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Please help by sending in the blood on your DM affected dogs so that research can be done to find a genetic marker and eliminate this dreadful disease.




We Need a Minimum of 3 mls. of whole blood in a purple- tube. The blood should be shipped with cooler packs, preferably, 2nd day. Samples should not be shipped when they will arrive over a weekend or holiday. They can be stored in a regular refrigerator until they can be shipped. The owner's name, pet's name, DM pathology positive report, and collection date must be clearly labeled on the tube. Please include owner contact information (E-Mail) in case Dr. Clark has any questions.








CLEMSON, SC 29634-0318








Con had his name before he arrived. It was my intention to name him Marko's Icon, as I had expected to show him, finish him, and breed him and start my own line of collies, ICON COLLIES. I was very excited about getting my show puppy since I have wanted one so badly for so long. Con arrived sickly. His right eye swollen, his muzzle scabbed, sores on his hips. At first I thought maybe it was from the flight, as he flew here to Tucson from Seattle. The breeder (Marie Markovich) told me he was stung by a yellow jacket the Sunday before she sent him to me, so I figured the scabs on his muzzle were from that as Marie told me he scratched where he had been stung. Marie said she knew nothing of the sores on his hips. I could not imagine anything being wrong with my dear puppy. Con came on a Thursday and the following Wednesday he was at my vet. Con had a staff infection (on his face). My vet said it should clear up with the antibiotics but the scabs on his muzzle would scar. At that time I was very hopeful as Con was only three months old and I thought I could heal his scars. He got worse by the day. It is pure hell to watch your beautiful sweet puppy's face being literally eaten away. The antibiotics did not help. Con was getting 250mg. of cephalexin three times per day. Also, cleansing solution to clean the sores and the triple biotic ointment to put on the sores. It did nothing. Back to the vet we go. Skin scraping, blood tests, all the things needed to be done. Skin scrapings were negative. (my vet wanted to do skin scrapings the first visit but Con did not, and too close to his eyes to go there with a scalpel) It just got worse. I tried holistic remedies. A holistic ointment, hypericum and calendula, helped clear the infection. Then the sores started on all of his legs. Although, not with infection. My vet suggested biopsies. I asked Marie to pay for the biopsies (approx. 300 dollars), she asked why it was so expensive, but did not offer to pay, but did suggest I have it done. I told Marie I didn't think I could go through this and suggested I send him back to her, she did not respond to my suggestion. I knew she did not want him back. By this time I knew Con had dermatomyositis. He had all the classic symptoms. Being a long time lover and owner of collies you learn about these terrible diseases. The pathology report came back positive for dermatomyocitis(DM). At this point, I had Con for less than one month and already spent over $1000.00. As I was speaking with a good friend and telling my friend about the disease my puppy has, my friend told me of someone else who had a Marko's collie with DM. Of course, I then contacted Jeannette Poling. Jeannette owned Marko's Black Magic ( Meg ). Meg was diagnosed with adult onset dermatomyositis in the year 2000. Meg is the great grand dam of my puppy. When I informed Marie Markovich of Con's condition she told me she never had dermatomyositis in her line of collies. This I know is not true. Jeannette has sent me copies of all the same documents that she sent Marie Markovich back in 2000, Megs' pathology report and the letter Jeannette wrote to Marie informing her of Megs' condition. Marie had already bred Meg before she sold her to Jeannette. Marie bred the offspring from Meg and their offspring, etc. Jeannette never bred Meg.  So for Marie to say she never had DM is just an outright lie.



I have recently been contacted by another person that has a Marko's collie also diagnosed with dermatomyositis. Dan Gerson lives in Pacifica, Ca. Dan was quite upset when he called me and rightly so. He also was in contact with Jeannette. Dan asked Marie if she ever had DM in her line of collies when he was considering purchasing puppies from Marie. Marie told him no. Dan purchased 2 littermates (male and female) from Marie. The male, Townes, has confirmed DM. Biopsies were done on Townes. Biopsies are the only way to confirm DM. Townes started loosing muscle mass and he also had weight loss. Townes then started with the facial lesions. Dan started Townes on the regiment of prescription drugs used to treat DM. Recently, Dan told me Townes was doing better, gaining back weight and muscle mass. This is great news for Townes and Dan.  


