This is actually old news, but it’s worth repeating so everybody understands it. There are a TON of nonsensical statements being made in many breeds, often based on merle gene testing, and these all need to be taken back.
When you click on the link to get your dog tested for merle, http://www.genmarkag.com/index.php, here’s what you get:
Yep, the “merle” test is dead.
I don’t know the exact story; I’ve heard that the gene they decided was merle (SILV) actually turned out to be for a form of piebaldism. That would make a lot of sense, because I’ve seen pictures of the dogs they decided were single and double merle and the single merles have a ton of white markings. Color authorities have been saying for years that it can be difficult to tell the difference (by sight) between double merle dogs and piebald dogs, and evidently genetic researchers couldn’t either.
Here’s the study that absolutely clinches how terribly wrong they were, in my opinion:
The short story is that they tested a bunch of dogs to correlate the double merle pattern and deafness, and they found that two doses of the SILV gene equaled deafness in about 15% of the dogs tested.
Clearly, nobody on the board was a breeder of merle dogs, because ANYBODY who breeds merles could have told them that true double merles are deaf probably 95% of the time. The number of double merles I’ve ever seen or heard of that can hear well? MAYBE one or two. A handful more have partial hearing. But I come from Danes, where merle to merle (harlequin to harlequin) is an incredibly common breeding. There are lots of white dogs around and virtually none can hear. There’s a white Dane boy whose breeders claimed he could hear, but he also could have been a piebald and not a double merle. I know of zero double-merle Aussies that can hear; I know of a couple double merle Cardis with partial hearing but none that have 100%.
According to that study, if SILV was the real merle gene, we should be getting 85% normal-hearing or unilateral-hearing dogs.
Which (WOW) just ain’t happening.
The real tragedy of this fact is that breeders and breed clubs have been making all kinds of wild claims based on the result of this faulty merle testing. The Chihuahua Club of America is basing all kinds of their campaign to disqualify merle on the fact that they have unhealthy dogs who were tested as “single” merles. The same study up there found that “single merles” had a rate of unilateral and bilateral deafness that approached 10%. The researchers found all kinds of eye and ear abnormalities in dogs that were tested to be single merle (i.e., “normal” merle), and therefore implied that the whole color was a ticking timebomb of horrible health issues. The fact that they were testing the WRONG THING has not been made public and the CCA and other breed clubs have not recanted their reasoning for banning or attempting to ban the color. And a whole bunch of breed clubs’ health pages still list that dead link as the source for merle testing.
So spread the word – it’s actually good news. If that HAD ended up being the correct gene, we’d all be scratching our heads and trying to figure out why the researchers were telling us that our dogs were all unsound when we were looking right at them and they were fine.
Clue says, “I can hear just fine. Too well, actually.”