Sunday 21 June 2015

New hope for Boxers with Juvenile Kidney Disease

Just launched is a dedicated new international website for Juvenile Kidney Disease in Boxers.

The website's aim is to raise awareness, provide information on the disease for owners and breeders, publish pedigree information for affected dogs and provide a centralised point to report new cases.

A big well done to the team headed up by geneticist Dr Bruce Cattanach - I know the website has been a lot of work.

Please spread the word to any and all dog/pet sites. The more awareness, and the more pedigree information gathered, the greater the chance of cracking this horrible condition which we documented in Pedigree Dogs Exposed Three Years On in 2012.

For a reminder of just how important this is, please watch the clip below. NB there is now greater awareness - and more support within the breed - than we documented three years ago, but juvenile kidney disease remains a real blight in Boxers and more action is needed.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Pugs: going down the tubes

This pointed 'joke' is lifted from a Facebook page called Emergency Vet Tech Memes

For those that don't know what they're seeing - this is an endotracheal tube, used during surgery to keep the airways open and deliver oxygen (and anaesthetic) to the patient.

Normally, ET tubes are whipped out once the patient comes round enough for the swallow reflex to restart - and not least because they're uncomfortable.

But this little dog clamped down on the tube, preventing the vet techs from moving it, so they left it in for a while longer. As you can see, he looks chilled. That's because the tube ensures the dog's airways are open. In brachycephalic breeds, coming round from an anaesthetic with an ET tube still in place can mean the first truly clear and unhindered breath of their waking lives.

Just as sad and telling are some of the comments from other vet techs in response to the pic.

• "Hahahaha!! I know that's right! Never fails! Best SPO2 of their life!"

• "Bahahaha true, yet terrifying when you de-tube lol"

Don't be put off - this is black humour; a way of coping when a fair proportion of your working life is spent trying to fix problems inflicted on dogs by people who think defect and deformity is attractive.

Many vets will tell you similar stories of happy-looking Bulldogs and other brachcephalic breeds running round with the ET tube still in place post surgery.

As vets Martin Kennedy and Lesley Smith write here: "Breathing through the endotracheal tube often provides less resistance to air flow than a brachycephalic dog’s upper airway, thus the work of breathing is reduced by the endotracheal tube."

In this very sad pieceUK vet Nick Marsh describes doing a C-section on a Bulldog called Heidi assisted by veterinary nurse, Sam.
I look sadly down at [Heidi]. Her whole life is a struggle with her own body – whenever she tries to walk, or eat, or defecate, or breathe, she has to wrestle against her own bizarre anatomy.
Placing an endotracheal tube is difficult too – Heidi’s soft palate is too long for her mouth, and it takes some searching before I manage to locate her epiglottis – but the moment the tube is in place, Heidi’s tongue loses its alarming bluish tinge and turns a reassuring pink. 
“Probably the best lungful she’s had for a while,” says Sam.
In truth, I've run out of novel ways to say we shouldn't be breeding dogs that live their whole lives starved of oxygen.

But I don't mind repeating myself.

Friday 12 June 2015

Shar Pei: tacky, tacky, tacky

This is a Shar Pei pup being sold online currently in the UK - one from a litter priced at £700 - £1800 depending on colour. All KC registered.

Now I know some will hyperventilate about the non-standard colours. But for me the main issue is that these dogs have needed surgery before they're eight weeks old - what's known as "eye tacking". It's a procedure to prevent the eyelids rolling in and ulcerating the dogs' eyes and it's necessary when you're breeding very wrinkled dogs to meet a market oblivious to the suffering this causes.

In this case, the breeder of these KC-registered pups boasts that the puppies' eyes have been tacked by Shar Pei expert, vet Iain Fraser (of Rufford Vets in Southport).

I realise this is a tough one for vets. If they refuse to tack, the pups could end up going blind - and their first priority must be to alleviate the suffering in front of their own eyes.

But of course,  in doing so, they help perpetuate the problem - and also implicitly endorse the breeding of dogs this dreadful  As you can see, Iain Fraser's name is used as kudos in this ad. 

I don't know what the answer is here. But I know that that people should not be breeding dogs that looks like this. I also know that while vets agree to treat them without at least recommending that the dam is spayed, and while the KC continues to register them, the suffering will continue. 

Monday 8 June 2015

Western v traditional Shar-pei: what I see

Click to enlarge...

