Health & Testing

At Moro Shepherds, we test for a all applicable genetic health anomalies that affect the White Swiss Shepherd Dog. This breed is a healthy one, but no breed is completely free of health concerns, and we test a number of areas. Radiograph evaluations done through OFA and PennHip, and genetic testing through Wisdom Panel/Genoscoper.

Although our breed’s genetics were intertwined with the GSD for decades, we have approximately 25% tighter hips on average than the German Shepherd Dog as per PennHip data (PennHip 50th percentile being ~ .35 and .45 respectively in the WSSD and GSD). Our breed standard calls for a very balanced structure, with no topline slope desired. Excessive front and rear angles, which are found commonly in the GSD, are serious faults in competitions of conformation (beauty) in this breed. Even though our breed standard calls for a form that is able to do just about any function, at Moro we always test our breedstock for joint issues; hips and elbows and often patellas. Having an excellent relationship with our vet clinic, we are able to test for hips through both OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) as well as PennHip. Although OFA will assess the overall formation of hips, they have no ability to actually assess the laxity of the hip, given that their evaluation is based on a single view. PennHip on the other hand, gathers its information from three views: distraction view, compression view, and hip-extended view. With these three views PennHip is able to measure the percentage of laxity by taking an actual measurement of movement within the joint by comparing the multiple views. The more laxity, the looser the joint. The looser the joint, the more likely that injury, arthritis, or dysplasia will present. We have often seen a dog receive a “fair” rating under OFA, yet come back with an 80% percentile for the breed as to laxity and no mention of any anomaly in the hips. We have also heard of dogs (not ours) receive a “fair” OFA rating, but come back with a PennHip score of over .60! In our opinion, any WSSD with a .50 or above should not be bred. Given the occasional incongruence of data, it is imperative for a breeder to test under both OFA as well as PennHip to gather enough data to make a safe decision on whether a dog should be considered breed quality. We do not recommend purchasing a puppy from a breeder that does not currently PennHip their dogs. For the readers here that are using our site for gathering data on how to find a reputable breeder- ask to SEE the test results and ask for both OFA as well as PennHip.

Testing for elbow joint issues is done only through OFA. There is no PennHip equivalent test for elbows. Elbows can develop dysplasia just like hips, and our breedstock is tested prior to being bred. Issue with elbows can arise in several ways. Injury can easily occur to an elbow joint, that is completely unrelated to genetics, due to the fact that much of the joint actually does not harden into bone until 6 or 7 months of age and so are relatively fragile. Problems can also arise from improper feed, causing malgrowth of bones, usually caused by ‘overnutrition’. In a nutshell, a dog can be forced to grow too fast by its diet being out of balance. Too much protein or incorrect ratios between the various parts of the diet. A diet designed for large breed puppies will prevent joint issues due to overnutrition. The third way elbow joint can have a problem is through genetics. A poorly structured and weak elbowed parent, will contribute its DNA to its offspring, and pass on a negative trait. A good breeder will monitor all possibilities, and weed out dogs that are passing on weak elbows genetically. All of our breedstock has OFA elbow rating of “normal”, which is the best rating given by OFA.

Multi-drug Resistance 1, is a gene mutation that is found in many herding breeds, including this one. It is not a disease per se, but gene is responsible for the production of P-glycoprotein, which is normally responsible for transporting certain drugs out of the brain. Dogs that have a mutation in the MDR1 gene, which inhibits their ability to remove certain drugs from the brain and can lead up to a buildup of toxins, may have severe adverse reactions to some common drugs, including seizures, tremors, disorientation, blindness, lack of muscle control or even death. A dog with two copies of the mutation will always be “affected”, and a dog carrying one copy of the mutation, has some possibility of being affected. If you are not sure whether your dog carries the mutation, have your dog tested, or notify your vet to avoid the following list of drugs. We will not have a dog with two copies of the mutation, or a dog knowing to be affected, in our breeding program. We will only breed a mutant/normal to a normal/normal, for eventual removal of this trait from the breed insofar as our ability as a single breeder can do.

