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Happy (Healthy Shiloh) Heart Day!


Valentine’s Day seems the perfect time to launch Phase 2 of the Gracie Initiative! The Gracie Initiative is a program to insure that future generations of Shiloh Shepherds are free from a lethal cardiac disease known as GSDIVA. German Shepherd Dog Inherited Ventricular Arrhythmia (GSDIVA) is a genetic disorder that causes arrhythmia (abnormal beats) in the heart. GSDIVA carries few signs and symptoms before sudden cardiac death that can occur in puppies under two years of age. If the puppy survives the first two years of life with this disease, he or she will go on to live a normal, healthy life. Most puppies with this disease have mild arrhythmia that they will outgrow without consequence or any outward sign. These dogs, however, can pass a severe form onto their offspring. Because most affected dogs do not show symptoms, the only reliable way to diagnose GSDIVA is to perform a cardiac test known as Holter Monitoring. The puppy is fitted with a vest that holds a small monitor that records the electrical activity of the heart for a 24 hour period. The 24 hour data is then transmitted to a medical company that interprets the information and sends the results back to the owner or breeder. If a dog is GSDIVA positive, he is monitored by a veterinarian and removed from the breeding program.

Three years ago at Homecoming, the SSDCA breeders voted unanimously to mandate Holter monitoring for all breed quality puppies as part of their health testing to complete their adult upgrade. Most breeders have taken this one step further and also monitor many pet quality puppies as well. We encourage the testing of as many pups as possible. Many of our breeding dogs were too old to monitor reliably at the onset of The Gracie Initiative. Therefore we need to collect data on their offspring to have a better understanding of this inherited disease and how it impacts our breed. The monitoring can be done by a doggie cardiologist, a vet or a dog owner with monitoring equipment and basic knowledge of the process. In the initial stages of this journey, we found the cost to range from reasonable to quite expensive. A few breeders bought their own Holter monitors in order to monitor pups born in their kennels and to lend them out to other breeders. The cost of the human medical grade equipment and supplies cost around $2000. The cost of the test through the cardiologist or vet costs between $200 and $900.

This past year at Homecoming a fundraiser was organized so that the Gracie Initiative could purchase two Holter monitors to be used in the US and Canada. After some creative (ice bucket challenge!) activities, a great raffle and generous donations, we were able to acquire both monitors and supplies needed to begin Phase 2. Through the Gracie Initiative, we will be charging $100 to SSDCA members and $110 to non-members for rental of the new monitors. This charge will include shipping the monitor, shipping insurance, supplies, evaluation of the tracing and shipping back to the Holter home. The monitors will live at Guardian Kennels in Brooks, Alberta, Canada and River Pack Kennels in Manassas, Virginia, USA.

As of today, Valentines Day, we are ready to begin taking reservations and get more puppies monitored at a very reasonable price!

Please contact Guardian Kennels or River Pack Kennels if you are interested in obtaining a Holter to clear your puppy of GSDIVA, have questions or would like to contribute to this ongoing effort.

Thanks for sharing the word with friends and for your continued support and encouragement.

Happy Valentine's Day!