Mi-Ki Breed Now Reported on Embark

We are pleased to inform our readers that the Mi-Ki is now an officially reported breed on Embark Veterinary DNA testing for dogs as of May 5, 2022. Previously, any Mi-Kis submitted for testing would show “mixed ancestry,” and percentages of contributing breeds would be broken down for us to ponder.

This was always an interesting read for us because the DNA has told a different story than some of the written histories we’ve been given regarding our magical Mi-Kis. For instance, most folks have heard that the Mi-Ki ancestry included Shih Tzu, Maltese, Papillon, and Japanese Chin.

Out of the 32 Mi-Kis we’ve tested through Embark, the breeds we consistently see in the largest percentages are Maltese, Shih Tzu, Pomeranian, and Pekingese. We’ve also seen small percentages of Bichon and Yorkshire Terrier in some lines. We’ve never seen any traces of Japanese Chin, and have only seen a hint of Papillon in one of my dogs (as of May 6.)

The First “Official” Mi-Ki Revealed on Embark

We first heard about the Mi-Ki being reported as a breed on Embark testing from our friend and new Mi-Ki breeder Rachel Greene of Tagi’s Little Cutie’s in Michigan (TLC Mi-Kis on Facebook.) She informed us that she’d received an email from Embark on 5/5/2022 that her smooth-face Mi-Ki puppy Barnaby’s results were ready.

She was excited because he was listed as 100% Mi-Ki instead of the usual “mixed ancestry” that all Mi-Kis have thus far been labeled. She checked the previous dogs she’s tested but their results still read as “mixed ancestry.”

Barnaby smooth-face Mi-Ki on Embark
Barnaby, a smooth-face Mi-Ki owned by Rachel Greene. He is the first “official Mi-Ki” tested by Embark.

A few minutes later, I received a text that our new male Louie’s Embark results were ready. With much anticipation, I clicked on the link and learned that Louie is…

Louie's Mi-Ki results on Embark.

91.1% Mi-Ki and 8.9% Unresolved. Needless to say, that was an unexpected result! Upon further inspection, it appeared that the unresolved portions may be DNA from “distant ancestors”:

UNRESOLVED ANALYSIS Learn More

There may be small amounts of DNA from these distant ancestors:

  • Chihuahua
  • Papillon

This was actually the first time I’d ever seen Papillon in any of my Mi-Kis I’ve tested, so this was exciting! But Chihuahua? That would be a big fat NO. Chihuahua should not be in the background of the Mi-Ki to my knowledge.

Did I freak out a little bit with this news? Sure. Maybe a little bit. After all, the benefit of a purebred dog is the predictable traits and temperament associated with a given breed. Mi-Ki buyers are willing to pay a pretty penny to own a purebred Mi-Ki.

But then I realized that it said these were “distant ancestors” and would assume that mathematically Chihuahua would be less than 5% of his genetic makeup. Would I be willing to dismiss a wonderful dog who definitely has the full Mi-Ki package of good looks and temperament over less than 10% of “unresolved” breed information that “may” be included?

After discussing Louie’s results with Tamara Beebe, the American Mi-Ki Registry Association’s registrar, she said it’s possible that the Chihuahua result is a “miss” hit and that when the Wisdom Panel dog DNA company first began to identify the Mi-Ki breed, they also had results that didn’t turn out to be correct. We decided it would be fun to test Louie with the Optimal Selection Wisdom Panel as well to get a comparative study.

We’ve found that the two DNA companies do not always return the same results. For instance, on Savannah, our mascot, the Wisdom Panel says that she has the genetics for a short muzzle. Embark says Savannah has the genetics for a medium or long muzzle! This may be frustrating for breeders, but it has been a lesson to me that DNA testing is a developing science and can’t be relied upon exclusively when making breeding decisions.

Mixed Ancestry results in purebred dogs

Embark has some insights about purebred dogs that show mixed ancestry.

