Saturday, November 22, 2008

Australians Gearing Up for Kennel Club Change

The Australians are the latest English-speaking country to catch-a-fire over the issue of selection for defect and inbreeding in Kennel Club dogs.

In October the Australian National Kennel Club announced that they would be adopting the newly revised UK Kennel Club standard for the Pekingese, and that breed standards in Australia would be reviewed to reflect a new policy prioritizing the health and welfare of all dogs.

Excellent! Now about the inbreeding ...

Only time will tell when ABC News or CNN, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times will get wind of this story and begin to do their own standup pieces in front of the American Kennel Club's Madison Avenue digs. Just think of the defective dog footage to be had at the Westminster dog show! Delicious!

In the interim here's the word from the Land of Oz:

WANT to know what it feels like to be a Pekingese? Pinch your nostrils gently between finger and thumb till the sides almost touch. Then breathe — or try to — through your narrowed airway.

Vets call such semi-collapsed nostrils "stenotic nares", and they are common in dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers and Pekingese, which have been bred to have flat faces. They may look the way that breeders want them to, but their distinctive appearance comes at a high cost: some will suffocate when the constant effort to suck in air collapses their larynxes. These are the kind of pedigree dogs that, according to a growing number of animal welfare advocates, (including the RSPCA here and in the UK), should not be bred despite their popularity. . . . (shortening the text for blogging purposes )

. . . . Dogs — from chihuahuas to Irish wolfhounds — are the most varied animal, and breed standards are what ensure that they look so distinctive. Yet within that extraordinary variety lies a paradox: each single breed represents a shrunken gene pool that is sometimes as lacking in diversity as a threatened wild species: the average British pug has less genetic diversity than a giant panda. Left to breed randomly, dogs tend to evolve into a generalised doggy shape that looks a bit like a dingo. The only way to keep a breed looking distinct is to keep breeding relatives together. Health problems surface when inbreeding causes hidden genetic defects to emerge.

More than a century ago, when the first pug breed standard was written, it described the nose as "short". Pugs looked very different in those days: their noses were indeed quite short, but had proper functioning airways. Now, after a century of determined breeding, a pug's nose looks more like a hole in its face.

Dr Matthew Retchford, president of the Australian Small Animal Veterinary Association, says that if an operation is done early, such dogs can survive and breathe more normally. But he says the problems often don't stop there. "You'll examine a pug puppy whose owners have brought it in for routine vaccinations and a check-up and you'll see that that little dog has problems from its nose right down to its tail."

Those can include inability to whelp without help; pugs and bulldogs have big heads, narrow pelvises and usually need caesareans. Dr Paul McGreevy, associate professor in the veterinary science faculty at Sydney University, is pessimistic about the fate of such breeds: "Such animals fail the basic test of fitness for life, which is 'can you be born?' "

He argues that when breed standards were set they had little or no scientific basis and still don't.

Read the whole thing!

Pug tongues are always hanging out for a reason: there is almost no room in the skull for a tongue, and the dog overheats by simply walking across the living room.


Anonymous said...

The ANKC is a funny thing; you can never figure out if they want to be the FCI or The Kennel Club. I guess if they redo all their dog standards to copy the Brits, they have finally decided something, but who knows? So what happens to the Americans? If everyone is going different directions, it might put a crimp on international competitions. The Kennel Club was the first though, so maybe this is a natural order? Any thoughts?


PBurns said...

No thoughts Bill; I am too removed from the various international camps to know who pays homage to who. I DO think the AKC pays pretty close attention to what is going on in the UK. Kennel Club, however. They certainly have with the Jack Russell. I think the FCI is treated as a separate and competing thing by the AKC; a sort of "UKC for small European countries" if you will.