Sunday, 20 April 2014

New dog journal now online

A new journal dedicated to dog genetics and epidemiology, announced last year, is now online.

The great news is that Canine Genetics and Epidemiology is free and promises to interpret the reports for dog breeders and others without a science background.

Thus, in the first issue in a very useful article on The Genetics of Eye Disorders in the Dog by Cathryn Mellersh, we have this abstract:

And then the journal helpfully offers this lay summary.


Actually, the journal is a great initiative and deserves everyone's support.

Also in the first issue:

• "Approaches to canine health surveillance" (Dan O'Neill et al), which explores the strengths and weaknesses of different ways to monitor disease in dogs.

"A novel mutation in TTC8 is associated with progressive retinal atrophy in the golden retriever"  (Louise Downs et al), which reports another mutation linked to PRA in Goldies.

Canine Genetics and Epidemiology is published with support and backing from the Kennel Club. An excellent use of KC funds/resources.

You can sign up for article alerts here.

RSPCA blasts Channel 4 over Crufts claim

The RSPCA has accused Channel 4 of misleading viewers who wrote in to raise welfare concerns about this year's coverage of "the world's biggest dog show".

In its response to complaints, the broadcaster claimed that it "worked with" the RSPCA in putting together this year's broadcasts. 

Not true, says the RSPCA.

Here's the response one viewer received from Channel 4 (my bolding):
"Our coverage this year, as in the past, will not only cover the show itself, but will also reflect the on-going debate and continuing developments regarding dog welfare. We believe that by providing a major platform for debate and education, this can help people to make the right decisions about buying, raising and breeding healthy dogs as well as ensure that this debate is given an on-air forum. To that end, we will cover a range of health and welfare topics in short films followed by studio discussions with a member of the British Veterinary Association. We also have the RSPCA working with More4 and Channel 4, on how best to address health and welfare issues in the coverage of this year's Crufts."

The RSPCA, however, disputes this. Says Campaigns Manager Violet Owens:
"The RSPCA did attend a meeting with Sunset and Vine along with the Kennel Club and the BVA, but it was to discuss our concerns about the Crufts coverage from last year and the changes and improvements that should be made. However, we do not believe that any of our suggestions were taken forward and we were even more disappointed with this years coverage. We will be taking up the fact that we are being used as an endorsement of welfare in this response with the production company."
The RSPCA is right to be irritated by this year's coverage.

• The "member of the British Veterinary Association" was mostly vet Nick Blayney, the Kennel Club's Chief Veterinary Advisory/official KC apologist.  (And always to be remembered by me as the man who refused to condemn mother/son or full-sib matings when we interviewed him for Pedigree Dogs Exposed). Blayney even managed to recommend to viewers a Cavalier as the ideal lap-sitting breed for an elderly person without any mention of the costs involved in caring for a dog at a very high risk of heart disease and syringomyelia. (Heart meds alone can cost over £100 a month). And he maintained that there were more crossbreeds in rescue in the UK than purebreds - not in fact true.

• The KC's Assured Breeder Scheme was plugged without reflecting any of the flaws in the scheme.

• The Pekingese that went Best of Breed and won Reserve in the Toy Group (above) was a furball who panted for air as he waddled round the ring. Despite this, commentator Frank Kane made a point of saying the dog was "sound and healthy" and free of exaggeration (while praising owner/handler Burt Eadon for not walking too fast). Kane also declared - astonishingly - that the dog did not have too much coat.

Ch Yakee Ooh Aah Cantona is the grandson of Danny (Yakee A Dangerous Liaison) who won Crufts in 2003. As we revealed in Pedigree Dogs Exposed, Danny had had a soft-palate resection to treat his brachycephalic airway syndrome (although still gasped like a beached grouper).

In most thinking people's opinion, the op should have meant a disqualification - surgical procedures that alter a dog's natural conformation are not allowed and Danny's owners had not reported the procedure to the KC. But there was just enough wiggle room in the regulations (hey, the op only changed the dog's internal conformation not the external) for the KC to allow the win to stand.

Danny died earlier this year at the age of 15 - with some Peke-o-philes claiming this as evidence that PDE was wrong to criticise the dog. This is a bit like claiming that because Stephen Hawking has defied the odds in terms of longevity that there's nought wrong with motor neuron disease.

This year's winner was a little better than his grandfather in terms of his breathing, and I was pleased to see that he has a low co-efficient of inbreeding (at least according to the KC's Mate Select), but he is still light years from anything resembling a functional dog. And he certainly should never have been awarded Reserve Best in Show.