Indian takeaway - the St Bernard with no eyes

I've featured some exaggerated Indian-bred dogs in the past here (Pedigree Dogs Exposed India anyone?)and it has provoked outraged comments by those who consider themselves in more 'civilised' breeding countries.

The dog above is clearly a really exaggerated parody of what a St Bernard should be.  However, on this occasion the finger of blame needs to point not at his current owner in Punjab but at this dog's American breeder.

This dog is Trademarks Avatar - born in the USA on 24th April 2010.

Here he is as a youngster winning in Indiana in 2011 at a Berrian Kennel Club show.

He was then flogged off to India, and has become a champion there, too.

And he's not the only former American champ sold off to India for thousands of dollars. The same Indian kennel owns this dog, too - American + Indian Champion "Virgil" - here's a pic of him winning in the US.

And here he is today in India.

Poor dogs. Bred, sold, bought and campaigned by idiots with no sense of proportion. 

What should St Bernards be like?

Well how about these?




For more moderate current Saints, check out the Barry Foundation in Switzerland which is working on restoring the breed to its original type. Not all of their dogs are perfect, but they're getting some things right. This is Cheyenne, a four-year-old bitch with a lovely moderate head and good eyes - with Trademarks Avatar below for comparison.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

KC Chairman ousted... Members revolting

Yesterday, Kennel Club Chairman Steve Dean was booted out after four years in office. His crime? Professor Dean had tried to steer the Kennel Club into the 21st century. The natives, however, are determined to remain in the 19th. 

Dean believed strongly that if the KC is to be taken seriously in the modern age; if it is to enhance its stature after a difficult few years, it should be more inclusive... to be about all dogs, not just purebred dogs.

“This has been our stated mission for many years now, and yet some members clearly believe we should narrow the focus of our efforts to purely the registered purebred dog," he wrote in the June issue of the Kennel Club Journal.

This, said Dean, was an "isolationist approach" which would not allow the KC to speak authoritatively on canine issues "unless members are content to limit our remit to speaking only about health and inherited diseases in the pedigree breeds.

“The world of pedigree dogs has a vast array of experience and knowledge that can be used across the spectrum of dog ownership. The practical skills we bring to the table on breeding, genetics, training, socialisation and husbandry are extensive and form an important part of the public debate on dog ownership.

The KC, he felt "should stand up for all dogs whatever their origins."

But this stance has enraged the diehard show-head purists who simply don't want the KC to have anything to do with mutts. Hell, they even want breeders who produce purebred dogs in non-standard colours to be chucked off the Assured Breeder Scheme.

The KC's recent AGM was marked by a lot of anti-crossbreed, anti-outcrossing, pro-purebred rhetoric. Dinosaur judge Jean Lanning proposed (and won) a motion to review the KC's acceptance/promotion of crossbreeds. She also criticised the acceptance of imported dogs which may contain "alien" blood,  and suggested that recent concern about purebred dog health was a veterinary plot.

As reported in DogWorld:
[Lanning] feels that there are many thousands of dogs who on the whole lead pretty healthy lives if they come from good breeders, but she “finds it sad that a very small elite section of the veterinary profession appear to many of us to be far away in remote ivory towers, often advocating that some of our most cherished pure breeds should be crossed out to a different breed.” 
She instanced horses from the Spanish School of Riding and the Chillingham cattle which have been bred for centuries without fresh blood, and mentioned the plight of the wild cat, whose demise is threatened by interbreeding with the feral cat.

At the same meeting, breeder Pat Brigden raised concern that an outcrossed Irish Red + White Setter had qualified for next year's Crufts, clearly reflecting the concerns of many in the room. Brigden is a staunch opponent of the Irish Setter/Irish Red + White Setter outcross programme which is endorsed by the Irish Kennel Club. She has, apparently, warned about solid red dogs popping up unexpectedly in future generations of IRWS (something that's genetically impossible).

Here, btw, is sneak peek of the second-generation IRWS that's qualified for next year's Cruft's  - one of two outcrossed IRWS to do so in fact. As you can see, he's a very nice, very typical young IRWS.  More importantly, this dog and the other outcrossed progeny offer genetic salvation to a breed that is now horribly inbred and has an unsustainable effective population size.

