At one point in time, every purebred Dalmatian faced a genetic defect known as High Uric Acid. The High Uric Acid was a recessive gene, that affected their metabolisms and made them prone to bladder stones, uric crystals and obstructions. The obstructions at times even lead to the death of the dog. The health risk could be drastically reduced with a special low purine diet, but not guaranteed.
A gentleman, by the name of Dr. Robert Schaible, realized that this genetic issue could not be bred out of the breed, since all Dalmatians worldwide retained the double recessive gene, and suffered from this genetic defect.
Dr. Schaible realized that the only way to correct this genetic defect, was to introduce the healthy normal gene to the breed, and so the “Backcross Project” began.
In 1973 Dr. Schaible bred a male AKC Champion Pointer, to a female AKC Dalmatian. The result of this breeding produced mutt puppies, but nevertheless, achieved the goal of introducing the normal uric acid gene (that we call today “Low Uric Acid”, or LUA for short).
The puppies of this breeding were bred back to normal purebred Dalmatians, making their offspring three quarters Dalmatian, one quarter Pointer. The puppies had a 50/50 chance of acquiring the LUA gene, since they had one parent with ta single Low Uric Acid (LUA) gene known as "Uu", and one parent with the double defective High Uric Acid (HUA) gene "uu".
The breeding back to AKC Dalmatians continued for several generations. With this process, each generation became closer and closer to the Dalmatian standard, while retaining the LUA health benefits of the single breeding of the Pointer and Dalmatian cross.
After only seven years, and five generations, Dr. Robert Schaible was producing puppies that resembled the common Dalmatian. In 1980 Dr. Schaible requested to register the new generation with AKC. After months of review, and consulting with the Dalmatian Club of America Board, it was agreed to allow the registration.
Shortly after, an article was released, commending the accomplishments that the project was able to accomplish. The AKC president at the time, William Stifel, stated in the article: “If there is a logical, scientific way to correct genetic health problems associated with certain breed traits and still preserve the integrity of the breed standard, it is incumbent upon the American Kennel Club to lead the way.”
The release of the article created controversy from Dalmatian breeder’s on whether the descendants should in fact be registered as “purebreds”. The registration was short lived, as the American Kennel Club (AKC), was under pressure to place a hold on the registration of the descendants and their offspring.
A small number of Dalmatian breeders did in fact recognize the benefits of the project and continued producing LUA Dalmatians knowing that they couldn’t be AKC registered, but with the hopes that one day that would all change.
In 2011, the dissension was finally overturned, and the Dalmatian Club of America board agreed that the descendants of the project, should be allowed to register with AKC.
This opened the door allowing AKC Dalmatian breeders to determine if they wanted to introduce the Low Uric Acid gene to their bloodline, while still maintaining the AKC registration of the puppies. The ability to register with AKC also allowed the descendants to compete in conformation shows, and earn AKC Championship Titles.
Today’s descendants are 99.98% Dalmatian, but they do often have a slight variation in the spots when compared to their High Uric Acid counterparts (see picture below). For most people, the slight cosmetic difference is nothing, when weighing the huge health benefits associated with the LUA gene. Unfortunately because another breed was used back in 1973 some people are still against the project and allowing them to be registered as purebred.
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This picture is an up close picture of a black spotted Dalmatian that has
High Uric Acid (HUA).
This picture is an up close picture of a liver (brown) spotted Dalmatian that has
Low Uric Acid (LUA).
Champion Pointer sire CH Shandown's Rapid Transit
Stocklore Hybrid (original cross), taken 1975. Ch Shandown’s Rapid Transit x Lady Godiva. This dog was from the first litter of the Dalmatian, Pointer cross.
RFBCN Helen, from the seventh generation backcross.