Health Information

This page has links to info about: DEGENERATIVE MYLOPATHY (DM) and LARYNGEAL PARALYSIS (LP),
which are  not uncommon in borzoi and which often go unrecognized and undiagnosed; puppy bloodwork values (which differ from adult values);
raw diet effects on bloodwork values; and developmental bone diseases.

This page is made in memory of Ch. Valeska Black-Eyed Susan; love of my life.
It was heaven here, with you.

 Degenerative Mylopathy      Laryngeal Paralysis
Torsion (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus)
Raw Diet Effects on Bloodwork Values---Dr. Jean Dodds
Bloodwork--Puppy Values     Developmental Bone Diseases of Rapid Growth
 Valeska Borzoi Diet

If any of these links don't work, or if you would like to ask a question, please email us!!

>>A History of Medicine at the Time of the Millenium <<
Joke :-)---click here

Degenerative Mylopathy---DM
This information is included for dogs who suffer from degenerative mylopathy. The following is from Gary S. Johnson, DVM, PhD,
who is supervising thedegenerative myelopathy research at the University of Missouri. At the time of this writing, over 600 borzoi have been tested.
So far it appears that roughly 25% of the borzoi tested are carriers, over 70% are clear, and so far only a low percentage are affected.

by Gary S. Johnson, DVM, PhD
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) is a progressive disease of
the spinal cord in older dogs. Originally described in German Shepherd
dogs in 1973, DM has also been reported in Boxers, Cardigan & Pembroke
Welsh Corgis, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. The
disease has an insidious onset, typically at 8 years of age or older.
Initial symptoms are a wobble when walking, and dragging or knuckling
over of the hind feet. As the disease progresses, there is a loss of
muscle mass, rear limbs become weak and the dog has difficulty
standing or walking. Progression from first symptoms to becoming
paraplegic generally takes 6 to 18 months. If signs progress for a
longer period of time, loss of urinary and fecal continence may occur
and eventually weakness and flaccid paralysis will develop in the
front limbs as well. A key feature of DM is it is not a painful
disease ; the dog loses sensation and cannot feel the failing limbs.
Microscopic examination of spinal cords of dogs that have died from DM
shows a deterioration of the white matter of the spinal cord. The
white matter contains fibers that transmit movement commands from the
brain to the limbs, and sensory information from the limbs to the
brain. This degeneration consists of both demyelination (stripping
away the myelin, or "insulation" of these fibers), and axonal loss
(loss of the actual fibers). As a result, messages cannot be
transmitted between the brain and limbs, so function is lost.

With the discovery of the responsible mutation, a
DNA test is now available. This DNA tests clearly shows dogs who are
NORMAL (have 2 normal copies of the gene), CARRIER (have one normal
copy of the gene and one "disease" copy of the gene), and dogs who are
AFFECTED/AT RISK (have 2 "disease" copies of the gene). It is
important to understand that not all dogs testing AFFECTED/AT RISK
will develop clinical symptoms of DM in their lifetime. Because there
is a wide variation in the age at onset of symptoms, some AT RISK dogs
may die from other causes before DM symptoms appear. Additional
research is in progress to identify possible secondary genes or other
factors that may either delay or prompt the development of clinical
symptoms. Breeders who wish to reduce the risk of DM in future
generations can use the test to help choose breeding partners with DM
status as a consideration. In some breeds where the mutation is
widespread, it will take several generations over many years to reduce
DM risk without creating a genetic bottleneck that could increase the
likelihood of other problems becoming prominent. Wise use of the test
in a balanced breeding program can eventually diminish the number of
dogs likely to become affected with DM, while retaining positive
traits and a healthy gene pool in these breeds.

After the discovery of the mutation, we offered a
free DNA test for DM for dogs of any breed that are suspected to have
DM based on clinical symptoms and other diagnostics. This has resulted
in reports of DM in many more breeds in addition to those listed
above. We have found the mutant gene in representatives from over 100
dog breeds or verities and in mixed breed dogs. A definitive diagnosis
of DM requires the finding of characteristic microscopic changes,
postmortem in spinal cord sections. So far we have had the opportunity
to microscopically confirm a diagnosis of DM in 13 breeds. However, we
have not yet received a spinal cord section for an affected Borzoi. We
encourage owners of Borzois expected to be euthanized for DM-like
symptoms to submit spinal cord sections to us for diagnostic
evaluation. If you email Liz Hansen (, we will
send a kit with instructions to your veterinarian.

The DM section of has more complete information on the
disease, completed and ongoing research, and testing procedures.
Instructions and forms for testing DM-symptomatic dogs can be found on
the website. DNA testing for young, healthy dogs and dogs being
considered for inclusion in breeding plans can be done through the
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, using their Online Store for DNA
Testing. Go to and follow the "DNA TESTING" links. For
questions not answered by either website, contact Research Project
Coordinator Liz Hansen by email at, or
573-884-3712. "

This links to a DM  site, created in memory of German Shepherd dog Jack Flash, with information and a support group.
Jack Flash Degenerative Mylopathy Information and Support Group
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Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis and Polyneuropathy---(GOLPP)

The following links are to introductory articles about laryngeal paralysis (LP).
 Laryngeal Paralysis article by Carroll H. Weiss

The following information quoted here is from the MSU GOLPP website:
"GOLPP, formerly known as idiopathic laryngeal paralysis, is a common clinical condition affecting geriatric,
large-breed dogs in which the laryngeal innervation degenerates over time.

Affected dogs exhibit respiratory stridor, exercise intolerance, dyspnea, throat clearing, and may even collapse.
Treatment includes surgical correction to relieve breathing, and is generally very successful.
The most common post-operative risk is aspiration pneumonia.

