Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bred for Disaster

I just watched the most amazing BBC documentary about the horrifying genetic defects that ALL purebred dogs are born with. So many breeds have been bred beyond recognition (Bulldog anyone? Pekingese? Neapolitan Mastiff?) and suffer crippling health defects all for the sake of "fashion" or professional dog showing. Genetic experts commented that if breeders continue breeding purebred (essentially inbred) dogs that these dogs will eventually become sterile. That's right. No more pugs, Labrador retrievers, Irish setters, Dalmatians, or any other known breed will survive without fresh genetic material introduced into the breed. Bulldogs, one of the most deformed freaks in the dog world, can't reproduce on their own and can't give natural birth (their heads are too misshapen.) This is no way to treat our best friends, by giving them epilepsy (Boxers), brains that are too large to fit in their skull, causing severe pain (Cavalier King Charles Spaniels), or noses too flat to breath properly, causing overheating (Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs, etc.) By in-breeding dogs to conform to a "breed standard" we are condemning them to short, pain-filled lives and causing ourselves huge vet bills and the emotional devastation of watching our best friends suffer. Sure, many of these breeds are considered cute but at what cost? Would a pug's corkscrew tail still be appealing if you knew that the dog often must have a deformed 'S' shape spine in order for his tail to curl that way? The saddest part is there are no regulations to stop breeders from breeding dogs that they know have genetic diseases that will be inherited by their offspring. If breeders and kennel clubs refuse to take responsibility then it is up to us, the pet owner, to change things. I was going to watch the Westminster dog show tomorrow but now the thought disgusts me. When considering a dog, look no further than your local shelter. Many purebreds can be found there. Better yet, get a mutt and save yourself thousands of dollars in vet bills. Because mutts have more diverse genetic material, they are less likely to have inherited defects and diseases such as hip dysplasia. We don't need dogs that look a certain way. All we need is a companion who loves us. Watch this documentary and tell everyone you know to watch it. You can find it at:

According to this documentary, some dog breeds are more endangered than the Giant Panda. If these breeds were to disappear, I know that at least we'll always have mutts. The wonderful, healthy, ordinary-looking dogs that make the best pets of all.