Con's DM seemed to be at a standstill. I hoped and prayed that it would just go away.Then suddenly the facial lesions started all over again combined with a very bad lesion on his left front leg. Con is now taking the prescription drug, TRENTAL. It is the only drug that seems to work in treating DM. Like Townes, Con also gets Vitamin E twice daily along with the Trental. Unfortunately, the Trental can take 2-3 months before seeing any improvement. Con is now 8 months old and I can only pray that this medication will work for him.


The reason I have made this website is to inform people of this terrible disease with the hope that they can avoid it. People must be made aware of Dermatomyositis. People also have to realize they must investigate breeders. Ask breeders for references, of people they have sold puppies to, of other breeders they have bred with, and so on. A breeder should not have a problem with giving references and a very good breeder will ask a prospective buyer for references as well. Unfortunately, not everyone will tell you the truth. That is why it is so important that you talk to as many people as possible. DM is a genetic disease, which means it can be passed on from generation to generation. Although a dog may show no signs of DM, that does not mean the dog will not produce it. There is absolutely NO excuse for breeding this disease when you are aware that it is in the dogs you are breeding. There are plenty of beautiful healthy dogs out there to breed. Breeders need to deal with an awful disease like DM instead of just looking the other way. Getting rid of the dogs that have DM is not the answer. The answer is to not breed the dogs that are producing it. Hopefully in the near future, a blood test will develop to test our dogs to see if they will produce DM. Some breeders think, just put the dogs to sleep if they are affected with DM. When did breeders start to feel this way? Have they bred so many dogs that they have lost their love for our breed? Have they bred and owned so many champions and that is all that is important to them? Breeders need to be more responsible than that. Breeders have to remember that it is through their efforts that the affected dogs are here. Breeders see to it that these dogs are born. Breeders need to start seeing to it that these dogs are not born.  

These is a photo of another DM affected dog. Not all are as extreme as Con was.






Commonly asked questions about dermatomyositis (DM) in dogs:


1. What is dermatomyositis? Dermatomyositis (DM) is a devastating inherited inflammatory disease of the skin and/or muscle which most commonly afflicts Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs and their crosses.  The skin lesions consist of hair loss with or without skin redness, scaling and crusting of the face, ears, legs and tail tip.  One or more of these areas of the body may be affected.  In addition, some dogs may have muscular involvement.  Sometime this muscle involvement is so pronounced that it results in muscle atrophy.  Other cases may suffer from megaesophagus (enlarged food tube in the body) with the end result of aspiration pneumonia.  In milder cases the dogs may appear to be sloppy eaters, or have a strange high stepping gait.  Shetland sheepdogs are fortunate because muscle involvement does not seem to be as common as with the Collie.  Most commonly dogs develop the skin lesions within the first few years of life but dogs as old as 8 years old have been reported to develop this problem.  It is thought that certain triggering factors such as stress may cause a dog to express the DM.  These triggering factors are thought to include such circumstances as a bad viral infection (i.e. parvo) and hormonal fluctuations (heat cycles).  In some cases no triggering factor has been identified.  Since this is a genetic problem, affected dogs should be spayed or neutered.  This will also help the dogs respond better to treatment.


DM is not an itchy problem unless a secondary infection is present.  So if your pet is itchy and it does not look like a secondary infection is present (bacteria or yeast) then your pet's problem is probably not DM.  The only exception would be if you had a dog with DM and an underlying allergy.  This can occur but is not common.


