by Tina M.
breeders have often discussed health issues within their chosen breed, but
not much was ever done about tracking, or analyzing specific breed data.
Although a few individuals tracked the diseases that were discovered within
their breeding program. As a rule, not enough dogs were tracked in order to
get a clear picture of what diseases were lurking within their lines.
If some type of pattern appeared to be surfacing, gossip & innuendo would
spread like a wildfire and other breeders would quickly go into hiding in
order to protect their kennel name! The entire process proved to be
completely unproductive for all parties concerned.
breeders were unable to discover specific carries of certain diseases within
their lines, so that they could easily work toward eliminating them.
poor dogs themselves would suffer because without a clear plan, more
affected dogs were born continuously.
future owners had no way of knowing what kind of vet bills, and emotional
trauma they were about to encounter!
Then in 1998, George Padgett,
a man before his time, wrote a book that was going to turn the canine world
Control of Canine Genetic Diseases
made its way into the homes of breeders from coast to coast! At last
they had something that they could understand and use to improve the health
of their dogs!!
Padgett was an advocate of "open registries" that are willing to track
complete health data on individual breeds.
<<Accurate calculation of risks is always
dependent on full knowledge about the dogs involved in a pedigree, which of
course, is the reason open registries are so important in disease control.>>
course this is the ultimate scenario, but a lot of breeders are just not
willing to "air out" their dirty laundry to all of their competitors!
Some BYB are often unscrupulously vicious and can be extremely competitive
in order to sell their pups! Although the REB's (long term breeders)
are usually willing to share information about their specific lines with
others like them, they tend to shun the idea of being openly exposed to the
gossip mills that are spurred on by the "goo goo eyed" newcomers that are
often only interested in just selling puppies for some extra cash!
They tend to look upon the established breeders as competition (instead of
mentors) and will do anything in their power to tarnish their reputation!
If they can discover that a certain stud is a 'carrier' of a particular
disease, they instantly tend to go on a feeding frenzy, like a bunch of
starving piranhas! Instead of being productive members of a club for the
future benefit of their chosen breed, they manage to create so much
dissension among the members that spin off groups become inevitable, thus
creating even more animosity that ends up accomplishing nothing productive
for the breed itself.
Fortunately many of the stronger clubs have forged on, despite internal
adversity. If you do a search on the web you will be able to find many
breed clubs that have pioneered Health Surveys for their chosen breeds and
gained tons of valuable information!!!
<<That amounts to over a 45% response
rate. According to our survey advisor, Dr. Padgett, the typical response
rate is between 25 and 40%. You did great!>>
results (especially the charts) are extremely interesting, and I would like
to encourage everyone reading this article to visit their site!
Approximately 1,600 questionnaires were mailed to ACC members in the US,
Canada, and Europe. In total, 657 completed surveys were returned. >>
BMDCA conducted a breed-wide health survey from August, 1999 through
January, 2000. During that time 1322 surveys had adequate information and
were included in the Summary, only ten surveys submitted had inadequate
information for inclusion in the Summary. 1063 surveys were completed on
dogs alive in 1996-1997 for inclusion in Dr. George Padgett’s talk at the
2000 National Specialty. >>
IGCA members, there was a 50% response rate for the questionnaire.
Approximately 25% (282) of the total questionnaires were returned. Surveys
were received from 41 states with California, Florida, Texas and New York
the most common. >>
Eliminating Genetic Diseases in Dogs
have learned the hard way that "having papers" means very little, if
anything, about the genetic health of a purebred dog. >>
bit of history from me: Margaret Slater, D.V.M., Ph.D., from Texas A&M,
spoke on breed health surveys at the 1997 AKC Canine Health Conference.
She indicated that for a true evaluation, the response to a breed's health
survey from pet owners, show dog owners, and pet-store puppy owners must
reach the 70% to 80% level. She concluded that accuracy in identifying
health problems is the key to success of any survey. >>
report worth reading is the Akita Club's
we must all understand that there is a LOT more involved in locating and
researching any specific disease in your breed!!
Let's take a moment to
and utilizing phenotypic data to minimize disease: A breeder's practical
guide," a very important article written by Rhonda Hovan on the
For decades backyard
breeders have only looked at their dogs' phenotype, while "old timers," aka
REB's, have had the foresight to maintain additional data on all of the
puppies they produced--thus providing them with the KEY they would need in
order to improve their gene pools! The LMX program developed at Shiloh
Shepherd kennels in the early '70's was instrumental in sufficiently
reducing the incidence of CHD in the GSD stock being bred, in order to
establish an entire new breed! However, upon opening the doors
to other breeders who failed to provide complete LMX data on the litters
they produced, in less than 7 years the incidence of CHD in the Shiloh
Shepherd increased from 2% to 11%.
