Spot the difference

I see the Sunday Telegraph has picked up on our Dalmatian story in the August issue (Click here). Let's hope that the Kennel Club do the right thing and allow these new-improved Dalmatians to be introduced into the gene pool. After all they allowed the Boxer people to mate their dogs with Corgis to introduce the tail-less mutation and side-step the tail docking ban. The Dalmatian case seems so much more worthy and literally black and white!
And as for the British Dalmatian club wanting science... click here...

Which of these is the Pointer Backcross? Can you tell the difference? Answer at the end...

Here's our original story by Claire Horton-Bussey:

Dalmatians are unique - they stand alone from other breeds in having high levels of uric acid, predisposing them to bladder stones, a lifethreatening condition. In fact, Dalmatians are not only different to all other dog breeds - but all mammal species bar the great apes! All mammals excrete waste products in their urine, but only humans, chimps, gorillas, orangutans and Dalmatians always produce elevated levels of uric acid in their urine and blood.
So why is the Dalmatian
different from other breeds?
Well, the characteristic spots
are believed to be implicated, as
there seems to be an association
between the gene for high uric
acid and spotting. So, while
breeders over the last 200 years
or so have been perfecting the
coat pattern and selecting for
the ideal spotting, they have
inadvertently also been selecting
for high uric acid. Today, every
registered Dalmatian has high
uric acid (HUA).
Problems associated with HUA
include the production of bladder
stones and ‘sludge’, which can
block the urinary pathway so the
dog cannot urinate. This is much
more common in males than
females, due to their narrower
urinary tract.
Immediate veterinary
assistance is required when a
dog blocks, as it will ultimately
lead to death. Treatment
options include backflushing,
where a catheter is inserted to
wash the stones back into the
bladder, or surgery to remove
the obstructions and clean out
the bladder.
Once treated, the condition
can reoccur. Medical/dietary
management is possible once
the blockage has been resolved.
If this is not successful in
preventing further blocking
by sludge or stones, a vet may
decide to permanently reroute
the urinary tube so it no longer
passes through the narrow
penis, an operation called
Although all Dalmatians have
high levels of uric acid, not all
dogs will block. But many will.
In a stone survey of 2,118 dogs,
commissioned by the Dalmatian
Club of America Foundation
(DCAF), Dr Joseph Bartges
reported that 483 (22.8 per cent)
had a history of stone disease.
Dr Bartges, of the University of
Tennessee Vet Medical Center,
is recognised as the world’s
authority on Dalmatian stone
disease, and he is now working
on two further DCAF-funded
projects, including research into
urinary stones and kidney failure.
In another study, vet and
Dalmatian breeder Dr Susanne
Hughes scanned 377 Dalmatian
bladders by ultrasound and
found that 71 per cent of the
males and 25 per cent of the
females had significant ‘sludge’
in their bladder.
As for ‘blocking’ - which is
potentially life-threatening -
Dr Irvin Krekenkamp, former
Chairperson of the Dalmatian
Club of America Health and
Research Committee has done a
cross-study statistical analysis,
and believes the incidence of
blockage requiring intervention
in males is at least 10 per cent,
probably higher. Dr Krekenkamp
says, “Based on the occurrence
rate, and based on prevailing
veterinary charges, this imposes
a $35,000,000 to $50,000,000
per year expenditure to the
unknowing pet-buying public to
provide health care for these
dogs (in the US).”
The same mutations have been
found in Russian Black Terriers
and Bulldogs, but because it
isn’t found universally, breeders
can eliminate the condition by
selective breeding. This option
is not available to Dalmatian
breeders, since all Dalmatians
have HUA.
The solution, therefore,
can only be found by importing
genes from outside the breed.
Dr Bannasch says, “In recent
years, dogs that are about 99
per cent Dalmatian and one per
cent Pointer have been bred,
successfully eliminating the
elevated uric acid trait. The
result is a healthy dog that looks
like a Dalmatian, maintains the
Dalmatian breed characteristics
and is genetically almost
Sounds pretty straightforward.
But the concept of having an
outcross - even a 14th-generation
one - in a pedigree breed is
causing outrage among breed
