Please note that this letter began in the USA with the DCA’ and AKC’s debate about the dalmatian–pointer cross and has been reproduced because of press interest in the UK about the uric acid problem in dalmatians.
A letter about LUA dalmatians
The purpose of this letter is to help clarify how much of the alleged medicine and science you’ve received to justify AKC registration of backcross/LUA dogs is seriously questionable, medically misrepresented or scientifically flawed. The proponents in this cause are trumpeting allegations that are misleading, distorted, scare tactics and/or are just plain wrong. One unfortunate result of this is the appearance that AKC is being pressured to railroad registration through involving medical remediation without sufficient scientific evidence: that AKC indeed works to abolish stone formation as theorized but without proof supported by medical evidence.
I respectfully direct your concentration to the medical/scientific assertions and falsehoods being emphasized. I sincerely hope a negative turn-down vote will prevent the success of propaganda strategically directed to unskeptical, to scientifically-inexperienced and to medically-uninformed forums like the mass media.
That said, I respectfully remind the AKC Board that the single encompassing unknown impacting the vote about AKC registration of backcross/LUA Dalmatians boils down to: Is abnormal uric acid in Dalmatian urine – or is it not – the cause of stone forming? Will breeding away from only a uric acid gene automatically prevent all or any urate stone formation throughout adult lives of all susceptible dog breeds, as projected by theory only?
Two geneticists persist that breeding away from the uric acid gene will automatically abolish uric acid stone forming. In contrast, all three U.S. vet authorities in clinical canine stone disease and all three North American clinical vet centers for stone disease are unanimous: uric acid is not the cause! These opposing medical viewpoints, I suggest, are the fundamental judgment calls the AKC Board faces.
Here are scientific facts countering theorized assertions no matter how eloquent, no matter how seemingly persuasive by the two geneticists:
- Abnormal uric acid in Dalmatian urine was discovered in 1938 by two Harvard geneticists. The current “discovery” by the two geneticists pertains only to a mutation in one of more-than-one (already-discovered by others) uric acid “transport” genes. A century of vet literature reveals an eloquent total absence of any medical proof indicting abnormal uric acid as the cause of uric acid stone forming. The most fervent, the most persuasive, the most enticing theorizing cannot morph the uric acid unknown
into factual proof, including because a uric acid gene can now be identified by DNA testing. The gene ID test contributes no medical proof stone forming will be abolished, only that the uric acid gene is present or absent. Why is the gene test unimportant in terms of the uric acid unknown? Exactly what pushes a small percentage of Dalmatians into urate forming (but not the majority of others including littermates) remains obstinately, perplexingly unknown. Unknown since the famous 1938 article discovering the uric acid gene, since the 1973 outcross to the Pointer, and despite 37 years of
experimental backcross litters. Proof that breeding away from the uric acid gene will abolish stone forming remains theory, only, without a shred of traditional clinical evidence otherwise. Does that unproven status permit AKC registration in the face of the unknown cause of uric acid stone disease remaining unknown for the past hundred years?
- The only credible patient data presented (at least data not scientifically invalidated by incorrect procedures or by wrong methods or by negligible numbers of tested Dalmatians) are uric acid levels in backcross puppies. Abnormal uric acid in puppies and/or in adults is disregarded by all stone disease experts as the cause of stone forming. Compounding that disregard with procedure details, the spot-creatinine puppy test used to obtain uric acid levels in all backcross puppies was discredited decades ago
by the clinical stone experts to be unreliable, such as providing false positives for abnormal uric acid. Interestingly, it was the renown stone expert at one of the geneticists’ vet center, U Cal Davis, who was the most discrediting of the test with his cautions (before his lingering terminal illness) to the worldwide vet community, especially against the spot test’s use in adult dogs.
