Health: MMM

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, Oct. 24, 2018

I just received this email:

"Hi Jennifer! I hope you are doing alright. I wanted to send you an email about Freya (Grinch/Tina). Maybe you have some insight from having a closer connection to the breed.

First of all, we absolutely adore her. She and my wife are fairly inseparable during the day and I've been taking her on nice hikes out in the back wash. She's really opened up. We took her up to the mountains for a week in a cabin where we discovered that she is an amazing trail dog! She still has confidence issues but our team of trainers and the lady who runs the dog day care have really helped us to socialize her and increase her confidence. I felt everything was going well.

Unfortunately, she recently started a rapid loss of muscle/fat in her head. We immediately took her to the vet and they initially diagnosed her with masticatory muscle myositis. We put her on high dose corticosteroids. She hasn't been happy on those, so it's hard on us there. Also, her kidney function has been slightly out of whack, which is something she's had for a while, after having been initially seen at the time of her spay. We weren't too concerned, but now the vet is confused about the picture of what's going on with her, and we have an appointment with a specialist next week to see if we can figure out whats going on. Its a long shot, but I wondered if you had any insight? I know she has shepherd in her, and apparently that's a breed that can get MMM. I suspect the kidney thing may not be significant, though I recognize my knowledge of dog physiology is nearly zero.

I hope things are going well up in the pacific Northwest!"

First of all, would anyone who has had an AA with MMM and who is willing to speak with these owners please comment or message me so that I can get you in contact with them. My only concern now is that Freya get the help and support she needs. Let us band together, as we so often do, to help our fellow AA owners. Your dedication and support of one another truly inspires me. Thank you in advance for your help.

Secondly, as per our guarantee, I want to remind everyone, as I will with the owner, that we honor our guarantee when a clear genetic disease arises that without treatment would cause serious illness and/or death. In this case, the veterinarian costs must be tremendous and I feel deep sadness for the suffering that the dog and the family is going through. Please keep them in your prayers and thoughts. Whether the family wishes to take advantage of the guarantee or not, they are entitled to another dog of equal value as a replacement for their current dog. There is no need to give up their current dog or transfer ownership. Their name will go up on our replacement dog list until they formally choose or not to take advantage of the guarantee.

Next, it is important to note that masticatory muscle myositis (MMM) is now at a reported occurrence rate of 1% within the last five years and .2% throughout the lifetime of the breed. That equals three dogs out of nearly 300 born in the last five years that have obtained this diagnosis. No dog bred into the lines has actively shown MMM, but obviously it is being held as a recessive gene in the lines. A link to the old stock is the only common factor.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly discuss MMM. As you know, we DNA test all of our breeding stock here at DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito, many of Lois's breeding dogs have also been DNA tested, and DireWolf Dogs of Fennario also performs DNA tests on their dogs. The Embark DNA tests identify 165 different genetic diseases, but MMM is not among them. (See the link below for the list.) There is also no formal test to identify a dog with or as a carrier of this disease. However, that does not mean that we cannot eliminate the disease from the lines. This is the very reason that when someone protests that we do not formally health test all of our breeding dogs and so we must be irresponsible breeders, we can safely point to our health page for proof that our dogs are not rampant disease carriers. No. Indeed, it is the opposite. We are highly responsible and responsive to any and all diseases in our breed and pride ourselves on honestly sharing each and every troubling time with you. The truth is that even without formal health tests, we can eliminate diseases from the breed and we actively work to do so. DNA testing and other formal testing may speed things up a little bit, but they are not required in order to eliminate health issues from the breed. You will notice that in the next generations we may double up on certain ancestors increasing the overall inbreeding in some lines. This will be done on purpose to find and eliminate the diseases that are hidden in the background that cannot be seen otherwise. As a result, we may see a slight increase in the occurrence of a certain disease for a short while, but then quickly it will be gone from the breed, never to be seen again. Lois did this with epilepsy as well as EPI.

We are not God and health issues do arise from time to time. When they do, we are dedicated to continued transparency and support as we honor and cherish each and every dog that we help birth into this world.

We would like to send you a free gift for spending some time with us at the Dire Wolf Project.

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Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.