Is it accurate to insinuate that purebred dogs are plagued by disease? If so, how can owners, genetics, and breeders help?

Take for instance the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. This breed is very popular, it has a loving and sweet disposition, coupled with fur that is quite silky and droopy ears. Considering the cost, some people pay hundreds to thousands in dollars to get one puppy.

However, it’s almost guaranteed that this pet will have some genetic defects. Half of the Cavaliers that are born actually develop a disease in their mitral valve by age five. This is a very serious heart problem that makes the dog prone to reaching death at a premature age.

Moreover, around 70 percent actually are suffering from a condition known as canine syringomyelia. This is a devastating neurological disorder and what happens with this is that the brain can become too big for the dog’s skull. It’s the source of really unbearable pain in the dog’s shoulders and neck. It even damages various parts and sections of the spinal cord of the dog.

Don’t get me wrong, Cavaliers are just one of those cases among purebreds which really suffer from health conditions. However, there are numerous purebred dogs that also have a really high risk for inherited diseases.

Closer look at some of the results of breeding

Breeders often look at the line breeding in a bid to foster appearance. This process of breeding involves mating direct relatives. In the event that a male dog actually is able to win a number of championships, there is a huge chance that this dog will then be used for breeding a lot more often compared to those who are not champions.

This is where their genes are spread through the rest of the breed. We can now see why purebred dogs have more chances of getting and developing inherited diseases and also getting more health issues because of the frames and shapes of their bodies.

There negative effects that come with controlled breeding. However, experts in animal science are actually looking at the value of being able to select well to be able to achieve consistency. Milan Hess work as a veterinarian who is based in Colorado and he also works with the the AKC. On this, he says that the standard of a breed actually is a good template that helps give information about what the appearance and the temperament would be. It would also be a good way of seeing what could be the function and the purpose of the original breed.

Thomas Famula is a specialist on breeding animals and he works at the University of California in Davis. He has also mentioned that consumers are actually quite choosy when it comes to finding a dog to have as a pet. They usually look at the breed to serve as standard on the kind of dog that they want. By choosing a breed, they will be able to know how the dog will look like in the future and how it will be acting.

There are many organizations which breed dogs and they utilize data registries for maintaining health information. In such cases, they’re able to make guided decisions on pairing breeds thus reducing the height of inherited diseases. Others use testing of genes and keep a record and database which would enable them to track all of the dogs’ potential problems.

It’s almost impossible to maintain a breed characteristic while improving it. In most cases, the gene that is responsible for the quality characteristics often results in some health problems.

However, there’s hope coming from the work that had began back in 1973. Robert Schaible was a geneticist who worked at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He was the one who started the project on cross breeding dalmatians and English pointers.

Schaible was able to match an champion dalmatian from the AKC with an English pointer. He then crossbred a dog which had come from that litter with another dalmatian. Now, fifteen generations, the AKC has allowed dalmatians which have come from this pedigree which was healthier and had their spots intact to be able to register.

If we consider what may lie ahead for purebreds, we’re not insinuating that we should take them out of the picture but rather, we should put their health as priority.


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