Genetic ancestry can be complicated. Here’s what you should know:
If you have a purebred dog:

A purebred dog can sometimes share DNA with another breed. If this happens, you’ll see “Mixed Ancestry” in your dog’s results. These results in no way affect registered “purebred” status or your dog’s standing with the registration body. Typically, a registration body certifies a dog’s purebred status through pedigree records and parentage verification, which do not rely on genetic testing.

Louie’s results didn’t even say “Mixed Ancestry.” It said “unresolved,” so I reached out to Embark for clarification. As of 5/10/22, Embark answered my inquiry that asked, “Is the ‘unresolved’ designation the same as a ‘mixed breed’ designation?”

If the print of my email screenshot is too small, the important part says [unresolved ancestry] “can be due to ancestors of a different breed far back in the family tree, but it can also be because there’s diversity in a purebred breed that isn’t reflected in our reference panel yet. For a relatively rare breed like the Mi-Ki that was developed fairly recently, I fully expect the unresolved result you are seeing is due to genetic diversity in the breed rather than mixed breeding in the recent past.”

I also found this helpful bit of information on Embark‘s website:

For a variety of reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registration body. In fact, because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed!

For readers who are new to the importance of genetic diversity, having higher diversity gives dogs a better chance of not inheriting two identical gene mutations that could result in the expression of disease. Additionally, a higher diversity is associated with health, longevity, and better reproductive outcomes. Losing genetic diversity can eventually lead to the extinction of dog breeds.

With this in mind, we are hopeful that Little Louis will have great OFA health test results and will be a great addition to our breeding program in late 2022. Louie also carries tan points and blue, according to his Embark test results.

DNA proves dog parentage

Before the advent of DNA parental testing, most breeders had to give their best guess or just assumed which dog sired a litter. It’s entirely possible that there was an accidental breeding or unknown sire even in the most structured of breeding programs.

We are pleased that the American Mi-Ki Registry Association requires DNA-proven parental verification to register any Mi-Ki. AMRA has been requiring DNA verification since 2006, so any possible chihuahua ancestor in Louie’s background would likely have been many years ago if his ancestors were AMRA registered. I believe the International Mi-Ki Registry also requires DNA parental verification for registration, so that is also a comfort.

I should take this moment to mention that Royal T Mi-Kis is not listed on the AMRA website because they are no longer able to edit it. We look forward to the new AMRA website when it is launched!

We have not applied to be members of the IMR but have traded dogs with an IMR kennel.

When will previously-tested Mi-Kis get their updated ancestry results on Embark?

Rachel Greene was kind enough to forward the response from Embark regarding when other Mi-Kis might have updated ancestry results.

The Embark Science team is now doing an internal update of all owner-reported Mi-Kis after a recent reference panel update. Embark will be contacting all owners whose results have changed with this recent update within the next few weeks once the audits and updates are complete.

We’re saving all of our old Embark data to ensure we have access to all of the interesting mixed ancestry data. If you’ve previously tested with Embark, be sure to save your old data before the updates are complete.

We use and endorse Embark dog DNA testing

Royal T Mi-Kis is pleased to have submitted several samples to Embark when members of the International Mi-Ki Registry invited Mi-Ki breeders from all registries to participate in a breed-wide genetic survey. Many kennels participated as well as several Mi-Ki pet owners. We are grateful for everyone’s participation to help raise awareness of our fantastic breed.

In addition to having insight into the Mi-Ki’s ancestry, we’ve also enjoyed learning more about the genetics that affects coat color and other physical characteristics. The most important information we’ve gained through Embark testing is regarding health genetics including diversity and disease.

All of this data is helping breeders to make informed and balanced breeding decisions. We hope these efforts will create a healthy, sustainable breed for Mi-Ki fanciers to enjoy for generations to come.

Please visit the Our Dogs page to see what dogs have been tested with Embark. If you’re a breeder and would like $50 off to test your dog, use this Embark link. If you’re a pet owner who would like to test with Embark, use this link to also get $50 off. For each purchase, Royal T Mi-Kis will receive credit toward future Embark test orders. Thank you for supporting the Mi-Ki breed!

