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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Meet Cookie: Part 1 in a series of Meet the Sweets...

Many rescue groups, shelters, and humane organizations utilize my veterinary services.  As a result of this, I have seen a significant number of commercial breeding dogs that are relinquished to these groups by breeders.   There is a lot said about the health of puppies coming out of these large, poor quality facilities.  We also see the results of the unlicensed backyard breeders that have little knowledge about the breeding process and health implications of the animals involved. While I believe the health of the puppies is a considerable concern, I think we neglect the bigger issues. 

The issues that need to be addressed are the health and care of the "breeding stock" in high output, poor quality breeding facilities as well as regulation of the unlicensed breeder.  Dogs that live their entire lives in cages, often suffering from poor, inhumane conditions with little human contact.  People often walk away with a new puppy in their arms without ever seeing the place where the parent dogs, along with 30, 50 or 100's of other breeding dogs live out their lives.  The puppies go on to new homes, new lives, and new environmental conditions. Their parents are left behind to produce more litters.

The breeding dogs in these high output, poor quality breeding facilities and those of the backyard breeders are rarely, if ever, examined by a veterinarian.  There are some commercial breeding facilities that routinely employ a veterinarian for their animal care and I applaud that.   But for many at the lowest end of this profession, the veterinarian is considered an unnecessary business expense.  The result of that is dangerous and inhumane.  When diseases are being discovered, it is usually because the puppies are afflicted with SEVERE conditions, and being returned by the purchaser.

If the breeding stock has undiagnosed conditions, it may be a mild form of the disease, but that can lead to an increased percentage of puppies affected within the litter and an increase in severity of the same condition in the affected puppy.  This means that if either or both parents have a mild form of the disease, the puppies may get the severe form of the disease. 

Meet Cookie!

A family purchased Cookie at 4 months of age from an Iowa breeder after seeing her, her 2 month old younger siblings, and her parents advertised in a local newspaper for $50-$150 each.  When they got there, Cookie was the only one left.  Her parents and the other 2 month old litter were all sold.  Cookie was purchased for $100. 

By five months of age Cookie presented to their veterinarian with an “odd” gait or stride.  She could not jump or bear much weight on her hind legs.  She was painful when getting up or laying down, stretching her rear legs out often, seeming stiff and uncomfortable. Cookie's X-Rays revealed severe hip dysplasia.  Cookie's owners could not afford treatment. They relinquished her to a rescue group, knowing that she needed more than they could give her.  Cookie had her surgery at the expense of the rescue group, costing the group $3-4000!  She was adopted by a man who continued to take her to physical rehabilitation during her recovery and is now living a normal happy life. 

But the family that bought her suffered a major loss.   Their choice was either euthanize the dog they had grown to love, which many people would have chosen to do, or find a safe place for her with a new owner that could afford to do what they could not.   Not a lot of people can afford to invest that much money in a family pet.  Not a lot of rescue groups can afford to invest that much money in a dog that they aquired.  I think we all as pet owners wish we could afford anything our pets needed, and there are those that will do so.  But there are many who simply cannot. 

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disorder passed from parents to offspring.  It is possible that the breeder did test the parents and still produced puppies with the disease.  Radiographic testing of the breeding pair at two years of age for the disease and NOT breeding a dog unless it tests negative for the disease will reduce the likelihood of hip dysplasia significantly.  It is still not perfect but perhaps with DNA testing we will get better as we learn more.

Cookie After Surgery:

If I had to guess where Cookie came from, judging by the fact that the breeder was selling off all of their dogs, including the parents, and the younger siblings, Cookie may have come from what is often referred to as a backyard breeder.  Being the only one sold at this age, perhaps she was returned to the breeder by the people who purchased Cookie when she was 2 months old because they realized she had problems that they were not prepared to deal with.

A backyard breeder is a person that purchases a dog or dogs, hoping to make a little money off the selling of the puppies.  They keep their population of breeding dogs under the limits of the requirements for state or federal licensure so there is no oversight of these breeders. As a result, this type of breeder is not required to be licensed.  These people may, or may not,  have good intentions and they rarely have the information needed to make good decisions about breeding the dogs.  One would hope that  their veterinarian would attempt to educate them about the proper breeding of dogs, if there is one involved at some point.

In my experience as a veterinarian, with these breeders, they may come in for vaccines or a check up on their newly aquired dog or dogs.  They may care a lot about the dog or dogs that they have.  When spay or neuter is suggested they mention that they may want to breed.  I try to discourage it unless they wait until the dog is two years of age, and they do appropriate testing for the diseases appropriate to the breed of dog involved.  This may include joint checks such as hips and elbows, eye checks, or genetic/DNA testing.  In my experience, this rarely happens.  The dog often has a litter long before turning two years old and the tests are not performed.  The puppies arrive and may be completely healthy, or some may have issues.  I am often awakened from my sleep during the night with a panicky voice on the other end of the phone, "My dog is giving birth, what do I do?" 

Go to the library and get a book is what they should have done to educate themselves on the birthing process. 

Perhaps the owners of sexually intact dogs should be required to have and maintain a breeding license until proof of spay/neuter is done.  This license should involve educational classes, proof of veterinary care, and inspections of the the dogs in their residence.  Paying an annual breeder fee for keeping a dog intact, might encourage those in it for the wrong reasons, or those who just have no motivation to get that surgery done, to get the dog spayed/neutered thus decreasing the incidence of the "unexpected and unwanted litters" that often crowd our shelters.

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1 comment:

HollyEgg said...

Thanks for this great info, and for the work you do!