Friday, December 19, 2008

We Want Our Mutant Dogs, Never Mind Their Pain

Heather, over at Raised by Wolves, asks if breeding Chinese Crested dogs with canine ectodermal dysplasia and the problems associated with that genetic defect (teeth loss, skin problems, eye problems) for a "World's Ugliest Dog" contest is any worse than raising a brachycephalic and achondroplastic bulldog that cannot breath or run in order to win a blue ribbon at an AKC show.


No, of course not! Same thing, and a good point.

No matter what the breed, breeding dogs for misery-inducing deformity is all about the same.

Which brings me to the latest news out of the U.K. which is that, according to DogWorld, the Bulldog Breed Council has unanimously rejected the Kennel Club's proposed breed standard changes.

"We don’t like the whole thing," said council chairman, Robin Searle who is a former Crufts judge. "We see it as the Standard being changed and the dog will look different compared to how it is today.”


That's the idea.

But of course Mr. Searle is a bit thick-head on that point, isn't he?

No surprise then to learn that this man has spent the last 50 years chasing blue ribbons in the Kennel Club.

If you were looking for Exhibit One for the kind of inbred thinking that has resulted in so many Kennel Club dogs being genetic basket cases with shortened and miserable lives, Mr. Searle might take the prize.

As Emma Milne, from BBC One's Vets In Practice has noted, the modern Bulldog is a "mutated freak."

"Modern bulldogs can't run, they can't breathe, they can't give birth.

They have enormous problems with too much soft tissue in their mouth and it adds up to a dog that is struggling for air all its life."

Struggling for air it's entire life? Robin Searle and the bulldog breeders who make up the Kennel Club's breed council do not give a damn about that!

For them, the dog is all about blue ribbons, and shiny trophies. Never mind the tarnish on the dog. The dog is not even in the picture!

And so, we come down to the question of how to get through to these people who are so breed-blind.

Perhaps when we meet Mr. Searle, we can all wish that his grandchildren be born with the human equivalent of what he prizes in a bulldog -- a severe brachycephalic head and achondroplasia (dwarfism).

Perhaps with hairless Chinese Crested breeders we can wish their children be born with ectodermal dysplasia and the dental, skin and eye problems that come with that genetic condition?

Perhaps with show-ring German Shepherd breeders we can wish upon them children with twisted and dysplatic hips?

And, of course, for the Dalmatian breeders who continue to reject the back-cross dogs that are free of uric acid stones, we can wish them (or their husbands) a urethrostemy, in which their scrotum is removed, and their urinary tract is permanently relocated to the base of their penis so they can urinate like a female.

Hey, if it'd good enough for the dog, it should be good enough for their owners and their families!



Daniel Gauss said...

But.. but... she looks happy! She's even smiling... sort of. ;-)

Anonymous said...

While conspicuous oddity makes the most immediate, and perhaps the most compelling case for reform of breeding practices, in breeds like mine the problems are perhaps more profound owing to their insidiousness. While the Scottish Terrier standard does not (achondroplasia aside) call for pronounced deformities, the breed is cursed with the highest incidence of TCC around and is riddled with a frequently disabling movement disorder known as Scottie cramp. The problem lies with coefficient of inbreeding, a concept fundamental to the development of breeds that has been abused in the development of "lines" intended as avenues of personal expression. How I wish the breed clubs would transform their missions, dispensing genetic education rather than handing out gilt.

Anonymous said...

The back-cross breeding of Dalmations with Pointers is one of the more sensible efforts to improve genetic health I've heard of--I can't understand how any sensible dog breeder would reject this! If I were planning to get a Dalmation, I would make it a point to give these "back-crossers" my business! Breed clubs are obviously quite varied as to their make-up, and this can make all the difference in the future health of the breeds. Most, alas, look at any "foreign" blood "tainting" their bloodlines, forgetting that ALL breeds were crossbreeds at some point in their history. One of the most sensible moves by an AKC breed club came from the Basenji People, who somehow got the AKC to let them re-open their studbooks, and allow them to bring unregistered Basenjis back from Africa to cross into the American lines, to increase the genetic health of their dogs--an interesting subject for a future discussion on this blog! Are Basenji people just smarter-than-your-average show breeder? They probably have to be to successfully keep Basenjis!....L.B.

Anonymous said...

Actually, BCOA has gotten AKC approval to re-open the stud book for another round of new genes. Admission of more new dogs is currently in process. There's information on the club website at

Why the different in attitude? Basenji people are working with a land race breed, a breed that is very natural and extremely intelligent (so some self selection of enthusiasts), you get a lot of biologists and science geeks in Basenjis, and I think there is a good bit of "preservation" in many breeders' approaches.

