Bloodhounds like Trumpet are known as scent hounds, easily identified by their size and skin that hangs in deep folds on their faces and necks. But these overly deep skin folds come at a cost. Lev Radin
Last week, a bloodhound named Trumpet won Best in Show at Westminster, after the usual spectacle: The supposedly spoiled puppies were paraded in front of a cheering crowd of dog lovers. For some, such dog shows can feel like a celebration of the special relationship we share with our dogs. However, there is a disconnect.
The focus on purebred dogs can perpetuate misconceptions about breeding and the health and well-being of dogs. For example, as a result of selective breeding that enhances certain genetic traits, the ever-popular golden retrievers are at high risk of dying from cancer (about 50%) and about 73% suffer from hip dysplasia. Ninety percent of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, another prized dog breed, develop serious heart disease by age 10. Doberman Pinschers often get dilated cardiomyopathy (58.2%), a deadly form of heart disease that is very common in these dogs.
And then there are bloodhounds like Trumpet. Bloodhounds are known as scent hounds, easily identified by their size and skin that hangs in deep folds on their faces and necks. But these overly deep skin folds come at a cost. Eyelids are designed to protect the eyes, but if the lids are too loose, they trap bacteria and irritants. Some Bloodhounds suffer from chronic eye irritation due to their drooping eyelids. These exaggerated skin folds can also predispose these dogs to chronic skin and ear infections. And like most overbred large dogs, Bloodhounds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia as well as heart disease. The chances of getting a healthy pet are even greater if the pet is purchased from a puppy mill; puppy mills don’t screen breeding stock for genetic problems and are quick to cash in on trendy breeds that make the news.
The true costs of bred traits can be staggering, involving not only the high vet bills, but the health, welfare and even lives of these dogs. If you’ve had any of these serious medical issues with your own beloved dogs, you know how heartbreaking it is. You know how much the dog can suffer and how expensive the veterinary bills can get as you struggle to manage these often painful and life-changing conditions. Much of this heartbreak is avoidable when dog owners, veterinarians and dog breeders take a collective stand against breeding practices that have promoted extreme traits in dogs over their overall health and well-being.
A very brief history of dog breeding
Dogs were selectively bred over thousands of years to perform functions such as herding, hunting, tracking, retrieving and guarding. Form and function were the top priority of breeders, with their focus on anatomical and physiological features that facilitated these functions.
As the years passed, more dogs were bred to just be companions, and breeders began to selectively focus on the appearance desired by prospective dog owners, as well as “standards” set by organizations such as the American Kennel Club and The Kennel Club in the UK.
The veterinary profession has issued some cautionary warnings regarding this health-threatening trend. As early as 1967, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association committee appointed to consider breed standards related to the health and welfare of dogs stated: “‘Concerns for the health and welfare of dogs require that breed standards do not contain requirements and recommendations. which impede physiological function of organs and parts of the body.” Unfortunately, these warnings were largely ignored.
Today we see the explosion in popularity of varieties with extreme characteristics. That, coupled with a lack of consumer awareness and lack of genetic testing by large-scale, inhumane commercial breeders (puppy mills), as well as the internet sites and pet stores that sell these animals, has become a perfect storm endangering canine well-being. like a poignant New York Times Magazine article said it years ago: “Inbreeding and other reckless breeding practices may not be as bloody as dog fighting or as painful to watch as puppy mills, but they can end up doing even more harm to dog welfare.” That point was made more than a decade ago, but these practices still continue today. For example, experts have been sounding the alarm about the health of English bulldogs for years; a new study released earlier this month warns against buying English bulldogs because their bred traits pose a danger to their lives. And French bulldogs, a very popular breed also known as Frenchies, suffer from a host of health problems associated with the deliberate breeding of exaggerated traits, including a life-threatening condition that causes the dogs to struggle to breathe. The life expectancy of French bulldogs is now a whopping 4.5 years, according to new research from Britain’s Royal Veterinary College.
What you can do
While so many people turned their attention to the Westminster dog show that took place just outside New York City, meanwhile, many shelters and rescue services are struggling with an overwhelming number of dogs in need of homes. Many are at or above capacity, especially in larger dogs. The best thing to do when looking for a pet is to consider adopting at your local animal shelter, where many puppies and dogs are waiting to be adopted, including many mixed breed dogs that can have the hybrid vigor that develops. translates into a healthier and longer life. Giving a homeless dog a new family is a much better option than buying from a pet store, whose dogs almost always come from puppy mills.
If you have experience acquiring a breed with traits that cause health problems, you can help by sharing your story. Encourage your friends and family to educate themselves before getting a new puppy or adult dog, and learn about the health and behavioral histories of each breed they’re considering. Make sure every breeder has had pre-breeding screening tests done on their dogs to minimize the risk of future health problems, heartbreak and high vet bills.
Never buy a puppy or dog unseen. Reputable breeders do not sell or ship their puppies to pet stores or to strangers they meet online. In addition, ask about the health history of the parents and the puppy. Ask for evidence of health screenings and veterinary care. This source can help distinguish reputable breeders from cruel puppy mills or other problematic sources.
If you bought a puppy that turned out to have health problems, you can speak up for dogs by reporting this to the breeder. If the breeder does not resolve the issue, you can report the issue to your local animal health authorities and to the Humane Society of the United States using our Puppy Buyer Complaint Form.
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