The Breed History
In ancient times, the early ancestral dogs of the Samoyed breed likely moved with migrating tribes from Iran through Mongolia to the Northwestern Siberian tundra. There they helped the Samoyede people in many ways, and were welcomed as family members into their nomadic dwellings. They were first brought to England in the late nineteenth century. The first dog was registered with AKC in 1906.
Breeding for Function
These dogs provided herding and guarding for the reindeer herds, and also were valued as close companions. They excelled as sled dogs in many of the early Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.
Height at Withers: female 19-21" (48-53 cm), male 21-23.5" (53-60 cm).
Weight: 50-65 lb (23-29.5 kg).
Coat: The double coat is profuse, heavy and very resistant to the elements. Males have a particularly well-developed lion's type ruff. The undercoat is soft, short and wooly while outer hairs are straight, stand out from the body and are glistening silvery-white. Some dogs have a creamy or biscuit color.
Longevity: 12 years
Points of Conformation: The head is wedge-shaped, broad and the muzzle is moderate in all aspects, with some tapering. The nose is usually black (also liver and brown) and large. A well-defined stop is present, and the black rimmed lips are characteristically slightly upturned resulting in what breeders term the "Samoyed smile". Ears have thick leather and stand erect, and are short and triangular, though rounded at the tips. Eyes and palpebral rims are darkly pigmented. Blue eyes disqualify. Almond shaped and deep set, widely spaced, the eyes slant up laterally. Strong in bone and musculature, the thorax is deep and ribs are well sprung. The topline is highest at withers and straight. They possess a moderate abdominal tuck up. The muscular neck is fairly short. Limbs are moderate in length and straight boned. The feet are large (hare-foot) with arched toes and thick pads, with thick hair between the toes. Some feathering on the feet is often present. The tail reaches the tarsus when held down, is profusely covered with hair, and when moving or alert, should be over the back and to one side. The proper gait is a trot, not a pace, and strides are quick and agile; springiness and speed are valued.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Loyal guardian of home and family, not argumentative with other dogs generally, require lots of exercise, playful, curious, high grooming needs, tend to pull on leash; need early obedience training, gentle and intelligent but with an independent streak. Good with children. Need close human companionship, tolerate weather extremes well, particularly the cold. If not mentally or physically active and challenged, or given adequate time with family, they may become destructive. They have a high pitched bark.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Samoyeds are overrepresented in the population of dogs with adverse reactions to potentiated sulfonamides. Clinical signs included hypersensitivity, thrombocytopenia and hepatopathy, and infrequently can include neutropenia, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, hemolytic anemia, arthropathy, uveitis, skin and mucocutaneous lesions, proteinuria, facial palsy, suspected meningitis, hypothyroidism, pancreatitis, facial edema, and pneumonitis.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 11.1% affected. Dorn reports a 1.32x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 24% in the 1999 SCA Health Survey.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported at a high frequency by the OFA, but too few Samoyeds have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 2.3% affected.
X-linked Progressive Retinal Atrophy (XLPRA): X-linked recessive degeneration of the retina. Causes blindness between 3-6 years of age. Reported in 0.21% of Samoyeds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 1991-1999. A genetic test is available through Optigen, that reports 1% of Samoyeds test as affected, and 2% test as carriers. CERF does not recommend breeding any Samoyed with PRA. Reported at a frequency of 2.4% in the 1999 SCA Health Survey.
Oculo-Skeletal Dysplasia (OSD): Autosomal recessive developmental disease causing ocular vitreous dysplasia, cataracts, retinal detachment, and dwarfism with valgus deformity of the carpi. Heterozygous carriers of the defective gene present with various forms of retinal dysplasia. CERF does not recommend breeding any affected Samoyeds. A genetic test for RD/OSD is available.
Retinal Dysplasia (RD): Retinal dysplasia can be due to the incompletely dominant expression of the heterozygous form of the gene for oculo-skeletal dysplasia, though not all Samoyeds with retinal dysplasia are due to this testable gene. Focal retinal dysplasia and retinal folds can progress to retinal detachment. Reported in 2.24% of Samoyeds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Samoyed with retinal dysplasia. A genetic test for RD/OSD is available.