purists both sides of the pond.
Dalmatian-Pointer breeding is
not a new concept. Back in 1973,
in America, Dr Robert Schaible, a
geneticist, respected Dalmatian
breeder, and member of the
Dalmatian Club of America,
decided to breed an AKC
pedigree Champion Pointer to a
pedigree Dalmatian dam, to try
to correct the uric acid problem
in Dallies.
In the early generations,
spotting was noticeably different.
Low uric acid (LUA) Dalmatians
often had smaller, ‘frostyedged’
spots. But by breeding
the best first-crosses back to
pedigree Dalmatians, and then
using pedigree Dalmatians
subsequently, the spotting
issue has been resolved and
the HUA and LUA dogs are now
After four generations,
and with the blessing of the
Dalmatian Club of America
board of directors, Dr Schaible
did manage to persuade the
American Kennel Club to register
two of his LUA Dalmatians back
in 1981. However, this decision
was put on hold once the news
reached club members - many of
whom were outraged. At a vote,
62 per cent were in favour of
stopping the AKC registration of
the outcross descendants, and
52 per cent were not in favour
of continuing the testing and
breeding of Dalmatian-Pointer
The backcross line continued
quietly, away from the show
scene, with Dr Schaible and other
LUA enthusiasts keeping the line
alive. Interest was renewed in
the LUA project, with the start
of Dr Bannasch’s research, and
Dalmatian breeder Denise Powell
led the revival - using one of Dr
Schaible’s bitches to start her
own LUA breeding programme.
There isn’t unanimous
acceptance of the backcross in
America, but support is growing.
In 2008, the club board held a
ballot, asking if it was time for
the Dalmatian Club of America
to discuss the possibility of AKC
registration of the descendants
of the Dalmatian-Pointer cross.
The status quo was upheld with
279 voting yes, and 324 voting
no, essentially prohibiting any
discussion of registration or a
path toward registration. This
outraged backcross supporters,
who questioned if it’s legitimate
or ethical for a club to act against
breed welfare for the sake of socalled
But interest in the LUA
breeding programme is gaining
momentum - and the word is
spreading. On a website launched
prior to the October 2008 ballot, had asked
supporters if there was video
footage of a blocked Dalmatian
trying to urinate. If anyone is
in any doubt as to how serious
a problem high uric acid can
be, they should read Dalmatian
owner Joy Benner’s response:
“I have three videos.
Unfortunately, they cannot
be shared because they are
in my mind and play over and
over again. Let me see if I can
describe them to you... I see
my sweet boy Sam, whining
and bowing and trying over
and over again to urinate. I
then see him in the vet’s office
after having had an emergency
urethrostomy, with a long bloody
incision, but he lifts his head
when he sees me and wags his
tail and tries to get up to come
home. And finally, I see him
dead on the floor of the vet
specialist’s office, euthanized
before he was nine years old,
due to development of dilated
cardiomyopathy, the result of a
restricted protein diet his entire
life. It is as real to me today as
it was when it happened.
“To those who say that the
incidence of blockage is a low
percentage, I can only answer
that if it happens to you, the
incidence is 100 per cent. Some
of you might be interested in
the cost of all Sam’s treatments,
special diet, and medication
over his lifetime. I pulled all
my receipts after he died, and
it cost close to $6,000 in total
(that includes the cost of the
euthanization). The love he gave
me... well, it was beyond price,
but then so was the anguish and
grief when he was gone. I would
not want to see one more dog or
person go through this.”
So why would anyone be against
introducing a dog into the breed
that, 14 generations ago, was
crossed to a Pointer - a breed
already conformationally very
similar to the Dally and could
well have originally featured in
the Dalmatian’s history at one
point? If it can prevent even one
dog suffering as Joy Benner’s dog
did - and as many others do, in
America, the UK and elsewhere
- why isn’t this LUA breeding
programme being embraced by
all Dally lovers?
Numerous reasons are given
- that the spots aren’t good
enough, that Pointer traits or
related health problems could
be unleashed in the Dalmatian
breed, and that the research
into the LUA dogs isn’t sufficient.
No stone unturned
These are pretty spurious
arguments, it seems. Firstly, the
spotting issue has been resolved
and there are numerous photos
