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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I have heard this stated numerous times so I thought it worth starting a thread on.

The statement goes something like this, "Most purebreds (and other dogs) that are prone to health problems get them because their breeders don't know what they are doing" . . . as in haven't studied the breed well enough, tested well enough, have inbred, have outbred to the wrong line . . . . or whatever 'breeder choice' someone wants to blame the illness of the dog on.

This kind of statement comes up ALL the time. People mention their dog has this or that and IMMEDIATELY there is at least one someone who decides it was down to poorly researched breeding and suggest the 'ethical' route, in spite of the fact that as often as not the breeders of the afflicted dogs mentioned are as ethical as a breeder can get.

Do people truly believe this? Is there a belief out there that somehow breeders that know what they are doing can 'almost' guarantee good health in a dog - even in breeds that are severely compromised by bottlenecked diversity or conformation extremes (of which there are many)?

If so how do you define 'most' and whatever happened to the common sense knowledge that dogs are living beings and therefore their health afflictions are barely even partially predictable.

SOB
 

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This is a goodie. I am still trying to word my answer as I write this.. So sorry if it comes out sounding retarded lol.

My take on it is that there is no health guarantee, however the breeder has bred the way they have and picked those lines to MINIMIZE the chances of a genetic health disorder occurring in their dogs. Obviously they do this by health testing and breeding healthy to healthy blah blah blah we all know this part. That way they can feel good that they have done all they can on their part to prevent these things happening. There is no prevention for old age however, and that to me, is where people tend to get their lines crossed.

I think sometimes a lot of it is just excuses. Someone got a dog that had something pop up, and the easiest thing is to say exactly what your statement reads. Takes the blame off them and lets them point the finger at someone else.
 

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The way I see it, nobody can ever really downright 100% guarantee that a dog will be completely healthy. however, the crossing of proven health parents/grandparents, so on an so forth surely gives you a better chance of getting a healthy dog.
Whereas you have a better chance of getting an unhealthy dog from someone who doesn't health test or care whether they breed 'defected' dogs together or not.
 

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A careful, professional breeder tries to minimize defects in their product, so I believe that a more expensive puppy from a tested, multi-generational health-proven, probably show winning lines is going to give you a better chance at a dog with fewer problems. To the extent possible, the problems have been bred out. And, there's a significant cost for that effort.

On the other extreme, some breeders, especially the byb, may not strive to improve the breed, just the profits, may cut corners, may breed specific dogs too long, and may do too much in-breeding (I believe that a little, careful and 1-2 generation removed may be good for the breed?)... resulting in a propagation of genetic errors and defects that may not show up until after the dog is older and has been bred a few times. The pups inherit the problems. IMO, this is a good argument against byb and for responsible breeding.

I like mutts and I've been relatively lucky. I like to use the term "hybrid vigor" b/c pups from a GSD and a Lab, or similar mixes aren't the result of in-breeding. This idea of hybrid-vigor in random mutts, is a fallacy!!! Hybrid vigor doesn't exist like that. A dog from two different breeds is not 'stronger' or 'better' just b/c of the different breeds. Careful breeding to purposely cultivate the different traits is required to achieve 'better' offspring. But, I like my mutts anyway.
 

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I don't buy it at all anymore. Call me a pessimist or jaded by my own experience or what have you but I have not seen a significantly healthier population in purebred/wellbred dogs.

1. We don't have a genetic test for everything. We cannot test for the two fatal conditions in my breed at all (epilepsy and NAD). Or cancer in lines of goldens or flatcoats. People can try to avoid these things but you can't test for them. To some extent it's luck and a crapshoot.

2. Not enough generations of clear dogs have been bred especially in some breeds. Like papillons for example... the parents may be tested but you're not going to find generations of tested dogs.

3. Inheritance of these disease is often complicated. Hip dysplasia for example... two fair dogs could produce great hips, two dogs that rate well on OFA can produce bad hips. Most these are not a simple case of identifying carriers (although some are).

4. Trying to get all 'good' breeders on board takes time. There are people working against health initiatives and especially among the older school breeders who haven't run into problems, it can be harder to convince them they should bother with these new health tests.

I think people like to simplify the situation a LOT. A well bred dog is not going to be health problem free and we're a long ways away from really breeding out a lot of these health problems. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be encouraging breeders to health test, I strongly believe it is a good thing to health test. But it's not magic.
 

