Newsletter: Volume 5, Issue 2 JULY, 2001

I recently returned from the canine cancer conference titled “Genes, Dogs and Cancer: Emerging Concepts in Molecular Diagnosis and Therapy” sponsored by the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the Heska Corporation and hosted by the AMC Cancer Research Center of Denver, CO. The conference was held at the beautiful Keystone Resort in Colorado May 21 and 22. I was especially interested in attending since the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America Charitable Trust was a contributing sponsor along with the American Boxer Club Charitable Trust, the Flat-Coated Retriever Club of America and the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. The conference brought together canine cancer researchers, molecular biologists, veterinary cancer specialist, breed club representatives and veterinarians from around the country and from Europe. Presentation centered on the search for heritable factors contributing to cancer in dogs, new molecular tests to help diagnose cancer and determine prognosis, and cutting-edge treatment options which will become available in the near future. I sincerely appreciate the Shar-Pei Charitable Trust, which sent me to the conference, and I’ll share with some of the things I took home with me. First, I got the opportunity to hear from the researchers who are doing the studies the CSPCA Charitable Trust specifically funded through the AKC Canine Health Foundation. Dr. Cheryl London at the University of California, Davis is doing a study investigating c-Kit mutations in canine mast cell tumors. c-Kit is a gene involved in regulating the growth and function of normal mast cells and the mutations in this gene the she has discovered allow for uncontrolled function of this gene, which may influence the development of mast cell tumors. She has also found that the more aggressive the mast cell tumor the higher the incidence of mutations in this gene. Dr. London is also looking at some potential treatments of canine mast cell cancer utilizing orally administered small molecule inhibitors which interfere with c-Kit signaling.

Another researcher the Charitable Trust is helping to fund is Dr. Stuart Helfand of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He presented research concerning targeting of the tumor microenvironment with interleukin 12. Interleukin 12 is a potent activator of immune cells and servers in an anti-tumor roll. By coupling IL-12 to a molecule, which is preferentially taken up by tumor cells, the IL-12 is presented directly to the tumor where it can exert a direct effect.

Secondly, I met many excellent researchers who are working on the cancer problem in dogs. What was interesting to find out is that there is a very high conservation of genetic material such that over 90% of the genes in dogs are found in humans. This means that much of the research done in dogs is directly applicable to humans and vice versa. By sharing the information the researchers are able to move cancer research along at an incredible rate. I was among the researchers and their respective institutions, which facilitates exchange of information. There was a great sense of camaraderie in the group as well.

Third, I see great advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment on the horizon. Research is currently underway to utilize natural body immune substance to fight tumors, decrease blood supply to tumors and to prevent metastatic tumors from developing in other parts of the body. Infection of genes, which produce anti-tumor substances, is being tested as a treatment modality against cancer. Diagnostic tests are being developed to help detect individuals at risk for developing certain types of cancer so that preventative measures may be undertaken. The canine genome continues to be “filled in” as more genes are mapped on to it- this will allow researchers to detect genetic mutations responsible for cancer. We are entering an exciting age as powerful research tools are becoming more commonplace and knowledge about cancer is growing at an exponential rate.

I think each of us had a very important part in this process. The money we donate to the Charitable Trust directly goes to fund research in this area and is bearing fruit. Money donated to AKC Canine Health Foundation likewise funds research in this area. We may not see the benefits of this research for several more years, but the funding needs to be continued. I urge all of you to continue to donate to these grant provides- the research not only helps our dogs, but also helps human cancer research as well.

History of the Chinese Shar-Pei: Part 2

Since the Hong Konk breeders engaged in the breeding of the American Shar-Pei could no longer register their dogs withe the Hong Kong Kennel Club they formed a new kennel club known as the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association (HKKKA). This group immediately began to register the Shar-Pei (both types) and was sufficiently organized by 1972 to host its first show. I believe the formation of the HKKKA had several purposes:

  1. To provide registry services for the Shar-Pei now that the Hong Kong Kennel Club was no longer providing them.
  2. To allow registration of dogs with inadequate pedigree information. Bear in mind, due to crossbreeding and poor records, many of the Shar-Pei had no family history. This is evident in the pedigrees of many Shar-Pei today whose Chinese ancestors have no sire and/or dam listed.
  3. To allow Shar-Pei to participate in organized dog shows, matches, etc.
  4. To provide credibility for the Shar-Pei being shipped to the United States by providing pedigrees, registration paper, etc. The U.S. dog breeders demanded paperwork.

Founding members of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association included many well-known Hong Kong dog fanciers and they were also actively involved in the shipping of the Shar-Pei to the United States. It is important to remember that the HKKKA is not recognized by the Hong Kong Kennel Club and the pedigrees issued by the HKKKA are not recognized world-wide by other reputable kennel clubs. It was by this group of breeders that the American Shar-Pei was developed and then exported to the many American dog breeders who eagerly awaited them and paid large sums of money for them. Meanwhile, some Hong Kong breeders continued to breed the pure breed Chinese Fighting Dogs and were battling for their reinstatement by the Hong Kong Kennel Club. This fight was to last 22 years before it would be finally won.

