The Costa Coast "Time" litter born June 7, 1997
This webpage is information to partially document the medical history of this litter that was bred by us. It has been a very upsetting ordeal and we sincerely hope no one has to deal with this painful process of the life of an autoimmune challenged litter like we have had to do.
The following is a briefing of what we have learned about why things have gone so wrong. Don't take it as medical advise if you feel your dog might be ill. Instead refer to your vet and if they ignore your concerns, find a new vet! We have been repeatedly told by several different vets offices that we imagined a problem that later turned into a very serious problem that might have been better controlled if diagnosed and treated earlier. There are many veterinarian colleges and medical research colleges that specialize in these disorders. With a little persistence and asking for help from other's who have gone through the problem already you might stumble upon a goldmine of information.
An autoimmune illness is caused by the normal body's protective system (immune system) attacking itself. For instance, if TgAA levels are above normal in a dog, it means the thyroid antibodies are hyperactive (overactive) in the blood and are probably causing damage to the thyroid gland. If they continue to circulate at high levels they will attack the thyroid to the point that it does not function correctly (hypothyroid). The TSH level will then rise in the blood. The T4 and Free T4 levels in the blood will be the next levels to become abnormal if treatment has not yet been given.
As a side note on hypothyroidism, the best advice we have been given is that treatment should be started when the TSH is consistently abnormal for a several month span. This is before the dog begins to show any severe physical signs, since you shouldn't wait until the dog is sick enough to be obvious to the human eye before you take action. Thyroid levels should be checked regularly after treatment is begun to make sure the dosage is correct. Also be sure the thyroid test covers ALL of the important readings (TgAA, TSH, T4, Free T4). The test will probably need to be sent to an out-of-state lab like Antech or a veterinarian college, but an in-office lab can be very inadequate if you have reason to be concerned about possible thyroid problems
Autoimmune defects can happen spontaneously without genetic history. These spontaneous mutating genes are commonly known as Darwin's Theory of Evolution. In nature if a dog's DNA mutated for the better, he would excel in life. If his DNA mutated for the worse, he would not thrive and very well might live a shortened life and never reproduce. No matter how the gene got into the dog's DNA, it will affect the breed for generations to come if not identified. In the case of "Collins" (see below) myositis of his head muscles, we do not know of ay immediate dogs in his pedigree with this problem. However, as of 2002 we know of two half sisters with the same problem.
Incidences such as trauma, vaccine shots, stress, and other illnesses can cause trigger an autoimmune system attack. In a normal immune-health dog the system would fight off the outside agent and then the system would resume normal resting function. In an autoimmune sensitive dog, the system goes haywire and continues to attack. If the outside agent is destroyed, the system finds other things in the dog's body to attack like muscle tissue, organs or glands. You will not always know when or why an autoimmune problem has appeared in your dog or your bloodline because the cause could have happened many months before and your dog's immune system hadn't caused enough damage to show physical signs for a very long time.
A VERY important point to remember is that DNA can mutate in one generation, but don't expect it to mutate back to it's original form in the next generation. DNA mutates and is passed on, that form is now the new form of DNA available for all of it's offspring and any of their offspring in the future. Fate will control what genes are passed onto the next generation whether you wish to have that trait in your breed line or not. The mutated DNA may be a recessive gene and not expressed or by luck of the draw it might not be the DNA that is passed on at all. That is a gamble that breeders take. However, if there are excessive autoimmune problems in an entire litter such as this one you can count on the odds not to be in your favor.
On to the health documentation:
The dam of the litter is Chiaroscuro of Croatia, OA OAJ was born October 31, 1991. We have owned her since December 1991. In 1996 she had two benign masses removed from two different mammary glands. This is her only litter, born when she was about 5 1/2 years old. She continued to compete in AKC agility at a high level until she was 10 years old. Otherwise she is has had no health problems in her entire life and is very active and healthy at 13 years old except for age related arthritis.
The litter in question all have a registered name starting with "Costa Coast" and containing the word "Time" in the name. There are 7 littermates. All are bi-lateral except one uni-lateral which is Alaska the 4th born. No patches, no blue eyes. We have informed the dog owners of new health problems as they turn up. We mailed all of the owners a copy of the DCA health survey in 2001 and asked that they complete it and mail it back to DCA.
Any known behavior issues are documented since behavior can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. The entire litter had plenty of supervised socialization since puppy hood and training for the conformation ring. None of the litter has an excuse for misbehavior in the show ring or elsewhere.
To eliminate confusion and not show favoritism, the litter is listed in their birth order. Some dates will be modified when we research the exact date from the owners. We did have them on a computer file until the hard drive crashed and we lost all of that information.
