Evaluation of genetic, common-litter, and within-litter effects on preweaning mortality in a birth cohort of puppies

Sijne van der Beek From the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands (van der Beek, Brascamp); and the Departments of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals (Nielen) and Herd Health and Reproduction (Schukken), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Angelique L. J. Nielen From the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands (van der Beek, Brascamp); and the Departments of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals (Nielen) and Herd Health and Reproduction (Schukken), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Ynte H. Schukken From the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands (van der Beek, Brascamp); and the Departments of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals (Nielen) and Herd Health and Reproduction (Schukken), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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E. W. Brascamp From the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group, Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, PO Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands (van der Beek, Brascamp); and the Departments of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals (Nielen) and Herd Health and Reproduction (Schukken), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, PO Box 80151, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Abstract

Objective

To determine relative impact of genetic, common-litter, and within-litter factors on puppy mortality.

Animals

2,622 Boxer puppies of 413 litters born during a 14-month period.

Procedure

For each puppy, pedigree was determined, and litter in which it was born was registered. Overall mortality and mortality per specific cause of death were analyzed by use of a model that included an additive genetic effect, common-litter effect, within-litter effect, and regression of mortality on inbreeding coefficient. Relative importance of the effects was determined from estimates of the variance in mortality explained by each factor.

Results

22% of the puppies died before reaching 7 weeks old. Stillbirth was the most frequent cause of death, followed by infection. Most observed differences were attributable to within-litter factors, which explained 67% of the variance in death attributable to infection and ≤ 96% of the variance in death attributable to asphyxia. Common-litter factors were more important than additive genetic factors. Variance attributed to common-litter factors ranged from 2% for cheiloschisis, palatoschisis, or cheilopalatoschisis to 30% for death attributable to infection, and variance attributed to additive genetic factors ranged from 0% for asphyxia to 14% for euthanatized because of white color. Inbreeding coefficient had a significant effect on death attributable to infection, which increased 0.26% for each percentage increase of inbreeding.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Additive genetic factors have less impact on preweaning mortality than common-litter factors, which in turn have less impact than within-litter factors. Mortality attributable to infection increases significantly with increases in inbreeding. (Am J Vet Res 1999;60:1106-1110)

Abstract

Objective

To determine relative impact of genetic, common-litter, and within-litter factors on puppy mortality.

Animals

2,622 Boxer puppies of 413 litters born during a 14-month period.

Procedure

For each puppy, pedigree was determined, and litter in which it was born was registered. Overall mortality and mortality per specific cause of death were analyzed by use of a model that included an additive genetic effect, common-litter effect, within-litter effect, and regression of mortality on inbreeding coefficient. Relative importance of the effects was determined from estimates of the variance in mortality explained by each factor.

Results

22% of the puppies died before reaching 7 weeks old. Stillbirth was the most frequent cause of death, followed by infection. Most observed differences were attributable to within-litter factors, which explained 67% of the variance in death attributable to infection and ≤ 96% of the variance in death attributable to asphyxia. Common-litter factors were more important than additive genetic factors. Variance attributed to common-litter factors ranged from 2% for cheiloschisis, palatoschisis, or cheilopalatoschisis to 30% for death attributable to infection, and variance attributed to additive genetic factors ranged from 0% for asphyxia to 14% for euthanatized because of white color. Inbreeding coefficient had a significant effect on death attributable to infection, which increased 0.26% for each percentage increase of inbreeding.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance

Additive genetic factors have less impact on preweaning mortality than common-litter factors, which in turn have less impact than within-litter factors. Mortality attributable to infection increases significantly with increases in inbreeding. (Am J Vet Res 1999;60:1106-1110)

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