A very ancient breed hailing from the Pyrenees Mountains on the border between Spain and France, our ancestors bred these dogs to guard their flocks of sheep and goats from bears, wolves, coyotes, and other predators. Don't just take our word, check out the link above for a very good write-up.
There are two genetic tests that are indicated in Great Pyrenees. These tests should performed by ethical breeders. AKC supports supports genetic testing through OFA, however, the premier canine DNA testing is performed by Wisdom Panel. The two tests mandated to be screened for are:
Glanzmann Thrombasthenia Type I –
a blood disorder characterized by poor blood platelet aggregation. Platelet in the blood are needed to help start clot formation, so as a result of this disorder bleeding may be prolonged.
Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 1 (CMR1) –
an eye disorder that can cause retinal decay which may impact vision, but very rarely results in blindness.
To read more about these and other genetic conditions, please visit Widsom Panel.
Hips, Knees, & Elbows
Large breed dogs have a greater incidence of joint issues and Great Pyrenees do not escape from these issues. Since 1970, these conditions have been well documented and extensive research has been conducted, both from a preventative standpoint and research into a genetic or environmental understanding. There are three conditions that are concerning:
Hip Dysplasia –
linked to abnormal joint structure and a laxity of the muscles, connective tissue, and ligaments that would normally support the dog’s hip joints. As the disease progresses, the articular surfaces of the two bones lose contact with each other. This separation of the two bones within the joint causes a drastic change in the size and shape of the articular surfaces.
Elbow Dysplasia –
a disease which can affect both front legs of your dog. It may be caused by osteochondritis dissecans, an abnormality in the maturation of cartilage. It is an inherited condition, but other factors like activity, trauma and/or diet can have a role in its development. This disorder, left untreated, can lead to complete lameness.
Patellar Luxation –
one of the most common orthopedic conditions in dogs, diagnosed in 7% of puppies. The condition affects primarily small dogs, especially breeds such as Boston and Yorkshire terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and miniature poodles. The incidence in large breed dogs has been on the rise over the past ten years, and breeds such as Chinese Shar Pei, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Akitas, and Great Pyrenees are now considered predisposed to this disease. Patellar luxation affects both knees in half of all cases, potentially resulting in discomfort and loss of function.
Our Breeding Program
All of our dogs have been screened using the Premier package from Wisdom Panel and have tested negative for both genetic conditions as well as over 200 other recognized canine genetic abnormalities.
AKC follows guidance from OFA, which mandates evaluation of hips and elbows for inclusion into their “Bred with Heart” program. However, the OFA voluntary submission is not a guarantee that problems will not develop, using only a single radiograph for determination. A more extensive evaluation has been developed called the PennHIP that involves sedating the animal and taking three radiographs for examination. While this is widely considered more accurate, it is also more rigorous in it’s criteria as well as more costly and stressful for the animal.
A study in 2013 has actually found that selective breeding using the OFA and other radiograph methods resulted in only a mild improvement in overall health during the last 40 years, as such, a better testing methodology was called for.
While there have been genetic studies to find a less stressful test for screening for these conditions, no such test has passed the rigorous standards or been accepted by the breeding community to date. This is largely due to the complexity of factors surrounding these diseases, of which, heredity is only a part. Severity of the disease also complicates the screening process as a dog with a severe rating may still appear to run, jump and play without issue, while a mild rated dog may still appear to be in severe pain.
Rather than subject our beloved animals to a screening process that may (or may not) result in a positive outcome and based on regular examinations from our vet, we have not submitted for any radiographic screening process. Upon further reflection and much research, it appears that a genetic test is imminent and likely to hit the market in the very near future. There is another consideration as well, that of restricting the breeding pool and, as a result, introducing more problems than it is meant to solve. Through the genetic testing we have already done, we understand our animals to have a high DNA diversity, which is good news as the higher it is, the better chance that genetics will play a lesser part in future litters. It is our aim to continue to diversify by introducing new, verified bloodlines, thereby reducing interbreeding to a minimum and eliminating the chance of genetic issues. When such tests are introduced for the hips, elbows, and knees, we will perform such testing at that point.
To follow the path that our research took, here are good sources of information:
Learn about the characteristics of the Great Pyrenees
What Great Pyrenees instinctively do best and what they can be taught to do
You can lead a horse to water, but....can you make him drink?
Taking care of all that fur and other tips
Things to look out for in the breed