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Spanish Water dogs can have a genetic eye desease if both parents have the gene. Ig only one parent has it then the dog will definitely NOT get the desease. If the breeder does genetic testing and breed responsibly then they can garentee that my dog will NOT get this desease. She may get other eye problems that are unforeseen but not testable genetic abnomalities.

My dog's parents have also gotten good hips since several generations. That's no garentee but it's more likely she'll have good hips since her parents, grandparents, aunts uncles littermate etc. all had at least good hips. My breeder tracks the dogs she places and even gives a cash incetive to get genetic testing done at age two. So she can track not just her dogs but her litters. She takes her breeding program VERY seriously and can't be getting rich doing this. My dog could still get sick, but lots of risks are very diminished based on the histories of her parents and her parents other litters.
 

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I
If so how do you define 'most' and whatever happened to the common sense knowledge that dogs are living beings and therefore their health afflictions are barely even partially predictable.

SOB
So, when acknowledging the fact above, why specifically mention purebreds? Nobody is guaranteed perfect health, but all things being equal, I'll take health tested over non-health tested, amd known pedigree above random bred. That said, I do have the most personal experience with a fairly healthy breed with a varied gene pool. Do we actually know anyone who routinely health tests mixed breeds *(unless there is something glaringly wrong with the dog, or they are doing sports?.)
 

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I think health guarantees are weird, I don't believe breeders here even pass them out to their buyers. Wouldn't that be fraud? After all, you can't control the genetic make up of living beings, and so you can't promise the dog will be 100% healthy.

You can only do so much to ensure the pup is as healthy as possible, like test the parents for known inheritable diseases and try to choose dogs from healthy lines. But there are limits, and I don't think you can hold a breeder responsible for any and all issues your dog might get. The breeder is only human, and if you've decided to buy a dog from them after being sure that you have faith in them, their dogs and the pups they're producing... than accept whatever outcome you get. You can't control life.

Our previous dog Charlie was born from two parents that had been tested for ED and HD, the two most common health issues in the breed. Both parents were clear and had good results, so were bred together. Charlie still got ED at age 1. Who can explain that? I don't know. Was it the breeder's fault? No, I think not.
 

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I think health guarantees are weird, I don't believe breeders here even pass them out to their buyers. Wouldn't that be fraud? After all, you can't control the genetic make up of living beings, and so you can't promise the dog will be 100% healthy.
I believe many who sell with a Health Guarantee offer some sort of refund or replacement, so I don't believe it's fraud.
 

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I think it depends on the health test. For example, with the Alaskan Klee Kai, all good breeders (actually, all current breeders, as far as I know) test for Factor VII:

Factor VII (FVII) deficiency, an autosomal recessive trait originally identified in Beagles, is associated with a mild to moderate bleeding. Recently, the mutation responsible for this recessive trait has been identified by Dr Urs Giger and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

The test, available at VetGen, detects this mutation and shows whether a dog is affected (2 copies), clear (0 copies) or carrier (1 copy). Carriers, who have one normal and one mutant/diseased gene/allele, have normal coagulation and routine coagulation tests and are therefore not at risk for bleeding.

The test is effective in Airedale, Alaskan Klee Kai, Beagle, Giant Schnauzer and Scottish Deerhound to date.
This guarantees that affected puppies are not bred and sold, and therefore it's safe for new owners to have their pet-quality pups spayed or neutered, or undergo any emergency surgery, without worrying about them not being able to clot and requiring blood transfusions (which some vets, like mine, can't do).

Some other things can't be tested for, like Laurelin said... and I agree that some breeds have a higher chance than your average purebred OR mix of being unhealthy due to various factors (small gene pool, 90% of current dogs being affected with a certain disorder, stuff like that). So I guess it depends on the breed and the tests. As with everything else when it comes to purchasing a dog, I suggest that people do tons of research into the breed, decide which health tests are necessary from their perspective and make sure the breeder does those, and scrutinize the contract.
 

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A health guarantee isn't a guarantee of health of a particular dog, it's a guarantee that you will get a healthy dog from that breeder, even if it's not the first dog you get from them. I wouldn't go for a replacement-only (requiring return of the first dog) guarantee, but I suppose someone who wants a dog for a special purpose might want that. I wouldn't be able to give up the dog. If I were going to spend hundreds/thousands on purchasing a dog, it would be nice to know that if my puppy dropped dead from a heart defect in the first few years, I wouldn't be out that much money!

