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The Great Pyrenees is one of the descendant breeds of the large, primarily white guardian dogs which are believed to have originated in central Asia. These dogs were key components in the lives of the nomadic tribes with whom they lived, generally used to protect the tribe's herds of horses, sheep and goats against predators and thieves. 

As the tribes moved westward seeking more fertile pasturage, their dogs came with them. Today, we can almost trace the westward migrations by the breeds that settled into areas along the way: Akbash, Polish Sheepdog or Tatra Mountain Dog (Owczarek Podhalanski), Kuvasz, Komondor, Maremma, Chuvatch and Pomeranian Sheepdog. Eventually these dogs reached the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. The large white dogs settled into the mountains and became the breed we know today as the Great Pyrenees. For centuries the Great Pyrenees have worked with the shepherds to protect the sheep flocks on the steep mountain slopes, in dense underbrush and high open pasture. They continued to be widely used for this purpose until the late 1800's when the Pyrenees population of large predators was eliminated. Only through the efforts of a few key protectors of the breed did it survive through the early years of the 1900's and World War I. In 1932 the first Great Pyrenees were imported into the U.S.A. for the purpose of breeding. Heavy exporting of some of France's best dogs continued up until the outbreak of World War II. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1933 at which time the breed's first American Standard was approved. The Standard, based heavily on the French Standard, was revised in 1935 and then stood unchanged for 55 years.

 Why should I test my dog for genetic disease?

Veterinarians and responsible breeders of purebred dogs and cats are well aware that hip dysplasia and other inherited diseases can be controlled by careful, selective breeding programs. DNA tests for specific diseases remain the "gold standard" in determining an animal's genotype, but in the absence of available DNA tests, phenotypic evaluations are the best alternative. Information regarding the test results from the sire and dam, along with information on other close relatives such as siblings, half-siblings, aunts and uncles allows breeders to apply greater selective pressure to produce normal offspring and avoid affected offspring.

Great Pyrenees Breed Tests:
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Congenital Cardiac Exam
  • OFA thyroid evaluation from an approved laboratory
  • OFA Elbow Dysplasia Evaluation
  • OFA evaluation based on BAER test
  • OFA Shoulder OCD Evaluation
  • ACVO Eye Exam 
  • Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR)
  • Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia (GT)

Canine Multi-focal Retinopathy (CMR)

Canine Multi-focal Retinopathy (CMR) is a recessively inherited eye disease. Early clinical studies in 1998 by Dr. Bruce Grahn at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, first described CMR in the Great Pyrenees. The condition observed in each of the named breeds at an ophthalmologist’s exam includes numerous distinct (i.e. multi-focal), roughly circular patches of elevated retina with accumulation of material that produces gray-tan-pink colored lesions. These lesions, looking somewhat like blisters, vary in location and size, although typically they are present in both eyes of the affected dog.Discrete areas of tapetal hyper-reflectivity might also be seen.

Neuronal Degeneration (NDG)

An inherited neurological disease termed Neuronal Degeneration (NDG), has been reported in Great Pyrenees dogs. The age-of-onset of this disease is very young, well before an affected dog’s first birthday, but begins quite mildly. Initial signs include slipping, sliding, and difficulty maneuvering on smooth surfaces. The gait is abnormal - the dog may seem weak, clumsy, or uncoordinated. Over time, these problems progress and worsen. The abnormalities are most pronounced in the hind limbs, and both sides of the body tend to be affected symmetrically. Eventually, affected dogs display a wide-base stance, become unable to negotiate stairs, have a generalized loss of control and coordination over body movements, and may experience intermittent falling. The condition itself is non-painful, although stumbling and falling can obviously cause pain and traumatic injuries

Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)

Canine degenerative myelopathy, also known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy, is an incurable, progressive disease of the canine spinal cord that is similar in many ways to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Onset is typically after the age of 7 years and it is seen most frequently in the German shepherd dog, Pembroke Welsh corgi, and boxer dog, though the disorder is strongly associated with a gene mutation in SOD1 that has been found in 43 breeds as of 2008, including the wire fox terrier, Chesapeake Bay retriever, Rhodesian ridgeback, and Cardigan Welsh corgi. Progressive weakness and incoordination of the rear limbs are often the first signs seen in affected dogs, with progression over time to complete paralysis. Myelin is an insulating sheath around neurons in the spinal cord. One proposed cause of degenerative myelopathy is that the immune system attacks this sheath, breaking it down. This results in a loss of communication between nerves in lower body of the animal and the brain.

Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia (GT)

Glanzmann's Thrombasthenia (GT) is a rare bleeding disorder in which the platelets are defective. Platelets have the ability to stick together to stop the flow of blood from injured blood vessels until clotting and tissue repair occurs. While dogs with GT have normal platelet counts, they have abnormal platelet aggregation and blood clotting and thus are at risk of life-threatening bleeding, including spontaneous hemorrhage and excessive hemorrhage as a result of injury or surgery. The disease often manifests itself in young dogs with bleeding gums and/or nosebleeds. GT has been recognized in several breeds, in particular Otter Hounds and Great Pyrenees. GT is an inherited autosomal recessive disorder




Chrystal Chavez-Rackley



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October 10, 2020

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