- Privacy versus breeding
Privacy is something we should cherish, and nobody will deny we have the right to fight for our privacy. But in matters of health in dog breeding, or when the breed is in need of a reassessment of the health situation, should we not let that right go and share information? What is the use of testing if the community cannot learn from it?
- Bottle-Neck situation
We are certain that sharing all sorts of information about a breed is the only way we can go on breeding pedigree dogs with closed studbooks. The limited gene pool our breed is built on has reached the point of the so-called bottleneck situation, as it has in many breeds. More than 100 years of working with a closed gene pool produced many built-up genetic defects in various breeds.
Defects that were often discovered or recognised too late or were just ignored by breeders. We narrowed down the gene pool by using the same stud dogs over and over again. Show results that were of greater importance than health matters is also a significant reasons why we now have to deal with too small a gene pool, with too many genetic defects to boot. Let's just say that many sick dogs are bred ignorantly.
We all know that a great many breeders have no clue about genetics, have not studied for it and/or are not interested in it. For decades sick dogs or their offspring had been kept in breeding stocks and could spread their defected genes through the entire population this way.
It is true, we do our best to make all Griffon breeders aware of the situation in our breed and how we think we can help each other to improve it. Not by force or by bullying others but by showing them there are some tools that can help the breed and breeder and that is “by testing and being open about the test results”.
So far, all we know is that the number of Griffons with severe SM/CM is not as high as in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I say we know, but that is wrongly put, as it would be more correct to say we assume – we can only know what the true situation is in our breeds after many more dogs have been tested. So it would be better to say: it seems that, so far, severe cases of SM/CM are not that high in the Griffons that have yet been tested. In other words we still have no clue what the true Griffon situation is.
- We did not know any better
Okay, for a big part we can accept that us breeders indeed just did not know any better.
But now we do. Scientists – we should be so grateful to them – have made it possible for us to test dogs for certain defects. In some cases they also provide us with DNA markers, which makes it even easier to breed healthy dogs. We have to keep in mind that a long period of research preceded the discovery of DNA markers and the way in which illnesses are passed down.
With some complicated inheritance issues it can take several years before scientists discover the mode of inheritance. These pieces of research are often not funded by the breeders themselves; what is asked from the breeder is that they test their dogs, for which they naturally have to pay, so in a way, all of us together – scientists, breeders and even the puppy buyers, directly or indirectly help save the breed from extinction or health disasters.
- Being open about test results
Being open about test results
We are aware that being open, like we are about our dogs, is hard to accept for many people. Breeders in general need to be forced to take action. If there are still people denying this, I would like for them to explain to me how it is possible that many breeds, and also our Griffon, are effected by: eye diseases, Hip Dysplasia, Luxating Patella (Patella Luxation) and also Chiari-like Malformation and Syringomyelia in too high numbers.
The negative health situation in many breeds is also a result of breeding with sick dogs or carriers (knowingly or not knowingly) and/or not sharing any information. If the old idea of breeding was actually good then many breeds would not be in the serious health situation they are in now and much research would have been successful much sooner.
The sooner us breeders can be advised by researchers, the sooner we can start trying to breed healthier dogs. Unfortunately, with every new piece of research, the same battle with the breeders starts all over again.
- The SM/CM research
People who are pro-caring and -sharing are aware that there is some very good research going on. Dr Clare Rusbridge has been a CM/SM researcher for over 12 years with many publications in top peer-reviewed scientific journals and is very well respected in her profession. Eleven of these scientific papers were published as a PhD thesis at Utrecht Univesity in 2007: 'Chiari-like Malformation and Syringomyelia in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel'. Lee Pieterse, a breeder from Australia, invited her to research CM/SM in Griffon Bruxellois and their scientific paper was presented at the American College of Internal Veterinary Medicine Congress in July this year in Montreal. Dr Rusbridge is now working together with Georgia University.
What researchers like Dr Rusbridge are doing: they work for us, so we can improve the breed, so we can sell puppies with a clear conscience, because we know we have used all the information at our disposal, like information we get from the researchers, to sell well-bred and hopefully healthy puppies. That is why the research is done, to save the breed and to spare us having to deal with sick dogs and sad puppy buyers who will lose their trust in us when they often have to pay huge amounts on vet bills and for their pain in having to deal with, and care for a sick doggie in the first place.
- We like testing
Yes, we like testing, not only for SM/CM but also for other defects that are present in our breeds. We like to publish the test results (positive and negative) because we have we hope that people who live in a different corner of the world can learn something about the facts that we publish, the same way we learn from the facts other breeders share with us. We are aware it is a totally different way of breeding that has been done by us for so long, but ‘different’ does not have to be bad, different can also be something positive to a situation.
Breeding good and healthy pedigree dogs is a kind of art, let's all prove together that we are artists. That we know the material we are working with from the outside but also as much as possible from the inside and, with every litter, make little artistic creations of new life, which hopefully have a long lifespan without any discomfort.
There is no excuse NOT to Test!!