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[Equinox Kennels/Articles/elements/left-menu.htm] Blues, Dilutes, and Color Dilution Alopecia

by Robin Nuttall, originally posted on MinPinInReview

In MinPIns there is a lot of controversy over the blue coated Min Pin. It's an allowed color in the UK but not in the US, and there's a lot of debate on whether it should be allowed here. I am new to the breed—my first Min Pin is only 18 months old. But I think I can speak fairly authoritatively on the dilute colors (both blue and fawn) as a very long-time owner of Dobermans. My first Doberman, bought in 1981, was a blue and he ended up with Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA). Having a dog with the condition and access to a veterinary medical library, I've done a lot of study. I have also been active in both the DPCA and the UDC, where there has always been much debate and discussion over dilutes and their effect on the breed. Some of the pictures of Dobermans featured on Min Pin sites as examples of Champion dilutes are dogs I have met, bred by people I know.

In Dobermans, our situation is a bit reversed. Blues and Fawns are allowed in CKC and AKC, and not allowed in the FCI (I'm not sure about in the UK). So Germany, where the breed originates, does not allow blues or fawns.

CDA is a real issue in blue dogs across many breeds. Though fawn dogs tend to be lumped in with the blues, I haven't actually found that many fawns with CDA--it seems less common in fawns than in blues. Weimaraners, by the way, are predominantly fawn/lilac. Blue Weims are disqualified in AKC. Blue chows, Blue Danes, Blue Dobes, Blue MinPins, and other blue breeds DO tend to get CDA.

CDA is a disease affecting the melanin of the dilute coat (usually blues). Melanin cells are the color cells. When a dog has CDA, the melanin in the hair shaft clumps together instead of being evenly distributed. These abnormal clumps make the hair shaft weak, and it tends to break off easily. Dilute coats also tend to be sparser in general than non-dilutes, with fewer hairs to the inch. Blue/dilute dogs also tend to have more skin problems like folliculitis, etc. Most of these dogs are born normal and may have mostly normal coats until they are 2 or 3, when they begin to lose coat in a patterned fashion over their torso. The rust markings are not affected. For most dogs with CDA it's a largely benign condition that results in gradual balding, but the skin is typically dark colored so it's hard to tell at first glance that the dog is lacking coat. CDA is NOT associated with hypothyroidism, and supplementing the thyroid will not make it go away. Dogs with CDA do require intensive coat management and feeding supplements to help keep their coats and skin from becoming infected.

Tess Henssler was one of the grande dames of the Doberman breed, and had over 100 champions under her vom Ahrtal kennel name by the 1980s. She used to say there's no such thing as a bad color on a good dog. In general, especially in the Doberman breed, I agree. Dobermans are a breed absolutely plagued with terrible health issues. Average age at death is 10 and sudden death at anywhere from 2 to 6 from cardiomyopathy is horribly common. Another late-onset disease, CVI/Wobblers, is devastating in a different way through slow paralysis. Because of the huge health issues in our breed I have often argued that if a dilute dog is healthy and from a pedigree full of dogs living past 10, coat color would be my last breeding consideration.

Min Pins, on the other hand, are a fairly hardy and long-lived breed. So the reasons for including blues would be historic and to ensure better breeding of those colors, but it could be argued that dilutes are certainly not necessary for the preservation of the breed and that breeding knowing you could be subjecting a puppy owner to a lot of extra effort on coat care should be avoided.

I do not think allowing blues in the breed ring would have any effect whatsoever on the puppy millers who push those colors as "rare" or "special." It sure hasn't done any such thing in Dobermans, and we've allowed dilutes for almost 30 years. So in my opinion, trying to reduce the number of poor breeders producing blues is not a reason to allow the color in the CKC or AKC standard.

This is a decision only the breed club can make. Though I do like the look of a blue coat I personally would not choose to take the chance of dealing with CDA again. I would predict that like Dobermans, they would have a difficult row to hoe in order to become Champions. The question, as always, would be whether allowing the blues and fawns to compete would better the gene pool as a whole. I tend to think it would not, but again, that's a decision for the breed club.


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