Saheejev Shestoj Shêtan (left) with friends, 3 days prior to his death

"Hmm, 7 dead dogs from the same small country, 3 of them dead from a bug. That must be a Swedish problem and they are probably all related."


About the relationship.
a) Sweden is a small country and we don't have more kennels or bloodlines then we can keep track of. We are all concerned about sudden deaths, but we know from experience, they occur in ALL bloodlines, and often too early for the victims to have been bred.

When a death occurs, you can usually find a relative maybe as far as 5-8 generations back that also died in sudden death, but it is almost never a direct ancestor, rather a littermate to one of the ancestors.

b) In the case of the 7 deaths, the 4 dogs not examined, were all of completely different bloodlines. But we don't know of any cause...

When it comes to the 3 that were examined, it happens to be that 2 have the same Dam, and the third is closely linebred to lines that you will find a couple of generations behind that Dam. But both of the first 2 with the same Dam have different Sires not related at all to each other and both breedings are outcrosses.

Since you don't normally inherit a lot of viruses, I don't think the fact that these 3 are somewhat related is a factor here. But I will get back to "inheriting viruses" later.

As for living in the same area - NO and the first one of these 3 were dead when the last one was born, they never met. Since my Borzoi, Sahejeevs Shestoj Shêtan, was the first to die, in October 1996, most of my friends with Borzoi that had met Shêtan, had their dogs checked by the tests I will mention later. The very kennel who bred the 2 last ones, had their Borzoi at home checked at that point or later. The second one to die, who was from this kennel, was sold to another part of the country as early as in 1995. The last one to die was born in January 1997.

It may very well be that the heart that so many breeders worry about, has nothing to do with this at all, at least not genetically. Please remember that there are also 2 types of cardiomypathy. We know several Sudden Deaths are attributed to cardiomypathy, but that does still not mean it has to be inherited. You can get cardiomypathy from infections in the upper respitory area (!) too...

I am more worried about the immune system.

These streptococci (several types of streptococci around, not all of them are able to produce toxines, but there is also other types of toxin producing little buggers) are not at all uncommon in dogs or humans, and still, among men and animals (very often racehorses as well) some die and some can live with them for all of their lives. So is it the immune system that is the culprit? I've never heard of research on immune system on sighthounds, have you?

A vet, specialising in virus and bacteria told me this:
Any living creature, who is in a extremely good condition, like an athlete (young sighthounds run so much, they easily fall into this category) are taxing so much on his resources in his training, so even with good food and rest, it takes away resources from the immune system. When such a creature (man or beast) is having an infection and still train, the immune system may simply collapse and allow these streptococci to produce toxines. Most individuals are strong enough not to have the total collapse and will never experience this thing, while others succumb. Even milkcows are in the danger zone, not that they exercise a lot, but producing these enormous amounts of milk cows do these days, is awfully energy consuming.
(You will find remarks about research on this on the various links that will be provided on the last page about Sudden Death on my site)

I am not saying all sudden deaths are due to tonsillitis or similar infections, but I would not be surprised if many are. The question is, can we protect our dogs in any way? I for one, am not in favour of judges that go from mouth to mouth in shows, without antiseptic cleaning...Tonsillitis spreads through saliva for example. Never let your dogs share the waterbowl at a show, of dogs belonging to someone else...

One more thing. Tonsillitis can NOT be ruled out just because your dogs does not have red or swollen tonsils, the only way to prove one way or the other, is to have tests done, they dip cotton swabs, under and around the tonsils. Many dogs require sedation to allow this.

Sweden has a formidable system of animal insurances. Without insurance to cover costs for vet care, many of us would have to put our animals down when they need surgery, because it is very expensive. The insurance companies are wonderful sources for statistics.

According to our insurance companies, removal of tonsils is the most common surgery of all, in all breeds! This is also somewhat a cause for some smirk, some vets have been known to practically make a living out of removing tonsils, whether it was really needed or not.

Shortly after Shêtans death, a Borzoi breeder shrugged off my worries about the tonsillitis, she did not think this was a real problem, "it is only the Borzoi belonging to pet-owners that die from Sudden Death!".

At first I resented this statement very much, saw it as an accusation, that I was stupid, ignorant and did not know or care enough to take good care of my dog. But as time went by, I realised she was right! More dogs do die in the homes of pet-owners than in the kennels. This applies to Swedish Borzoi, the only dogs I know, you have to do your own homework when it comes to other breeds and other countries. And I may also be wrong, maybe I did not pay much attention to what dogs died from Sudden Death before I experienced it myself.

Pet-owners don't breed their own dogs, we buy them from the very breeders that claim they have no sudden deaths at home. It is the same genetic stock, yet some die and some don't. What is the difference?
There has to be a difference!


All text and photos on the section "Sudden Death in Sighthounds" on my homepage (Starcastle Hounds) is copyright 1997-2001 to