Mastino Fails, Owner Wails

Doowneerg Usi, a Neapolitan Mastiff that failed its Vet Check due to Ectropion and Facial Pyoderma.

This last weekend a Neopolitan Mastiff failed its vet check at the Welsh Kennel Club Championship Show and not a day later the red-in-the-face owner was weeping and slobbering online and to the media about how it was just so unfair because the same dog had not failed vet checks at other recent shows and now she’s dancing all around the real health issues of her dog and breed by pretending they’re old fighting injuries and don’t cause any suffering or just part of the conformation standard.

The Neapolitan Mastiff – who was failed on ‘eye confirmation which means tears drain laterally’ and ‘scarring and hair loss to jowl’ – was Doowneerg Usi, who belongs to breed health co-ordinator Kim Slater and Mateaki Mafi.

It’s rather ironic that weeping, slobbering, and an angry flush face is the reason that Usi failed his vet check given that a likewise disposed Kim Slater is now demanding that the Kennel Club apologize to her and reinstate her ribbon!

“I demand a full enquiry into the vet-checking process and the level of understanding of the vets selected to undertake the checks laid down under the KC’s directive. I insist on a full apology for the distress caused and damage to my personal reputation and that of my dog. I request reinstatement of my dog Doowneerg Usi’s BOB award on the grounds it was removed due to incorrect interpretation of the directives laid down by the KC.
“I will not hesitate to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure my rights and those of my fellow exhibitors to compete equally at the highest level of dogs shows is not compromised or impaired by inconsistent veterinary health assessments. If you do not support that right, then you are failing the community of pedigree dog owners who elect to compete at UK Kennel Club sponsored dog shows which is fast becoming a farce in the eyes of the world of dogs.”

Slater is complaining that she finally got caught, not that she got away with exhibiting a dog with an angry scrotal face previously.  Can you imagine if the Kennel Club came out with a REAL reform measure and said “No BOBs with Ectropion, period. We won’t reward ribbons until this problem is gone from the breed, even if it takes you 20 years to get there.”

Do you really think this dog cares more about its “reputation” than the fact that its eyes are so distorted by the excess flesh on its face that they don’t irrigate nor close correctly?  Make no mistake, this dog has ectropion, which this breeder just writes off as something that’s in the standard, implying that she’s forced to have it lest she not win ribbons.  She’s not following a long standing and horrible fad, she’s following the unimpeachable standard!

Ms Slater said the health checks were ‘killing the dog game in this country’.
“This isn’t just about my feelings – it’s about the future of the Neapolitan Mastiff in the UK. He is a healthy dog – hip scored, heart and thyroid tested etc.
“I want the world to know that nothing about this process is right. Show are being affected because people are nervous and not turning up.
“If even the best of the best isn’t good enough where do we go from here? I told the vet I have worked my guts out for this breed and that he was judging him on the wrong criteria. He passed a health check less than a fortnight ago.”

Gosh, think of the dog game (emphasis on the game, not the dogs)! You mean that there’s finally some small impediment to blindly morphing dogs into monsters to follow fads and exaggerate features to ridiculous magnitudes?  The game just won’t be any fun if we can’t have full freedom to breed disease into our dogs and we demand you reward us for it, Kennel Club!

  “It’s vital to me that my dogs pass otherwise my line is doomed. I’m the breed health co-ordinator – I don’t breed unhealthy dogs and I don’t show unhealthy dogs. I only bring the best of the best to shows.”
She said her dog had been failed on conformation and not welfare issues.
“He has ectropion – a vet has said that before – but that is because of his eye conformation; he isn’t suffering because of it. Vets are being asked to say whether they think a dog is suffering.

Translation: It’s vital for my ego and standing in the breed that I continue to win ribbons with no extra burdens like taking health into account.  It’s better for me that the standards reflect the horrible condition the breed is in now, otherwise I’d actually have to do the hard work of making a better dog.  I have a modicum of political power in the breed now, gained as always by kissing the ass of the old guard so they’d let me use their stock and ride their coat-tails and then I waited until they died off, now I’m in charge!

I wouldn’t want to do anything to risk that, and I don’t actually know anything about how to create a healthier dog, so any improvement in standards like the vet checks which would in any way make me alter my breeding decisions and use different dogs is unacceptable.  The only acceptable programs are those that would not require doing anything differently, would not change the breed in any way, and would just make people feel better about inbred disease.

“And the mark on his face is where he was stitched after a fight with his father. He’s a working dog, out and about in the countryside, not a house dog.”

This is where Ms. Slater goes really wrong and makes a complete fool of herself in trying to cover up what has actually become a sine-qua-non disease in Neapolitan Mastiffs.  She took to Facebook and posted the following photo of her dog.

