Purebred or Pure Disease?

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the most beautiful and treasured dogs in the world of dog shows, dog breeders, and the American Kennel Club (AKC). Some people pay thousands of dollars to have their own purebred puppy. However, what people need to realize is that with these beautiful purebred dogs there is also a genetic heart and/or brain disorder that is being transmitted from parent to pups. These genetically transmitted diseases could die along with the parents if the spaniels would mate with other dogs. However, the demand for purebreds is causing their owners to mate them with other purebreds (often direct relatives) which transmits these genetic diseases to further generations.

The specific heart disorders can cause a serious heart problem that results in early death of the dog. Dogs with this disorder typically die at around age 5. The other genetic disorder involves the brain. Specifically, the brain is too big and large for the skull. This genetic disorder causes serious shoulder, neck, and spinal cord problems. These types of genetically transmitted diseases are not specific to just dogs. They occur in other animals too. In dogs, most of the common diseases and disorders are controlled by a single gene that could be destroyed in the next generation if breeding and mating patterns were changed to selectively eliminate these genetic problems. However, breeders are more often concerned about the looks of the dog and how they can make the dog cute so that the public will want to purchase the puppy. The looks of the dog are especially important in dog competitions. Dogs who win dog shows are typically bred a lot even if they have a genetic defect or disease.

In my opinion, I think that breeding can be used to terminate genetic diseases and disorders. This would result in healthier animals. For example, police dogs and guide dogs are regularly screened for genetic diseases and disorders. These dogs are intended to survive and provide assistance for many years so the breeders want very healthy animals. Another positive example of how to use genetic technology to help the animals comes from a scientist named Robert Schaible. He found that if a Dalmation mated with an English Spotter the result was a much healthier dog. Dalmations typically have high uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are what cause the spots on the dog. However, high uric acid levels also cause urinary blockage which is unhealthy for the dog. When the Dalmation was mated with the English Spotter, the result was a spotted dog with normal uric acid levels.

I would like to see breeding and mating patterns used in a positive way to eliminate genetic diseases and disorders. This could apply not only to dogs, but to other animals as well. Specifically, this could be beneficial for horses, cattle, chickens, and other farm animals. By allowing more open mating (less controlled by pedigree), many animals could be healthier and free from genetic diseases and disorders.

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