Champion Shida Neutron Dance
Prcd-PRA a personal story
by Jennifer Young, Shida
reprinted from Hairless Dog World

Well, I was the first one to say there wasn’t a problem in the breed. Nope, just a scare, just something else to spend our money on and test for. I had already been through it with BAER testing. Needles in the dogs ears (although I found a wonderful test person who even did my very pregnant dog with no discomfort), filling out endless paperwork. 13 dogs in, not one with even a blip of a hearing problem – this will be like that was. Was I in for a big surprise.

My first dogs to test went right on schedule, clear and clear – oh and they lost one test so retest that one. Second time to test; retest the lost one and do two more. Clear and the retest was clear and oh what’s this? A CARRIER? ME? Oh my, what to do now? Well my first thought was to make sure I made her breeder aware. I asked the breeder to come over to my house because I did not want to give her the news over the phone. One BIG bottle of wine and a bunch of tears and lots of thoughts for the future – and the past. And on top of it all, my girl was bred but she was bred to a clear, so the pups would be clear or carrier. Ok, I can deal with this, I will just test the offspring. So it wasn’t just a hoax. Her mother was tested the next go around and she was a carrier also. Top producing bitch with stunning offspring, and a carrier.

Before the next satellite clinic we had a CERF clinic. I always do all of my dogs each year. I do half in spring and half in fall. Helps the old pocketbook! I did 6 dogs and 5 were fine. I plopped down with my last dog on my lap, my wonderful J.J., a dog of my breeding that finished lightening quick and was just starting to produce some beautiful puppies for me. A very special dog to me, very close to my heart, very close to my interpretation of the breed standard. Not long after the lights dimmed I knew something was wrong by the look on my Vet’s face. I said ‘ok, spill it, what do you see?’ He said he saw some changes in the eye – but you don’t have PRA in this breed, do you? My heart sunk to my ankles. Wait, this is a young dog! He was just CERFed last year! He backpedaled, no I’m not seeing actual PRA, but there are changes in the eye that make me think he is suspicious. He went on to say there were colored bands on the sides of his eye and a wavy line in the front of the eye. He reassured me that he did not think it was actual PRA and that he did not think the dog would go blind – but please bring him back in a few months so he could re-evaluate him. He said if there were no changes then he would probably stay the same for life.

Well I went to this clinic with other people and I was not about to freak over this – after all I needed to wait for the recheck to know anything, right? So I put on my biggest smile, put the dog back in the crate and the crate in the car. After all, the Vet gave him a normal CERF number… As we were almost ready to leave, I said ‘wait a minute’ and went back in to where the Vet was doing the CERFs. Dr, I just bred JJ, what about his puppies? He said ‘ I’m sure you bred him to a clear.’ and yes, the bitch had been CERFing clear all her life and she was 6. He said ‘don’t worry then, everything will be fine’.

So what could I do. I called the people who had his littermates and his puppies. I told them what I had been told. Then I made an appointment with a big eye clinic with lots of specialists. Long story short, they said the exact same thing, including that they thought he would not go blind. So back on the phone to update everyone. Now the 6 million dollar question – what would his OptiGen say?

I had him tested with the bitch he had been bred to. Probably the longest two weeks of my life. I kept thinking – how many years do I wait to see if he progresses any further? What about his children? How many years do I wait for them to see if they have these changes in the eye? How many dogs have been tested suspicious and then given a clear CERF number several years later….

The day came – the first thing I noticed was a note by an OptiGen director, trying to return my money. I knew that could only mean one thing. They only return money for tested Affected. I opened the email for the mom of the litter and started to breathe again, she is a clear. And there it was, in one small email, my planned breeding program was over. My J.J., my boy that I thought would be the next generation of wonderful Shida dogs had tested affected. A friend reassured me that this was the very best news – because he was CERFed with a problem and the test caught it. That didn’t stop the tears or the sadness. One of my close friends called Optigen and talked to them for me and then got me to call them and I felt a bit better talking to them. At least now I would never produce a blind dog (from prcd-PRA) again.

This is not a hoax, this is not a joke, this is a beautiful Champion that is going blind. We have a problem in our breed and we now have a test for it. I have made a vow that there will never be another dog born here without a blood test to check for their status.

So far J.J.s children are all carriers. There are still a couple to be tested. His new litter is here, beautiful and bright as any puppies could be. I will be holding on to one or two to continue on with the line. These puppies, eventually bred to clears, will produce clears and carriers and I will move on from there. For someone who thought there was no problem in the breed – it sure knocked the wind out of me to find out how prevalent it actually is in the breed. But now I can test and breed responsibly. I will not be throwing dogs out because they are carriers. Some of my very best dogs have now, either by testing or by default, been found to be carriers.

My summary of my testing. I bred three litters and had them all tested.

Litter 1: Clear to Clear, all puppies are clear (but there was a palate defect – so where does THAT leave me!? I wish I had the test to check for carriers of that! Maybe some day we will).
Litter 2: Clear to Carrier, puppies can be clears or carriers. As of publication, several of the puppy’s blood is at OptiGen.
Litter 3: Affected to Clear, all puppies are carriers. No need to test any of them.

Checking back, I have bred clear, carrier and affected. I bred my affected to a carrier! I didn’t know. I can’t do this anymore without knowing, and now we have the test.

The saddest thing is that now I know my beautiful JJ will go blind. Something the CERF Vets could not tell me and guessed that he would not! Many tests are only as good as the people who perform the test. The OptiGen blood test is not subject to interpretation, you are Clear, Carrier or Affected.

Please test your breeding dogs. If you are not testing, you could be breeding more heartbreak, for you and for the people who have dogs from your breeding.