Giardia in Mi-Ki Puppies

Giardia is an intestinal protozoan that is commonly found in puppies. It is so common in dogs and cats that it is generally considered to be part of the natural intestinal flora. Giardia is especially common in the western half of the United States and the Northeast, though it is found throughout the country.

Occasionally, puppies that undergo big changes (i.e. rehoming, traveling, or major diet changes) may experience intestinal imbalances which can lead to Giardiasis. Giardiasis is an active infection of giardia producing watery, mucousy light-colored stools. Diarrhea in puppies can lead to dehydration and lethargy, so supporting your Mi-Ki’s health is important to help your puppy get back to his or her playful self.

Human and Pet Safety

Generally, dogs and cats don’t become infected with the same type of giardia as humans contract. Most human cases of giardia infections come from contaminated water sources. Rarely, some cross infections between people and puppies have been reported, however. Any animal showing signs of infection (from giardiasis or any other illness) should be considered a potential infection source to humans. Children and immunocompromised individuals should take greater precautions.

The reverse is also true – people with any sort of infection should also be considerate of animals in their care. Use common-sense hygiene practices such as hand-washing after using the toilet, after food preparation, before feeding, watering, and handling your Mi-Ki. This will help keep your Mi-Ki healthy.

If you or someone in your family is in a higher-risk category with a compromised immune system, please let us know. If this is the case, we will use whatever tools are available to us to ensure your Mi-Ki puppy is as giardia-free as possible. Your puppy will always be given a deworming protocol before adoption.

Giardia Drug Treatments

There is currently no FDA-approved drug to treat giardia in Mi-Kis or any dogs or cats. Managing clinical signs of diarrhea should be the goal of treatment. Eliminating giardia from any puppy, adult dog, or kennel is unlikely as the organism is present in the environment, and your puppy will enjoy time outside. There are no known methods of disinfecting grass and soil from giardia cysts. Giardia cysts can survive for weeks and even months in almost any climate.

There are several off-label medication options that veterinarians and kennels have for minimizing the risk of infection for giardia. It is also important to manage other co-infectious organisms since other parasites may compound intestinal distress.

Fenbendazole

Fenbendazole is the least toxic drug used to manage giardia and other parasites and can even be safely used during pregnancy.

We have traditionally treated puppies with a 5-day regimen of fenbendazole before going home. This was to hopefully have fewer reports from our clients’ veterinarians of giardia-positive stool or an ELISA (antibody test.) We have since revised this regimen based on the latest research that the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) states, “the majority opinion of the CAPC Board is that asymptomatic dogs may not require treatment.”

Metronidazole

Metronidazole is another off-label antibiotic used to treat giardia in puppies. Many breeders would routinely administer this before puppies went to their homes in hopes of negative fecal test reports.

Unfortunately, metronidazole has been linked to brain and liver damage in puppies. Therefore, this treatment for giardiasis should only be done under veterinary supervision for safety.

For resistant strains of giardia, some veterinarians will recommend metronidazole in combination with fenbendazole. Again, this is not an FDA-approved drug combination.

Secnidazole – a promising option against giardia

Some Mi-Ki breeders believe the giardia they have battled has become resistant to fenbendazole and many have concerns about using metronidazole. Therefore, several breeders are starting to use Secnidazole which has shown a lot of promise against the pesky protozoan. Secnidazole has to be compounded and there isn’t much data on dosing yet. We are keeping an eye on this option as the risks associated with this product include reports of nausea and possible elevated liver enzymes.

Should your veterinarian decide that your Mi-Ki would benefit from any of these off-label treatments, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations. Do not skip doses. Verify the correct dosages as they will be callibrated to your Mi-Ki’s weight.

Revival Animal Health has helpful tips regarding giardia and interpreting test results:

“Remember to treat the dog, not the test results. Recent treatment and lifestyle should be considered when developing a treatment plan. Unless a negative result on both microscopic evaluation and ELISA testing is required, as in the cases where a sub-clinically affected dog or cat lives in a home with immunocompromised people with high zoonotic risks, only treat if the dog or cat has clinical signs of abnormally soft stools or similar signs.”

