HEALTH DEFECTS IN PUREBRED DOGS
Are physical deformities the result of breeding for exaggerated breed characteristics? What do the registries say about restoring and preserving health in purebred dogs?
Feb 2015 update | TheDogPress.com
Barbara J. Andrews, Editorial
Are mongrels healthier than purebred dogs? The public goes to the shelter to get a mutt because they believe it will be healthier than a purebred dog. Rescuing a dog with a physical problem can make someone feel especially heroic but most people shop at the shelter because they believe mutts are a safer choice. They’ve heard all the horror stories about “pedigreed dogs” from friends, neighbors, and youtube videos.
This three-part report features VIDEOS which, even if you've seen them, should be viewed again. We also provide you with nearly two dozen "then and now" PHOTOS showing how the purebred dog has changed. You will hear from The Kennel Club (England), the United Kennel Club, and other spokespeople for purebred dogs.
What if you couldn’t get enough air to walk to the car? Have you ever had a sty or irritant in the eye? For your whole life??? Anyone who has had a hip replacement can relate to canine hip dysplasia (CHD). Do you or someone you love have kidney disease, degenerative arthritis, or heart failure? Dogs don’t complain. They just suffer.
It is time we came to our senses. The American Kennel Club (AKC) may indeed be “the dog’s champion” but it has miserably failed the dog’s health.
TheDogPress.com, as the oldest and boldest canine news site, was asked to do a “real” study on the health of purebred dogs. The requesting group is expecting proof that purebred dogs are genetically superior to mongrels.
We agreed to do the study. We are accepting input from those who have bred purebred dogs for 10 years or more AND who compete in conformation, obedience or field. Your feedback will be compiled and reported to the dog fancy and the Science and Advisory Board (2). We also want to hear from breed clubs as regards a specific breakthrough in genetic prevention of a particular health problem.
Most of the world’s pedigree registries and dog show organizations are suffering losses while veterinary and animal rights groups are flush with cash. What does that tell us? Three things:
Hopes soared for dog lovers when the AKC partnered with the Canine Health Foundation (CHF) in 1995. From nearly $4 million in donations, the AKC/CHF disperses approximately $1.5 million each year to help support canine research projects. Donations pour in from the AKC, national breed clubs, and mega-corps such as Nestle Purina pet foods and Pfizer Animal Health (pharmaceuticals).
This editor personally called the AKC Canine Health Foundation in January 2014 for information on research which had delivered successful results in preventing health deformities that impact the daily lives of dogs and their owners. I did so because, digging into the AKC/CHF website, our researchers were unable to determine such outcomes. One of the directors returned our call but even with another manager and someone we perceived as legal counsel participating on speaker phone, there were no answers. The three ladies collectively said they would get back to me but that has not happened. What could be so secretive about a high profile non-profit with a multi-million dollar budget? All that research should produce publicized results to offset the public’s soured opinion on purebred dogs’ health.
Perhaps there’s a better, less costly solution?
We show breeders must face ourselves and accept responsibility for having put ribbons before research. We must not denigrate the sport nor speak ill of our friends who participate with breeds that make a mockery of purebred dogs. We must however, address the results of our hobby which are all over youtube and facebook. When we think of the centuries of loyalty and service the dog has given to mankind, we are moved to wonder about humanity.
Generations of breeding for exaggerated characteristics in pedigreed dogs has resulted in mongrels suffering from structural problems and deformities. Cranial (breathing, eye and dentition problems), spinal, bone, joint, and organ function (heart, kidneys, colon) abnormalities have “leaked” into the mutt population. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Assoc.) June 2013 Journal (1) says purebred canine genetics are having an adverse impact. The University Of CA (Davis) published a 15-year study of over 90,000 dogs in which mongrels come out ahead as regards canine health - but only slightly ahead. The cross-breeding of health-afflicted purebreds in order to create Designer Dogs is but one way this has happened.
The most venerable dog club in the world, The Kennel Club (TKC) of England and the United Kennel Club (UKC), the second oldest American registry/show organization, are working to restore, insure and promote the health of purebred dogs. We are still trying for a statement from the American Kennel Club or the AKC/Canine Health Foundation.
Meg Carpenter, The Kennel Club (Board) and Breed Standards Committee
“Events judges are sometimes criticized for being overzealous if they think the dogs are unhealthy but overall we’ve made tremendous progress. Did you know that The Kennel Club has changed all of the breed standards? We are on the dog’s side and at the same time, we are on the breeder’s side. We worked especially hard on the 13 “high profile” breeds. One example is the French bulldog which has now been taken off of the high profile breeds list due to enormous cooperation and progress by concerned breeders.
“We now have a veterinarian health certificate approved by the kennel club. It is voluntary. Owners need not participate but response is very good. The media has attacked show people but they (the show breeders) are trying whereas the puppy mills are not.
“As regards judging and visible health problems, what we (The Kennel Club) say to the judges is “if in doubt withhold, don’t place it.” The bitch and dog going at the top of the breed, once awarded, go straight to the veterinarian if they are among the High Profile Breeds. This was done the first time at Crufts and now everyone knows what to expect in the breeds that have now set up testing protocol. You know the kennel club was the first to institute a health system and it has survived early criticism. Now everyone is on board.
“Judges must now complete a form for each breed plus they have a kennel club observer who also fills out a form on each breed. We have a new program we called the Breed Watch whereby we keep an eye on certain breeds based on the reports filed by the breed judges. So as those forms come in they are tabulated and filed. It may indicate a potential health problem which may cause The Kennel Club to put the breed on the breed watch list.”