But as to the original question. . .hmm. my first dog was a very poorly bred purebred who was a train wreck in every way--physically, mentally, pretty much anything that could be wrong with a dog, she had it. Allergies, nervous temperment, hip dysplasia, just a wreck, poor thing. Then a bunch of mutts, who aren't without their issues but aren't as much of a wreck as Willow was. In Moose, I think I can see what people mean by a well-bred dog. He has no allergies, is stable in temperment, and, although I've never had him x-rayed or anything, he's 9 years old (old for a Rott!) and still appears to be sound in body. Now, I have no idea what kind of care his breeders put into their breeding program, but no dogs in his 5-generation pedigree have OFA numbers. So it may be a total fluke that he turned out so good. But I guess now I know what a sound dog is like, LOL. And of course there are those diseases that are unmistakably genetic, and there are tests for the, no excuses for not testing for those.

But, yeah, at what point do you blame bad breeding vs just something that happens? For instance, I think Toby has hip dysplasia. I never had him x-rayed when young so I have no reference point, and he's never shown symptoms before now. But he's 10+ years old. At some point, old age is gonna get ya, no matter how genetically sound you are. I don't think that could be blamed on bad breeding.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
So, when acknowledging the fact above, why specifically mention purebreds? Nobody is guaranteed perfect health, but all things being equal, I'll take health tested over non-health tested, amd known pedigree above random bred. That said, I do have the msy personal experience with a fairly healthy breed with a varied gene pool. Do we actually know anyone who routinely health tests mixed breeds *(unless there is something glaringly wrong with the dog, or they are doing sports?.)
I mentioned purebreds AND other dogs as those are the two generalized 'categories' people put dogs into. Purebreds tend to be the dogs most often 'deliberately' bred that come from known 'breeders' and therefore the expectation of health tends to rest moreso on them. The statement that I heard that set me off was from someone who suggested that 'if that breeder (Golden Retriever) had known what they were doing' . . . the dog wouldn't be facing these troubles.

There an assumption that a knowledgeable breeder of a well-bred dog can somehow produce 'invinsible' dogs! It seems that if a dog gets even ailments such as epilepsy or cancer . . . . it gets put back on the breeder.

I think this is a WRONG way of thinking to be promoting and yet I read, regularly, people making statements and assumptions that indicate they are thinking from this viewpoint. I just can't believe the idiocy, quite frankly.

Owners NEED to realize the gamble that they take on with every dog they purchase. NONE are invincible. With every one you could be looking at ailments or injury that could cost you into the thousands.

This specifically came to mind for me as a young couple I know has now put $5000 vet care into a Golden puppy that is less than 6 months old looking for the source of his intestinal problems. The young couple is currently breeder bashing (despite her offer of help and full refund) and have sworn off of dogs from here on in. They are also being encouraged in their thoughts by people who voice the opinion I've been set off about. From my understanding he comes from a very involved ethical breeder.

With regard to which gamble I'd take on, it depends on the breed or breeds involved. I know full well breeds that are a minefield. Their best breeders can't give you odds that are better than the random mutt. These breeds happen to be ones that produce dogs that, personality and size wise, that suit me best.

Thank goodness for others, especially those that like breeds with a working history, the gamble is - IMO - often better with dogs from known and proven heritage.

It is ALL still a gamble though. Breeders cannot possibly have the knowledge to guarantee pups against all ills, and I don't think that point is driven home often enough.

SOB
 

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I think health guarantees are weird, I don't believe breeders here even pass them out to their buyers. Wouldn't that be fraud? After all, you can't control the genetic make up of living beings, and so you can't promise the dog will be 100% healthy.
.
The guarantees I've seen and used don't actually guarantee that the pup will be perfectly healthy. What they actually do is guarantee what the breeder is willing to do, and under what circumstances, if a specific problem turns up.
 

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This guarantees that affected puppies are not bred and sold, and therefore it's safe for new owners to have their pet-quality pups spayed or neutered, or undergo any emergency surgery, without worrying about them not being able to clot and requiring blood transfusions (which some vets, like mine, can't do).

