Thursday, February 17, 2011

Westminster: Hair Dressers and Amputees








Picture source:  Boston Globe


And the Winner is
.... a Scottish Deerhound, a dog that is likely to be dead by age eight and a half

If one is looking for an iconic breed to represent the history of the Kennel Club, the Scottish Deerhound is not a bad one for the job. 

After all, it was a debate about what to do with the declining health of this breed that led the U.K. Kennel Club to formally choose to close all registries rather than evince the slightest concern for breed health.

But don't take my word for it. 

In the 1905 publication The Kennel Club: Its History and Record of Its Work, Edward William Jaquet, secretary of the Kennel Club, writes about the 1897 debate that resulted in all the registries being slammed shut:


Health or purity? 

Well purity of course!  

A dead dog is not a liability, after all; it's an opportunity for dog dealers to sell more dogs, and for wannabe rosette winners to try again with new stock. 

Perfect!

Of course, it should be pointed out that Scottish Deerhounds ARE living longer now than they did only a few years ago.

Excellent!

So did the Kennel Club change its tune and decide to embrace a little outcrossing?

No, of course not!

Instead, they now suggest that all AKC dog owners buy veterinary insurance, which comes in so very handy when it comes time to pay for the chemotherapy!


Over at... Embrace Pet Insurance, a $100 a year deductible policy for a dog like Hickory would cost almost $83 a month — or nearly $1,000 a year....

.... According to Embrace, pet insurance for purebred Scottish Deerhounds costs more than for mixed-breed dogs. That’s because Scottish Deerhounds are much more likely than mixed-breed dogs to have hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat. For instance, a dog like Hickory has a high incidence of bone cancer, usually found in one of the legs. Veterinary expenses for bone cancer treatment, including leg amputation and chemotherapy, can exceed $8,000.

Oh, and did I tell you that the AKC is now pushing its own brand of veterinary insurance?

Sure, and why not?   Why not turn a little more profit on the pain and misery of pedigree dogs?  No reason to change the tune now, right?.

Hairspray suggests this dog is pretty far from the hedge.
.

16 comments:

Mary Ann said...

Actually, Patrick, the cost of treating a deerhound for osteosarcoma is underestimated by that article. And all of that for an extra 9 months or so of life, on average. Most owners of deerhounds with osteo opt for pain control, and failing that euthanasia. As a radiation oncologist I've spent my entire professional life helping patients battle cancer, and some of them got their cancers because they INHERITED the gene for it, much like our dogs. Perhaps you have a solution to this problem? I can promise you, the human oncology community AND the deerhound community are all ears.

HTTrainer said...

The game's afoot, Watson.
At least he did not choose the waddling Peke or the wrinkled dog

PBurns said...

Sure they inherited the gene for it Mary Ann. But unless your human patients are inbred, that is going to be a random Act of God and it is not going to be too common an event.

Breeding pedigree dogs, however, is not random, and it is an Act of Man.

And because of closed registries, certain breeds have cancer rates that are astouning, and the Deerhound is one of them.

It is, of course, a CHOICE to own and breed dogs with jaw-dropping rates of cancer.

This is institutionaly sanctioned misery.

If the dogs actually did something, that would be one small thing, but these Deerhounds are not working dogs, are they?

Mary Ann said...

Actually Patrick, I must take the bait here! Re genetic forms of cancer--take breast cancer for example. The majority of cases are sporadic, and may or may not be attributable to gene mutation. But about 10 to 15 % are due to the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, which are much more common in some human populations, notably Ashkenazic Jews from Eastern Europe. Six million of them died during the Holocaust, so I guess that does mean the rest may be a little inbred. (I am of Eastern European Jewish descent by the way, so dont accuse me of racism!) There are many other examples of human cancers transmitted by an autosomal dominant gene.

Re: "if the dogs actually DID something..." Are you kidding? I live and keep horses on small acreage and without my deerhounds I would be overrun with rabbits eating my grass pastures, and gophers digging holes that a horse can break a leg in. My dogs are working dogs, same as yours. It is illegal to hunt deer with dogs in most states, including California where I live, but I have no doubt that any deer that tried to cross my property (we have high fences, and the local deer population apparently are not oblivious to 4 deerhounds patrolling at all times during the day, and most of the night) would not likely live to tell the tale. In the meantime they settle for smaller game. Working in the original sense, no, more's the pity (though I love "Bambi", I also love venison). Mary Ann

Mary Ann said...

