Italian Greyhounds: Bred for Bad Teeth

Scientists at UC Davis have identified the gene responsible for tooth disorder common in Italian greyhounds (IG).

Greyhound - ENAM3

credit: UC Davis Veterinary Medicine

Enamel hypoplasia in IGs is characterized by discolored, rough surfaced teeth, the condition is caused by incomplete mineral deposition and/or defective organization of enamel during the development of the tooth. The genetic disorder was traced back to a 5bp deletion in the ENAM gene.

The authors also report that the mutation appears to be under positive selection. So while breeders were busy selecting for some breed type they liked, they were also inadvertently selecting the IG for bad teeth. The result is that 14% of IGs are affected with EH and 30% of them are carriers.

Greyhound - ENAM7-

Another example of breeders and their arbitrary selection methods negatively impacting the breed they are “improving.”

UC Veterinary Genetics Laboratory now offers a genetic test to help breeders better manage the population. Hopefully responsible breeders and IG fanciers will start demanding this test along with the other usual health checks.


Gandolfi B, Liu H, Griffioen L, & Pedersen NC (2013). Simple recessive mutation in ENAM is associated with amelogenesis imperfecta in Italian Greyhounds. Animal genetics, 44 (5), 569-78 PMID: 23638899

22 thoughts on “Italian Greyhounds: Bred for Bad Teeth

  1. With all due respect to the author, I wish that he or she was a little more mindful of the language and tone used in this article.
    More progress can be made towards the common goal of producing healthy animals by breeders and scientists working together.

    • My thoughts exactly. The author makes it wound as if the breeders didn’t care about the tooth problems…. but guess what? Now that they KNOW which gene is responsible, they may be able to test and select for the wild type version of the gene with simple DNA testing. Maybe it’s way off in terms of technology at the moment, but gene therapy might eventually be an option.

      • This is actually the same issue I bring up in 100 Years of Breed Improvement. While IG breeders were busy selecting for some type they liked they created a population where nearly 50% are affected by this mutation.

        • um 14% are effected, the rest are carriers. That’s different. 50% are not effected. A dog needs two copies of FEH in order to be effected. Since this is a single gene that requires two copies it will be easy to breed out. Well easy for reputable breeders to breed out. I doubt the BYBs and mills will care.

          • Affected by the mutation is different from affected with the condition. However, I could have made it clearer.

            I did a rough calc and if you run the numbers, it won’t be as easy as you think – . If I have time, I’ll model it in Mathematica

            • While I don’t know for sure, I bet if you look at where the funding for that research came from, you’ll find IG breeders and breed clubs involved.

        • But you missed, we’ve lowered the incidence of seizures and leg breaks…which would you rather live with? Poor enamel or epilepsy or a dog that breaks walking across the floor? Both were common in the 1800’s, not so common now. Wish breeding was as easy as you make it sound.

          • You are going to have to come up with some documentation supporting leg breaks and seizures as being common in 1800s. I said nothing about breeding being easy. I’ve stated that breeders have selected for this mutation which happens to be true.

          • Angela you are a moron. You seem incapable of posting without personal attacks and speculation about my motivation and lifestyle. Stick to the issues so we can see you posts

    • UC Davis has been awesome to work with… they do not have the attitude that all breeders of purebred anything are evil greedy people exploiting the animals for money.

  2. Every breeder I know is proactively testing for this gene, and other genes. As it’s only been available for just a year now. You have made accusations based on your assumptions.. Your facts are not straight. I personally not a breeder, would rather have no seizures and broken legs over an enamel issue. But they are making huge strides to improve teeth in IGs. One step at time is all they can do. There are no breeds out there pure breed or mutt that will ever be completely free of health issues, as humans will always have a diseases too. Nothing is %100 percent fixable. And yes musts / designer breeds are way more unhealthy then a purebred from a rep breeder that are proactively health testing, as those other breeders are Taking 2 or more breeds that already have there own health issues and mashing them together creating a whole mess of other health issues..

    • I’ve made no accusations. It is a fact IG breeders have selected for bad teeth, knowingly or unknowingly. They have done so. Everything else you said is irrelevant. The issue of mutts has no place in this discussion.

  3. The fact is you must take one step at a time to alleviate genetic issues. The ultimate goal is to minimized them all while keeping the good qualities of each breed as they should be, recognizable and as close to standard as you can get as there are no perfect dogs anywhere. Natural selection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. You can get all good, or ALL of the potential defects on both sides. I’ve learned there is no perfection in this life. There is only the struggle toward it.
    What you have intimated (intentionally or not) is that breeders are working against themselves and creating problems. That is far from the truth or the whole truth of the matter. It is the very responsible breeders who made it possible for UC Davis to locate enough information to create this test among others. And they will continue to support their breed both monetarily and in using their own DNA with open honesty so that researchers such as Dr. Pederson can identify more genetic markers for more defects so that they can use them to even better the future of the breed. The dogs who participated in this study were donated (their DNA) by just those very responsible breeders, for this and the other ongoing studies now at several universities. They have encouraged a huge number of pet owners through their sphere of influence to donate DNA as well. That huge group encompasses the majority of the input of information that enables these studies to continue. That is what true responsible breeders do to further the health of their breed and it shows a dedication that should be admired, not scoffed at.

