Pedigree dogs face extinction due to inbreeding
The Telegraph By Jasper Copping May 11, 2008
Many of Britain's most popular dog breeds could be extinct within 50 years because they are so inbred, vets have warned.
Some pedigrees are suffering from a range of worsening health problems because they are being bred from a shrinking gene pool in an effort to create the most sought-after physical characteristics.
Many breeds will die out as a result of hereditary diseases, the vets warn.
Emma Milne, the television vet who will address the British Veterinary Association on the subject next week, said: "If things carry on as they are, within 50 years many breeds will not survive. There are breeds with massive welfare problems that are in dire need of action.
"The constant refinements made by this kind of breeding mean they have become cartoon caricatures of what dogs used to be."
Ms Milne, who starred in the long-running series Vets in Practice, said animals were now having to be put down because of hereditary diseases, which had become widespread.
"This isn't natural. They are not really viable breeds but are being artificially maintained. A lot would die if they were not treated. If it carries on like this, veterinary intervention will not be able to save some of them."
Of the more than 200 pedigree breeds in Britain, most now have problems with hereditary diseases.
Among those most at risk are breeds such as the bulldog, which suffers from breathing problems, and shar peis, which are bred with twice as much skin as necessary, and suffer from chronic infections.
Both breeds cost about £1,000 a puppy. The average price for pedigrees is £600.
Dachshunds are increasingly prone to arthritis, because they are bred to have longer bodies and shorter legs, while Yorkshire terriers often need orthopaedic surgery to fix dislocated knees.
Deafness is now common in dalmatians, because the deafness gene is linked to the shape of the spots, for which they are bred.
While great danes and Irish wolfhounds, selectively bred for their massive sizes, have been left susceptible to heart disease and bone cancer and are lucky to live to seven.
Of the two most popular breeds, labrador retrievers suffer from three different hereditary joint problems, six eye and two heart conditions, while English cocker spaniels have five eye and four heart conditions, as well as kidney disease.
A new association has been set up to push for reform of the pedigree dog system.
The Pets Parliament has been established to secure ratification of the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which has already been signed by more than 20 countries.
The convention highlights a list of breed characteristics that need to be modified for the dogs' best interests and also bans breeding if the two animals share a grandparent.
The move could see some breeds disappear, and alter significantly in appearance, and the move is being resisted by the Kennel Club, which currently registers pedigrees.
Holly Lee, from the Kennel Club, said: "We're aware of the inherited health problems but we're the best placed to deal with them."