We have been participating in the American Kennel Club's voluntary DNA certification program for the last several years. Most of our Neapolitan Mastiffs have received their official DNA registration number. We have also utilized the dual sire DNA program on three litters to date. The opportunity to use two sires on one litter has allowed us to evaluate a litter from two sires, giving us the ability to truly study the impact of two separate bloodlines, to evaluate the dam’s impact given two different sires and much more.
The dual sire litter program is an exciting tool for breeders, instead of waiting and using a one male one heat and another male another heat – the breeder can utilize both desired sires at one time. While this process is fairly expensive, time consuming and requires immaculate record keeping it has great benefits when used properly.
Occasionally, you will find one of our mastini on the public OFA database. This does not indicate that we support OFA testing as a sole method for screening breeding stock. We do health screen our mastini and believe that breeders need to screen their mastini, however the methods which are currently available are not guarantees nor are most of them appropriate for our breed.
The main Cardiac concern with the Neapolitan Mastiff is Dilated Cardio Myopathy (DCM), an OFA heart certification by a board certified cardiologist will only tell you that the dog did not have DCM that day, at that moment. There is not a genetic test or screening tool available to rule out DCM, as explained by the OFA :
“At this time inherited, developmental cardiac diseases like subaortic stenosis and cardiomyopathies are difficult to monitor since there is no clear cut distinction between normal and abnormal. The OFA will modify the congenital cardiac database when a proven diagnostic modality and normal parameters by breed are established. However at this time, the OFA cardiac database should not be considered as a screening tool for these diseases.[i]”
Unfortunately, no one knows if DCM is genetic or if it is a Taurine deficiency[ii] or a genetic predisposition for taurine deficiency.
We routinely screen our mastini, we do not always pay the additional OFA registration fees unless we are participating in an OFA clinic. A complete Cardiac evaluation by a certified cardiologist including Doppler and Echo is between $245 and $325, every breeding Neapolitan Mastiff should undergo a cardio exam but breeders and puppy buyers should not be lured into a false sense of security by OFA numbers. The OFA heart certification for the Neapolitan does not guarantee that the dog will never develop DCM nor does it guarantee that offspring will be clear.
We also routinely have Thyroid panels done on our mastini. They have all tested within “Normal Ranges”, unfortunately there has been no research done to establish "what is normal" for the Neapolitan Mastiff. Current research is being done on other large breeds to establish "normal ranges", hopefully the Neapolitan will be included in future studies.
Recently we have begun eye certifications on our mastini thru the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), we have chosen to participate in this database to correct the fallacies in CERF reporting on our breed. When we began certifying in 2009 only 13 Neapolitan Mastiffs were listed, those 13 dogs where listed with eye disorders that are not 'normal' in our breed and caused an invalid representation of our breed. It is our hope to contribute to a more actual representation and hope other breeders will also choose to begin eye certifications.
All of our mastini are screened for infectious diseases: L. infantum, E. Canis, B. Canis at a minimum. Read more about L.Infantum (Leishmania Infantum). We strongly believe that all Neapolitan Mastiffs should be screened for at least L.infantum and Ehrlichia.
Again, we do support testing of breeding stock but are fully aware of its limitations and inaccuracy. Owners and Breeders of Neapolitan Mastiffs must begin participating in testing, studies and research for the future development of better screening tools and to create a more accurate portrayal of actual breed health concerns.
i Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. (2007) http://www.offa.org/cardiacgeninfo.html
ii Sandersen, S. (2006). Taurine and carnitine in canine cardiomyopathy. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim. Pract. 36(6):1325-43.
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You can easily contribute to the AKC CHIC DNA Repository by visiting their site. The more breed samples we have available to researchers the better. There is a $20 fee for the repository.
The AKC DNA Certification program involves a simple cheek swab, kits are free, certification is $40.
Leishmaniasis is a disease that is endemic in Italy. Recently discovered in the U.S. Dr. Petersen, Iowa State University is collecting samples from Neapolitans to test for Leishmaniasis and use in a long term research project to create a vaccine.
You can download the submission form here. Full article online at The MHF Site.
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