NOTE:  Some people use the abbreviation DM to stand for diabetes mellitus (a type of diabetes) or demodex (a type of mite found on skin scraping). When we use this abbreviation we are using it to represent the skin disease dermatomyositis.


2. How is DM diagnosed?  DM is diagnosed by taking the dog to a veterinarian and having a physical examination and a skin and muscle biopsy taken. 


3. When should I have my dog biopsied? If you have a Collie, Shetland Sheepdog or their cross with any of the problems or clinical signs listed above.


4. What is involved with a biopsy? A biopsy is taken with either a local block (usually lidocaine), sedation and/or a local block, or under general anesthesia. A minimum of three pieces of tissue (skin and muscle) at least 6 mm in size are collected, placed in a formalin solution, labeled individually and submitted to a pathologist for evaluation. The areas of the biopsy are sutured and the sutures are usually removed in 10 to 14 days after the procedure.


5. How is DM treated in dogs? Several different treatment options are available and one of these treatments is usually used at a time:

a. Steroids - in the past steroids were commonly used to treat DM, but over time, this drug can be hard on the liver and/or adrenal glands and result in secondary complications (recurrent infections from a suppressed immune system).

b. Trental - Another option with less side effects is a drug called Trental (pentoxifylline). This is a drug that Dr. Rees, one of the dermatologists at Texas A & M College of Veterinary Medicine, is studying. The only side effects which have been seen when using this drug are GI (vomiting and diarrhea). These side effects have only been seen when the drug is not given with food or a generic brand of Trental is used. IT IS IMPORTANT TO ONLY USE THE BRAND-NAME TRENTAL if you decide to use pentoxifylline as your treatment option. When generics have been used they have been found to be either ineffective (not help the animal with the DM) or associated with the GI side effects (vomiting and diarrhea).

c. Azathioprine (Imuran) - Azathioprine is the most common type of immune suppression drug that has been reported to be used to treat DM in dogs.  The use of this drug in dogs has been associated with several different side effects.  The main side effect that azathioprine causes is  bone marrow suppression (decreased red blood cell count, decreased white blood cell count, decreased platelet count).  Other side effects of azathioprine in dogs include  vomiting, diarrhea (most common side effect, may have blood in stool), hypersensitivity reactions (especially the liver), an inflamed pancreas,  skin rashes and hair loss.  These dogs need to be closely monitored by a veterinarian and periodic blood work performed on them (initially every 2 weeks) to make sure that the dog is not having a problem with the azathioprine.

d. Immunostimulant drugs - Immunoregulin is a product of a kind of killed bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) which is injected in the vein during set periods of time (initially twice weekly, then weekly then monthly). Side effects occasionally occur after the injection and include lethargy, increased body temperature, chills and decreased appetite. Anaphylactic shock reactions have also been reported. If the drug is given outside of the vein then local tissue inflammation (swelling) has been reported. Long term toxicity studies have demonstrated inflammation of the live (hepatitis), Gi signs (vomiting, diarrhea), decreased appetite, malaise (feeling poorly), fever, increased water consumption and acidosis.

e. Antioxidants - The most common antioxidant which have been used to treat DM is Vitamin E. Some have used it topically, but most veterinarians use it systemically (give a tablet or capsule by mouth). If used at the does reported in the literature, then no side effects have been reported. This treatment has not been evaluated scientifically in a large number of dogs. Contact your veterinarian for recommendations on the appropriate does of Vitamin E to use on your dog.

6. How long will my DM dog need to be treated? This is a gray area. We do not know for sure. Some dogs need 3-6 months of treatment and do fine whereas other dogs need life long therapy. The length of treatment varies according to the individual dog and the severity of the disease.

7. How is DM genetically expressed or passed on? We do not know, but we have seen this problem in certain breeding lines, so we know that it is an inherited problem. The exact mode of inheritance is not known. This is the reason for the genetics study that we are performing at Texas A & M College of Veterinary Medicine.


E- mail questions or comments to Joni


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