PS. I dont breed. And PPS. Golden Retrievers have a much higher rate of cancer than Scottish Deerhounds. But then again, that's because more deerhounds are dying of dilated cardiomyopathy and bloat. (I know that's not really funny, but I try to keep a sense of humor when it comes to the cancer thing. It helps my professional longevity!) M

Marie said...

Amputees ... are you referring to the one armed judge that judged the Parsons earlier in the day? Why would anyone give a judging assignment to a judge with one arm for a breed that is supposed to be spanned ?

Other than that I have no further comment about the AKC.

aficat said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISRsXJ4b83g

PBurns said...

Mary Ann if you don't breed Deerhounds, and you are not using Scottish Deerhounds as giant lab rats for osteo-sarcoma studies, you might want to change the phrasing of your own biography where it says: "She also breeds and shows champion Scottish Deerhounds and hopes to establish collaborative studies with her colleagues in veterinary oncology." See >> http://ucsd.photobooks.com/directory/profile.asp?setsize=10&dbase=main&pict_id=2418786

And NO, I did not look it up -- it was sent to me by someone overseas. And yes, it DOES read that you were attracted to this breed BECAUSE it has jaw dropping rates of cancer.

Marie, the one-armed Parson's judge is news to me; I was not watching Westminster! It was referenceing the cost of an amputation for a Deerhound (cited in the insurance report). That's funny though, and for two reasons; the one you have identified, and also the fact that in the UK the Kennel Club is coming under some heat for being affirmatively opposed to anyone (judges or exhibitors) with any sort of physical handicap entering the ring. You see, it might upset the dogs! The letters from the Kennel Club that have come out are said to be delicious, and will no doubt find their way into the public domain in time, perhaps through litigation.

P

PBurns said...

Mary Ann, if you are of Eastern European Jewish descent, it is rather shocking that you know so little about Jewish inherited diseases, especially among the Ashkenazi Jews. This is NOT a closely held secret (and has NOTHING to do with the Holocaust, as you do not get inbreeding within a population of many million within a generation or two). Ashkenazi jews are generally instructed, at an early age, to outcross to non-Ashkenazi jews when they marry. If they do fall in love within the Ashkenazi community, they are crazy if they do not go for the FULL panoply of genetic tests before marriage, as having children can be a misery due to the genetic disorders that can crop up at jaw-dropping rates. I have friends in both camps, the "we-got-tested" couple both being demographers (my background as well). More here >> http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Health/genetics.html but suffice it to say that the diseases common in the Askenazi Jewish community include Tay-Sachs Disease, Canavan Disease, Niemann-Pick Disease, Gaucher Disease, Familial Dysautonomia, Bloom Syndrome, Fanconi anemia, Mucolipidosis IV, and Cystic Fibrosis. None are fun, and in fact this is a case statement of WHY no dog (or human) should be bred within a closed registry.

As for Golden Retrievers, why not look up the actual health stats on the dog? These dogs get cancer in OLD AGE, not at age 3, 4 and 5, and the cancer rates vary widely depending on where they are being bred. In fact, in Sweden, Golden's are one of the very few breeds that are generally healthier than random bred dogs. See >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2008/08/dead-dogs-do-tell-tales.html

P

Seahorse said...

As big as the Parsons I've seen are, it would take more than two hands to span them!

Seahorse ;)

sheltie1 said...

I have to shake my head at this conversation on how Ashkenazi Jews should or should not be allowed to marry each other or should or should not have kids without getting tested for every inherited disease and following strict reproductive procedures. Some of the greatest minds, Nobel Prize winners and wonderful classical musicians have been Ashkenazi Jews. My opinion is that people should be allowed to marry who they want and get the information to make their own informed choices. Likewise dog breeders, as a general rule, ought to breed the dogs they find that are the best representatives of the breed in every aspect. I don't think the world would be improved if every Ashkenazi Jew outcrossed and every purebred dog outcrossed. In fact it would inevitably dilute the good qualities they have. If you don't appreciate talent or beauty or whatever a particular gene pool has, sure, outcross it into oblivion, but given a choice there are at least some of us who can appreciate the science of selective breeding, sometimes including selective outcrossing, without calling constant outcrossing a panacea.

