that rather than encouraging more breeders to screen their dogs, we are dissuading them from doing so since “the test isn’t accurate anyway.” Yes, occasionally a normal dog will screen as affected; occasionally an affected dog will screen as normal. The system is not perfect – these are living, breathing creatures with complex genetic conditions.  Perfection is not likely to be found anywhere...except on paper.
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