Royal T Mi-Kis’ parasite & disease prevention protocols

We are aware that overtreating any parasite or germ may create drug-resistant forms, so we are hesitant to use routine or chronic antibiotics. We are hopeful that a regular safe deworming protocol and a more natural regimen with probiotics and good nutrition will have our Mi-Ki puppies’ immune systems functioning as they should to keep imbalances in check.

There are important things we do to limit our puppies’ exposures to parasites and other infectious organisms. For instance, we treat our entire kennel with Safeguard fenbendazole twice a year to keep Giardia and other parasites in check. This regimen is followed by bathing everyone!

Pyrantel pamoate is also a safe dewormer that we use at two-week intervals on our growing puppies. It features a wide dosing safety margin and ensures puppies are protected against roundworms, hookworms, and pinworms (though we really haven’t seen signs of these parasites.)

Prebirth puppy protection and planning

We have previously used an end-of pregnancy fenbendazole protocol in an effort to reduce transmission to nursing puppies. While we’ve had fewer reports of giardia in puppies who were treated in utero with this regimen, we’ve also had some moms experience preterm labor and neonatal loss when using this protocol. We are still evaluating if fenbendazole during pregnancy is affecting litter outcomes negatively or positively.

We wash our Mi-Kis before labor to minimize giardia exposure.
Brighton and her International Litter in 2021.

Our pregnant mothers are bathed with a skin-safe germicidal treatment before delivery to provide a clean birthing environment for our puppies.

Keeping Mi-Ki Manor safe from giardia and other pathogens

We keep Mi-Ki Manor here at Royal T Mi-Kis meticulously clean and dispose of waste promptly. We use Rescue® Disinfectant Cleaner as a pet-safe solution to keep the floors and other surfaces clean and safe. We wash our dogs’ bedding with chlorhexidine solution rather than bleach as bleach has been implicated in fading puppy syndrome. Fabrics softeners are used sparingly due to the toxic chemicals in most brands. Our puppy pad holders are also misted with skin-safe chlorhexidine after being scrubbed with hot soapy water.

We have even been known to use UV-C sterilizing wands on our birthing boxes, pens, puppy pad holders, incubator, and bedding as an extra step to create a clean environment for our dogs!

With visitors, we will likely have guests slip their shoes off before meeting our Mi-Kis. If this isn’t possible, we offer shoe covers to be worn. This protects our unvaccinated puppies from unknown exposures, especially to parvo. Handwashing before and after visiting with dogs is also recommended.

Other causes of diarrhea or other intestinal distress

Not all diarrhea or loose stools are due to giardia. Some soft stools may be due to your Mi-Ki puppy experiencing stress, adjusting to a new diet, a new water source, or even having too many new treats, including people food . Too much Forti Cal or Karo syrup can also cause soft stools. (Karo syrup is often recommended to remedy puppy constipation!) Environmental exposures can also cause loose stools including lawn chemicals and household cleaners.

It’s always prudent to limit your Mi-Ki puppy’s exposure to new dogs. Only allow your puppy to socialize with animals that are known to have been fully vaccinated and that aren’t experiencing symptoms of illness such as diarrhea, or respiratory symptoms. Infectious diarrhea can be spread from one dog to another.

Do not bring your new Mi-Ki puppy to parks, or areas where unknown dogs have been playing or defecating until they are fully vaccinated.

How to support your Mi-Ki’s health when experiencing diarrhea

Nutritional Care: If your puppy has an upset tummy, in the short term, feeding a bland diet of bone broth, rice, boiled chicken, turkey, or another easily-digested diet will calm your Mi-Ki’s GI tract.

Adding probiotics can also bring your dog’s intestinal health into balance. We like Life’s Abundance Wellness Tabs for a daily probiotic dose and nutrition for intestinal balance. For acute gastrointestinal upset, we recommend Proviable®️-DC Capsules by by Nutramax®️ to reestablish gut flora after antibiotic use. Kaolin-Pectin is also helpful for getting diarrhea under control.

Slowly reintroduce your puppy’s regular diet — hopefully, a high-quality one with probiotics already included. We recommend Life’s Abundance Small/Medium Puppy food. Life’s Abundance puppy food has prebiotic fiber and guaranteed live probiotics for a healthy gut biome.