The example of scottish deerhounds is sort of ironic because they are healthy for a dog of their height. Any dog, even a mix, of great height will get more frequent bone cancer and bloat in proportion to how tall it is. You can tinker with environmental causes such as age at neutering and diet to make a slight improvement in cancer rate but the tallness is the biggest trigger. Decrying the closed gene pool while ignoring such a glaring cause as the dog's height may be a bit foolish.

I'm looking forward to the day when the effect of every gene is known and the science is here to design a dog or a human being from scratch--then we'll see if people are ready for real control over their choices and good and bad outcomes. Nowadays nature has far more control over the health of a dog than the breeder or the health of a child than the parents.

PBurns said...

sheltie1, of course people are free to do what they want. Who said otherwise? People do all kinds of things all the time under the name of freedom. They breed dogs and dump them in the newspaper and sell them on the internet and never check on what happens to them. They intentionally breed dogs for defect because they want a 75 cent rosette, and who cares if the dog suffers its whole life or dies in agony? They smoke cigarettes, shoot heroin, drink whiskey while playing with loaded guns, ride motorcycles without helmets, and they marry their first cousins. People are racists and segregatonists too. And guess what? You are among them! Missed that did you? I bet! But no problem. You have a right to be a racist and a segregationist. All correct in the name of freedom, right? Of course people are generally advised to go in a different direction in all this, but let freedom ring you will say and I will not stand against it. That said, I am happy to report that when MOST folks find out that the chance of birth defect is disproportionately higher if they intermarry within a given population, MOST pause at least for a second. They generally ask for more information and try to calculate the additive risks and many go on for genetic testing. They may ask WHY is it againt the law to marry your sister? Not you, of course. You have decided that the laws of genetics do not apply if your self-will runs riot, and that one religious or ethnic group is smarter than another as well. So go for it -- marry your cousin if you have not already. I will not stop you. As for the argument that "deerhounds are healthy" for a giant dog that dies young from torsion, heart disease, and cancer, I just have to laugh. Self-will run riot, and never mind the agonizing death of torsion, or the misery and expense of the rest. It's not about the dog, is it? It's all about what the owner wants. Got it. Thanks for sharing!

Romany Dog said...

sheltie1, You are completely wrong about bone cancer being inevitable in dogs of a certain height. Have you heard of anatolian shepherds? I have a very small male anatolian--he has more of a sighthound build and is 31 inches at the shoulder and around 100 pounds. He will be 13 in June. And that is not at all unusual for this breed. The problem isn't the length of the leg bones--it's the breeding practices.

sheltie1 said...

Wow that's really funny that you called me a segregationist. I actually married someone with a Jewish background even though my background is totally Christian so by that measure I am the furthest thing from a segregationist. Just because I admire the good qualities of different groups and want to acknowledge and preserve them doesn't mean I'm a segregationist. I also have more than one breed of dog and let them play together! I even let the dogs play with cats!

In answer to the topic of bone cancer prevalence, I don't know the demographics of every tall dog that gets it but I do know a google search of "anatolian shepherd" and "bone cancer" yields twice as many hits as "scottish deerhound" and "bone cancer". Everyone has a special insight for their own breed/ethnic background/whatever which is why it bugs me when people who are not dog breeders try to second guess it. I'm a dog breeder and I make damn sure that everything I do makes perfect sense in the overall best interest of the breed, and still sometimes I don't get the results I want in a litter. If it was so easy to be a dog breeder then maybe the second-guessers would all be out there raising perfect litter after perfect litter.

PBurns said...

sheltie1, do you think "the good qualities of different groups" is genetic? Do you also think there are "bad qualities" to different groups of humans and that too is genetic? If so, then you are a racist. If not, then you are an idiot and only now is that fact (perhaps) dawning over your beetle brow. Amazing if it were not laughable.

Romany Dog said...

sheltie1, I actually AM a dog breeder, I just don't breed anatolians. Regardless, the average lifespan of anatolians is around 12 years and many live to 13 or 14--how often do scottish deerhounds live that long? Yes I expect that now that anatolians are in the AKC and are being bred for the ability to look good trotting around a ring, you are going to see genetic diseases crop up and shortened lifespans. It doesn't usually take long for a breed to go down the toilet once it's admitted to the AKC.