Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Field Looks at Failing Gun Dogs

The editors of The Field held the first dog show in the world (all gun dogs) and were the incubator and the actual office of the Kennel Club for many years.

Now, it seems, they are starting to see the light when it comes to the terrible damage that inbreeding and intentional selection for defect, dysfunction, and deformity have done to the world of dogs.

From The Field comes this missive on hereditary gun dog diseases.

If you read Peter Moxon’s classic book Gundogs, Training and Field Trials (first published in 1952 and still in print) you will find that gundog hereditary diseases fail to get a mention. Moxon wrote about the diseases of the day – distemper, jaundice and hepatitis – but he didn’t have to concern himself with hereditary diseases because at that time they weren’t a worry. That’s not to say that there weren’t any, but any that had been recognised were hardly significant and not of serious concern to those who owned and worked gundogs.

How things have changed.

Six decades of selective breeding, often using closely related animals, has resulted in the genetic stock of many of our favourite working dogs being heavily flawed. Not surprisingly, our most popular gundog, the labrador, has the longest list of inherited diseases of which elbow, hip and retinal dysplasia are the most significant; these are very common and affect a considerable number of dogs but there are at least another 30 gundog hereditary disorders associated with the breed.

So long is the list that I’ve never heard of many of the gundog hereditary diseases on it. Take osteochondrodysplasia for example. The word describes a range of disorders characterised by abnormal growth of cartilage and bone. These disorders typically result in skeletal dwarfism, with the limbs of an animal being disproportionately short. I am unaware of ever having met a dog diagnosed with osteochondrodysplasia, but when I think of it, I have seen a number of abnormally short-legged labradors that were almost certainly suffering from this complaint. This condition is autosomal recessive, ie two copies of an abnormal gene must be present in order for the disease or trait to develop. Affected dogs – and their siblings – should not be bred from.

1 comment:

Brady said...

There is a breeder somewhere in the Midwest who has successfully sold a number of purebred labradors to acquaintances in my neighborhood. They are all unusually heavy in comparison to the sleek, athletic yellow lab our family had for many years, and weirdly short when compared with what I had learned to expect. Now I get it! He's turned a defect into a feature, and we were all none the wiser!