Supportive Care: Giving your puppy good hydration with electrolyte therapy such as Breeder’s Edge Puppy Lyte, and additional treatment of symptoms with products such as Kaolin-Pectin will help your Mi-Ki bounce back quickly and shorten the course of the disease.

You may find other recommended products and suggestions for keeping your Mi-Ki puppy healthy on our Puppy Care and Recommendations Page.

Remember that parasites, protozoans, and bacteria have been around since the beginning of time. These organisms can’t be fully eliminated, but they can be managed and brought into balance so you won’t have to keep your Mi-Ki in a bubble!

Preventing Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in Mi-Ki Puppies

Now that our latest batch of puppies are ready for their new families, we want to provide resources for our new and future Mi-ki adopters. We know you’ll want to provide your new puppy with the very best care.

The most important thing to be aware of is that your Mi-ki puppy may suffer from low blood sugar if not fed small meals throughout the day. Young puppies, especially toy breeds, can quickly burn through their energy reserves with even a heavy play session.

We wait until our puppies are about 2 pounds or are around 10 weeks old to make hypoglycemia less of a risk, but we still recommend letting your puppy free feed with access to their favorite kibble at all times.

If your puppy is particularly small, you may have been instructed to have a nutritional gel or liquid on hand to dose your puppy every morning, every night before bed, and after vigorous play sessions. We recommend Tomlyn Nutri-Cal high-calorie nutrition gel for puppies as well as Revival’s Forti Cal Gel. These supplements will give your puppy long-acting and short-acting nutrition to help them through periods of rest, play, or travel. Our puppies like the taste of it and will lick the gel right off of your finger.

Speaking of kibble, what is my Mi-ki eating again?

Our puppies are currently being sent home with the Royal Canin X-Small Puppy Dry Dog Food as well as a couple of trays of Puppy Mousse or other wet food to ensure your puppy eats well. Previously, we’ve used more exotic/expensive puppy kibble, but in an effort to help people with products that more readily available, we’ve switched to Royal Canin puppy products. The Royal Canin puppy foods are more highly rated than their adult products, so keep in mind that it may be a temporary food that you can start with before doing your own research. Brands we love include Stella & Chewy’s, Merrick, Honest Kitchen, and Victor brands. Grain-free diets are no longer recommended due to the FDA’s concerns with heart problems popping up with the exotic ingredients in grain-free foods.

Refer to the Dog Food Adviser when making your food selections. They also keep subscribers up to date with any pet food recalls.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia in Mi-ki puppies

It can be tricky to spot the signs of puppy experiencing low blood sugar. Look for any one or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Glassy unfocused eyes
  • Sudden sleepiness
  • The puppy appears lost or disoriented
  • Your puppy walks unsteadily or wobbly
  • Shakiness or twitching
  • Head tilts to one side (not the cute, alert kind)
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness without the ability to wake

Treatment of hypoglycemia in puppies

As mentioned earlier, the best treatment against low-blood sugar in puppies are regular small meals and/or snacks. But even an active play session or walk can deplete your puppy’s energy (sugar) quickly, so it is important to be vigilant and prepared.

Hypoglycemia is a serious condition and without acting quickly, your puppy could get into trouble fast and possibly even die. Fortunately,  you should be able to recognize the signs early in the process and the low blood sugar is easy to treat at home or on the go.

If your puppy is being transported home by plane, you or the puppy nanny will be given a two oral syringes. One will have Forti-Cal liquid as a pretrip nutritional booster as a hypoglycemia preventative. The other will contain Karo syrup in case your puppy starts looking a little spacey or lethargic despite the pre-trip nutritional supplement. Should your puppy look overly tired or weak, squeeze a little Karo syrup in their mouth or rub a little on your puppy’s gums to give them a quick sugar boost.