As early as 1966, Chinese Fighting Dogs registered by the Hong Kong Kennel Club had been shipped to the United States. These first dogs came from a well known kennel whose foundation stock trace back to the 1950’s. Evidence exists, that these dogs were not pure bred Chinese Fighting Dogs and that cross breeding was being done as early as 1966. A fair number of these early dogs had brush coats, stub tails and flowered tongues indicating questionable background. These were possibly culls from the breeding program shipped to American dog breeders. These dogs probably had the distinction of being some of the last Hong Kong Chinese Fighting Dogs to be registered by the Hong Kong Kennel Club. These exports to the United States occurred a full seven years prior to Matgo Law’s famous plea to save the breed given in 1973. Perhaps these early dogs served to test the market in the United States for Shar-Pei. A number of questions arise at this point:

  1. Why, with pure bred Chinese Fighting Dogs available and registered by the Hong Kong Kennel Club, was the Chinese Fighting Dog bred with other dog breeds to produce the Shar-Pei?
  2. Why did some breeders participate in these cross breeding while others did not?
  3. What were the real motives behind the formation of the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Associations?
  4. Was the Shar-Pei an accident or a result of intentional cross breeding?

Attempts to answer these questions have, thus far, been futile. These aspects of the breed’s history may never be revealed.

In the May 1971 issue of Dogs magazine an article appeard by Lynn Ryedale entitled “Who’ll Save Our Endagered Breeds?” It featured rare dog breeds and included the Chinese Fighting Dogs. Two years later, in April 1973, Matgo Law, owner of Down-Homes Kennel in Hong Kong, published his now famous appeal in Dogs magazine to save the Chinese Fighting Dog. Mr. Law actually found his first Chinese Fighting Dog in 1965 while walking among the street traders in Hong Kong. He saw a litter of Chinese Fighting Dogs in a basket and bought one. He later received his second Chinese Fighting Dog, Down-Homes Sweet Pea as a gift from a dog fighter. Mr. Law and Mr. Chung Ching Ming, another Hong Kong dog fancier, conceived and set into motion a plan to save the breed from extinction. They wre concerned that if and when Hong Kong fell into the the hands of the Chinese Communists, the dog population would be decimated, as had happened in Chinga during the 1940’s and the Chinese Revolution. Hong Kong has since been restored to China in 1997. They collected and began breeding Chinese Fighting Dog-type dogs found in the regions of Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In response to his letter of 1973, Matgo Law received over 200 inquiries and a few months later, the first specimens of the American Shar-Pei arrived in the United States. The efforts of the Hong Kong fanciers had been worthwile and the future of the breed was assured.

The Hong Kong stor does not end in America however. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, as large numbers of the “meat mouth”, abundantly wrinkled American Shar-Pei were being exported, breeders of the pure-bred Chinese Shar-Pei became conerned that this newer dog had drifted too far away from the traditional standard. Begainning in 1982, the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. (CSPCA) severely restricted the registratioin of foreign-born Shar-Pei and this limited the numbers of American Shar-Pei leaving Hong Kong. A publicity campaign waged by the Chinese Shar-Pei Association of Hong Kong had taken steps to publicize the differences between the two breed types with the hope of limiting cross-breeding and allowing them to develop along separate lines. In fact, in Hong Kong today, these two types of Shar-Pei are shown and judged separately. Currently there are about 50 purebred Chinese Shar-Pei in Hong Kong owned by 10 or so local breeders. After a 22-year battle, in May 1988, the Hong Kong Kennel Club formally recognized the Chinese Shar-Pei again. Hong Kong continues to be a world center for the Shar-Pei breed and dogs are exported thoughout the world. How appropriate that in the country of its origin, the Shar-Pei breed, which has developed along divergent lines, has now returned to the traditional standard.

In conclusion, what does the Hong Kong history of the Shar-Pei tell us? It appears that breeders in Hong Kong served as a filter, of sorts, to select those types of dogs, which resembled the Chinese Fighting Dog, and then to breed these dogs. Crossbreeding was utilized, for whatever reason, to further refine their characteristics. A problem arose when these dogs deviated significantly from the Chinese Fighting Dog standard as defined by the Hong Kong Kennel Club and could no longer be registered with the HKKC. In order to register dogs being shipped to the United States and to add credibility to the breed, certain Shar-Pei breeders in Hong Kong formed a new kennel club – the Hong Kong and Kowloon Kennel Association. As a registering body the HKKKA could formulate pedigrees, hold shows, award titles, have its own breed standard and register dogs to further increase the demand for the Shar-Pei. At the same time, other Shar-Pei breeders in Hong Kong initiated the long process of restoring the Chinese Shar-Pei to its original standard and to re-join the Hong Kong Kennel Club. This goal has finally been achieved. Breeders in America meanwhile, have standardized the American Shar-Pei and gained acceptance with the American Kennel Club.