Many individual breeders
may claim to be "testing" their dogs, and they proudly list the results on
their websites but that data is insufficient! Even the OFA will clearly
admit that dysplastic dogs are still being born to OFA parents, at an
attempt to compensate for these inherent flaws with common phenotypic tests,
many breeders have long realized the importance of gathering test
information on more than just the prospective sire and dam of a
litter. Because standard pedigrees include only direct ancestors such as
parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on, these are the relatives
on which breeders usually focus when seeking additional health information.
It is not uncommon for conscientious breeders to build pedigrees which are
described as "three generations clear" for a disease, meaning that the sire
and dam, the 4 grandparents, and the 8 great-grandparents have all tested
phenotypically normal. Yet such breedings may produce less than satisfying
results, as the disease genes may still be present, and affected offspring
may still be produced.>>
problem? Insufficient data. The solution? Vertical pedigrees.
<<Fortunately, there is an
additional way of utilizing phenotypic test data which improves the
likelihood of producing predictable results. It involves a different method
of building pedigrees.>>
<<A pedigree can also be
constructed vertically, most easily using a three column format. A vertical
pedigree of "Dog A" begins page left with Dog A and all of his full siblings
(from one or more litters). The central column lists his sire and dam,
and their full siblings; with the right column doing the same for the four
grandparents. Clearly vertical pedigrees can include many more first and
second generation relatives than do traditional horizontal pedigrees.>>
<<The broad data base that is
accessible using vertical pedigree analysis gives breeders accurate
information about any trait that cannot be tracked in a direct manner.
Whenever multiple genes and/or other complex modes of inheritance are
involved, a larger sampling will be more likely to contain enough
individuals to indicate a pattern. Accuracy, then, is dependent upon
accumulating phenotypic information on as many of these direct and indirect
relatives a possible. >>
Please take a moment to study the charts on
pages 3-4 of this article. It is apparent that although the stud with "Fair"
hips may appear to have a greater risk of producing CHD, his percentage of
failed hips is actually a lower percentage than many others.
Just knowing that the sire of your pup has an
OFA number does not ensure you of a healthy puppy! If you want to calculate
the risk this pup may have for CHD, you will need a lot more information!
For example, if "Romeo" is OFA certified and
has produced a total of 68 pups with a variety of bitches but you can only
find OFA data on 4 of them (1 good, 1 fair and 2 failed), there is no way
for you to know how many of the others may have failed their X-rays! While
"Big Boy" may be listed as producing 5 pups with CHD, thus appearing to be a
poor risk, if you look at the rest of the data you may discover that he has
sired a total of 208 pups, with 65 rated as having fair hips, 35 rated as
good and 20 rated as excellent. Now which stud would you rather bet on?
<<Of course, not all vertical
pedigrees will be as clear-cut as in the previous example. Further, diseases
other than hip dysplasia may require a different process of analysis. Two of
the most important variables to examine are:
1. the frequency of the
disease in the vertical pedigree as compared to the frequency of the disease
in the breed population, and
2. the location of the
affected individuals on the pedigree.>>
So what has prevented the reduction of genetic
diseases in most breeds? If we know how to find the key and have the
knowledge of how to use it, why haven't we, as a group of conscientious
breeders, been able to eliminate/reduce these defects that have been
plaguing our beloved breeds? The answer? Politics!
<<...most hobby and
competition breeders have admirable intentions, but are faced with a
challenging blend of art and science in which one of the most frustrating
aspects is the seemingly unpredictability of results. Vertical pedigree
construction and analysis is a very powerful tool which can assist in
reducing surprises and improving predictability With this method, progress
toward one's goals is usually more assured, and the risks of unexpected and
potentially devastating disease is decreased. This technique can help
breeders build a foundation which can become stronger and more dependable
with every successive generation.>>
Multiple registries and clubs
have been able to collect partial data on some of the dogs within their gene
pool, but continuous infighting among the various factions has prevented
them from properly merging this information in order for it to become
significantly productive as a whole.
When a breed club has more than one "registry"
representing their specific breed, attaining (and merging) sufficient data
in order to make significant progress toward eliminating genetic diseases
within that breed is virtually impossible!
The key is available, but unless all of the
breeders start working towards a common goal with their chosen breed,
improvement is going to be impossible.
As noted by canine geneticist C.A. Sharp in
his article, Breaking Bread: The Red Hen Approach to Genetic Disease:
in the case of a database which collects results of all exams, like Penn-Hip
and the Canine Eye Research Foundation (CERF), disease incidence will only
apply to the reporting population. If a breed is rare and few breeders
screen their dogs, the registry’s data will have little meaning. In
small-population breeds everyone needs to cooperate to see that most dogs
Listings of diseases reported in various breeds are nothing new, but they
can provide an inaccurate picture of what is going on. Lists of
peer-reviewed journal articles give no indication of how frequent any
particular disease is in a given breed
Let's take an example from
a popular breed that has consistently recorded hundreds of litters born per
year. What Are We Breeding For?