As ever, the impression given is that these dogs emerged fully-formed from some kind of natural evolutionary process. In reality they are the product of some sick people's warped idea of what a dog should be - something that needs to be challenged and challenged and challenged until they start breeding for a more athletic dog with longer legs, longer muzzle, wider nostrils, smaller eyes and less coat.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Wrinkle worship - from Peru to Alfreton

This is what passes for a beautiful Shar-pei in Peru.


I hope so.

Think it couldn't happen here?

Think again.

This dog won Best of Breed at The Neapolitan Mastiff Club UK's Breed Open Show last weekend in Alfreton, Derbyshire

Ah, but one's a Shar-pei that isn't supposed to look like that, and one's a Neapolitan Mastiff that is!

You think that makes any difference to the dog?

The depressingly-named Vallino Reverend Wrinkle is owned by a nice chap called Sean Platts (above with his dog). 

Now, the Rev Wrinkle has good hips, elbows and heart-score and, apparently, an eye certificate (although presumably not one that says he doesn't have ectropian). I've met Platts and he is something of a champion for Neapolitan Mastiff health testing. In his own way. But as we see in so many other deformed breeds, that way is within the confines of a breed standard distorted by the whim of fashion. 

As a reminder, here's what Neapolitan Mastiffs used to look like before the show-ring got hold of them.

Neapolitan Mastif, 1958
I couldn't get anyone within the Neapolitan show community to go on the record re Rev Wrinkle's win as they were anxious about me using their quotes for my own "sensational aims".  But I was told by one breeder that although the dog did have more loose skin than would these days be allowed in a KC champ show, I shouldn't be outraged because the show wasn't a qualifier for Crufts. 

This, said my contact, allowed the judge to "go with her heart for a change"

The judge was Janet Gunn (Flintstock Bullmastiffs) who "loves big typical dogs and as she found one without an obvious health problem she gave him his moment in the spotlight that he will never get at a Championship Show in the UK today."

Right...So you can continue to have your fix... your guilty pleasure.  As long as it's in an alleyway away from prying eyes.

As for "without an obvious health problem"... Did you see the dog's eyes? Did you see the evidence of skin disease on his muzzle? 

But of course that's normal in this breed.

And just look at those stenotic nostrils - previously not a common feature in this breed, despite their other ills. When did that happen?

Some more pix of the Peruvian Shar-pei - click to enlarge if you can bear it. You can find the breeder on Facebook here. Please feel free to take a moment to tell him what you think of his dogs - and indeed all those on there telling him they think his dogs are beautiful. 

You think they're sleepy? Nope, they can't open their eyes.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Best of Breed Basset Hound Crufts 2014

Want to see what all the fuss was about regarding the Best of Breed Basset Hound at Crufts this year?

Here you go - Akasha Banana Split - aka "Nana".

It is clear in Frank Kane and Jessica Holm's commentary that they are not fans.. no superlatives here. Frank Kane mentions that breeders are trying to steer away from exaggerations, but notably doesn't suggest that they've succeeded in this dog. And Jessica Holm, struggling to say something nice, finally plumps for Nana's ears.

You can see that this dog does move well given her physical limitations. But this is the human equivalent of what the morbidly-obese are left with post extreme weight loss.

Just  imagine what it would feel like to run with this.

That Nana can do it  - at the moment - isn't testament to selective breeding. It's testament to our dogs' incredible spirit and stoicism - something they have not yet managed to breed out of her.

When they do, the breeders better watch their backs.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

French Bulldogs - an enviable life?

A picture of health. Not.

An anonymous poster tipped me off to this 'letter' featured on the French Bull Dog Club of America's website

