13: BSD, aka Black Skin Disease: A Nightmare in Pomeranians
Part I: The Black Skin Nightmare
Black skin is an unexplainable sickness in Pomeranians wherein the dog would lose its coat and will not grow back. There is NO cure for this. This problem would occur at different ages, sometimes at a year of age when some dogs blow off their puppy coat(and the coat will not grow back)… sometimes later like 3 years old or …sometimes much much later in the life of the dog. This is the nightmare! Unlike other faults, like undescended testicle/s, by breeding age, you will know whether the breeding specimen you are using have or do not have that problem. In the case of black skin, you will not. It may occur soon after or much later after you have kept a line-up of puppies for your breeding program, only to find out that their sire is infected with this ailment. What do you do with these puppies now? What happens when you are a well known breeder and the pups that you sell, though they reach their championship awards would eventually come down with this black skin? Can you ever get out of this problem… or at least avoid it?
I first learned about black skin about 14 years ago, ie, 1994. It was about the time that this issue was a big hullabaloo in the US. There were big discussions and many articles written. Certain bloodlines were being heavily attacked. A witch-hunt was on. In the process, the American Pomeranian fancier generally got their education. I think that the bottomline is that all champion Pomeranian bloodlines have this black skin issue…one way or another. It is just a matter of degree…and the higher or lower probability that a dog from various bloodines will come down with it. I suppose, the natural pomeranians which has been less tampered by breeders and look like pet poms remain to be free completely free from black skin.
1994 was also about the time that I had already purchased a lot of American poms. Because of this scare, I did mostly outcrosses and did very little linebreeding and inbreeding. I suppose, I was successful because I practically have had practically NO black skin problem. However, it was the limited linebreeding that I did that eventually produced the best results and from which come most of my champions today. They, too, had practically NO black skin. So, I cannot really say logically that limiting linebreeding is the key to black skin avoidance. Perhaps, a more logical conclusion would be the choice or avoidance of certain bloodlines…and doubling up on it.
Unfortunately, outside the United States, specially in Asia and Europe, people are not aware of black skin and it is about just now that the black skin problem is hitting them…and they are now asking questions. I would receive some inquiries about my poms from some Asian countries where I know they have purchased a lot of fabulous poms and very expensive imports. When I ask them why not buy locally, I am told that most of what they have over there has black skin. I hope not…perhaps this is an exaggeration. I would receive telephone calls from long lost pom customers who would want to get something from me because their beloved pom was gone bald and would not recover. I would ask where he got their pom and I will usually get the same answer. It was so tempting to say “I told you so.” A high profile Philippine vet told me that he has handled so many black skin cases in his clinic. He would ask where they got them and it all traces back to the same source. He continues to tell me that he has not seen any of my dogs down with that problem! Humbly, I must confess that I DO have that problem too! The big BUT is I rarely have it. I have other priorities that I want to focus on for the betterment of my breeding program and black skin is not really something that is I would really worry about. However, prudence dictates that I should be careful.
Late last month, we had a Pomeranian Specialty show and I thought that I should show off my champion oldies in full coat. Aged from TEN(10) years old or so, I exhibited them in full coat. I brought in 18 of them! See some of them below:
Some other balding ailments results from fungus/yeast accumulation, throidism, etc have been mis-diagnosed as black skin when it is NOT. But for many of them, is it! Pity the dog groomers in Philippine vet clinics! They are entrusted with poms that are badly matted for grooming....they would shave the coat and the coat will not grow back!...they are then blamed for the tragedy, when in reality it was the black skin disease all along.
Part II: Strategy Against Black Skin Disease
I like to share my strategies in avoiding black skin. They are as follows:
1. Whenever I buy in new stock, whether they be puppies, young adults or even older dogs, I will be doing the following:
...I always want to see the sire and the dam. It is understandable to see that the dam is shaved down after having whelped the pups. However, the sire must be in coat. If he is cut down, or looking suspicious , or could not be produced, I would be worried. Some would say that he has died and that would make me worry some more. If the stud dog is not owned by the puppy breeder, I would at least attempt to see the sire in person or check with someone who has seen the dog recently.
...I will avoid puppies with glamourous cottonish coat to die for. I want the puppies to shed by six months and grow their coat by a year old and possibly be in full bloom by three. I would be concerned if they do not shed at 6 months. Some would grow they grow their coat while they blow off their puppy coat. This is something I have experienced with Bryce, aka, Ph HOF JanLe Don't Make Me Laugh,(pictured on the right), whom I purchased as a puppy at 6 months of age. I am told by other Pomeranian breeders who are equally zealous that this is quite safe.
...I will also like to see older male adults(say 5 years or more) from the same breeder with the same bloodline to quickly access their black skin history. Many will DENY, whilst others will be very open about it. I admire and salute the truthfulness of these breeders.
2. When I choose a stud partner for my females, I would try to stick to my bloodline or my breeding which I
know has practically nil black skin. However, always having a desire to outcross for new blood for hybrid vigor, I am aware that I am increasing the risk for black skin. Outcrossing or at least distant linebreeding is sometimes a necessity otherwise the puppies would just fall into pieces. Whenever, I would outcross, I would do the following:
...I would avoid lines that are known for black skin, if I can. Many poms in these lines are really so beautiful that I would take the risk to a certain extent. But one thing I will NEVER do: is to knowingly breed to a dog that has the black skin. I do not care how good he is!
...I would prefer to breed to dogs that are at least 5 years of age. If they still have their coat, I think that is a reasonable assurance that it is reasonable safe…they may be gene carrier of black skin though. This would also be my preference when buying outside stud dogs. An example of this is Ph Ch Pufpride Cash Attraction(pictured on the left)who I bought at the age of 4 years old; he is now 6 and he still is in fullcoat.
3. Another strategy that I use is mixing in my whites to my creams and wolf sables. The result such as Russ Gr Ch Ph Ch Canton Silver Spoon,(pictured on the right), is then bred to my standard oranges. For me, this is an additional insurance against black skin. (Whites do not have black skin. I am told that one breeder has been successful in getting out of this problem by mxing in white poms to his orange breeding program. This strategy seems to be logical because it waters down the problem.)
In the final analysis, all dogs has some issues one way or another. There is no hopeless case. If is just a matter of breeding out the problem or watering down the problem! ....then, you have the compromises wherein you get something and you lose something...