The Breed History
The Malamute is one of the ancient Arctic Sled Dogs, and they are the Native sled dog of Alaska. Their name derives from the Innuit tribe/village (Mahlemuts) that kept them. The Samoyed and Siberian Husky of Russia are cousin breeds. First registration in AKC occurred in 1935. Within the breed are two types based on size and color. M’Loot are larger than the Kotzebue strain, and the Kotzebue consist of dogs with only wolf-gray coat color.
Breeding for Function
Hauling heavy sleds was their primary function. They are still popular as sled racing dogs, and as companion animals. Their forte is in pulling weight, not in their speed, but due to their stamina, they excel at long distance racing.
Height at Withers: female 23" (58.5 cm), male 25" (63.5 cm). Weight: females 75 lb (34 kg), males 85 lb (38.5 kg). Coat: They blow their coats twice annually but are relatively low shedding during the rest of the year. They have low bathing and grooming needs since they tend to groom like a cat. They have a very dense double coat with a short (1-2" or 2.5-5 cm) dense wooly soft undercoat and very dense stand out coarse guard hairs in the outer coat that are straight. There are distinct face markings including a face of white or white with a bar or mask. Blue eyes disqualify except in red color dogs, where they are pigmented brown; the palpebral margins, lip margins and nose are black. Coats are commonly gray in different shades, black, red, and sable. All of these have points and markings in a prescribed pattern of a different color. The only solid dog allowed is a white one. Usually most of the underside and the lower limbs of the dog are white.
Longevity: 12 years.
Points of Conformation: The dog is compact, very muscular, with high alert head carriage and possesses a deep thorax (1/2 the height of the dog) with well-sprung ribs. Head is broad, small triangular ears are held erect or pricked up when alert and they are set well back on the skull. Sometimes while running the ears are seen folded back and down. Medium-sized eyes are almond shaped, and dark brown in color. The muzzle gradually tapers. Their tail is set high, thickly covered in hair and sits a plume over the topline. Limbs are heavily boned and well muscled, and not bowed. Gait is true and tireless, with long powerful stride and excellent agility. Neck is short, muscular, and has a moderate arch. Topline is straight but slopes down towards the rear of the dog. The feet are large and possess large thick pads, with plenty of hair between the toes. Toes are well arched, and compact. Dewclaws on the rear are removed.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Terms used to describe this Breed include: active, friendly, and good with children. Also they are loyal, but may fight with other dogs unless socialized, may be strong on the leash, and early obedience training is important since these dogs can be a bit stubborn and are easily bored.
They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. They will enjoy gentle children, though early socialization to children is recommended. Other traits include needing lots of human contact, and not considered a good watchdog. They may dig so it is advised to bury fence below grade and make it high (6’) and sturdy. They have low barking tendency but are very vocal with talking noises and may howl.
Tolerate heat OK if given shade and cool water.
Normal Breed Variations
The Alaskan Malamute is a breed with a predisposition to higher eosinophil counts or certain eosinophilic diseases. Two of the more common disease causes of canine hypereosinophilia are pulmonary infiltrates with eosinophils (PIE) and gastrointestinal disease.
If they have snow nose (pink pigment on black nose), they are more prone to skin cancer and sunburn in the low pigment area. Snow nose may disappear in the summer.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 11.5% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 3.2% affected.
Chondrodysplasia with Stomatocytosis (also referred to as Dwarfism or CHD): Autosomal recessive disorder, causing short-limbed dwarfism and hemolytic anemia. Chondrodysplasia Certification Registry of AMCA - examines a 5 generation pedigree - to check for all test-bred normal ancestors.
Polyneuropathy: Two forms are reported in the breed. It is unknown if they are related to each other genetically. Hereditary polyneuropathy is an autosomal recessive disorder with an age of onset between 7-18 months of age. It causes progressive posterior ataxia, exercise intolerance, megaesophagus, atrophy of shoulder and thigh muscles, and hyporeflexia. Another form, idiopathic polyneuropathy, causes a distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy in young mature dogs. Mode of inheritance has not been determined. Clinical signs included progressive paraparesis, synchronous pelvic limb gait, exercise intolerance, hyperesthesia, hyporeflexia, muscle atrophy, and tetraplegia. Diagnosis and differentiation between these two disorders is based on electromyography or peripheral nerve biopsy.
