Monday, February 09, 2009

Veterinary Experts Say Kennel Club Has Failed

The RSPCA has put out a new 76-page science-based report which provides an overview of pedigree dog heath, and which concludes that exaggerated physical features and inherited diseases cause serious welfare problems in pedigree dogs, and that the Kennel Club has, for the most part, failed at its mission of protecting dogs.

To date, breeding practices and efforts by breed societies and kennel clubs have been ineffective at protecting the welfare of many breeds of domestic dog. Therefore, to safeguard the future of pedigree dogs, changes in breeding practices are urgently required, and for some breeds more drastic measures will be needed. All members of society, and all those who benefit from pedigree dogs, have a moral and ethical obligation to ensure that every action is taken to attempt to rectify the problem and to increase the health and welfare of future generations of pedigree dogs.

The independent report was commissioned by the RSPCA and was authored by a team of University-based veterinary specialists, practicing veterinary surgeons, genetics experts, and experts on canine welfare.

Among the key points made:

  • "Society and sections of the veterinary profession have become 'desensitized to the welfare issues to such an extent that the production of anatomically deformed dogs is neither shocking, nor considered abnormal.'" (p. 7)

  • "All objective studies which have compared average age at a death have found that cross breeds, and in particular small cross breeds, live longer than individuals of most of the pure breeds .... there is also considerable evidence that cross breeds dogs have lower veterinary bills." (p. 7)

  • "Much of the suffering which some pedigree dogs endure is unnecessary and a substantial part could be avoided with revised practices." (p. 8)

  • "Typically, modern dog breeds originated from a relatively small number of founder animals .... For the last 50 years, dog registration rules in the U.K. have stipulated that out-crossing (breeding with another breed) is not normally permitted .... One of the outcomes of this approach ... is that purebred dogs are genetic isolates. In this way, the Kennel Club, breed societies, and the pedigree dog showing community have formally endorsed the inbreeding of dogs." (p. 19)

  • "The link between inbreeding and increased disease risks in purebred dogs has been noted by many authors and comprehensively reviewed ...." (p. 20)

  • "There is direct evidence that many pedigree breeds have undergone a good deal of inbreeding. In a study of 11,384 Portuguese Water Dogs in the USA, all of them were found to originate from only 31 founders, and ten animals were responsible for 90% of the current gene pool. Similarly, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed, which is mentioned in this report in connection with both mitral valve disease and syringomyelia, was established in 1928 and is believed to have descended from just six dogs." (p. 21)

  • In 10 breeds studied (Boxer, English Bulldog, Chow Chow, Rough Collie, Golden Retriever, Greyhound, German Shepherd Dog, English Springer Spaniel, Akita Inu), nine had effective population sizes of less than 100 individuals, despite actual populations of 1,060 to 703,566 animals per breed.

  • Among the priority recommendations, supported by over 94% of respondents is: "Open stud books to allow more frequent introduction of new genetic material into established breeds in order to increase genetic pools." (p.40)

Want to read the whole thing, or just the summary? Terrierman has it all, and yes your breed is probably mentioned.


Miki said...

So I download the Pdf and do a search on standard poodles and bingo - Addison's disease, which I'm all too familiar with because my rescue guy has it - plus calcium oxylate stones, chronic pancreatitis, and antibiotic-responsive chronic diarrhea. My other standard - the one I had euthanized last summer at age 11 when he could no longer stand, who had laryngeal paralysis and could barely breathe anymore, who had two mast cell tumors removed - my "healthy" standard poodle, my perfect companion - loveable, liveable, laughable, laudable - the love of my life, dead....

And today, at Westminster, the standard who took variety was sired - AI - by a top producer looong gone who has produced more than one, more than 3, more than 5, more than 10, more than enough Addisonians....

I love the breed but my heart is aging and I don't know how much more of this I can take.

Anonymous said...

We must have a system that limits the number of litters a sire can produce. Too many dogs in these registries descend from a "most-used sire," and this is killing genetic diversity.

I was very happy to see that among the reforms the study actively promotes, along with opening up the registry system.

PBurns said...

Miki -- If you would be interested in taking to a reporter -- you do not have to give your name -- shoot me an email at


Christie Keith said...

Only mentions Factor VII in deerhounds? We have much bigger freaking problems than that! At least that one has a screening test, unlike EVERY OTHER GENETIC PROBLEM IN OUR BREED.

Caveat said...

The table that lists breed-related problems only mentions those for which a DNA test currently exists.

If that's what is being referenced.

Anonymous said...

[winks and nudges] I'll bet *my* breed isn't listed.

Nuff said.

[rather than publicize it, I prefer to hide my breed at an undisclosed location]