Sunday, May 11, 2008

Inbred to Death?

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."



Pai said...

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."

Only they haven't been, really. Or else legislative bodies wouldn't be seeing a need to step in and do it for them. It doesn't matter if you're the 'best placed' if you don't actually use that place.

Anonymous said...

why is that dog in a cooler? Oh, it certainly is Monday.

Marjorie said...

What a crock. Who writes this stuff, anyway? Right away I noticed the "chicken little, the sky is falling" reporting.

While there are some genetic problems associated with certain breeding lines, responsible breeders test for these conditions (where possible) to avoid using carriers in their breeding programs. So while we'd likely all agree there are too many irresponsible breeders out there, there really are some responsible ones, who have the very best interests of their favoured breeds at heart. They're the ones who'll ensure those breeds live on into the future.

I stopped reading the story at the point the author mentioned Great Danes only living to age seven. Having been involved with Danes since the 1970's, I've just about seen and heard it all. I can't tell you how many completely unfounded rumours of this kind I hear on a regular basis.

Yes, a few decades ago, seven or eight was a typical, average Great Dane lifespan. Nowadays, Danes routinely live to be 10-12.

It seems like, each year, that old belief about the Great Dane lifespan gets more and more perverted. A year ago, a man was surprised that my puppy (his assumption upon first seeing my dog) was 8-years-old. He "informed" me that the average lifespan of the Great Dane was 6 years. I giggled a bit, and let him know that the old theories about a 7-8 year (!!!) lifespan were a tad out of date with today's better breeding and nutrition practices, and veterinary advances. "Oh, no," he protested. "That's what my veterinarian told me." ...Uh, huh. Your veterinarian is current on the longevity data for all dog breeds, eh? Riiiiight. (Some of the worst old wives tales are uttered by veterinarians.)

About a week ago, I ran into a man who struck-up a conversation about my Dane. He announced that Danes only live to be 5 or 6. (As Danes grow older and older, it seems those myths about their lifespan grow shorter and shorter.) Again I conceded that 7-8 (!!!) was typical, up until a couple of decades ago. Since then, though, Danes routinely live to 10 and beyond. I've owned/known many 10, 11, & 12-year-old Danes.

If there is a monkey wrench in the longevity stat's, it would be that Danes do still suffer from fatal conditions such as bloat, cancer, and cardiomyopathy. So while there are young Danes dying from these problems and others, or just accidental deaths, if your Dane is otherwise healthy, there's no reason it can't live to ten and beyond.

The oldest confirmed age for a Dane is 16 years. The oldest anecdotal age that I've heard of for a Dane is 19. I've met a few 15-year-old Danes. My very fit, healthy, and active 9-year-old Dane is mistaken for a puppy on a regular basis. Simply put, she's not acting as though she's on her death bed, or will be anytime soon.

If they're still using "7" as the upper lifespan for the Great Dane (actually, the author wrote, "...lucky to live to seven"), then how accurate should anyone expect the rest of the information to be?

Poorly researched article.

PBurns said...

Marjorie, your comment is interesting but not very persuasive. You offer no research, no studies, no authorities, and only outlier data.

No less an authority than the web site of the Great Dane Club of America (established 1889) says: "The most negative aspect of the breed is a short life span, typically about 7 to 10 years.: See >>

Do you disagree with your own bred club?

You cite yourself as the authority by way of being a Great Dane owner, but even here you hedge. You say there are "responsible" breeders and "irresponsible" breeders and that "responsible" breeders have dogs that live longer than "irresponsible" ones. But I think you and I both know this is really the old soft-shoe said by puppy peddlers pushing product. These phrases are really just words tossed around by folks denigrating one side or the other. Friends at ringside are "responsible" breeders, while others who are selling their dogs cheaper in the newspaper, and are not chasing ribbons are "irresponsible." The truth is that not every serious health condition can be tested for -- very few can -- and most serious health problems are recessive, which means they lurk unseen in the gene pool and are not easily washed out. Were both the sire and dam of your dog tested for all condition on both sides? Were the parents of your dog old enough at the time of their breeding for their own problems to have revealed themselve? I will bet "no" on both points.

You hedge more when you say that YES Danes suffer from "bloat, cancer, and cardiomyopathy," but if your dog is "otherwise healthy" it should live to "ten and beyond."

This sentence is an astounding train of denial, up there with an African public health official telling me that if we washed out Infant Mortality deaths, and HIV/AIDS deaths, the folks in Botswana were living pretty long and healthy lives.

In fact, as I assume you know, bloat is the number one killer of Great Danes. Heart problems are STILL THERE and not uncommon. Cancer is a huge issue.

In fact, the genetic problems INHERENT to large breeds, such as dysplasia, the wobbles, cancer, and stress on the heart are what reduce the lifespan of all massive breeds, and Great Danes are no exception.

You suggest that better dog food has helped the Great Dane. Really? I have not seen that at all. What I have seen is that what most folks think of as "better" dog food is actually implicated in hip dysplasia, especially in the large breeds. What you want for a Dane is a LOWER quality dog food with more pass-through fiber and less protein, less calcium, and less vitamin supplements. Is that a better food? No -- that's not "better" as most folks use that term. It's better for a Great Dane, but it's a LOW quality food.

And so, I am not persuaded by your comment which offers NO research at all and cites no authority at all. If the lifespan of a Great Dane is 7 to 10 as the Great Dane Club of America suggests, and we recognize that ALL dog mortality statistics simply wash out puppy mortality, since under age 8 week deaths are never counted (all those Harlequin Great Danes euthanized at birth due to genetic disorders and wrong coat colors, for example. See >>, then it is indeed true that a Great Dane is "lucky to live to seven."


PBurns said...

Marjorie posted about 7 pages of flame, but not a single citation to anything about Great Dane life expectancy. Since that was clearly what was needed, and Google really is easy to use, I will not waste anyone's time: just type in "lifespan" and "Great Dane" if you actually want to read the concensus. And if you do not know the difference between life expectancy and lifespan (same thing in common usage) and MAXIMUM lifespan, look that up too.


Anonymous said...

I have owned 4 great danes.
The First one died from bloat at age 3.
The next one died from a heart attack at age 6, while its "partner" died from cancer at age 7. Their daughter died of bloat at age 3 (the mother and father were not related by the way).
Great Danes are absolutely wonderful dogs but unfortunately DO suffer from massive problems. And yes, I was feeding them a very healthy diet, like I am sure many owners do. Marjorie is either extremely lucky in only owning dogs that lived long, or just doesn't want to accept what most Great Dane owners know to be true.