Kim Slater made the following claim when she posted this image:

Notice that her first argument is to call Ectropion “poor eyelid conformation.” This is a joke and a poor attempt to frame what is both a health and welfare issue as a mere conformation issue. Fail.

Next, we have breeder acknowledgement that she’s intentionally pushing exaggerated conformation as far as possible:

“I am not an idiot. I knew I was pushing the envelope with this dog as he represents that thing called treading the line. Daring to look the way he does but enjoying great health.”

Let’s be clear, this dog was not bred for his enjoyment of anything. This dog has had its own enjoyment sacrificed for human entertainment. Renaming ectropion doesn’t change that it’s a disease, it’s a major malformation of the tissue surrounding the eye and it’s not without consequence.

So too is claiming that a persistent and scarring skin disorder is an old fighting wound.

“He’s never been to the vet in his life only to stitch a cut he got in a punch up with his father.”

Another comment supports this characterization of the scarring and hairless spots on this dog’s face:

“Honorable scars should not be penalised…you have wording like that in so many FCI standards… I am just without words about all you UK breeders have to go through since Crufts.”

But is that what the picture shows? I don’t think so. Those scars show a history of pustules, not bites. This dog has an ongoing dermal condition that has nothing to do with a dustup with another dog, it’s facial pyoderma and it’s common in many breeds with excess skin on their faces, especially mastiffs. Their placement on the face near creases of the skin is textbook expression.

Care and Maintenance
Due to the extensive wrinkles and large body mass of the more “overdone” type, these Neapolitans will require extra care and maintenance as far as bathing and cleaning the face and body. Neapolitans are droolers and if the wrinkles are not cared for properly the Neapolitan Mastiff will smell. The areas on the muzzle can form acne due to the infections. Worse, demodex can enter the feet area as it will be a warm damp place for the mites to thrive. The Neo then licks at the feet, transferring the mites to the face and then on to others parts of the body. So for these reasons it is important to keep the “overdone” type Neapolitan’s face and wrinkles as dry as possible.

Another possibility is Demodex which is more common in breeds with suppressed immune systems.

The Neapolitan Mastiff is covered with large amounts of skin as per our standard, a few skin related concerns do frequently occur in the breed. Pyoderma and Demodocosis are the most common. During puberty Neapolitan Mastiff puppies are often affected by acne under the chin and during the time when they shed their puppy coat they appear to look slightly molted. Both puppy issues usually resolve within a month or two.

If your Neapolitan is showing signs of skin discomfort, infection or demodocosis consulting with a dermotologist is the best course of action.

Neapolitan Mastiffs are prone to this series of disorders for three reasons.

(1) The dilute black, also known as gray or blue, coat. The sine-qua-non condition associated with this color (which affects all breeds that have it) is called Color-Dilution Alopecia.

Color-dilution alopecia is a relatively uncommon hereditary skin disease seen in “blue” and other color-diluted dogs. This syndrome is associated with a color-dilution gene. The initial clinical signs are the gradual onset of a dry, dull and poor hair coat quality. Hair shafts and hair regrowth are poor, and follicular papules may develop and progress to frank comedones. … Grossly, extensive partial hair loss was seen on the skin. Histopathologically, the epidermis is relatively normal but may be hyperplastic. Hair follicles are characterized by atrophy and distortion. Heavily clumped melanin is present in the epidermis, dermis and hair follicles.

There’s no way to have the color and avoid the disease, the effect which dilutes the hair is one-and-the-same that creates the conditions for the disease.

(2) Mastinos have shitty immune systems. Demodex is a known issue in the breed and this is exacerbated by weak immune response. Neapolitans are also known to have poor response to anesthesia, again an immune issue. The high prevalence of arthritis in the breed is also exacerbated by their immune response. Hypothyroidism is also common in the breed and this very likely has an immune component. Hypothyroidism often causes coarse, dry hair that is brittle and breaks off or falls out easily. The skin can become thick, coarse, dry, and inflamed.

The Mastino is a reconstructed breed from a very small gene pool and is thus inbred, a condition known to directly impair the immune system.

(3) The Neo, much like the Shar Pei, has been bred by the fancy for grossly excessive amounts of loose skin on the face. The lips no longer meet and close creating excess drool, the skin hangs down and becomes wet and soiled when the dog eats and drinks, and the folds hold oils, dirt, and moisture which is a perfect environment for bacteria.

This dog is not suffering from an old bite wound nor is it suffering undue persecution from the Vet at the dog show. It’s suffering from being a Neapolitan Mastiff, from conditions that are well known and prevalent in the breed. Conditions that could be bred away from but which have been sidelined due to the much more pressing concern of winning ribbons by “pushing the envelope” and “treading the line” of human decency.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.