Saturday, June 21, 2014

A coat of a different color...

We have talked about how genes determine the health of a collie, and now I want to talk about how they also determine a collie’s appearance.  Many breeds of dogs have a variety of coat colors and types.  Collies are known for their sweet expressions and beautiful coats.  Collies have two varieties of coats, the rough and smooth coats.  They have four recognized coat colors.  The colors recognized by the AKC are sable and white, tricolor, blue merle, and white.

Pure for sable smooth coated collie
The sable and white coat can actually come in a variety of shades, from a light, buff color to a dark mahogany.  The tricolor is predominantly black, with white and tan markings.  The blue merle is a rich mixture of grays, blacks and white, which give it a bluish appearance.  And lastly, there is the  white collie, who isn’t actually a solid white color as the name implies.  The white collie will have a predominantly white coat with either sable, tri or blue merle markings.  The white color is not recognized in the European standard.

Rough, mahogany sable - this would be a tri factored sable collie.

Sable headed white, photo courtesy of Darlene Kerr

In Europe you will never see a rough and a smooth bred together, as they are viewed as separate breeds.  In the U.S. rough and smooth collies are allowed to be bred together, but are judged separately at dog shows.  In the U.S. the rough and smooth collies are considered to be two varieties of the same breed.  Because we are allowed to breed these two varieties together, we have more dogs to choose from, and thus we have more genetic diversity.

Rough and smooth collies

A collie’s coat is determined by his or her genes.    Because the gene for the rough coat is recessive , if you breed two roughs together the breeding will only produce roughs.  If you breed a rough and a smooth together, you can have both rough and smooth puppies in the litter.  The smooth puppies from such a breeding would be considered rough-factored.  If you bred two rough-factored smooth collies together, you could end up with both rough and smooth puppies in litter, because smooths can carry the recessive rough gene.  If you bred two pure-for-smooth collies together, you would end up with only smooth collies in the litter.

Tricolor smooth collie, photo by Jerrica Coady-Farrell

Coat color is also dependent on dominant and recessive genes.  If you breed a tricolor with another tricolor, you will only have tricolor puppies in the litter.  If you breed a sable and a tricolor, you will produce both tricolor puppies and sable puppies that are trifactored.  Here is the color inheritance breakdown:
S - Sable
Dominant coat color, sable comes in a variety of colors, from straw to dark mahogany.

PS – pure sable
These collies carry no tricolor gene, and can only produce sable offspring.


tS – tri factored sable
sable collies carrying the tricolor gene along with the dominant sable gene.  Most trifactored sables have a very dark mask and a darker sable coat.

Tri = tricolor
Recessive to sable, tricolors have black coats with white and tan markings.
M – merle
A dominant dilution gene which combined with sable or tri genes, produces merled collies.

BM – blue merle
Bluish gray coat with black splotching and white markings.  Blue merles are the product of a dilution gene with the tricolor gene.

SM – sable merle
Sable and white collies with the merle gene, the sable merle comes in pure for sable and tri factored sable.

tSm – tri factored sable merle
These collies carry the tricolor gene alone with the sable and merle gene.  Tri factored sable merles are usually a darker sable color than PSM.

PSM – pure sable merle
A light sable merle, with no tricolor gene.



W – white
These collies have a predominantly white body, with a colored head.  They are the result of breeding two white parents or white factored parents.  The color white is a recessive gene, and depending on the other gene received, the white collie may have tri, sable or blue merle markings.

Wf – white factored
Colored dogs with a lot of white on their neck, tail tip and white extending upward from their hind feet.  When bred to another white factored or a white collie, they can produce white offspring.

WM – white merle
The white merle results from breeding two merled parents.  These collies inherit the dominant dilution gene from both parents.  They may be all white, or may have a few merle spots.  They may be missing eyes, blind and/or deaf.  They may also have severe impairment to their liver or kidneys.  If bred to a tricolor, these collies will only produce blue merle offspring.
 These are the offspring that may be produced by combining the the following sires and dams:
PS  +  PS  = PS
PS + tri = tS
PS  +  tS = PS and tS
tS + tri = tS and tri
tS  + tS = PS,  tS, tri
Tri + tri = tri
Tri + BM = tri, BM
BM  +  BM  = BM, tri, WM
BM  +  tS  = BM, tS, tSM, tri
BM + PS = tSM, tS
WM + tri  = BM
tSM  +  tri  = BM, tS, tSM, tri
tSM  +  tS  = BM, tSM, tri, tS, PSM, PS
tSm  +  PS  = tS, tSM, PSM, PS
PSM + tri = tS, tSM
White + white = white
Wf + Wf  = non-Wf, Wf, white
Wf BM  +  tri-headed white = blue-headed white, tri-headed white, Wf tri, Wf BM
White  +  non white = Wf

Rough blue merle, photo courtesy of Jennifer Laik

And now for something different!

