Monday, 26 September 2016

Breeding dogs with deformities

Just like humans,  puppies are sadly occasionally born with deformities.    Facial deformities and deformities of the limbs and skeleton are some of the more common birth defects seen in both dogs and in people.

It is a tragic accident when a new life comes into this world without the ability to function normally like the rest of its species,  especially when the defect brings with it life long discomfort and multiple health problems.    How much more tragic it would be if society allowed dog owners to  engineer canine biology so that these defects were deliberately induced in our pet dogs.  

Sadly  this is exactly what has happened with some breeds of domestic dog in the world today.   Mutant dogs have been engineered by selectively breeding dogs with  deformities to other dogs with the same deformity,  in order to perpetuate and accentuate these physical defects.

Two of the most common deliberate defects that modern dog breeders have deliberately encouraged and selected for are Brachycephalic dogs,  and Achondroplastic dogs

Dogs that cannot breathe comfortably

Brachycephalic dogs have been bred with pushed in faces to give them a more flattened and human appearance.   In some cases, the pug is an example, the affected dogs have virtually no muzzle whatsoever.  This facial deformity results in severe malformation of the palate,  in narrowed nostrils and windpipes, and in many cases these in turn lead  to horrible respiratory problems which torment the dog throughout its entire life.  

Brachycephalic dogs also suffer from  eye problems (due to shallow sockets), overheating and birthing difficulties.    Their eyes can literally ‘pop’ out of their sockets and may get very sore because they cannot close them properly.   Some brachycephalic breeds can no longer give birth naturally due to their enlarged heads.

The degree of disability that comes with these deformities depends on how extreme the condition is in each breed it affects,  and may vary between individuals of the same breed.   The Pug is one of the worst affected dogs.  Other brachycephalic breeds you may have come across are the Pekinese,  the Bulldog,  and the Boxer

Dogs with shortened limbs

Achondroplasia is caused by a genetic mutation that causes dwarfism,  or very shortened legs.  This condition can arise spontaneously in any breed of dog.  However, in some breeds the condition has been selectively and deliberately bred for,  the dachshund is a well known example,  the welsh corgi another.  Achondroplasia is a serious deformity that is associated in dogs with a range of health problems,  including painful back and joint problems.

Welfare standards have changed

When these different dog breeds were first developed many years ago,  people paid a lot less attention to animal welfare.  Dogs  were generally either working animals,  or pets for the few wealthier members of society.   They were thought of as accessories or tools,  rather than respected.   Gradually over the last hundred years,  our attitudes towards dogs have been changing,  and this change has accelerated more recently.   Tremendous improvements have been made in animal welfare and we generally treat our pets a great deal better than our great-grandparents did.

Unfortunately the welfare of deliberately deformed dogs has ‘slipped through the net’  during this process,  and our modern breeding practices now need to ‘catch up’.   Hopefully the world’s dog breeders will soon get together to close this loophole in animal welfare.

How you can help

But in the meantime, you can play your part by refusing to buy a deliberately deformed puppy.   Every time anyone buys a puppy that is doomed to a life of pain and disability it encourages the breeder to breed again.

I hope that you will be able to pass on the message to your friends and family.   However cute these dogs may look it is important for the future of our dogs that we are not tempted to buy a brachycephalic dogs or any breed of dog that has been deliberately afflicted with achondroplasia.

And what about you?   Do you own a brachycephalic dog?  Are you tempted to buy one? Let us have your point of view

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