Dalriach William Wallace - 9mths, second-generation IRWS outcross
But to some people this dog is impure... tainted... a mongrel (irrespective of the fact that there are loads of solid red dogs in IRWS pedigrees because, of course, they all used to be the same breed).  And, boy, there are way more of these Luddites than I feared. A few days ago, this comment appeared on one of my posts about the LUA Dalmatians (if you remember, dogs that descend from a single Pointer cross in the 1970s, seventeen generations ago).

I'll NEVER adopt a Dalmatian who has the LUA Dalmatians in them. They aren't Dalmatians they are crosses! Hence the word "out cross". The breeders are so high and mighty about them too, when it's wrong. Yes breeds have out crosses from 100s of years ago, but not as recently as this. It's wrong. If you want a pointer get a pointer, don't mess around with a wonderful breed.

I try not to swear much here... but really, how fucking thick can they be?

Today, I tend to move in dog circles populated by bright, educated and energetic people who are doing their utmost to marry science with good stockmanship skills in order to breed better dogs, whether purebred or not. Clearly, I have been labouring under the illusion that they are representative of the wider breeder community.

Check out this editorial in last week's DogWorld:
Clearly a great many breeders of ‘pure’ bred dogs feel the KC has gone a step too far in its emphasis on ALL dogs.  
For decades they have coped with the club having a separate list for dogs not on the pedigree register, so they can compete in some of the working disciplines. More recently, they have accepted the club setting up yet another register, for ‘companion dogs’. They accepted the KC getting involved in Scruffts, a ‘competition’ for mongrels, and making it a centrepiece of Discover Dogs, and even going so far as to giving it a high-profile ‘final’ in Crufts’ main ring. They have accepted – often with some reluctance – the KC allowing outcrosses in certain breeds.  
 But now their patience seems to have been exhausted. What was the final straw? Was it just a build-up of resentment, or is it the fact that the Assured Breeder Scheme, which the KC is so keen for leading breeders to support, is also able to encompass those who produce non-pedigree dogs? 
Most can cope with the fact that charities like Guide Dogs, which produce crossbreeds for specific good reasons, can be members, but beyond that it is perhaps a step too far for many.
And thus it has proved. And so it's out with the old... and in with the older. The Kennel Club has been reclaimed by those who believe in purity at all costs and want the KC to be only about pedigree dogs.

The new Chairman is Simon Coryndon Luxmoore - also Chief Exec of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He is - allegedly - a bit of a thug, albeit a reasonably well-bred one. He went to Millfield - a public school best known for attracting those with more prowess on the sporting field than in the classroom.

Somewhat confusingly, he was known until recently as Simon Luxmoore Ball. We duffed up his half-brother, Nigel Luxmoore-Ball, in  Pedigree Dogs Exposed for breeding a horribly-overdone Basset.

In recent years, Luxmoore has dropped the Ball (and him a sportsman!) although his wife still prefers the double-barrel.

Luxmoore is a Siberian Husky man - as is KC Secretary Caroline Kisko. In Sibe circles he is known as Damian to Kisko's Mrs Baylock (the nanny of the anti-Christ child).  The pair co-authored (with Luxmoore's first wife, Sheila, and Caroline's husband, Chris Kisko) a well-regarded book on the Siberian Husky. Indeed, some suggest that this is a an unholy coup hatched up betwixt Luxmoore and Kisko who wasn't happy that Dean was appointed Chair last time round.

Certainly, at the Dog Health Workshop in Dortmund earlier this year, it was Steve Dean who seemed to be embracing reform while Mrs Kisko remained largely impassive. We shared a workshop and in an often lively discussion about ways to improve dog health, Kisko did not speak.  She is a daughter of Mike Stockman, a former Chairman of Crufts, likely rather more steeped in KC culture than veterinary surgeon Dean - although Stockman, too, was a vet.

In the absence of much of an alternative, I guess I've been fairly supportive of the KC recently, feeling that inching reform is better than none and pleased that the KC had seemed to be adopting a more inclusive approach. Dean made it clear to me in Dortmund that he saw this as the KC's future (thus no doubt marking his card further... how dare he speak to the enemy!)

So my first response to what would appear to be a retrograde step was horror. But, actually, on reflection... let them at it. Let them bury themselves in their increasingly irrelevant, isolationist pit while the rest of us embrace the real world. Let them continue to trot their dogs round in meaningless circles in pursuit of meaningless ribbons. Let them continue to throw increasingly ineffective potshots at crossbreeds while show entries and purebred registrations continue to decline. And let them think (because this, apparently is the ticket) that better  PR  - rather than better breeding - will get pedigree dogs out of the hole they're in.

