As a nation of dog lovers we can be positively passionate about our canine friends; however our love of dogs and people’s particular preferences to specific breeds may not have done them any favours. Dog breeders (particularly ‘underground’ dog breeders) have bred and bred our furry friends with ever more enhanced features. Great Danes have got bigger and pugs have gotten cuter, but what does this mean for dogs? In this guide we look at some of the genetic conditions that have been made worse by dog breeding.
Great Danes – Cardiomyopathy
Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle; this condition is particularly prevalent amongst large breeds, and as Great Danes have been bred to be bigger and bigger, cardiomyopathy has become more frequent and in many instances more serious.
Because cardiomyopathy involves the heart working harder to produce the same level of oxygen and so it can, eventually lead to congestive heart failure. It can also produce an irregular heart rhythm, which may, sadly, cause sudden death.
King Charles – Mitral Valve Disease
Mitral valve disease is where the heart’s left atrioventricular (AV) valve has a defect which causes a backflow of blood into the left atrium; whilst this condition can be common in all dogs that are older than 10, the King Charles has a specific propensity towards this condition even from a young age. You can help by ensuring that your dog is of a healthy weight, and is getting plenty of exercise.
Signs that your King Charles may have developed mitral valve disease can be a reduced interest in exercise, difficulties in breathing and a cough.
Pugs – Tracheal Collapse
Whilst pugs have been over bred for their ‘cute’ features, we now have a situation where many pugs struggle to breath through, what are now, noses that are simply not fit for purpose. However this is worsened by the breed’s propensity towards a condition known as tracheal collapse, which is where the tracheal collapses due to loss of its rigidity.
This condition will gradually worsen in time, and it may occur with or without symptoms; some may cough, breath noisy or gag, while others may not.
Treatment for tracheal collapse aims only to reduce the symptoms, rather than cure the disease. Keeping the dog away from smoke and pollution should be of primary importance, as well as using a harness rather than a collar. Dogs can be treated in emergencies, and prostheses are applied in order to open up the airways.
German Shepherds – Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative myelopathy becomes apparent in German Shepherds after around 5 years of age; this condition sees a dog’s hind legs slowly deteriorate, and causes a loss of coordination in the hind legs, which culminates in weakened joints. This condition is caused by a deterioration of the spinal cord, and the associated defects that are caused in nerve pulses. This can be a long term problem and one that people should even just invest in low cost pet insurance to avoid.
Poodle – Patellar Luxation
In ‘normal’ dogs that are free from patellar luxation, the knee cap (patella) fits snuggly into the thigh bone; however patellar luxation sees the knee cap slip out and grind against this grove.
This condition may either be an isolated incident or a recurring problem; it may be that medical attention is sought to fit the knee cap back into place. This condition can also lead to other degenerative diseases involved with joints (e.g. osteoarthritis).