HISTORY & HEALTH OF THE GREAT PYRENEES 

 

 

 

The Great Pyrenees, also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, an ancient breed of the French nobility, is a breed whose origin and purpose was as a livestock flock guardian.  This breed developed in the Pyrenees mountains, thus the name.  It is believed the breed was developed from the Mastiff type dogs of Asia and Mesopotamia with the purpose and function of guarding the flock from predators while the shepherds slept. The ideal height and weight of a male is between 27-32 inches at the shoulder weighing 100-120 pounds, and females, 25-29 inches at the shoulder, weighing 85-105 pounds.

Like any large breed, the dogs can develop hip and elbow problems. We xray ALL of our breeding stock and certify them through the Orthopedic Foundation For Animals (OFA) to be sure they are free of these defects.  

 

In recent years, other conditions have come to light that affect the breed, namely Neuronal Degeneration (NDG),  Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR), and Degenerative Myelopathy (DM).

NDG is a nerve degeneration disease that affects the dog's ability to work, walk, run or play.  This condition is a simple recessive disorder.  There is now a genetic test available to determine carriers.  As a result, the disease is easily eliminated by judicious ethical breeders through the testing of breeding stock via a simple cheek swab.  We at Skeenawhip, test all of our breeding dogs for this disorder.  We NEVER breed carrier to carrier, and as a result, will NEVER produce puppies that will be affected by it. 

CMR affects the eyes of the dogs, resulting from small blisters or lesions on the retina that generally develop between 8 weeks and 5 months of age.  These lesions heal over and scar, potentially impacting the sight of the dog.   Thanks to Dr. Bruce Grahn (University of Saskatchewan) and Optigen, we now have a DNA test available for this issue. Again, Skeenawhip tests all of our breeding dogs for this potential issue.  Because this is also the result of a simple recessive, the disorder can be easily eliminated by not breeding carrier to carrier.  We at Skeenawhip would NEVER breed carrier to carrier, and as a result, will NEVER produce puppies that will be affected by CMR.

It should be noted that simple carriers of either of these two disorders will NEVER exhibit any sign of the disease.  It takes the crossing of two carrier parents to have affected dogs.  Both diseases are essentially self eliminating from a bloodline if breeders utilize the health testing tools available to them in the modern veterinary world.

DM is a degenerative spinal and nervous system disease that can and does affect the Great Pyrenees breed.  There is a risk assessment test, that at this time, only identifies a certain genetic marker.  This is only an indicator of a certain animal having a lesser or greater predisposition towards developing this disease.  Because there are still numerous other possible causative factors, dogs tested for this disease can only be rated as either 

A) CLEAR

B) Carrier (One copy of the identified gene)

C) DEEMED AT RISK (Two copies of the identified gene)

As mentioned, test results only indicate whether or not a certain dog has a lesser or greater predisposition of developing this crippling and life ending disease.  However even with this current test, it is not possible to say with 100% certainty whether or not a certain dog will or will not develop it, but at the present time this is the best test available for this issue.

That said, Skeenawhip Kennels, chooses to NEVER breed a dog identified as a carrier, to another carrier.  Doing so could easily produce a puppy carrying two genes therefore having to be identified as AT RISK.  Because of this choice, Skeenawhip will never produce an AT RISK dog.

Skeenawhip Kennels is very proud to state that we played an integral role in identifying the gene responsible for CMR, working in conjunction with Dr Bruce Grahn and the University of Saskatchewan.  We also played a part in the identification of the gene responsible for NDG, working in tandem with other key breeders and American universities for the benefit and well being of the breed we love so much. 

 

Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list of all health issues in the Great Pyrenees.  As you can well imagine , just as in humans, the list would be very long.  We in no way profess to be veterinarians, and the information provided on our website is provided as but one form of access to the vast array of information on the subject available on the web, along with our personal opinions.  We can not assume responsibility or liability whatsoever, for the actions, inactions or statements of others who access the information on our site.  However we believe that creating awareness and thought around these important issues is vital to the future of the Great Pyrenees.  We have touched on a few key issues that appear today to be at the forefront of research, detection, treatment and elimination for the betterment of the breed.  We hope you have found it informative.  

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