In this breed, you do see chat list discussions of COI, including specific references to Wright's coefficient, and interest in breedwide inbreeding levels. This on the regular breed chat lists, not just diversity lists.

The breed also has a very active health endowment, currently has DNA tests for the two most serious breed health problems (renal Fanconi syndrome, developed largely through endowment efforts, and pyruvate kinase deficient hemolytic anemia - the latter essentially eliminated from the breed) as well as a large bank of DNA samples for future research.

Utilization of the new Fanconi DNA test is nearly universal among serious breeders (whether show, performace, or focused on new imports), with the focus being on "at least one parent tested clear" in a specific effort not to narrow the gene pool while eliminating the production of affecteds.

Interesting additional factoid - of the 11 current officers and board members of the BCOA, 2 went over to Africa to import dogs, plus 2 more own imports, plus 2 more have owned offspring of two imports (100% new native stock), plus 1 more has bred to an import, and plus one more has bred to the offspring of an import. (Several have done a lot more breeding with these imported dogs and their offspring, but you get the general idea.)

Interestingly, many of the people deeply involved with these imported (and non-pedigreed) dogs also like to show, and some have done so very successfully.

We are not perfect, but as a breed, we really do try to do the right thing.

And LB, I'm not sure if living with a gaggle of Basenjis requires a high IQ or if it indicates its opposite. :-)


Lisa at Itzyu

PBurns said...

My understanding from reading >> is that the Basenji registry in the UK was closed with just 7 dogs, and in the US the registry had only a little more depth. The result has been predictable: a deeply inbred dog with some serious lethal health problems. You say geneticists are attracted to these dogs? I cannot understand why; they are deeply inbred and are not much use for hunting in our woods. Perhaps the inbreeding itself is the interesting part?

In any case, beginning in the late 1980s, a push was on to try to broaden the genetic base a bit, and eight African dogs were allowed into the AKC. With the additional overseas dogs allowed in prior to this, the AKC Basenji now had a total of 26 founders, but since many of them did not contribute much, and the show ring gene pool was still continually choking down due to popular sire effect, the true male "founder" side of the breed was really no more than four or five dogs (Bongo of Blean, Wau of the Congo, and Kindu alone are estimated to represent well over 95% of the Y chromosomes in the modern dogs).

So what will happen now? A few more dogs will be imported from the Congo, Benin and Camaroon, but then the flow will stop and the gene pool will ratchet back down again as it has before. No matter how many dogs are imported during this narrow window, it will be too few and dominant sire selection will, in all liklihood, continue to tip the boat into the future.

The good news is that the fate of the Basenji does not rest on the Kennel Club or foreign breeders. Though the forests of the Congo are a little more open and accessible now than they once were, the dogs will not soon disappear from remote villages where they breed true and the form is widely seen. There they are fine, and they are valued, and they are genetically genetically diverse. They are certainly not "at risk."

My question is this: Why register your dogs with the AKC at all? Let's be clear: the dog you value was not created in the Kennel Club, it has only been inbred there. It will continue to be inbred there, and it does NOT need to be "rescued from extinction" as there is no shortage of the dogs in central Africa.


Pai said...

There is a direct canine equivalent of Human Ectodermal Dysplasia, but it isn't found in Chinese Cresteds, it was discovered in a German Shepherd. The GSD-mutation (which is being bred for the purpose of lab studies) causes similar glandular defects as the human mutation. Whereas scientists have studied Mexican Hairless dogs and their relatives since the 70s, yet this X-locus mutation and it's affects was something new to them. Mexican Hairless dogs are bred in labs frequently because their skin is a very good analogue to healthy human skin and even tans, ages, and acnes similarly. In all the research papers I have read that used mexican hairless dogs, none were based on the breed's biology being analogous to types of Human ED. And Cresteds are just Mexican Hairless Dogs selected/crossbred for more hair.

None of the South American hairless breeds suffer from the issues in the human or GSD mutations -- the only thing their particular mutation has in common with human ED is lack of hair and premolar development. A similar mutation even exists in guinea pigs and mice, but the side affects of a baldness mutation is not the same across species. So to try and make a direct comparison to the various human forms of ED in order to claim the breed is suffering is not actually accurate, because each mutation is unique.

'Ectodermal Dysplasia' just means 'lack of hair', it does not refer to a specific set of disorders beyond that, and there are various sub-types of the mutation in different species that are only similar in that they produce bald animals with a strange hair pattern.

The deformities in pores/sweatglands/follicles/chronic skin tearing that humans suffer in several types of human ED is not present in the Crested/Xolo/PIO mutation. In other words, it truly is a purely cosmetic issue in those breeds, not a health or quality of life issue. The breed being ugly to some people is not a cruelty issue.

