"Ichthyosis (ICH) DNA health testing for the American bulldog

"Ichthyosis (ICH) DNA health testing for the American bulldog

Health & Safety

The American bulldog is one of several bulldog breeds that are very popular in the UK, and the American bulldog is actually our 23rd most popular dog type overall (as of November 2018). This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the breed isn’t actually recognised as a pedigree for showing and registration purposes by the UK Kennel Club.

American bulldogs are large, stocky dogs that are muscular and heavyset, but with a more balanced conformation and longer muzzle than is generally seen in the English bulldog, which has become ever-more over-exaggerated in terms of their average conformation and what owners look for within the breed over the years.

A large part of the popularity of the American bulldog in the UK can be attributed to the fact that this dog type’s conformation is less extreme and generally much healthier than the average across many other bulldog types, providing an alternative option for people who love bulldogs but that are concerned about the direction that the English variant of the breed is taking.

American bulldogs tend to be fairly long-lived, although there is quite a degree of variance – the average lifespan of dogs of this type is 10-15 years, and generally, American bulldogs are healthy and hardy dogs that are very outgoing and have a real lust for life.

However, even though most dogs of the breed are healthy and hereditary health defects within the breed aren’t hugely common, there are a number of hereditary health problems recognised within the American bulldog breed that can affect individual dogs, and that can be passed on through the breed line to subsequent generations.

One health condition that is comparatively common within the America bulldog breed is called ichthyosis (ICH), and this is a chronic disorder that affects the skin and coat, and that can have a significant impact on the dog’s care and wellbeing.

However, American bulldog breeders can elect to have their dogs DNA tested prior to breeding to identify the markers of American bulldog ichthyosis, to find out the status of their breeding stock.

In this article we will look at American bulldog ichthyosis DNA testing and explain how the condition affects dogs, and how it is passed on by means of heredity. Read on to learn more.

What is ichthyosis?

First of all, it is worth pointing out that ichthyosis isn’t exclusive to the American bulldog breed, and can be found in dogs of other breeds too. However, the type of ichthyosis that is found within American bulldogs has been identified to be caused by a specific gene mutation that can be tested for, and so American bulldog ichthyosis is annotated with the acronym “ICH” to differentiate it from other non-breed-specific forms of the condition.

Ichthyosis is a chronic hereditary health condition that occurs due to a gene mutation that can be found within some dogs of the American bulldog breed.

The symptoms of ichthyosis in the American bulldog usually become apparent shortly after birth, and include the dog’s skin becoming dry and scaly, often with scales that appear to be brown or grey in colour and that have a tacky or sticky texture. This is often accompanied by soreness and inflammation of the skin, particularly on the abdomen and underbelly. The coat of American bulldogs with ichthyosis too is generally affected, appearing dishevelled, untidy, and of a poor texture.

How is American bulldog ichthyosis inherited?

Ichthyosis (ICH) in the American bulldog is a hereditary disorder, which means that the only way for a dog to develop the condition is by inheriting the markers for it from their parents. Ichthyosis is passed on through breed lines following a pattern of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that if a dog only inherits the gene mutation for ichthyosis from one side of their breed line they won’t be affected by it – but if they inherit it from both parents, they might be.

American bulldogs may be either clear, carriers of, or affected by ichthyosis, and if you know the status of any dog’s parents, you can work out their chances of inheriting the condition as follows:

  • Two clear parent dogs will breed clear puppies.
  • Two affected parent dogs will breed affected puppies.
  • Two carrier parent dogs will breed pups with odds of 50% of also being carriers, 25% of being clear, and 25% of being affected.
  • A clear parent dog and an affected parent dog will produce a litter of carriers.
  • A clear parent dog and a carrier parent dog will produce a litter with 50-50 odds of each pup being clear or a carrier respectively.
  • A carrier parent dog and an affected parent dog will produce a litter with 50-50 odds of each pup being a carrier or affected respectively.

Getting an American bulldog DNA tested for ichthyosis

You can’t tell just by looking at an American bulldog if they are clear or a carrier, and breeding carrier dogs needs to be undertaken with care to ensure that they aren’t bred to other carriers or affected dogs and so, would potentially produce affected pups.

In order to avoid this, American bulldog breeders are encouraged to find out the ichthyosis status of both dogs within any prospective mating match before breeding from them, and this can be done by arranging a simple DNA test with your vet.

Book an appointment to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from the dog in question, and this sample can then be analysed by one of the UK’s approved laboratories to return a result on the status of the dog in question.

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