CHD Working Group Proposal, April 2013

Working group Members: Karyn Colman (Chair), Robin Haggard, Karen Hukill, Cheryll McFarland, Vicky McLean, Tim O’Brien, Ron Pohl, Nancy Russell, Sandi Shrager.


In the late 1960’s a condition known as “dwarfism” (aka Chondrodysplasia, or ChD) was identified as an autosomal recessive condition in the Alaskan Malamute, with an apparent high incidence in certain lines. As a result, the AMCA introduced what was, at that time, a cutting edge, ground-breaking program to try to eliminate the condition from the breed. This condition is only able to be diagnosed/confirmed by examination of x-rays of the lower front limb (distal ulna) at an early age (prior to growth plate closure). Looking at physical attributes of the dog, such as limb deformity or short stature does not confirm or refute a case of ChD since several other conditions can result in the same physical appearance and a mildly affected dog may show no outward physical abnormalities. With this knowledge, experts in radiology, genetics and the breed came together to provide a workable system that would reduce the incidence of carriers and, they hoped, eliminate the condition in the Alaskan Malamute. This program was based on test-breeding dogs and calculating a theoretical (mathematical) probability that a dog was not a carrier based on the number of puppies produced when an individual was bred to an affected dog or a carrier, providing that all puppies produced were screened by x-ray at 6 to 8 weeks of age and that none of the pups were affected by the condition. The cut-off point, based on pure practicality, where a dog was considered “OK/approved to breed” was at a probability of ≤6.25% mathematical risk of being a carrier. This program was very successful in reducing the incidence of carriers (and the “bad gene”) in the breed from quite prevalent in certain lines to rather rare in the population as a whole and was certainly NOT a waste of time or effort. It has resulted in bringing the overall probability within the population down to under 6.25% overall (and maybe even lower) but today there is no selection pressure on “certified” dogs to reduce this any further, even by continuing to “test-breed” since that is the cut-off. It is also apparent from the results of the survey that this working group conducted that the incidence of this condition is very low in the Malamute population and the current certification program therefore no longer helps to reduce the risk of producing an affected dog in the general population. It is important to realize that even test-bred dogs carry SOME risk, it was known from the start by those that set up the original program that some carriers would slip through due to the theoretical nature of the calculation and the practical aspects of finding a compromise cut-off that allowed the breed to still exist. Thus, it should be no surprise that we have carriers in the certified population, albeit at very low levels. It was the confirmation of a dwarf being produced from certified parents that created the impetus to revisit the program and the formation of this working group.   Based on information received from the eminent geneticist Professor Jerold S Bell DVM at Tufts University, a review of programs/methods used to control autosomal recessive genes by other dog clubs (and even other conditions in Alaskan Malamutes outside of the US), and a world-wide survey of Malamute owners and breeders, the working group provides the following proposal to the members of the Alaskan Malamute Club of America for consideration as an interim measure until such time as a DNA test for chondrodysplasia in the breed is found. Once a DNA test becomes available, it is suggested that its use be strongly encouraged and results be collated as for other canine genetic diseases with DNA markers (through OFA/CHIC and/or other National databases).   The following recommendations are predicated on the very low incidence of the condition in the breed as a whole, the lack of significant morbidity or suffering of affected dogs and the sincere wish/hope that the members of AMCA can develop and foster an open, respectful and mutually beneficial understanding between all breeders and owners that works in the best interests of the breed in the long-term.

Draft Proposal to AMCA Board/Members


  1. AMCA permanently suspends/retires the current mandated ChD program (test-breeding and certification)
  2. AMCA updates the COE to reflect the recommendations of the working group/AMCA policy
  3. AMCA establishes an open database of confirmed carriers
    1. A confirmed carrier means a dog that has produced one or more confirmed (by expert x-ray analysis) affected dog(s)
    2. The database is prospective (not retrospective) but will start with those confirmed carriers identified within the last 10 years (not dogs from years prior to 2003).
    3. The database will be made available to both members and non-members of AMCA.
    4. Dogs included in the database must be identified/submitted by the owner and/or breeder of record to be accepted
  4. AMCA does not institute any binding/mandated replacement program for the control of ChD but rather focuses on providing recommendations and education to help breeders, including:
    1. AMCA provides clear information on x-ray screening to detect/confirm affected dogs and makes the following recommendations with respect to screening “high risk” litters:
      1. X-ray one carpus (wrist), one view, at between 6 and 12 weeks of age
      2. Submit x-rays to Dr Sande or Virginia Tech Vet School for evaluation
      3.  The following puppies should be examined to gain maximum information:
        1. Offspring of known carriers
        2. Offspring of siblings to known/confirmed affected dogs
        3. All puppies in a litter (provided they are not older than 16 weeks) with at least one confirmed affected puppy
    2. AMCA provides updated and ongoing educational materials/opportunities for owners and breeders including support to help breeders & owners understand genetic disease, genetic principles of breeding, and to remove the fear/stigma of producing an affected dog (with any genetic disease, not just ChD)
      1. Provide educational seminars, web-based learning and/or published articles in the newsletter to keep members informed about the latest knowledge and understanding of genetic diseases and their control
      2. Encourage openness & collaboration amongst breeders and owners
    3. AMCA updates the mandate and scope of the CCC (rename?) and rolls it into a subcommittee of the Health Committee
    4. AMCA Health committee looks at the feasibility of a “genetic disease advisory subcommittee”, to be convened by the Health Committee


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