Studies at MSU have shown that esophageal function is also affected in these dogs.
It is suspected that a similar neurodegenerative process causes both laryngeal and esophageal changes.
As esophageal function deteriorates, risk of post-op aspiration pneumonia increases.
Over time, affected dogs will invariably progress to show generalized neurologic deterioration, initially most notable in their hind limbs.
Overall, it appears idiopathic laryngeal paralysis is in fact part of a progressive generalized neuropathy.
Due to these findings it was determined the disease might be better termed geriatric onset laryngeal paralysis polyneuropathy, or 'GOLPP'.

To further investigate this condition, MSU is conducting additional clinical research.
The safety and well-being of our study participants are the most important considerations and will always prevail."

Alternative LP surgery information

The standard surgical treatment for LP, or GOLPP, is a unilateral tie-back surgery.
 Information collected in a JAVA retrospective study (May 2005) on the results of the standard unilateral tie-back procedure
performed by board certified surgeons, shows aspiration pneumonia occuring in  25% of cases,
with some 75% of those acquiring aspiration pnuemonia dying as a result.

After my beloved Ch Valeska Black-Eyed Susan suffered this fate, I sought an alternative.
After discussing the problem, my local veterinarian proposed trying a debarking procedure entering through the throat
(not the mouth), from which place he is able to see clearly how the epiglottis meets with the laryngeal folds.
Then, instead of performing a standard unilateral tie-back, (which is done blindly without the surgeon being able to see the exact
positioning of the laryngeal fold, which is in this case pulled back all the way),
he is able to do a partial tie-back while watching how the laryngeal fold meets the epiglottis.
He ties back the laryngeal fold only to the extent at which it still meets with the epiglottis,
which allows a more normal throat closure during swallowing to better protect against aspiration,
while still producing an adequate airway. In addition to better protection from aspiration pneumonia,
another advantage to this method is that if the line holding the tied back laryngial fold fails,
which sometimes occurs, the debarking part of the proceedure still produces an airway,
so the dog will still have at least some airway even in the rare event of tie-back failure, and will still be able to breathe.

So far I have had 4 of my own elderly dogs treated in this manner, all with excellent success.
The first was Suzy's 10 1/2 year old daughter Leica. I will always think that whatever was learned in that first attempt
is Suzy's legacy, born from the desire to do better than what she suffered through, for those following her.
About 1 year later one of my males developed LP at  9 1/2 years old, and this surgery was done .
Several years later, another 9 1/2 year old had the same surgery done. And several years later again,
a 10 year old had this surgery.

All four of my dogs were released on the day of surgery; no stay in intensive care was required;
none were heavily drugged for pain with nausea-inducing narcotics that might put them at increased risk
for vomiting and subsequently getting aspiration pneumonia;
and they walked out and got into my car easily. A board certified surgeon was not required to do the procedure.
After the initial few days during which I hand-fed them their normal volume of food in the form of small meatballs,
the dogs returned to normal eating and drinking.  They were allowed free access to water from the start.
Within 1 to 2 weeks, they were able to eat their regular raw diet of chopped meats and veggies, as well as kibble.
Within 3 to 4 weeks they were able to eat boney items such as chicken quarters and pork necks.
They were able to run and play with greatly enhanced quality of life, and none of the four contracted aspiration pneumonia.

Following is further information on the subject of a surgery for LP with less risk of aspiration pnuemonia than the tie-back.
It appears to be similar to what my local vet has been doing. It was published in Just Labs, May/June 2002 (
The following is quoted from that issue:
"...we were referred to a veterinary board certified surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Sadanaga of the Veterinary Referral Center in Frazier, Pennsylvania.....
Whereas most surgeons performed an operation known as a tie-back (arytenoid lateralization),
in which either one or both (my own note here, tying back both sides has been found to have diseastrous results with
high aspiration pnuemonia and mortality and isn't being done anymore, Y.M.) of the arytenoid cartilages is literally stitched back
to open up the airway, our surgeon preferred a vocal fold resection (removal of the vocal cords) coupled with
a slight repositioning of the larynx (bilateral arytenoidpexy). While the tie-back surgery results in a more open airway,
the airway cannot close off while the dog is eating, making aspiration of food and the resulting pnuemonia a likley occurence for many dogs....
the procedure this surgeon offered presented a much better end result."

There is a Yahoo group for Canine Laryngeal Paralysis which has information and support,
though they have no info on the alternative surgery.
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Developmental Bone Diseases
and Rapid Growth
This is a super article, required reading for anyone growing large breed dogs.
Relationship of Nutrition to Developmental Skeletal Disease in Young Dogs
 by Richardson and Toll

Synopsis of a study done on Great Dane puppies using three different calcium levels with the rest of the diet held constant.
Helps correct the false idea, generated by older research, that high protien levels are the cause of developemental skeletal problems in large breeds.
Actually high protien levels in the diet of growing large breed puppies cause NO ill effects.
The culprits are high calcium levels and high calory levels.
It seems to be taking years for the mistaken idea that high protien is a problem for dogs, to be replaced with correct information.
Dietary Mineral Levels Affect Bone Development in Great Dane Pups

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Bloodwork Values for Puppies
Bloodwork Reference Values for Puppies-click here.
Normal puppies have blood work values differing in some respects from adult values.

Blood serum chemistry values table, from Small Animal Paediatric Medicine and Surgery--click here.

Hematology values table, from Small Animal Paediatric Medicine and Surgery--click here.

This doesn't pertain particularly to puppies, but might be of help
to those interpreting bloodwork results of dogs fed a raw or homemade diet.
Raw Diet Effects on Bloodwork Values---Dr. Jean Dodds

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Copyright Rey and Yvonne McGehee 2000---2012.