A Letter To My Vet
by Jan Grebe
"Hi! I’m a French Bulldog, and unless you are extremely lucky, you may not have any other patients of my breed. If that is the case, please let me alert you to some special health needs of Frenchies, as our friends call us.
"Though our Minimum Daily Requirement for human companionship and love is high, our day-to-day needs are simple. Petting keeps our coat shiny; praise keeps us happy. The best medicine for a Frenchie is TLC. But we do have a higher incidence of certain structural problems that go along with our-flat faced, dwarf status than do other breeds (the ones we think of as spindly and pointy-nosed).
"As with other brachycephalic breeds, we have airways that are easily compromised. We overheat very easily, often have an elongated soft palate that may need to be shortened, and anything that causes swelling in the mouth or pharynx (trauma, insect stings, tonsillitis, etc.) can cause a respiratory emergency. Sometimes our nares are rather stenotic; this does, however, give us the most endearing snore. Cleft lip/palate, of course, is more frequent in short-faced breeds. And it has been suggested that we are more likely to have oddly-formed thyroids and anterior pituitaries, since the pharynx, from which these structures develop as outpocketings, is so abbreviated. Whether these glandular abnormalities cause any functional problem is uncertain, but it’s worth considering if any problems are seen that could have an endocrine basis.
"Anesthesia, of course, is a constant worry. Thanks to our laid-back attitude, many procedures requiring a general anesthetic in other, more excitable breeds can often be done without it in Frenchies. When a general anesthetic is required, we are very hard to intubate; even more so than Bostons, we’re told. First, please note that our necks tend to be rather squatty (no way to put it delicately). The endotracheal tube may have to be shorter than in a longer-necked dog of comparable size; if it is too long, it will end up in a bronchus and we’ll only be half-ventilated. Also, we must be kept lying on our bellies and watched closely after extubation, until we are up and walking around, because our large tongues and/or floppy palates can easily relax and obstruct the airway. And any swelling in the pharynx or larynx, which is an ever-present danger with intubation, is doubly serious in our breed. With our generally calm nature, we may also require less anesthesia than other dogs of comparable size, as anesthetic depression can occur more easily in us than in, say, a Fox Terrier. Please note that any time we are anesthetized it should be done with a slowly administered injectable induction agent, intubation, and maintenance with the safest available inhalation agent. Never, ever “mask down” a Frenchie (or any other brachycephalic patient) as this is contraindicated in short-faced breeds.
"Probably our most important and serious built-in anatomical problems (other than the airway) are back problems caused by the chondrodystrophic dwarfism that gives us our distinctive shape. Like the other dwarf breeds, we suffer from a high incidence of hemivertebrae and premature disc degeneration. The incidence of the former in our breed is high based on data that have been collected, but most dogs that have malformed vertebrae never have problems related to them, so that they are often only detected incidentally on a radiograph done for some other reason. If they do occur, they are most often seen between T5 – T11; a single vertebra may be involved, but often there are two or more. Depending on which part of the vertebra is malformed, they may cause scoliosis or kyphosis; and this can produce secondary changes in the rib cage.
"Premature intervertebral disc degeneration most often is seen in 3- to 5-year old dogs and generally affects the discs between C2 – C4 and T11 – L2. Disc degeneration that is a consequence of age is more likely in the cervical region. If you should note any hemivertebrae, calcified discs, or narrowing of discs spaces on an x-ray, or palpate any bony deformities, please instruct my owner about how to best protect my back, and what neurological signs to watch for in case problems should develop. Should I develop sudden pain and hindlimb weakness with neurological signs suggestive of spinal cord compression, an injection of steroids followed by a Prednisone taper and strict crate rest for several weeks will generally allow the problem to resolve without surgery. However, should my condition worsen in spite of this, speedy surgical decompression is needed. Many Frenchies are frisking happily about today after extensive spinal surgery, because their owners quickly sought help at the first sign of trouble, before the cord was permanently damaged.
"As is the case with Bostons and Bulldogs, we often have whelping difficulties. Though some Frenchies are free whelpers, the combination of the big head and narrow pelvis combined with uterine inertia often necessitates cesarean delivery. (Considering the anesthesia risk, this helps explain why finding a Frenchie puppy may not be an easy task.) We also seem to be plagued by pyometra more often than other breeds; some believe that our odd construction tilts the female reproductive tract in such a way that it doesn’t drain properly. Whatever the cause, this is a problem to watch for.
"Impacted anal glands may also afflict us (especially if the screw tail torques sharply to one side and compresses a duct.) We may suffer from most of the other usual canine ills. Some people feel that Frenchies with lighter coat colors have more skin problems than do the darker ones. Whether this is a factor, skin problems tend to be more common in hot, damp climates, where every variety of fungus and bacterium tends to flourish. Atopic skin disease is also common, and skin fold dermatitis can occur when the deep folds on the face and in the rear are not kept clean and dry.
"Though hip dysplasia is not known to be a major clinical problem, it has been reported in the breed.  But Frenchie hips that do not look very good on a radiograph may never cause any clinical problems because our massive thigh muscles and good ligaments can compensate well, so even if OFA doesn’t give us good scores, we can generally go through life without developing degenerative hip arthritis.
"Our breeders are constantly trying to produce sounder pups, and the French Bull Dog Club of America has established a Health and Genetics Committee to gather information about health problems in the breed that might be inheritable, serve as a liaison with the AKC Canine Health Foundation, raise funds for health research, and to help educate breeders about potential inheritable problems. We would appreciate your help in this regard. If you should detect in a Frenchie patient any problem that you believe is genetic, please discuss this with the owner and/or breeder of the dog so that we might avoid the spreading of harmful genes through the breed. Our gene pool is so small that a recessive gene in a popular sire could spread like wildfire; and early detection requires the help of our vets.
"We Frenchies are a proud lot, and are rapidly increasing in popularity. We would appreciate any new observations or information that you might give us about our breed to help our breeders and owners keep us sound and happy, both as a breed and as individuals.
"And, finally, should the time come when — because of age, injury, or illness — my life should become more burden to me than blessing, please help my owner/friend make and accept the most loving and kind decision. Tell him to “Sing no sad songs for me,” but to know that my life, however short or long, was an enviable one. I was a French Bulldog."
The tragedy - as if it needs to be said - is the total absence of any awareness of the role French Bulldog breeders and owners play in perpetuating the dysfunction and disease in the breed.

