You Can’t Pass A Health Test You Don’t Take

If "the best" breeders are willing to tell unsupportable lies in front of the world, what do you think they are willing to tell ignorant puppy buyers in private?

The recent Crufts dust-up is a perfect example of the Health Testing charade that I discussed previously in my Limits of “Health” Testing post.  There has been so much misinformation and deception being put out by the breeders/owners/exhibitors of the dogs that failed and their sympathizers that nearly everyone involved has felt the need to issue an official statement.

Let me distill the public battle of words for you in a simulated conversation:

Crufts Judge: “This Clumber Spaniel is Best of Breed at Crufts 2012.”

Crufts Vet: “This Clumber Spaniel has failed the health check.”

KC: “This Clumber Spaniel can not compete in the Gun Dog Group.”

Exhibitor: “She is super healthy dog. Her eye has conjunctivitis because it had to run for so long in the ring that was hot. There was no ectropion.”

DogWorldTV: “This dog has had every health check, it seems to me. Almost every health check.”

Exhibitor: “Totally healthy bitch because she is born in Denmark. Eye check, hips, elbows, PDP, everything else is clear with her.   Maybe the problem is that I’m not English or that this breed is Clumber Spaniel. This is shame, shame! Don’t come to Crufts.”

Breeder: “Passed IPO + hunting test, HD: A/A, Elbow: o/o, Patella: free, Eye: clear, PDP1: clear, DCM: —”

Crufts Vet: “This dog has ectropion of both eyes, especially pronounced in the right eye. Conjuctivitis and an ear infection secondary to the ectropion are present.”

Exhibitor: “I’ve had this dog re-tested and it has passed.”

Ophtalomologist (sic): “No conjunctivitis, no pathological or degenerative changes.”

Fancy: “Other dogs have passed their eye checks and been failed at Crufts.”

British Veterinary Association: “The BVA/KC/ISDS eye scheme does not certify adnexal problems such as entropion, ectropion, distichiasis. Gonioscopy is not standard, but may be tested for separately. Entropion and Ectropion are very common in some breeds. Poor eyelid conformation is a source of pain and chronic low grade misery for affected dogs.”

So we have a perfect example of the owner of the dog making huge claims about how healthy this dog is because the breeder did all of 5 tests which looked at 3 joints (hips, elbows, knee cap), a limited survey of the eye, and one DNA exam for Exercised Induced Collapse.

The owner then gets caught at Crufts with a dog that has ectropion. Instead of admitting that the dog has this condition, as do many Clumber Spaniels, they lie and say that it does not have ectropion and that they have an exam result to prove it. But they are lying through omission.

Both the breeder eye test and the “ophtalomologist” test [this is how it’s spelled on the form they released!] in no way speak against the Crufts Vet’s finding of ectropion, but the owner has both lied about the existence of ectropion and claimed that both of these tests are proof against the dog having this disorder.

At the highest level of the sport under the greatest scrutiny you can imagine, a top flight breeder will still LIE through her teeth about what those health tests mean to deceive the public.  Ectropion is not a joke, but neither is it a deeply held shameful secret.  It’s widespread in several breeds and it’s easily diagnosed just from looking at most dogs with it.  If the best of the best don’t have the stones to say “it’s epidemic in the breed and we’re willing to work on it, so what if we don’t win a ribbon for a few years while we try” then what can we expect them to say about the diseases which aren’t so superficial, aren’t so easy to diagnose by the public without benefit of breeder disclosure, and aren’t known to be so present in so many lines.

What about all the other diseases and conditions that have no test? That’s the vast majority of them.  Will we still believe that the dogs these people breed are healthy when we have no data one way or another?  Will we still accept their dangerous breeding practices, the ones that increase disease expression, when they claim to have healthy dogs because they have some results for a half dozen tests or less?

If they are willing to pretend that a simple eye exam clears their dogs of conditions which they know their dog does have but which the test does not actually cover, what other diseases will they knowingly cover up with such claims.

Don’t fall for the lies.  There is not a single breed that has enough tests to even begin to make a blanket statement about health.  Testing schemes are very limited and often fail to identify the most prevalent and costly issues in breeds.  There is not a single breeder who can give you a guarantee in good faith knowing that their dogs will never develop genetic disorders.

There is no amount of experience, knowledge, or years breeding that can eliminate this uncertainty.

There is no battery of tests that can tell you your dog is healthy and will remain so.

For the vast majority of diseases that will affect our dogs, we don’t even know what we don’t know.

We are in a state of ignorance and we do ourselves no service by pretending that money back guarantees and puppy contracts are worth any more than the paper they’re written on.  Claiming our dogs are healthy because we’ve put them through 2 or 3 DNA tests, one or two x-rays, and had a doctor shine a light in their eyes once or twice is madness.

No one can make these assurances to you and you’ve seen just how they will use your own desire for an easy answer to a tough question against you.  They will ease your mind, tell you it’s all going to be ok, that you’re never going to have to bury a dog young, that they’ve done everything that needs to be done, but it’s all a big lie.

To claim universal health when we have a wholly inadequate toolbox to assess that is arrogance and stupidity.  But what do you expect from the fancy? They think you can assess just about everything of import in a dog by watching it trot around a ring.


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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.