My mate Ryan O'Meara (K9 Media) sums it up perfectly:
"No bad thing. A bit like FIFA. When the choice was between an incumbent who's overseen decades of corruption or a Jordanian prince, one may assume reform could be on the way if the lesser of two evils won - a false hope. As it is, with an organisation so rooted in its insularity they picked the greater of two evils and thus the organisation continues to eat itself. In the long run, this is best. Write them off, witness their demise and continue to promote an alternative view.
"Both FIFA and the Kennel Club would rather the rest of the world just went away and left them to get on with things in private. The problem is, they also want respect, kudos and credibility despite trampling all over such values in a very public way. The fact that Blatter has (clearly) been forced to jump changes little. He was well supported. The people who supported him despite his overseeing abject failure and embarrassment are still there and they still see their organisation through a prism that is completely out of touch with the majority of the real world.  
"As a football fan, I wanted with all my heart for our own representatives to not just talk a good talk but walk it. I wanted them to remove themselves from the process, take a stand and watch others follow. I want the same for the Kennel Club. Those who are tainted by association need to think outside of the confines of an organisation that has repeatedly proven itself to want to paint an image of reform but whose deeds speak to a quite different way of thinking."

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Three million page views and a couple of mutts

Overnight, the PDE Blog achieved the milestone of having attracted three million page views since my first post on 11th November 2010 four and a half years ago.

Since then I have written 344 posts (including this one) and the blog now averages around 2,000 page views a day (less during quiet times, and up to 10,000 a day during busy times).

The big spike you can see above was the coverage of Crufts 2011 centering on the terrible state of the Neapolitan Mastiffs at that year's show -  A parade of mutants is the blog's 8th most read post of all time.

The most popular post remains World's first striped pug - in fact an April Fool, although an astonishing number of people still fall for it. Second is The bald truth about the Chinese Crested which explores how the dogs are shaved for the show-ring. A new entry in the PDE Blog Hall of Fame is The demise of the Great Dane - a post raising concern about the very heavy Eurodanes published just two months ago and already the 4th post popular post of all time.  At number 6 is Bull Terriers: head case which continues to attract a lot of interest (mostly from Bull Terrier owners outraged that I should suggest that there's anything wrong with distorting this breed's head into a joke).

There are quick-link references to all the most popular posts down the right hand side of the blog if you scroll down a bit.

Four posts that have attracted over 200 comments apiece:

Pedigree Dogs Exposed - Three Years On (285)
Bulldogs @ Crufts 2013 - Part 1 (263)
Huffington Post in a huff over mongrels (251)
A topline to die for (217)

And here's who has been reading it... thank you America.. ;-)

I recently had to close the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Facebook page because it was taking way too much of my time to moderate - but I will continue to write and maintain the blog as I feel there is a need for a continuing critical eye on the world of purebred (and other selectively-bred) dogs.  

My 'proper' job is as a TV producer is very demanding - and I am currently in the middle of making a  series for BBC2 exploring a new potential treatment for Parkinson's Disease; I also run a busy dog rescue and, currently, have eight dogs of my own to care for, train and walk. 

Some of you will already be familiar with my amazing Jake - a GSD/Doberman/Setter x, now 13 and still running like the wind - perfect heart, perfect joints and near-perfect hips - as was revealed recently when we took the opportunity to x-ray his hips when he was under sedation to check a foot injury. He's a clear outlier so can't claim much for his muttish good health - but it makes you realise what's possible for even big dogs (Jake is 32in tall).

This is Jake playing/running in slo-mo a few weeks ago. 

This is the youngest of my dogs - Curly Girlie (official name Gemma but the nickname has stuck). This was shot last Sunday on Salisbury Plain where we walk every day, rain or shine. Curly is three-quarters Irish Water Spaniel and a real delight; hopefully free of the litany of health problems suffered by the purebred IWS, although at only 18 months old, it is of course way too early to tell. I was a little tempted to keep her entire as I thought she might have something genetically to contribute to the breed if she proved her health - but in the end decided it was impractical in a multi-dog household (and with even my neutered males still very interested in in-season bitches). She was spayed two months ago.