Lately, we have been sharing collie health related topics, which are very valuable.  But now it's time to share something cute and fun!  Last weekend we attended a collie puppy match.  The club holding the match honored us, by asking my daughter to judge sweeps and junior handling.  It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday - surrounded by collie puppies and sunshine!

The puppies were all just too cute!

Friday, June 20, 2014

CEA - Collie Eye Anomaly

What is CEA?  CEA stands for Collie Eye Anomaly, a disease that is commonly seen in collies.  However, collies are not the only breed to suffer from this disease.  CEA is actually a group of eye conditions, ranging from mild to severe.  Fortunately, it is easily detected with an eye examination by a Canine Ophthalmologist.  The test should be done by the breeder, when the puppies are 5 - 6 weeks old.  Reputable, ethical breeders will have their puppies tested before they are sold to new families.  The good news is that most CEA does not impair the dog’s vision, so owners will rarely see any discernable difference between collies with CEA and those who are normal eyed.

The Collie Club of America's Code of Ethics requires that all dogs that are sold or placed, be in good condition, free of communicable diseases with their health guaranteed for a reasonable length of time.  This should include a written health record, inoculation schedule and the results of the eye exam.  If a breeder refuses to provide you with the puppy's health record or results of the eye exam, then you may want to find another breeder.

When tested for CEA the puppies will be given either a "normal" or "affected" rating.  If affected, the type of abnormality will be noted.

 Normal: This is what collie breeders hope to produce, a “normal-eyed” collie puppy with no CEA.  A "Normal" eye rating is the best rating.  There are also "Go Normals", which are so mildly affected at a young age, that later, the pale areas caused by choroidal hypoplasia disappear, leading to what is termed a "Go Normal."  These “go normal” puppies are still affected with CEA, and can pass CEA onto their future offspring.  The only way to be certain a collie is not a carrier of CEA is through genetic testing.  Also, dog's coat color can make it difficult to get 100% accurate results, as the pigment in a Blue Merle's eyes can be diluted along with his coat color.

 Choroidal Hypoplasia, Chorioretinal Change: These refer to abnormalities in the coloring or pigmentation of the choroid or central layer of the eye's lining. This is the most common abnormality found in Collie eyes.  It is the least harmful and least severe form of CEA.  Most dogs with this eye grade, function normally with no ill-effects or vision impairment.  These puppies are carriers of CEA.

 Staphyloma, Coloboma, Ectasia: While not completely synonymous, these terms all refer to a cupping or bulging in the eyeball usually in the area of the optic disc.  They can appear to be “pits” or “holes” in the layers of the eye tissue.

 Vascular Disease, Tortuous Blood Vessels: Defects in the vessels of the eye which are responsible for its blood supply or "nourishment." These may be malformed, undersized, or even lacking.

 Retinal Detachment: Loosening or separation of the inmost, or retina, layer from the wall of the eye. This may involve a tiny area or the entire retina. It can be either one or both eyes. The complete detachment of the retina results in blindness in that eye.

CEA is a recessive trait, and even dogs that are "normal" on ophthalmoscopic examination can still be carriers of CEA, and about 90% of the collie breed are carriers.  A dog with one mutant copy of the CEA and one normal copy of CEA is called heterozygous, or a CEA carrier. A dog with two copies of the normal CEA gene is homozygous, or genetically free of CEA.  Only dogs that are normal or who have choroidal hypoplasia should be used for breeding.  Dogs with colobomas, staphylomas, ectasia or detachments should not be bred, as they will pass these more severe issues along to their offspring. 

PRA, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, is another eye condition.  It is unrelated to CEA, and it is a degenerative disease that can result in blindness.  Most dogs with PRA will be blind by the time they are a year old.  You can learn more about PRA, by visiting this site:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MDR1 - do you know the danger?