TKC has made giant strides since the illuminating documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed aired in 2008 but long time breeders who want more than “just a pet” have always been adamant about physical and mental fitness in their dogs.
“Do we ask judges to consider physical and mental fitness for the job intended like they do in the U.K. and in the UKC? Do we demand that a dog pass a performance test, suitable for their breed, before becoming a Champion? All of this would have to come with teeth or the status quo will continue.
“Since 1954, when I titled my first dog, the emphasis in my mind has been on good dogs with great dispositions. A collie who was an AKC Champion and Utility Dog titled, multiple smooth fox terriers who were Champions and obedience and earthdog titled. Now a friend of mine is carrying the banner with her original Czech Border Patrol lines; working type GSD, all of which can do herding and bitework plus be an effective guard.”
So what about the United Kennel Club? Have the "using dog" people stepped up to the plate?
Wayne Cavanaugh, UKC President/CEO (and former AKC Executive)
“How can we not see that these exaggerations are real and that they cause dogs needless suffering and pain? The public has no problem seeing it. We’ve come to think a Pekingese on an ice pack is normal, there was a time I thought it was too, but do we ever think how idiotic this looks to the public? What did the public think when the AKC vet tried to rationalize the ice pack because walking a Peke down and back is like an “Olympic event!”
“How can we defeat the animal rights people by handing them live ammunition? How can we think we can earn the public’s respect by blaming everyone but ourselves? Newsflash: the public wants dogs that clearly resemble the breed yet still function. Ironically, so did the breed’s founders, the people who wrote the standards in the first place! Remember them? They’d be rolling in their graves if they heard us defending and pontificating about our new interpretations of ‘breed type.’
“What is wrong with adding a quarter inch of muzzle or a little more leg so a dog can function better? Is that “caving in” to the animal rights people or is it common sense? The “breed type” the show people are defending is not breed type at all! Its trends, fashion, style. How else can we explain how the top winning dogs from 25 years ago exuded ‘breed type’ and were seen as great ones when they don’t look a damn thing like today’s winners? Do we really think we improved these breeds or are we too busy confusing type with trend? I can remember like it was yesterday when Bobby Barlow, in red socks and a red plaid blazer, RAN around the Westminster ring at Madison Square Garden in 1981 and went Best in Show with the pug, Ch. Dandy’s Favorite Woodchuck. He didn’t take any short cuts either. Could today’s top winning Pugs do that? Could Woodchuck win today? I’m not saying Pugs should run around the ring, I’m just saying we all knew he could because he did. What is better PR, right or wrong, a Pug running around that gigantic show ring or a Peke on ice? Which gives the public a better perception of purebred dogs?
“This isn’t rocket science. Here is exactly what happened. We changed our interpretations of the standards, our interpretations of breed type, in such tiny increments that we can’t see we did it. You cannot fix a problem that you can’t see or won’t admit. I was in Paris last month and saw French Bulldogs all over the city. They were the correct size, immediately identifiable as nice Frenchies, and they were pulling their owners down the streets of Paris on a very warm day without missing a beat – they couldn’t win a ribbon though because they all had just a little more muzzle and big old-school nostrils. This isn’t just a DNA thing, it’s not a health test thing, not a CHF thing. While those are all extremely important, the most important solution is common sense. The knowledgeable and caring show breeders are the experts and, if anyone, they know how to do it right. The question is will they step far enough back to begin to reconsider the big picture?
“We all need them (AKC) to succeed if the world of dogs is going to improve. We don’t need million dollar lawyers and PR firms. We need to listen to what the public wants and balance it with we know. Either that or dog shows will continue to be an incredibly shrinking sport for dog-snobs only and we will spend the rest of our lives bitching about it.”
There should be no conflict between capable working, herding, hunting, coursing or lovely companion breeds and success in the show ring. The following comment is from an authority on German Shepherd Dogs (and other breeds) doing what they were bred to do.
Fred Lanting, all-breeds judge, Schutzhund specialist, author on Orthopedic Disorders.
“I judge for The Kennel Club (U.K.) as well as some other registries around the world. The Kennel Club has, for some years now, been adamant about decreasing the extremities that have resulted in breathing and breeding problems.
If a dog at a show has indications of such extremes as have become commonplace in AKC shows, it is not eligible for a CC (challenge certificate) which are required for Champion titles. This also applies to dogs that have extremely wobbly hocks, ridiculous toplines, orthopedic extremes, etc. Judges doing targeted breeds must fill out special forms reporting on the presence or absence of such problems.”
Most health tests would not be needed if all breeders were conscientious, networked honestly, and had been to the school of experience. Since that isn’t the case and novice breeders need credibility and genetic information for their fledgling breeding program, health testing is a valuable tool. It should not be mandatory. Why? Because in successful, established breeding colonies, the propensity for genetic flaws is well known, understood, and capably dealt with.
Health testing certification is vital when out-crossing into an unknown bloodline but otherwise, we cannot ignore the obvious - the ones who benefit most are the people who manufacture, administer, and read the tests. Many dogs glow in the dark from subbing for orthopedic x-ray certifications. Others provide blood samples for ghost dogs.
TheDogPress.com has long labored on behalf of the helpless animals. To turn a blind eye to such an enormous problem is to become one of “them.”
If you are still in denial about the structural changes and exaggerations that have taken place in just the last 50 years, TURN THE PAGE for Part Two and be patient while "then and now" photos are loading. Then continue on to Part Three in Video Theater and to TheDogPress Health Blog.
Ref 2 The NetPlaces Network Science and Advisory Board
Ref 3 AKC Catering to Puppy Mills This will make your day!