Dogs Defined by Disease

A sample of dog breeds that are defined by disease.

The unending human fascination with novelty is seemingly unhindered by ethics all over the dog breeding world.  Not only are there countless examples of breeders and leaders turning a blind eye toward inbred disease, out-dated appreciation of population structure and genetics and under-appreciative of health and longevity, there are more than a few dog breeds which are built around disease as their defining trait.  There’s no easy fix for these dog breeds because they are defined by dysfunction and to fix them and bring them to health requires the breed to cease to exist in the form it does now.

We can’t just remove the gene that causes the defining trait — even though it carries with it a disorder, a disease, or some dysfunction — because it is universal and defines what it means to be a member of that breed.  Breeders consider it necessary.

These traits are generally not things that any other breeder who considers themselves ethical would want in their breed should it not exist there already, just as any humane breeder would want to remove those same diseases in their breed if they appeared spontaneously.

There are breeds that are plagued with disease that are not defined by them, such as High Uric Acid in Dalmatians.  If breeders could snap their fingers and remove it, most surely would.  Likewise, Border Collies are in no way benefited by epilepsy or collie eye anomaly even those problems are marked in the breed.  No breeders want them in our breed.  We want them gone.

Sadly, there are too many dog breeds where dysfunction and disease are written in to the breed standard.  No advancement in science will help these breeds, no DNA test will improve their future, because no one in those breeds want those diseases gone.  Some breeders are so enamored with these diseases, they cull the puppies which are born unaffected!

Such disorders are sine qua non to the identity of the breed.  If they didn’t exist, the breed would not exist.  Unlike High Uric Acid or Hip Dysplasia or Canine Epilepsy or any of a hundred other endemic diseases in our breeds, removing a defining disease will require breed standards to be rewritten and minds to be changed instead of health and genetic testing with breeders who are already set against increasing or maintaining disease in their dogs.  The major obstacle is political, not genetic.

Here’s a sample of defining diseases and the breeds they are inextricably linked to:

Abnormal cartilage growth causing short legs:
Basset Hound, Beagle, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshund, Lhasa Apso, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Scottish Terrier

Dermoid Sinus
A neural tube defect inextricable from the “ridge:”
Rhodesian Ridgeback, Thai Ridgeback

Micromelic Achondroplasia
Abnormal cartilage growth causing short legs and trunk:
Bulldog, Corgi, some Jack Russell Terriers, Pekingese, miniature Poodle, Shar Pei, Shih Tzu, Skye Terrier, Swedish Vallhund

Extra digits on the foot:
Beauceron, Briard, Great Pyrenees,  Norwegian Lundehund

Pituitary (Ateliotic) Dwarfism
Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Miniature Dachshund, Italian Greyhound, Maltese, Minature Pinscher, Minature Spaniel, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Pug, Shih Tzu, Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier

Congenital Alopecia
Inherited baldness:
American Hairless Terrier,  Chinese Crested Dog, Inca Orchid Hairless Dog, Mexican Hairless Dog, Peruvian Inca Orchid

Color Mutant Alopecia
Hair loss and breakage seen in “Blue” and “Fawn” coat colored dogs: 
Blue Lacys

Brachycephalic Achondroplasia
Boston Terrier, Boxer, Brussels Griffon, Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Japanese Chin, Pekingese, Pug, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier

Periodic Fever Syndrome
Fever, swelling, and Amyloidosis inextricable from the skin folds:
Shar Pei

Congenital Anurousity
Lacking a tail; associated defects of the spine and anus.
(Non-C189G mutation) Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, Miniature Schnauzer;

(C189G mutation) Australian Shepherd, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Braque du Bourbonnais, Brittany Spaniel, Croatian Sheepdog, Mudi, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Pyrenean Shepherd, Braque Francais, Schipperke, Spanish Water Dog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Although some of these conditions are minor in their severity and unlikely to cause major prolonged suffering, it’s still rather dubious that breeders in these breeds are so fixated on these dysfunctions being defining and demanded traits.

Other conditions are so severe that they demand we ask if they are defining of not only the breeds but of Torture Breeding.  Is novelty and aesthetics in these cases really worth the suffering caused?  Is mere tradition enough of an excuse to justify the continued breeding of these dogs?

I continue the discussion of these more severe defining diseases under the “sine qua non disease” category under “health and genetics.”

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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.