What is MDR1? 
Multi-drug resistance 1, or MDR1, is a gene mutation found in many herding breeds.  This mutation causes toxic levels of certain drugs to build up in the brain; which leads to severe neurological problems, such as seizures and death.  It is estimated that around 75% of all collies have the MDR1 mutation, so all collie owners should be aware of which drugs are potentially harmful to their dogs.  If you are concerned that your collie, or herding breed, may have this mutation, there is now a simple, inexpensive DNA test offered.  For around $70, and with just a quick cheek swab, you can have your dog tested.

How does a dog end up with this mutation?  Each collie receives one allele, or gene, from each of it's parents.  Dogs that receive a "normal" MDR1 gene from each parent are +/+ (homozygous normal) or normal/normal.  All offspring from these parents will be clear of the MDR1 mutation, and will not be sensitive to the drugs listed below.

Dogs that receive a "normal" gene from one parent, and a "mutant" gene from the other parent are +/- (heterozygous).  While they are considered to be only carriers of the mutation, studies have found that they may also be sensitive to certain drugs.  These dogs will pass along the mutant gene to half of their offspring.

Dogs that receive a "mutant" gene from both of their parents are -/- or mutant/mutant. (homozygous mutant)  Dogs that are mutant/mutant are very sensitive to certain drugs, such as Ivermectin, and will pass on the mutation to all of their offspring.  According to the Collie Health Foundation and other leading researchers, the low dose of Ivermectin found in monthly heartworm medications will not cause a reaction.  However, many collie owners and breeders still choose to avoid use of any products containing Ivermectin, preferring to exercise caution instead.

Because of the need for caution, if your dog tests mutant/mutant or normal/mutant, you should make sure that any veterinarian treating your dog is aware of the risks of using certain drugs.  You will also want to make sure your dog does not ingest horse feces, because horses are treated with large quantities of Ivermectin and the drug is eliminated from their bodies in their feces.

Herding breeds at risk:
Australian Shepherds
Collies (rough and smooth)
English Shepherds
German Shepherds
Long-haired Whippets
Shetland Sheepdogs
Silken Windhounds
and any mixed-breeds with any of these breeds in their ancestry.


Dogs with the MDR1 Gene Defect should avoid the following drugs:

 Class A

Ivermectin substances (antiparasitics, such as Diapec, Ecomectin, Equimax, Ivomec, Noromectin, Paramectine, Qualimec, Sumex, Virbamec)

Doramectine substances (antiparasitics such as Dectomax)

Loperamide substances (antidiarrheal, such as Imodium)

Moxidectine substances (antiparasitcs such as Cydectin, Equest, Flagyl)


Class B (used only under CLOSE supervision of veterinarian):

Cytostatics (chemotherapy)

Immunosuppressive (Cyclosporine A)

Heart glycosides (Digoxine, Methldigoxine)

Opiods (Morphium)

Antiarrthymics (Verapamil, Diltiazem, Chinidine)

Antiemetics (Ondansetron, Domperidon, Metoclopramide)

Antibiotics (Sparfloxacin, Grepafloxacin, Erythromycin)

Antihistamin (Ebastin)

Glucocortoid (Dexamethason)

Acepromazine (tranquilizer and pre-anesthetic agent)

Butorphanol (analgesic and pre-anesthetic agent)







Class C (used in permitted application form and dose):





When choosing a veterinarian for your dog, please make sure they are educated on the MDR1 mutation and know which drugs pose a risk to your dog.  You should also keep a list when you are traveling with your dog, because not every veterinarian is aware of these potentially harmful drugs and in some emergency situations time is limited.

Answers to our previous post!

Thank you for all who gave our game a try!  (And for those who haven't tried to answer the challenge, you can see the previous post.  But don't look at the answers below!)

1) Captain
2) Abby
3) Scarlett
4) Kori
5) Holly
6) Ryder

Congratulations Rebecca Epperly at Tails of Teach and Key West Collies for getting each name correct!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Throwback Thursday - the puppy games edition!

I thought for this throwback Thursday we would play a little game!  Can you name each of the following puppies?  They each grew up to be one of our beloved collies!  (no cheating by looking at past posts, try to guess!)







This one should be easy!

Come back soon for the answers!  May the odds be ever in your favor!