- The only testing of backcross adults for presence or absence of stone forming has been a handful of mature dogs, but using the discredited spot test. Confusingly, even the geneticist-researcher had already acknowledged the test to be inappropriate for adult dogs, yet it still was selected to provide data. Uric acid stone forming in any adult dog can only be confirmed by clinical visualizing with ultrasound or with “indirect”
double-contrast x-ray procedures, accompanied by confirmation the stones are uric acid ones and not some other mineral. Neither testing has ever been apparently conducted. Despite 37 years of experimental backcross litters, only uric acid levels in puppies control the identification as LUA (low uric acid) or HUA (high uric acid) dogs. So long as uric acid remains unproven as the cause of stone forming, the package of scientific claims to justify AKC registration of backcross/LUA dogs must be regarded as unproven.
- Why is proof from adult testings for stone forming, not uric acid levels, so essential to the skepticism of backcross allegations? Because it is only the abolishing of stone forming which proves if backcrossing does what is theoretically predicted for adult dogs who as puppies were labeled LUA. The lessened significance of puppy data is underlined by hard data of several thousand Dalmatians indicating age-of-onset of stone forming
is predominately in adults, not puppies. Proving an alleged abolition of stone forming therefore mandates monitoring adults, not puppies. To date, despite decades of experimental litters, no hard data exists for backcross adults monitored to confirm the presence or absence of stone forming. Only puppy uric acid levels are provided to justify AKC registration.
- Overview? The most abnormal of uric acid levels does not automatically co-exist with stone forming by any Dalmatian – at any age – according to all authorities of urinary stone disease. How then can breeding away from any uric acid gene be presumptuously postulated to automatically abolish stone formation? The stone experts are unanimous to the contrary, “Although all Dalmatians excrete relatively high quantities of uric acid in their urine, apparently only a small percentage form urate
If skillfully persuasive but nonetheless misleadingly misrepresented medical science is successful in approving today’s AKC registration, it may well be tomorrow’s embarrassed regrets. All that is needed is one adult AKC-registered backcross/LUA dog to be diagnosed with urate stone or crystal formation. It will be especially fodder for the media if it is:
- An AKC-finished backcross/LUA champion who cosmetically conformed to the AKC-approved Breed Standard
- Who tested free of the uric acid gene tacitly endorsed by being permitted AKC registration
- Who, despite being AKC registered, defaulted with irrevocable clinical proof breeding away from uric acid did not automatically abolish Dalmatian urate stone forming, as now theorized without proof.
The mass media except for those known as “science writers” will surely have a field day because then, as now, their non-discriminating, uninformed knowledge of medicine and science. Yellow journalism is yellow journalism. Propaganda is propaganda. Scandalous controversies increase revenues of the mass media, whether they’re medically true or scientifically false.
Until the uric acid unknown no longer is unknown, I respectfully protest AKC registration being voted in on the basis of unproven theorizings. I respectfully call attention to a century of vet research in canine stone disease and/or 37 years of experimental litters without a shred of diagnostic proof backcross dogs will not exhibit stone formation in their adult lives.
P.S. Sweeping, undocumented generalizations the “world of science/medicine” recognizes backcross/LUA as “a cure” are astonishingly false! For starters, Letters-to-the-editor published over years by accredited vet journals protesting such misrepresented patient predictions by geneticist authors are conspicuously missing in the assertions. The below-cited veterinary textbooks are not generalizations but authenticating, specific examples from the “world of science/medicine.” They are
professional teachings directed to worldwide veterinarians – unchanged in 2010 after a quarter-century of clinical experience with all stone-forming breeds and mongrels: “The definitive mechanism(s) of urate urolith formation in Dalmatian dogs is unknown. Increased urinary excretion of uric acid is a risk factor rather than a primary cause.”
Educated, degreed, tenured health science professionals are familiar with the chasm between theorizing geneticists vs vet stone disease clinicians who speak with statistically-significant experience from thousands of actual patients. Theorizing vs hard clinical data mandates the ability to first recognize, then discern between the two. Scientific authenticity becomes meaningless if no one is skeptical and does not confirm questionable medical assertions.
That said, please take a moment to read how a genetics textbook cautions against geneticists’ generalized projections (“If Gene Therapy is the Cure, What is the Disease?” in Gene Mapping, Oxford University Press, pp. 128-141.)
