The downside of pedigree

One of the most inbred dogs is the pug.

WHENEVER I walk past a pet shop and look at the adorable dogs in the window, my heart melts a little. I am a huge sucker for puppies! But I never realised that there was a price to pay for that cute little ball of fur you find at the pet store.

Many people do not realise that purebred dogs are more prone to disease and illness than mixed breeds. This is the downside from the inbreeding done over the past few decades to create the ideal pedigree dogs we know today.

Just so you know, inbreeding refers to the mating of two dogs that are closely related to each other genetically (like mating between siblings or cousins). This selective inbreeding is done to maintain the "purity" of bloodlines and to create desirable characteristics within the pedigree dog.

It is also important to remember that most pedigree dogs were developed to have certain characteristics that would help them do some time of work, whether it be herding sheep, hunting, guarding estates, or even to do police and military work.

Characteristics such as high energy levels, strong desire to do things, aggression towards strangers or animals, tendency to chase and nip at things, digging holes, or howling / barking are some traits you may see in certain breeds.

If you want a family pet or a companion, these working behaviours may not be suitable for you. That is why you have to do your research before buying your pet.

On top of these working characteristics, pedigree dogs also have a poor health record due to significant history of inbreeding, which caused genetic mutations and other health problems.

Below are some of the health problems faced by a few pedigree dogs:

The pug
One of the most inbred dogs is the pug. The pug has a high chance of developing various different congenital conditions including problems with the eyes, hips, spine and breathing.

English Bulldog
Even the English Bulldog is in the high risk category for congenital and hereditary problems. Did you know that the selective breeding to produce the bulldog’s signature large head means that bulldog females must have her pups delivered via Caesarean delivery only.

Scottish Terriers
Scottish Terriers are affected by a disorder called the Scottie Cramp, which causes the dog to lose muscle control when they get excited. The breed is also 18 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than are other breeds.

Labrador Retriever
The hugely popular Labrador Retriever are one of the breeds considered to have a high risk in developing hip dysplasia, which is an abnormal formation of the hip socket. Labradors are also more prone to bone cancer, which occurs more frequently among larger breeds of dogs because their bones are stressed by carrying their large size.

Golden Retrievers
Similarly, Golden Retrievers are also prone to developing bone cancer, brain tumours, malignant blood vessel tumours, and leukaemia. They are also known to have low thyroid function.

German Shepherds
German Shepherds are also known to have a number of health problems. The breed is known to inherit degenerative myelopathy, a crippling spinal cord disease that causes weakness and eventually paralysis. They can also suffer from gastric torsion or bloat, which is a potentially life-threatening inability to expel gas from the digestive system. German Shepherds are also predisposed to gastric cancer and hip dysplasia. They may also suffer from sudden death from cardiac disease.

In light of all these discoveries, I was shocked and sad to find out about the health problems pedigree dogs are likely to face. But I’m not saying that purebred dogs are a bad choice!

I have a pedigree dog myself, which we adopted from my uncle several years ago. Even though she will be turning 13 this year, she is doing well so far. She is still a happy and active dog, although I can see age catching up. I hope that she will be lucky enough to not suffer from the health risks the terrier is prone to.

But the clear advantage of having a pedigree dog is that you know what to expect in regards of size, behaviour and health. Whereas, in the case of mixed-breeds, you can never be too sure what kind of dog you’re getting.

The risk of getting a mixed-breed dog is that you can never be too sure how big the puppy will grow and what kind of personality it has. There is a possibility that you will end up with a dog that is totally unsuitable for you.

On the other hand, mixed-breed dogs are said to be smarter and healthier. They are also one-of-a-kind! Plus, if you choose to adopt a dog from a shelter, you are saving a life and giving a special dog a home.

So please do your research before finding a new doggy companion. Think twice before going pedigree!

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.

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