    • My very last sentence reads:

      UC Veterinary Genetics Laboratory now offers a genetic test to help breeders better manage the population. Hopefully responsible breeders and IG fanciers will start demanding this test along with the other usual health checks.

      And it’s great if they do; it doesn’t take away from the fact they created the problem in the first place.

      The IG, like so many other breeds, could really benefit from a outcrossing though it’s something that breeders here and abroad will never consider.

  4. That’s right your right everyone else is wrong and only you know all the facts!! You are not open minded you are probably some crazy AR person.. Mr. Know it all.. So why bother to debate with someone like you.. Cause your a breeder who’s breed IGS before and knows how it goes right.. Your a veterinarian I assume with a PhD in animal science. And you know breeders personally and their breeding programs. Just so you know I have had my rescues tested and the one out of 5 I have is a carry and does not even show signs their teeth are normal. So how as a breeder would you know this existed if the teeth are normal and there was no tests previously to identify this gene?? Can you tell me?? So if they were purposely breeding for this so you say why do only one of mine actually have the gene?? Shouldn’t they all if it was so deliberately done especially my rescues. And two that I own from rep breeders are free of this gene as well. Since they test and select dogs not effected to breed this out of the breed?? Hummmm go educate yourself or meet real breeders not BYB or millers..

    • Sara Hambly, you are just another moron more interested in speculating about me that talking about the issue. The about me section gives you some information about my interests. Typically, you go on a speculative journey rather than seeking information which was available from a single mouse click.

      And as far as your specific case, it could just be luck. The chances of any individual dog is aprox. testing (+) is 1/3, you have fallen victim to the gambler’s fallacy.

      You typify why so many breeds have so many problems. Instead of burying your head in your breed club’s ass and spouting their rhetoric, you should educate yourself.

    • How about you spend less time wondering about me and focus your meager intellect to the issue at hand?

      “you are probably some crazy AR person..”


      “Your a veterinarian I assume “


      PhD in animal science


      And from another trolling comment that I won’t post:

      I see are quotes from Other people you stole.

      Moron, if you are giving credit you are not stealing.

      I bet you love PETA ALSO

      You lost the that bet, troll.

      In conclusion, stop speculating about me and post about the issue.

  5. Maybe you should attend a health seminar that’s held every year for IGs at there specialty to actually see what is taking place in the advancement of health and there ongoing dedication with UC Davis to help erraticate certain health problems.

    • All good things. Doesn’t take away from a problem created by breeders.

      BTW, I haven’t said anything new. The author’s wrote:

      Genome analyses suggest that the trait is under inadvertent positive selection

      That’s sci-speak for “you caused these problems”

      Take up your problem with the researchers.

  6. I like your blog. Some actual common sense. My sister shows IG’s. I have had these types of discussions with her many times to no avail. I always get the same “responsible” breeder crap. Some breeds like the English bulldog are absolute train wrecks and no one who breeds them could be called responsible. Yet these people will say nothing against breeding dogs that are unhealthy by design. They also won’t call the AKC for certification of puppy mill dogs which they continue to do. These are dogs bred by what they call “large volume breeders” and are often sold in pet stores. Keep up the good work.

  7. I would be interested what the author and the authors of the supporting comments would recommend as methods to deal with the issue now that the problem has been identified. Since there are many other unidentified problems an out cross may actually introduce additional future health problems which could be more serious. An out cross strategy should be considered only if the carrier and affected were 100%. Removing the affected and carriers from the gene pool narrows the diversity even further and sets the breed up for more heath problems as has been proven in other breeds, in particular the Portuguese Water Dog(1). If a breed and replace protocol is put in place it takes time to implement and remove the affected from the population. This test is fairly recent and it should be of no surprise that the the pie chart results if accurate are what the are. The affected population for the test is 14%, the carriers are 30%. The carriers can be valuable for future breeding using the above described method. If bred responsibly (breed & replace) the affected and carrier percentage should drop dramatically without degrading genetic diversity or optimal breeding population, tests that are also available.

    The glass is half full not half empty.

    The Dog and Its Genome, Elaine Ostrander, Urs Giger and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh
    American Breed Clubs and Health Initiatives Jerold S. Bell.

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