Elsewhere on the site the US Club refers to its health surveys and highlights all the things "responsible" French Bulldog breeders should be doing in terms of genetic testing etc. Except of course, it neglects to mention the one thing that would truly make a difference.

Which is changing the conformation of the dog.

Those breathing problems? Entirely down to breeding a dog with a flat face with all the other features that contribute to brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Those spinal problems? Entirely down to breeding a dog with no tail.

Those whelping problems? Yep, that will be the conformation again.

And so on.

And, just to remind that the Frenchie once used to be a much more functional dog, here's the 1899 model. Note the longer legs, lighter frame, longer muzzle, open nostrils and, although you can't see it here, this dog would have had a bit of a tail (with much less likelihood of the spinal defects that come for breeding a dog with no tail).

The UK Frenchie Club is no better.  The picture at the top comes from the Kennel Club's 2013 Dog Health Group Report which highlights all the wonderful things the Club has done to warrant removing this breed from the need for vet-checks at championship shows.

They couldn't actually find a picture of a Frenchie without stenotic nares.

Because there isn't one.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Border-line incest

Over on the Border Wars blog, Christopher Landauer has highlighted the extent of inbreeding in the Border Collies at Crufts.

It turns out that this year's winner is the equivalent to a grandfather/grand-daugher mating and the Reserve Dog is the equivalent of a father/daughter mating.

As Landauer points out, it's totally unnecessary. There is quite a lot of extant genetic diversity in Border Collies. The problem is that it is split into factions of type or geography, isolating sections of the breed in increasingly compromised gene pools.

Check out the rest of Landauer's blog here:

Crufts 2014 - Best of Breed Basset Hound

Click to enlarge
Ch Akasha Banana Split passed a vet check yesterday to take Best of Breed.  As you can see, she has marked ectropion (the drooping of the lower eyelids). This is abnormal eye anatomy and it makes her eyes vulnerable to a host of painful problems. But if they weren't obviously sore on the day, the rules state that the vet has to pass her.

Same goes for the stupidly-long ear leathers, which make her ears prone to yeast and bacterial infections. And then there's all that gross and entirely unnecessary extra skin which flobs around as she moves.

Show breeders think this is a good thing, a desirable breed feature. They claim it prevents the dogs getting snagged when working in dense cover - despite the fact that a) the dogs that actually work have never had this much skin and (b) when this amount of skin is concertina'd on to the show Basset's short, chondroplastic legs, it clearly hinders the dogs' movement.

But the show vets are not allowed to disqualify a dog for exaggerated features.  Which means, essentially, that for all the fine talk it's business as usual when it comes to the Bassets at Crufts this year.

More pix - and a list of this Italian dog's extensive show wins - here.

And just to remind you what a proper Basset Hound looks like, here are some new pictures of the working Albany Bassets - which the show breeders think are mongrels.

Note, btw, that although the Albany hounds still have large ears, they are very different from the floppy, flabby appendages on the show Bassets. The Albanys can lift/move their ears more normally, allowing vital air flow into the ear chamber. This helps reduce the risk of infection.