In almost all cases, your Mi-Ki puppy will respond very quickly to this treatment — usually within five or ten minutes. Repeat the treatment if necessary. However, if the Karo syrup doesn’t reverse the symptoms within ten minutes, take your puppy to the veterinarian immediately as something else could have caused the signs (such as ingesting something poisonous or contracting a disease.)

Keeping your puppy fed and hydrated on the go

If you’re taking your puppy out and about (hopefully in a sling or carrier until their shots are completed) always have puppy snacks and/or kibble on hand in case your errands take longer than anticipated. You should have received a collapsible dog bowl in your puppy starter pack to help keep your puppy hydrated.

Keeping your puppy safe when you’re gone

If you are leaving your puppy alone at home for more than a couple of hours, we recommend using a puppy playpen or a large crate with room enough for kibble, water, a potty pad with a grate to prevent shredding, and a small dog bed.

The traditional crate training method for housebreaking puppies is not advised for long stretches of time for tiny breeds due to the risk of hypoglycemia.

Of course, your veterinarian is your first resource for information about preventing and treating hypoglycemia, but we’re here to support you throughout the life of your Mi-Ki. Call or email us with any concerns:

Mary Parker: 303-246-3196, mary@royaltmikis.com

Why a Well-bred Mi-ki is Priceless

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How much is that doggy in the window?

A Mi-ki isn’t expensive… she’s priceless. People may be surprised that the cost of a Mi-ki puppy is $3,100 or more (breeding rights are an additional $1,500.) But any well-bred dog from a reputable breeder is going to be relatively expensive initially.

When less isn’t more

We’ve learned from experience that a low-cost dog can be very expensive in the long run. Several years ago, my husband bought Levi, a yellow Labrador, from a person he thought was a reputable breeder. Levi had pedigreed papers, but he was fairly inexpensive, as far as puppies go.

Little did he know that Levi was no bargain. Levi had a bad elbow that required surgery as a young dog. He also had gastritis, which meant it wasn’t a question of if he would throw up — it was when. So Levi was put on a $90/month prescription for his digestion issues. My husband didn’t mind because Levi was a great dog and my husband adored him!

Levi saw the best specialists in Colorado and just had a great checkup just four months before he suddenly dropped dead of heart failure at the tender age of 7. It was years before my poor husband could even think about getting another dog, he was so devastated.

If you’re like us, you’d do anything for your dog, and my husband never begrudged the fact that Levi required so much care. But the gastritis meds alone cost $7,560 over his much-too-short lifetime. If he could have spent more to have a puppy that came from health screened parents to have more time with his precious dog, he would have.

Breeding with a purpose

Modern technology has given us an amazing window into canine genetics which can serve to guide us as we breed dogs. Thanks to DNA screening, we can test for coat types, coat color, and a multitude of health conditions.

The American Mi-Ki Registry Association (AMRA) requires that every one of our litters have DNA verification that they are purebred Mi-kis. They also guide breeders to promote gene pool diversity within this rare breed while maintaining the quality in health, temperament, and confirmation.

We have the privilege of being under the guidance of several fine Mi-ki breeders in the AMRA. Additionally, we will make DNA-informed decisions on breeding pairs.

Our breeding Mi-kis are health screened with Embark DNA testing, they have their OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certification for patellas and cardiac conditions. We also register with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) to screen for inherited eye disorders. These certifications are on file with the AMRA as we seek to be patrons of this wonderful breed and members of a community that’s dedicated to the health of the Mi-ki.

Health screenings, DNA tests and premium veterinary care for our breeding companions and puppies may cost more up front, but we know that it’s worth it. With Mi-kis being so rare and wonderful, we are dedicated to doing our part to contribute to the Mi-ki’s continued health and temperament for future generations.

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Our Guarantee

We believe in our Mi-Kis and we stand behind their health. Should your puppy be found to have a life-threatening congenital health condition within the first year, we will replace your puppy. We are happy to provide you a copy of our contract before you make a deposit.

Should your Mi-Ki develop a health condition or behavioral issue over their lifetime, we’d like to hear about it so we can keep an eye on the long-term health and temperament of our lines to inform future breeding decisions. We also like to give health feedback to the Mi-Ki health director and to Embark DNA services.