on the internet of perfectly
spotted LUA Dalmatians.
Secondly, after 14 generations,
any throwback traits will surely
have presented by now. And
thirdly, there’s no reason to
be suspicious of the research
conducted. No LUA dogs to
date have formed stones and
researchers have no reason to
suspect that they will.
The real reason behind
many people’s antipathy to the
outcross project is breed purity
- when, ironically, it’s the very
thing that has inadvertently
caused the problem of HUA.
Ron Zimmerman is dedicated
to the LUA cause. With his
ex-wife, he bred and showed
Dalmatians for about 20 years,
and had 40 AKC Champions.
“During that time we had
multiple encounters with stone
disease. One particular dog,
whom I loved very much, had
to be euthanized, and as I held
him for the last time I made
a promise that I would do
something about the disease.”
Ron is suspicious of the
arguments given against LUA
dogs, saying, “Regarding the
argument that we have to
be extremely careful about
introducing alien genes into our
beloved breed, to the point that
people would sacrifice breed
health - I actually have a difficult
time believing that argument is
Ron goes on to say that
kennel club studbooks are
notorious for their “lack of
complete integrity” and that all
breeds were originally developed
from disparate sources. Indeed,
until relatively recently, it was
the norm to introduce genes
from any dog a breeder thought
might improve the breed, and,
of course, accidental matings
sometimes take place, too.
“So I just can’t quite imagine
that people really get that
worked up about the prospect of
a loss of ‘purity’ that remote,”
Ron says. “The stud book
was open until the late 40s.
Either these people really are
Eugenicists at heart, or this is a
disingenuous argument.”
And now the issue of LUA
Dalmatians has reached our
shores, with breeder Julie Evans,
of the Tyrodal affix, trying to
import a LUA puppy or adult from
Denise Powell. Julie has been in
Dalmatians for 40 years and cares
deeply for the health and wellbeing
of the breed. For her, it
makes perfect sense to introduce
a Pointer backcross, to eliminate
high uric acid in the breed.
But because the AKC hasn’t
registered the LUA dogs, the dogs
cannot automatically go on the
KC register when imported.
Stars and spots
Julie says she has approached
the Kennel Club and they have
said that if two Championship
show judges verify that the
LUA dog is a good example of
a Dalmatian, the dog can be
registered. Initially, it will have
three asterisks next to its name.
Its first registered progeny will
have two asterisks, the second
generation will have one, and
the fourth will be asterisk-free
and recognised entirely as a
purebred Dally.
Julie herself is a
Championship judge, but she
isn’t sure if she’ll find another
to stand up and be counted
- even though the dog would
be 99.98 per cent the same
as an ‘ordinary’ Dalmatian,
genetically. “And it’s not as
though other breeders have got
to use a LUA if they are accepted
over here. But those of us that
choose to breed a ‘healthier’
Dal want the right to do so!”
Julie is hoping that the
UK Dalmatian clubs will be
sympathetic to the LUA cause,
but if the American 30-year
saga is anything to go by, where
the membership still has to be
won round despite support from
many officers, she could be in
for a long wait. We’ll keep you
informed of her progress! :
ANSWER: the one at the bottom is the Pointer backcross.
Illustration by Kevin Brockbank and copyright Dogs Today.


Anonymous said…
Has Ms.Horton-Bussey made any attempt to interview any of the majority of Dalmatian Club of America's members who opposed the registration of these dogs? There is always two sides to every story, and no where in this article do I see any attempt to show there other side. Those reasons might be a huge eye-opener.
Claire M. said…
What are those reasons?
Anonymous said…
I am a breeder and exhibitor of a sporting breed for 30 years but I had no trouble spotting the difference. The bottom one has more of a Pointer shape overall and the spots are smaller and almost ticking like in appearance. I don't own, breed, or show Dalmatians but it was not difficult to "spot" that the bottom one is not Dalmatian type. A Dalmation is more than a white dog with black spots.
Liz said…
For what it worth - drawings of two dogs is actually less than useless.
A truer test of the difference between a LUA Dal and a so-called purebred would be photos of two actual dogs.

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