Some other things can't be tested for, like Laurelin said... and I agree that some breeds have a higher chance than your average purebred OR mix of being unhealthy due to various factors (small gene pool, 90% of current dogs being affected with a certain disorder, stuff like that). So I guess it depends on the breed and the tests. As with everything else when it comes to purchasing a dog, I suggest that people do tons of research into the breed, decide which health tests are necessary from their perspective and make sure the breeder does those, and scrutinize the contract.
DNA testing presents some interesting possibilities, but it's important to realize that it is still in it's infancy, and there is a lot that isn't known - like what other genes may effect the expression of certain genes. A couple of years ago, a DNA test was offered (I think by VetGen) at our national specialty clinic to test for JRD (juvenile renal dysplasia) which is a deformity of the kidneys in puppies. At that clinic, there were over 70 dogs (78 I think) tested, from a variety of different bloodlines, show/working/performance. Of those 78, 77 tested as affected (two mutant copies) and 1 tested as a carrier. With that sort of devistating results, you'd be expecting Aussie puppies to be dropping dead like flies of kidney failure. Not happening. In fact, so far ONE dog has actually been DXed with the disorder. So, there must be something else going on that is preventing the death or serious illness of thousands of baby Aussies from kidney failure. Likewise, in English Springer Spaniels, the number of "affecteds" for PRA was over half the sample, with most others being carriers. However, some of the "affecteds" are still CERFing clear well into their teens. So, do you decimate the gene pool over a problem which may not be a problem, or do you watch the situation, do other testing (like CERF) and breed gradually toward more clears (if it is a real issue in the bread - which PRA would be, but in Aussies, apparently JRD is not)
 

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I mentioned purebreds AND other dogs as those are the two generalized 'categories' people put dogs into. Purebreds tend to be the dogs most often 'deliberately' bred that come from known 'breeders' and therefore the expectation of health tends to rest moreso on them. SOB
So, basically, since all dogs are either purebred or mixed bred, you could have just as easily said "dogs". I honestly don't think that most reasonable people think that getting a purebred from a careful breeder will guaran-dam-tee-ya Superdog.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
So, basically, since all dogs are either purebred or mixed bred, you could have just as easily said "dogs". I honestly don't think that most reasonable people think that getting a purebred from a careful breeder will guaran-dam-tee-ya Superdog.
The reason for the differentiation, as I said, is that purebreds are most often the dogs that are deliberately bred and sought out from known breeders, therefore the expectation of predictable health tends to rest moreso on them. Do you not believe this to be the case?

I honestly have seen it now so often that I KNOW there are too many who have an expectation of Superdog, with extreme disappointment when that doesn't happen. Most of these people (in my life) are well educated professionals who really should know better. They do not necessarily believe the dogs will be invinsible . . . but if it is ANYTHING major then the breeders are, of course, to blame.

With regard to JRD Pawzk9, I believe in Tibetan Spaniels there is a test which indicates mild liver abnomality (often found in healthy dogs without ever showing symptoms) that a large percentage of the breed (70% was a number kicked around in one study) would test positive for if it were to be identified through a DNA test. It is an indicator of RISK of liver shunt, but it is not an indicator of liver shunt itself. The abnormality is somehow linked to liver shunt, but doesn't appear to be a problem in itself.

I have to wonder if the JRD test found and indicator rather than the problem itself.

It all gets very muddied when the realization hits that there are many, many conditions that are multifactorial . . . they need the right combination of genes and/or environmental influences for symptoms to occur.

I don't see DNA getting there for a long time.

SOB
 

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I like health garuantees because it keeps breeders accountable for the pups they raise. Most truly ethical breeders feel this responsibility without the contractual gaurantee but its a good backup just in case. That said, I don't believe its possible to guarantee the health of living being for its whole life. Genetic testing can only tell us so much and a lot of these conditions/injuries will be brought on or aggravated by lifestyle choices of the owner. Years ago my family bought a kitten from a pet store (very foolish I know) he died of distemper a week and a half after we got him. We had spent thousands on vet bills and the pet store wouldnt reimburse us for any of it (kitten cost included). Of course emotionally it was also devastating for us kids. Its those kinds of situations when a health gaurantee would have been useful.

Just generally on the topic of breeds I find myself a little skeptical about the complete dismissal of 'hybrid vigor'. Isn't genetic diversity the foundation of health? The reason inbreeding is bad is because of lack of genetic diversity. The breed itself is a slightly larger pool, shouldnt it follow that the largest pool will be the hardiest? Thats the philosophy with wild animal populations at least...
 
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