Cone degeneration (CD): A rare, autosomal recessive condition, causing day blindness. Onset approximately 8 weeks of age. Caused by a mutation in the CNGB3 gene. Affected dogs should not be bred. A direct genetic test is available.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Alaskan Malamutes have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 11.1% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 8.03% of Alaskan Malamutes CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts: Onset around one year of age. Slowly progressive; rarely leading to blindness. CERF does not recommend breeding any Alaskan Malamute with a cataract. Identified in 7.56% of Alaskan Malamutes CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 2.05% of Alaskan Malamutes CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Retinal Dysplasia: Focal folds and geographic retinal dysplasia are seen in the breed. It is questionable whether focal folds can lead to disease, however dogs with the geographic form should not be bred. Identified in 1.17% of Alaskan Malamutes CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Alopecia-X (Coat Funk): Progressive, symmetrical, non-pruritic truncal hair loss usually beginning in early adulthood. ACTH, LDDS, and thyroid panel results are normal. Elevated blood concentrations of 17-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP) have been seen post ACTH stimulation. Oral trilostane reversed the condition in some cases. The disorder appears familial.
Glaucoma: An elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) which, when sustained, causes intraocular damage resulting in blindness. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. CERF does not recommend breeding any Alaskan Malamute with glaucoma.
Lipid Corneal Stromal Dystrophy: A non-inflammatory corneal opacity (white to gray) present in one or more of the corneal layers; usually inherited and bilateral. Identified in 1.03% of Alaskan Malamutes CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Canine Zinc-Responsive Dermatosis: Familial form identified in the breed, characterized by erythema, alopecia, scales, and crusts that primarily affect the head. Diagnosed by skin biopsy. Life-long zinc supplementation is usually necessary.
Isolated Case Studies
Osteochondromatosis (Multiple Cartilaginous Exostoses): Several case reports of young dogs with cervical pain, paresis, and or proprioceptive deficits. Focal lesions may be corrected surgically.
Juvenile Nephropathy: Multiple case reports. Kidney disorder identified in 3 littermates. Presented in renal failure between 4-11 months of age.
Factor IX Deficiency (Hemophilia B): Identified in a 6 month-old dog with a two week history of bleeding from an oral wound. Factor IX activity was only 1.3% of normal. Factor VII deficiency has also been reported in the breed.
Myelodysplasia: Case study of weakness of all 4 limbs in an adult dog. No CT or myelographic abnormalities, but diffuse spinal cord myelodysplasia and edema found on necropsy.
Paraoesophageal Hiatal Hernia and Megaoesophagus: Report on a 3 week old dog with regurgitation. An oesophagopexy and a bilateral gastropexy were performed, and the dog gained weight normally.
Maxillary Ameloblastic Carcinoma: A 3-year-old female Alaskan Malamute with a painful, ulcerated mass of the right maxilla was diagnosed with ameloblastic carcinoma. Histologic examination showed a neoplastic proliferation of palisading cells distributed irregularly in cords. The dog was alive 2 years after hemi-maxillectomy.
Cryptorchidism, Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus, Diabetes Mellitus, Epilepsy, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, Hemivertebra, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, Macrocytosis/stomatocytosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Narcolepsy, OCD-shoulder, Optic nerve hypoplasia, Panosteitis, Patella luxation, Portosystemic shunt, Progressive retinal atrophy, Pulmonic stenosis, Retained teeth, Ulcerative keratitis, Uveal hypopigmentation, Uveodermatologic syndrome, Ventricular septal defect, and von Willebrand’s disease are reported.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for color alleles is available from VetGen.
Direct test for CD is available from Optigen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; hip radiograph and CERF eye examination. Optional recommended testing; thyroid profile including auto-antibodies. (See CHIC website: caninehealthinfo.org)
Also recommend elbow radiographs, patella evaluation and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Malamute, Alaskan Malemute, Malemute
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 57 (1,737 registered)
- Internet resources: Alaskan Malamute Club of America Inc.: alaskanmalamute.org
Alaskan Malamute Research Foundation: malamutehealth.org
Alaskan Malamute Club of Canada: quadrant.net/amcc/
Alaskan Malamute Club of the UK: alaskanmalamute.org.uk
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