Baby Ummas

Attention! Time for an announcement!

As mentioned before, this was always in the plans for Umma as part of the Hokkaido Association of North America preservation project. We are delighted to announce that an ultrasound early last week showed six (!) little hokkaido puppies. Did I mention six? Yes, six. Six! (We have an X-ray scheduled for a week before the due date to verify the count so we know exactly how many to expect.)

The father is Ashitaka, born in Japan in 2016 and currently with Hokusei Kashinoki (where Umma came from). Ashitaka is a wonderful bundle of Hokkaido crazy and is also the father to the litter of Umma’s sister, Kurasi, born earlier this year. (Contact Hokusei Kashinoki for puppy inquiries.) Both of these pups are fun-loving and we hope they create healthy, happy pups.

People have asked a couple questions, so I’ll try and address them here.

First and perhaps most obvious, people wonder about what colors the pairing will produce. Kaiju Kennels has written up an outstanding explanation of coat color genetics and if you find genetics interesting I highly recommend checking it out. Not only is there a fantastic explanation, but the graphics are highly helpful.

Given that Ashitaka’s history is full of mostly red and white (at the great-grandparents level there is one black and tan), he can only pass on red or white color genes. White is recessive and Umma does not carry white, so there will be no white pups. Since brindle color genes are dominant over red the only outcomes we could see are red or brindle – and even then, that’s only IF Umma passes on a red color gene. We don’t know if she carries a red gene. She has it in her history (two generations back on her sire’s side and three generation’s back on her dame’s side), but the likelihood is low. That’s all to say it’s highly likely these puppies will be brindle, but red is a possibility.

The second thing to consider is one genetic disorder to be aware of with the breed: collie eye anomaly (CEA). It actually has nothing to do with collies, but that’s where it was initially found and named before it was determined to exist in multiple breeds.

Here’s the possibilities:

  • CEA clear: no deleterious alleles
  • CEA carriers: carries one copy of the allele, but it’s recessive
  • CEA positive: two copies of the deleterious allele and has CEA, but only 10% of positive dogs will actually show any negative ramifications

Umma is a carrier while Ashitaka is positive. At a basic level each puppy has a 50/50 chance of being a CEA carrier or being CEA positive; more carriers in the breeding program opens the door to down the road, in subsequent generations, to produce CEA clear dogs. Currently there are only two CEA clear Hokkaidos in North America.

Of course this is not the only factor to consider when planning a breeding for Hokkaido and is considered along with physical type (sticking as close to Japan’s DOKENHO standards as much as possible) and personality.

Whew. The past year has been nonstop learning about genetics and breeding philosophy on our end. It’s a fascinating scientific exploration! Maybe I should have paid closer attention in high school science classes. Or maybe if they had talked about dog genetics I would have been more interested and it could have altered the course of my college studies (which were decidedly not science-oriented) and professional life.

People also ask if we have to treat Umma any different while she’s pregnant. For the most part we don’t, but there has been a few changes.

The first change was after she came home from her breeding sleepover weekend we didn’t take her anywhere in the car until the ultrasound appointment. Why? Because – and yes, this was news to us as well – the fertilized eggs aren’t actually fixed in place in her uterus. They’re just floating around for up to three weeks! Given that, if a car ride involved even a hard stop there would have been a chance it would affect the pregnancy, so safer just to stay home. We also have to keep her away from playing with other dogs, because even light wrestling could result in a kick to the stomach that could also cause puppies to reabsorb or abort.

Now all the embryos are safely attached and growing (and yes, Umma is also growing around the middle!).

The one other major change has to do with diet. We’ve added a bunch of vitamins to Umma’s meals: weekly vitamin E, daily folic acid (this started when her heat began), probiotics, and a multi-vitamin. This is in addition to fish oil she already was getting. We also had to go away from raw food at the recommendation of the vet and the breeder, which is Umma’s favorite thing. She isn’t a kibble fan (we’ve tried many), but she will eat a small amount of it when mixed with other things. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the things we’ve been feeding her: rice, kibble, canned soft food (stews and pates), eggs, cooked meats, cooked veggies (some pureed), baby food, and meat stocks. Oh, one other thing: no extra calcium, because it could cause eclampsia later during nursing. That means she doesn’t get some of her favorite toppings like yogurt, cheese or goat milk. Yes, this is a ton more work on our part, but at least she seems to really be enjoying it.

Do pregnant dogs get food cravings? Quite possibly. I grilled some shishito peppers the other day and when I brought them in and put them on the counter Umma stood up, put both front paws on my waist, gave one authoritative (but not angry or demanding) bark, and then sat down on the floor with a very expectant look on her face. No, I didn’t give her a pepper (gave her something else for politely sitting), but she sure seemed like she wanted one. So…maybe?

Umma has also been very talkative. Hokkaido are always talkative, but this is different. Exactly how I can’t quite articulate – maybe more assertive, but still not overbearing? She’s asked for other things (food she can have) like she asked for that pepper, which is a behavior we hadn’t seen before.

Emotionally she has been a little more cuddly. Clingy isn’t the right word, but during her heat cycle she will be less active and less likely to play with toys, preferring to stay closer, cuddling up to us on the couch and on the bed. Now she seems to do a little bit of both, depending on her mood. Misaki hasn’t seemed to mind much – their relationship (so far) has been the same as before. Which, yes, means keeping them separated at all times.

Her hackles have come up a few times, once from Misaki and a couple times out in the yard. She was still very calm – no crazy barking or growling – and it’s as if she has become hyper-aware but still able to control her emotions.

We’re doing all we can to support her and ensure all the puppies are born healthy. The target birth date from the vet is the middle of the first full week in August. And yes, I’ll do my best to post updates here, both before the puppies are born and after. Hope you like pictures of tiny little Hokkaido potatoes!


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