Hereditary Nephritis (glomerulopathy): X-linked dominant inherited kidney disease. Affected males develop kidney disease from 3-5 months of age, and succumb to kidney failure by 15 months of age. Affected females have a less severe form of kidney disease that does not progress to failure. This disorder may no longer be present in the Samoyed breeding/pet population.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 9.0% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 8% in the 1999 SCA Health Survey.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Dorn reports a 1.19x odds ratio versus other breeds. Identified in 4.69% of Samoyeds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Diabetes Mellitus (Sugar Diabetes): Samoyeds have an inherited form of DM with an average age of onset of 7 years (range 4-10 years). Caused by immune-mediatd destruction of insulin producing beta cells of the pancreas. Research shows relationship to certain major histocompatability (MHC) genes, and mutations in the CTLAY promotor gene. Control by insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Odds ratios versus other breeds reported as 7.58x (Dorn), 11.83x (Hess), to 21.7x (Catchpole). Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 4% in the 1999 SCA Health Survey.
Corneal Dystrophy: The breed can form epithelial corneal opacities that do not lead to corneal edema. Identified in 2.51% of Samoyeds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Juvenile cataracts are also seen, with an onset of 6 months to 2 years of age. Cataracts are identified in 2.40% of Samoyeds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 7% in the 1999 SCA Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Samoyed with a cataract.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Samoyeds are at increased risk. Reported at a frequency of 4.2% in the 1999 SCA Health Survey.
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 2.29% of Samoyeds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Pulmonic Valve Stenosis: Samoyeds are a breed at increased risk (5.4x odds ratio) for this congenital heart anomaly. Clinical signs can include exercise intolerance, stunting, dyspnea, syncope and ascites, leading to heart failure. Screen with auscultation and echocardiography.
Primary (Narrow Angle) Glaucoma: Ocular condition causing increased pressure within the eyeball, and secondary blindness due to damage to the retina. Diagnose with tonometry and gonioscopy. Reported at a frequency of 1.59% in the breed, with a female preponderance. Dorn reports a 1.76x odds ratio versus other breeds. CERF does not recommend breeding any Samoyed with glaucoma.
Uveodermatologic (VKH-Like) Syndrome: This is an autoimmune disease manifested by progressive uveitis and depigmenting dermatitis that closely resembles the human Vogt - Koyanagi - Harada syndrome. The disease presents between 1-1/2 to 4 years of age, and can progress to blindness. Treatment is with steroids. CERF does not recommend breeding any affected Samoyeds.
Alopecia-X (Black Skin Disease, BSD, Coat Funk): Progressive, symmetrical, non-pruritic, truncal hair loss usually beginning in early adulthood. ACTH, LDDS, and thyroid panel results are normal. Oral trilostane reverses the condition in some cases. The disorder appears familial.
Sebaceous Adenitis: Disorder of immune mediated sebaceous gland destruction, presenting with hair loss, usually beginning with the dorsal midline and ears. Diagnosis by skin biopsy. Treat with isotretinoin. An autosomal recessive mode of inheritance is suspected.
Lingual Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): Samoyeds have a 24.63x odds ratio versus other breeds of developing this tongue cancer. Females are overrepresented in one study.
Atrial Septal Defect, Cerebellar Abiotrophy, Deafness, Factor VIII Deficiency, Growth Hormone Responsive Dermatosis, Mcrophthalmia, Muscular Dystrophy, Myasthenia Gravis, Osteochondritis Dessicans-Stifle, Oligodontia, Pelger-Huet Anomaly, Shaker Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Spongiform Leukodystrophy, Subaortic Stenosis, Ulcerative Keratitis, Ventricular Septal Defect, von Willebrand's Disease, and Zinc Responsive Dermatosis are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Tremors and Hypomyelination: Reported in several related litters of Samoyed pups. Clinical signs of tremors and an inability to stand occurred from 3-5 weeks of age. There was a lack of myelin in the central nervous system due to abnormal oligodendrocyte function.
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for XLPRA and RD/OSD are available from Optigen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; cardiac exam, CERF eye examination (minimum of 1 year of age), hip dysplasia radiograph, and DNA test for XLPRA. (See CHIC website: caninehealthinfo.org) Recommended tests are; elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Samoyedskaya, Sammies (nickname).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 73 (1,077 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Samoyed Club of America: samoyedclubofamerica.org
Samoyed Association of Canada: samoyed.ca
The British Samoyed Club: british-samoyed-club.co.uk
Samoyed Club of America Research Foundation: samoyedhealthfoundation.org
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