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MIXED BREED DOGS, LIFE AND DEATH
Do you know WHY research labs use purebred dogs for testing so you can own a healthy mixed breed dog? It's what AKC calls an All American Dog.
November 2011 | TheDogPress Columns
CinDee Byer, Breed Clubs Editor
A good friend had to euthanize “Ranger”, her six year old mixed breed dog today. The shelter said he was a Beagle-Labrador mix, what AKC calls the ALL AMERICAN DOG.
In reality Ranger was probably made up of many breeds over many generations. His forty pound frame, brown coat, floppy ears and tail epitomized what we used to call a Heinz 57, now more respectfully called a Mixed Breed dog.
Ranger was a happy dog, purchased from a shelter by a wonderful family. He lived a full life until out of the blue, he began to have problems walking and his owner called me for advice. Mary’s description of Ranger’s condition put my heart in my throat. I knew how much she loved her dog and I knew what she described was a spinal problem and they rarely have a happy ending. We hope it is just a simple injury but sadly, in an older dog the chances of returning to normal are slim.
Mary and I talked for some time over the phone. She made an emergency appointment with a specialist in State College PA. I told her if it turns out to be the worst to understand it is not her fault, to remember the good life she shared with Ranger and to know she gave him the best. Sometimes we are given a long time with our dogs but long time or short, their life leaves us always wanting more.
The specialist determined after exams, tests and drug therapies, that the problem with the spine was far more serious than they had anticipated. After much consultation it was agreed to put Ranger out of his misery and they did so that evening.
That night I lay awake and thought about all the owners over the years who we helped through not only behavior problems but medical and terminating life decisions with their mixed breeds. Working with thousands of dogs, over two decades of obedience classes, we watched many canine lives pass on. With a forty to forty five percent mixed breed enrollment in our training classes we noted that many mixed breeds like Ranger were affected by the same ailments as our purebreds.
We watched those owners having to make the same heartbreaking decisions we make with our purebreds. Cancer, diabetes, thyroid, epilepsy, skin problems, rage problems, hip dysplasia and various structural defects equally affect mixed breeds.
The sad thing is that mixed breed owners, unlike many purebred owners, do not have a good breeder to advise them and guide them to the right specialist. They are not familiar with injuries and canine disease. They have no real history of the parentage on the dog with no breed-related statistics, for the most part they do not know what to expect.
I often wonder then… why then do we beat up on ourselves, our breeders and our purebred dogs? Why then do we make purebreeds and their breeders targets of ridicule and animal rights attacks? Why do we publicity hand our purebred dogs over to be the poster child of disease while the mixed breed finds itself on billboards and TV ads as healthy and happy and waiting for your home?
Perhaps it is time to publicize the truth and debunk a myth.
Many years ago when we performed obedience demonstrations for a dog food company we asked their canine researchers why they sought only purebreds for their research. The answer was not that they believed purebreds are unhealthy. It was not that they believed mixed breeds are healthy. This was not the case at all.
On the contrary, because of their selective breeding, purebred dogs found favor with researchers because of a pedigreed history. Using purebreds instead of mixed breeds gave researchers set markers which expedited their research.
For decades, purebreds in all species have aided the medical community in identifying canine and human disease. Somehow this gracious help of our breeders and their stock has morphed into a false image of the purebred dog. Radicals, including some in the AKC and even members of our own breed clubs, have used this research and the health test they produce to label purebreds as sickly.
Follow the money; more research, more tests, more money donated to the cause. Meanwhile this public promotion health testing on purebred dogs only serves to favorably endorse backyard and puppy mill bred mixed breeds.
Are mixed breed breeders and their rescues giving money to research? No. Are they badgering their breeders and owners to test, test, test? No. Are they healthier than purebred dogs? Research is fine if you are not using it to attack others but as a tool for your own knowledge.
Caution: Research as an endorsement of “responsible breeding” will test the purebred dog out of existence! Research is research, breeding is breeding. One produces a new generation of purebred dogs and one makes a career out of testing them!
The truth is if purebred dogs are unfairly labeled and eliminated through misunderstood but highly publicized health testing, mixed breeds like Ranger will still continue to die from disease. Without the breeders of purebred dogs to participate in research programs, how will diseases be cured or prevented for all dogs?