Upon examining the data, only 3.43% of all available dogs were ever recorded
in the OFA database! Although the % of CHD seems to be relatively "normal"
-- how many dogs' x-rays were not submitted because the veterinarian
expected them to fail? How many dogs were never x-rayed because the owners
did not see any "serious" problem in the way their dogs functioned? Even if
they started to suspect CHD as the dog grew older, they assumed that x-rays
were not necessary just to prove what they already knew--and some may not
have wanted their dog to get a "Black Mark" on their name!
Now let's compare these
statistics with the kind of
data that the ISSR has continuously collected on the Shiloh Shepherd.
Response needs to be statistically significant. Not everyone must respond,
but if only a tiny percentage do or only one segment does so (e.g. pet
owners vs. breeders,)
the results may not give a true picture of disease incidence. Some
parent clubs have rather small membership even though the breed is populous.
In such cases, if only members are polled even full response may provide
inaccurate data on the breed as a whole.
This is the magic key that must be clearly understood if we are to succeed
in reducing genetic diseases in our beloved dogs! Without this key, we will
most assuredly produce nothing but failure for our breeding programs, and
heartaches for many future owners!
one of the prominent forerunners in this field! Even though the
population for this breed is still relatively low, this club managed to
collect data on over 1,000 dogs!!
<<Approximately 34% of these dogs came from breeders; the remaining 66% came
from pet owners. Of the 1,000 dogs, 40% (401 dogs) were affected with one or
more of the 57 Genetic Defects listed on the chart; conversely 60% (599
dogs) were unaffected. All of the genetic traits listed on the chart were
reported in at least one dog. Remember that in Dr. Padgett’s book, "The
Control of Canine Genetic Disease," he listed 138 diseases for the German
Shepherd Dog. So, while 57 diseases for our dogs may seem like a lot, it
falls way short of 138. >>
Shiloh Shepherd Dog Club of America was so impressed with their efforts that
we used their basic guidelines to conduct our our Health Survey 2000.
<<To begin with, as most
of you know, our survey listed the same diseases that were mailed out in the
AWSA questionnaire. Aside from the 8 Behavioral Problems listed, we also had
15 other categories with a total of 142 various diseases listed. To date we
have received reports back with only 46 (out of the 154 possible) diseases
potentially effecting our breed. This is GOOD news, since ALL
breeds have defective genes. We are not concerned with proving that our dogs
are genetically perfect, but with learning just what defects we DO carry and
how often they appear! With this information, we can track back the sources
and avoid breeding CARRIERS of the SAME defects, thus reducing the incidence
of these problems within the entire breed! >>
Health Survey Update
In conclusion, we have
always known that as a group of dedicated breeders we have a problem!
Genetic Canine Diseases have not decreased, if anything, spurred on by heavy
line breeding and extremely high RC factors, the incidence of these diseases
has actually increased!! Yet
by utilizing all of the new tools that
we have at our disposal, we MUST make every effort to work
together, using these keys to significantly improve the health
of future generations!
Yet political strife and personal breeder
conflicts have prevented even some of the strong clubs from making enough
serious progress in the right direction.
What can we all do to assure that our beloved
canine companions will receive the healthy future they deserve?
1. Buyers must insist on proper documentation.
Don't be fooled by sites that list health reports on the parents! Contact
the open registries and order Vertical Pedigree Reports! If the sibling data
(for 3-4 generations) is not there, refuse to encourage such a breeder by
giving them your hard earned money for a potentially unhealthy dog!
2. Make sure that your breeder is a long term
member of that particular breed's parent club! The AKC can give you a
listing of officers for their chosen clubs. Contact them and request honest
information about your potential breeder!
If you are going to be
dealing with "Rare" or designer breeds, plan to spend a lot of time
investigating your chosen breed! Don't forget--
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
A well educated
consumer will be much happier in the long term!
3. Insist on getting your dog's papers from a
I have heard many people make statements like
"He's just a pet, I don't care about papers." This can be very dangerous
thinking because unscrupulous money grubbers can charge outrageous prices
for the "knock offs" they are selling!
All puppies are cute at that age, but if you
have chosen to purchase a ______ (you fill in the blank) then there was a
reason behind your decision? Maybe you wanted the security of getting a well
bred pet that had a predictable temperament and appearance, within the
parameters of that breed's standard.
So why would you be willing to pay an
exorbitant amount of money for a mixed breed (often puppy mill) pup that has
no legitimate registry affiliation?
For more information please visit
Registries: What Are They and
Rare Breeds: What Are They?
This article was written by
Tina M. Barber (2005)
as part of her educational series on canine health and genetics.
Please read The
History of the LMX (Litter Mate X-Ray) Program, (a fore-runner of the
vertical pedigree program) which was developed by Ms. Barber in the 1970's
and used in the development of the Shiloh Shepherd Dog. Littermate
Information (LMI) reports may be ordered from the TCCP for any ISSR Shiloh
Article written by Tina M. Barber, June 2005,
for the Shiloh Shepherd Learning Center. Originally printed in the
Shiloh Shepherd Learning Center: June 2005.