Remember Shar-Pei are not a heat-tolerant breed. They don’t do very well in hot weather.

  1. Dont’ keep you dog in the car when you’re not with them. Even with the windows cracked they can develop heat stroke rapidly.
  2. Provide plenty of fresh water — keep a bowl outside as well.
  3. Provide shade outside especially if you don’t have trees in the yard.
  4. Don’t keep you dog tied up outside in the heat even if you provide shade and water. If they get caught up in the tie-out the can panic and overheat quickly.
  5. Do you dog walking in the early morning or late evening during the coolest times of the day.


The subject of vaccines and vaccination protocols has become a hot topic in dog circles over recent years. Concerns have been raised about the increased incidence of immune-mediated diseases such as thrombocytopenia (low platelet counts), hemolytic anemia (immune-mediated red blood cell destruction), immune-mediated arthritis and immune-mediated skin disease as well as allergic vaccine reactions, seizures and other problems possibly related to vaccination. This discussion will proved some insight into the controversy and hopefully provide a rational approach to vaccination.

The first point that must be made is that the vaccines available today are very effective. Since the advent of vaccination programs in dogs the incidence of canine distemper, rabies, canine hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza (viral component of the “kennel cough” complex) have been dramatically reduced. When I graduated from veterinary school in 1980 the canine parvovirus epidemic had just begun and hundreds of thousands of dogs died due to lack of an effective vaccine. Now we hardly see a case of prvovirus and when we do it’s in an inadequately vaccinated puppy or adult. Vaccination works by stimulating the immune system respond to a mild dose of the disease-causing virus (modified-live virus vaccine) or killed form of the virus (killed vaccine). It is generally felt that MLV vaccines stimulate better and longer duration of immunity than killed vaccines. In response to the vaccination the immune system generates clones of lymphocytes capable of producing antibodies specific for that disease. Some of these cells are “memory cells” and will produce antibodies or re- exposure to the same disease or to a booster vaccination. Booster vaccination helps to maintain the population of memory cells, which allows a faster response to exposure to the disease later on. The presence of these memory cells and their protein products called antibodies is the basis for the concept of “titers”. Titers are the antibody levels maintained by the memory cells in the blood stream. Over the years scientists have dtermined the levels of antibody needed to maintain protection against infection by different diseases — protective titers. Ideally, the frequency of vaccination should be based on the protective titer. One concern that has been raised is what constitutes a protective titer. This titer may vary from individual to individual, the age of the animal, stress factors and exposure potential. Some animals can be vaccinated every 2-4 years because they maintain a protective titer for that long. Other individuals require more frequent vaccination intervals. The only way to verify the vaccination interval in a particular animal is to have the titer for a specific disease checked by a blood sample. The problem here is the expense involved to chec titers vs. the expense of annual vaccinations. It is less expensive to vaccinate yearly than to check titers so aannual vaccinations are recommended. We also vaccinate pets based on exposure potential. Not all pets have tick exposure so vaccinating for Lyme’s disease is not necessary in all cases. Bordetella is the bacterial component of the kennel cough complex and again, not all dags are at risk. The term “core vaccines” has been used to denote the vaccinations all dogs should have and consist of rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, adenovirus and parainfluenza. Other vaccines, which can be added, based on exposure potential are leptospirosis, bordetella, coronavirus, and Lyme’s.

Vaccine reactions can and do occur although they are infrequent. Acute allergic reactions also known as “anaphylactic reactions” occur within 10-30 minutes of the vaccinations and consist of vomiting, diarrhea, collapse, depression, pale gums all consistent with a shock-like reaction. I consider this a life-threatening reaction and immediate veterinary attention is required. Treatment involves IV fluids, antihistamines, steroids, epinephrine and supportive care. Other reactions occur later (several hours) such as hive-like reactions with itching, swollen muzzle and face, fever, lameness and just not feeling well. These reactions are not considered life-threatening and immediate intervention is seldom necessary. Treatment consists of antihistamines, steroids and/or aspirin.

My current recommendations are to get the core vaccines annually. You certainly have the option of doing titers on a yearly basis and then vaccinate accordingly. Titers are about double or triple the cost of the vaccinations and take about 1-2 weeks to get results for the lab. As the laws are written for the rabies vaccine it would have to be given regardless of the titer. Titers are available for canine distemper and canine parvovirus, which are the major diseases I’m worried about.

The future of vaccines and vaccinations is currently reevaluation as new information and technology become available. Changes are certainly in the near future and one thing we can always be assured of it change.

You may also like...