Now, I'm not knowlegable in American Hairless Terrier genetics, so I can't answer what that particular mutation does or does not do for that breed. I just know it is very different and unrelated to Cresteds or Xolos.

I find it interesting how you love harping on Cresteds while never using a Xolo as an example of a breed suffering from it's mutation. Even though the two breeds are basically genetically identical. Of course, Xolos don't look nearly as 'bizarre'.

PBurns said...

Pai, ectodermal dysplasias is described as a "heritable conditions in which there are abnormalities of two or more ectodermal structures such as the hair, teeth, nails, sweat glands, cranial-facial structure, digits and other parts of the body."

What that means is that your dog has serious issues. If you had those health problems yourself, you would consider them serious issues.

Sorry your feelings are so easily hurt because on a lark you got a mutant dog with serious medical issues and not everyone salutes that kind of foolishness.

As for Xolo's I believe I have given a recipe on this site for cooking one! Use the Google, and maybe next time you will get a dog that is not a mutant with serious health issues created in America and celebrated by a stripper. Or maybe you will. Some people have strange interests and desires. Are you sure you didn't really want a CAT and not a dog?


Pai said...

Two more papers talking about X-linked Canine ED:

Mutation ID of Canine X-Linked ED
Clinical and Genetic Aspects of X-Linked CED

I've read literally a dozen scientific papers on the FOXI3 mutation symptoms in dogs (available by 'using the Google'), and I know -for a fact- that Human ED and FOXI3 CED are not the same thing. The reason FOXI3 is called ED is because of the missing teeth and hair, because that's all you need to fit the definition of 'ED'. Since dogs don't sweat through the skin, they can't HAVE deformed eccrine glands like humans unless it's in their pads, and only X-linked CED affects those. Mexican Hairlesses and Cresteds sweat through their pads just fine, because it's a DIFFERENT MUTATION.
There are 150 different 'ED' mutations in humans alone, so you can't just say 'ED' and talk about every symptom as if they all appear at once in every type of ED, because they just don't. Mice, cats, and guinea pigs have -several- types of hairless mutations each, and those don't all behave the same, either.

The ONLY glandular effects of FOXI3 CED that I've found referenced in research is lower levels of testosterone in male dogs, and their thymus atrophies earlier than in coated dogs (tho the thymus ALWAYS atrophies once an animal reaches puberty). If you can give me reasons how a sex hormone difference (or a tendency to get doggy zits) equals suffering, I'll listen. Last I checked, acne is treatable thru basic hygiene and most pet dogs get neutered anyway.

To say 'It's an ugly mutation (and an embryonic homozygous lethal), so it's inhumane!' is illogical (unless you believe pup life 'begins at conception' and the termination of a zygote is akin to the death of an actual dog. There are other canine mutations that are homozygous embryonic lethal besides this one (natural bobtails, for example).

ALL modern dogs are mutants -- the important fact is whether or not a mutation harms their quality of life. I've seen many hairless dogs (Xolos and Cresteds) of various ages in person, and there is frankly no real-world evidence supporting any of your claims of them suffering because of the FOXI3 mutation. They live normal lives the same as any other small dog. If you ever met some in real life, you'd see that plainly.
If they were such biological wrecks, how the heck did they survive for 4,000 years before modern hairless dog fanciers got them? The peasants who preserved the the Xolo type in the backcountry of S.America for 200 years until their rediscovery in the 1940s weren't exactly equipped to coddle genetic basket cases that died at the drop of a hat. And Cresteds have a much weaker expression of the gene than Xolos and were mixed with other breeds early on, which is why they're hairier. By your own logic, that'd make them healthier.

In one study, scientists hypothesized that the higher pup mortality rate of lab-born Mexican hairless dogs might be because of a defective immune system... until they found that by simply TURNING THE HEAT UP in the room, their pup mortality rates became equal to that of coated dogs. Apparently, even scientists can be really obtuse sometimes.

I sincerely believe the facts are against you in this matter. If you still want to believe that dogs with FOXI3 mutation experience all the same symptoms as Human and X-Linked CED despite research that shows otherwise, that's your own choice and bias more than it is a reflection of reality.

PBurns said...


Pai, your knowledge of your breed is shockingly limited. In the past you have told me that your breed has no teeth problems. Now you seem to not know that your breed has sweat glands.

You might one to start your education with this "Dogs 101 video" as it requires no reading >>

The bottom line is that the dogs DO sweat (you had no knowlege of this?), they are plagued by serious teeth problems (why so many have their tongues dangling our of their mouths) and they have multiple skin problems. A noted, this is "a perfect dog for an elderly disabled person in an apartment." Right. A disabled house-bound dog for disabled house-bound people.

Are you sure you really wanted a dog at all? Maybe you really wanted a cat?