MM will be used as the abbreviation of masticular myositis. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON MASTICULAR MYOSITIS
#1 Bronte Show Female. In July 2001 we saw Bronte at the DCA National show and did not see any physical changes in her muscle structure. The dog's show handler noticed the signs of MM in October 2001 and brought it to the co-owners' attention. When the dog was at DCA 2002 the sunken temporal muscles were observed by many people who had seen her head previously to any changes. One of three current co-owners has decided that she would like to keep this dog's health problems in the closet as she feels the health problems in the litter "are not that bad" and she is currently refusing to relinquish any further test results. Testing was scheduled to be performed in San Diego the week of March 25, 2002 by the married couple who are the other two co-owners. These are the owners who originally had asked for our assistance in gathering information on MM for them and they seem to be the most concerned for the dog's welfare. It is up to these three co-owners to sort out their feelings on this and decide where their ethics and morals are on this problem.
#2 Spencer Pet male. Seizures at 8 months old (Feb 1998), controlled with continuing barbiturates. The owners had them under control when we last talked, but we have lost contact with them since then.
#3 Collins Our show male dog who has lived with us since birth. Shown in conformation until it was decided that his behavior issues were not improving. He is a very grouchy dog and has been excused from the show ring in early 1998 due to threatening the judge, however no AKC "bad dog" letter was issued. Collins has been extremely dog aggressive since a young adult. Has been a "heat seeking" dog his entire life (possible early symptom of hypothyroidism). Stomach problems (possibly caused in part by food allergies) since he was 2 yrs old. Elevated TgAA in 1999 with fully recognized hypothyroidism by 2000. MM since Feb. 2000, however he has never shown signs of pain or discomfort in his jaw. Unlike some written descriptions of MM, his muscle loss is very symmetrical on both sides of his head.
Complications include severe chronic bronchitis, difficulty eating and drinking, incredibly bad breath, constant drooling, weepy eyes and inability to be given oral medication without reactions or regurgitation. Gland infections in 2001 that were cured with heavy antibiotics, however neck area remains hardened in the area for unknown reason. Unable to open his jaw at all by the summer of 2002. In 2003 he could no longer eat on his own and was overall declining in health. We decided at that time the best thing for him was to humanely have him euthanized.
#4 Alaska Pet female. Atopic Dermatitis (Skin allergies) and hypothyroid. Giving .05 Soloxine daily for the hypothyroidism.
#5 Charlotte Our show female who has lived with us since birth. Excused from the conformation ring in July 1998 and had a AKC "bad dog" letter issued. However, we were able to work through her behavioral issues during the exam and she finished her championship at age two. She has never been dog aggressive, in fact she loves all other dogs except solid black ones. Currently competing in AKC agility at a high level.
Stone former since 2001.
Elevated T4 in 1999. TgAA has been positive and steadily elevating since 1999. TSH has been elevating since 2001. Put on thyroid replacement in 2002 when the vets felt her hypothyroidism had started to cause physical symptoms and needed treatment. Daily thyroid replacement pills have been sucessful and her blood work now looks very good.
#6 Chip Sold as a show prospect by the litter's co-breeder. He had behavioral issues at home as a puppy and was put through intensive training for these issues. Co-breeder decided to allow the family to neuter him as it was a strong recommendation by his trainers. Originally Chip had pain in his jaw in January 1999. This pain caused him to cry out when he yawned or otherwise opened his jaws. He was worked up by his regular vet who was familiar with autoimmune problems. She gave the differential dx as either trauma to the jaw, TMJ or MM. He was put on Prednisone (steroid) and Baytril (antibiotic). His jaw problems resolved after this tx and we will never know what the ultimate dx was except the TMJ was ruled out. At that same visit his thyroid antibody levels were twice the normal range. In about two months he had extensive work up by autoimmune specialist Dr. W. Jean Dodd. Dr. Dodd recommended that the entire litter be worked up and she also specifically recommended that the littermates not be bred due to the probably genetic link. At that time (early 1999) we informed all littermate owners of the problem and included Dr. Dodd's warning that breeding could result in passing along the genetic autoimmune weakness to those show/breed prospect owners. Since that time Chip has also been a severe stone former requiring surgery to clear blockage, has had stomach problems, and had eye infections with no cause and that would not heal by normal treatment and needed required laser surgery. Luckily, his owners are caring, understanding people who have been able to cope with these extensive health problems.
#7 Jazz Show female. Originally had unreasonable fear in the ring of being examined, but owner/handler patiently worked through it until the problem completely dissolved completely. As a young dog Jazz had severe respiratory distress when stung by a bee. She was rushed to the vet who was able to control the allergic reaction. She had a cluster of seizures in 1999, but was weaned of the meds quickly and has only had one odd episode since that may or may not have been a seizure episode. She was able to go through the spaying surgery without incident in 2000 and has been health without further incident since then.