These quotes are highlighted because your AKC vote comes down to whether-or-not theorized backcross/LUA works (unknown despite a century of vet articles about canine stone forming), or does not work, remembering it is only two geneticists persisting in theorizings to be acceptable for AKC registration of backcross/LUA dogs.
“… that the central goal of.clinical genetics is the prevention or amelioration of disease not the improvement of the genome.”
“… none of them [connected with a genome project] believe that anyone is even remotely close to knowing.whether germline engineering will actually work.”
“… It is only our inability to openly and clearly define what constitutes disease in the domain of genetics that makes us feel that intervention with the germline is playing with. fire.”
Carroll H. Weiss
Mention of Dalmatians dying of stone disease appears in practically every LUA website, going back some six years when backcross was resurrected here in the US. There is a consistent year-after-year use of that alarmist scare tactic of death.
It is not urate stone disease which kills those Dalmatians heartbreakingly told to us. It is lack of knowledge from the stone experts which, in turn, permits known and preliminary symptoms to be unnoticed and untreated so that the stone-forming dog is denied aggressive, insightful turn-around before it ultimately reaches the life-threatening late-stage obstruction by stones.
Vicky Brennan in Ken Mumford’s dalnet wrote on the 6 March 2011, “I had a dog block once and changed his diet and feeding regime and he never blocked again.” During the past 15 years, I can also cite similar cases of other obstructed Dalmatians whose owners and their vets made it their business **to consult** with one of the three North American medical centers devoted to canine stone disease. The dogs – without exception – returned to being symptom-free for the rest of their uneventful lives. I do not imply this ignores emotional stories of stone-forming Dalmatians who died allegedly despite preventative measures. Dr. Osborne and his fellow experts stress throughout 30 years of teaching articles, vet seminars and textbooks that if treatment/prevention is not successful, two major reasons may be (1) the owner was not conscientious in following preventative procedures, and/or (2) the wrong type-of-stone was diagnosed which accounts for irresponsive response to treatment. Beyond that, it should also be remembered urate stone disease is a very complicated one and, despite remarkable advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention by the stone experts, much remains exasperatingly unknown such as its basic cause and why some dogs neglect to respond to insightful treatment whereas most others do, such as Vicky Brennan’s.
After fifteen years, I do not know of a single urate stone-forming Dalmatian who did not reverse their symptoms when the stone experts were consulted and oversaw their return to an uneventful life, including my own who had obstructed before I became knowledgeable. Tales of unresponsive Dalmatians have come not from vets with medical interpretations and scientific explanations, but from understandably heartbroken owners. The proportion between the positives and the negatives is, happily, very much vastly in favor of responsive Dalmatians.
About Carroll H. Weiss
Co-author, current 2010 edition of hardcover veterinary textbook, 34 page section on uric acid/purine stones (Osborne, CA; Bartges, JW; Lulich, JP; Albasan, H. and Weiss, CH: Canine Purine Urolithiasis: Causes, Detection, Management and Prevention, Section 15: Canine Urolithiasis, in Hand, MS and co-editors, Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th edition, pp. 813-924, Mark Morris Institute, Topeka, 2010.)
Co-author, chapter in 2009 tenth-anniversary edition of hardcover veterinary textbook totally on canine stone forming reflecting a quarter century of clinical experience, reporting urinary stone data on almost a half-million animals in 12 chapters totaling 214 pages of definitive information about diagnosis, treatment and prevention of urinary stone disease. (Osborne, CA and Lulich, JP: “Changing Paradigms in Diagnosis and Treatment of Urolithiasis,” Veterinary Clinics of North America, Elsevier Saunders, 2009.)
Former Director (1991-2002)
Study Group on Urinary Stones
Health and Research Committee
Dalmatian Club of America
“So ultimately, dog DNA tests put owners in the ballpark, but they’re rarely conclusive.”
Joshua Akey, Asst. Professor of Genome Sciences, Washington University
“It is only our inability to…define what constitutes disease in the domain of genetics that makes us feel that intervention with the germline is playing with fire.”
Arthur L. Caplan in Oxford University genetics textbook