Canine Birth Defect

Research Project @ UC Davis.

Our dogs share our living environment and are therefore susceptible to many of the same diseases that we suffer from. Birth defects are believed to result from interactions between genes and environment. Some of the defects that occur in humans and dogs include:

Umbilical hernia - a birth defect in purebred dogs that is surgically correctable if the body wall defect is not too large. However, puppies born with their internal organs pushed outside of the body (Omphalocele or Gastroschisis) are usually euthanized.

Cryptorchidism - a common congenital problem seen in male dogs and men and requires surgical intervention to prevent tumor development.

Cleft palate - one of the most common human congenital disorders and quite prevalent in certain dog breeds.


These three birth defects are of concern to breeders since it is recommended that affected animals be euthanized (cleft palate) or not bred (cryptorchidism or umbilical hernia). In breeds predisposed to one or more of these birth defects, a genetic basis is probable. Genetic analysis should identify the genes involved and enable breeders to select against these defects. Researchers in the Bannasch Laboratory at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California -Davis are undertaking a research project to identify genes and environmental factors that predispose puppies to these birth defects. Specific details for the birth defects and a sample identification sheet follow.

Umbilical Hernia

Dr. Noa Safra, Dr. Danika Bannasch

Umbilical hernia is a birth defect that occurs when the abdominal wall ring through which the umbilical cord passes does not close completely. To identify the genetic factors that contribute to this disorder, samples from affected and unaffected littermates are being collected. We are seeking blood samples from dogs with severe umbilical hernias, those that require surgical intervention, and blood samples from a smooth bellybutton littermate.


Dr. Noa Safra, Dr. Danika Bannasch

Cryptorchidism is a condition present at eight weeks in which one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum. Surgical intervention is required and bilateral castration is highly recommended. To research the genetic cause of this defect, the Bannasch laboratory is collecting blood samples from affected dogs that are identified with cryptorchidism by eight weeks along with samples from normal male littermates. Owner contact information is requested for follow-up at six months of age.

Cleft Palate

Nili Karmi (DVM/PhD student), Dr. Danika Bannasch

Cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth (hard palate) that is present at birth. It has been observed in several different breeds. In order to study this condition, the Bannasch laboratory is currently collecting samples from affected dogs and their unaffected relatives. Samples can be sent to us in the form of whole puppies (euthanized or stillborn), dewclaws, tails, blood or swabs.

To request additional information and contribute samples to any of the above studies, please contact:

Noa Safra

Bannasch Laboratory

School of Veterinary Medicine

Dept. of Population Health and Reproduction

1114 Tupper Hall

1 Shields Ave

Davis, CA 95616


Phone: (530) 754-7289

Canine Birth Defect Study