Degenerative myelopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. The disease has an insidious onset typically between 8 and 14 years of age. It begins with a loss of coordination (ataxia) in the hind limbs. The affected dog will wobble when walking, knuckle over or drag the feet. In the GSD and our breed, it has become known that the current test for DM is not necessarily accurate in determining whether a dog will get DM or not. There are cases of dogs with the mutation never getting DM, and cases of dogs without the mutation actually getting DM. To my knowledge, no one knows at this time why this is, but meanwhile we will still test for it. We will not have a mutant/mutant dog in our breeding program, and any dog testing mutant/normal will only be bred to a normal/normal for eventual breeding out of this genetic anomaly from the breed. Unlike MDR1, a dog testing as mutant/normal is not supposed to be affected by the disease. We test all breedstock for DM.

Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD) is often described to be a common and usually mild, inherited bleeding disorder in both people and in dogs. Because of the deficient clotting of their blood, dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease bleed excessively when injured - similar to hemophilia in humans. Due to the genetic history of our breed being tied to the German Shepherd Dog, who has a higher than normal instance of this disease, Moro tests for the vWD factor. As the President of the Berger Blanc Suisse Club of America, which collects health data for our breed in the USA, I am happy to report that Genoscoper has yet to come across a single case of vWD mutation in the White Swiss Shepherd Dog.

***Hemophilia A:***
This is another disease that Moro tests for due to the Swiss Shepherd’s common ancestry with the German Shepherd Dog. This disease consists of a tendency to uncontrollable bleeding at the slightest trauma. It is a sex-linked inherited deficiency of the blood clotting Factor 8 (F V111). This is an essential co-factor in the intrinsic pathway of coagulation, and deficiencies of less than 20% of normal blood will give rise to a bleeding tendency. The FV111 gene lies on the X chromosome and any male with a defective X chromosome will be affected by the condition. All confirmed published data on German Shepherd Dogs suffering from hemophilia in the European countries can be traced back to one dog: Canto von der Wienerau. Canto was born in 1968 and lived only 4 years, however reportedly sired over 100 litters. All his daughters were carriers and half of their offspring would be affected males or carrier females. It should be noted that at this time Genoscoper has no reported cases of White Swiss carrying any of the Hemophilia A mutations. We will continue to monitor and report, hoping for no cases to arise.

We will also test for thyroid, patella, cardiac, and eyes, as we deem necessary, to ensure those anomalies to not creep into our lines. All of our current breed stock, over the age of 24 months, have had all above listed health clearances performed in order to earn a certificate from the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). As of October 2019, our Moro/Parsons stock are the only White Swiss Shepherds to have ever earned CHIC. Lucky, Natus, Lilith, Nova, Pallas, San, and Sif.

How to have genetic, soft tissue, and radiographic tests done

Forms for submission of health tests of a White Swiss Shepherd, to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). OFA is where you will submit all test results. All health tests performed will automatically be tabulated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).
Recommended health tests to perform, at the recommendation of the White Swiss Shepherd Club of America.
For anyone in Oregon, we highly recommend Stayton Animal Hospital for many your dog’s health clearances. This would include OFA & PennHIP hip, and elbow radiographs. They can also perform basic cardiac, patella, dentition, and draw blood for submission to an OFA approved lab for the OFA thyroid test.
We recommend using Wisdom Health’s Genoscoper/Optimal Selection for your DNA testing. Formally known as My Dog DNA, this company partnered with Genoscoper of Finland to offer ALL relevant genetic testing in one testing kit, using two swabs. The kit also tests for genetic diversity and offers breeding tools to help find suitable mates worldwide for your dog.
Eye testing must be done by a certified veterinary opthalmologist. We use Dr. Sarah Maxwell in Corvallis, Oregon.