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Posted on 06-14-2016

I'm not likely to start this off in the manner you may have anticipated.  I'm upset.  Really upset.  I'm sad, frustrated, and angry.  Yesterday, 1/2 of my morning appointments ended with me telling owners of very young pets (<1 yr, 1 yr, and a 3 year old) that their companions were experiencing signs of diseases likely secondary to poor breeding.  All 3 pets were purposefully bred.  All 3 are going through significant issues.  I am faced with emotionally upset families that are being asked to spend money they didn't anticipate spending on a "young healthy animal".  Doc, why?  When I mention poor breeding the phone or room gets quiet.  I'm left wondering, do they believe me?  Do they understand that breeding takes a lot more skill than most give credit.  The breeding I approve of is done by individuals where the goal is to IMPROVE the breed.  Therefore showing the dogs, pursuing tests PRIOR to breeding to make sure congenital conditions are not passed on, and waiting until of proper AGE is paramount.  Essentially, there aren't many I approve.

The most common congenital conditions we see frequently are:  liver shunts, open fontanelles, umbilical hernias, cryptorchidism, malaligned dentition, distichiasis, stenotic nares, elongated soft palates, demodectic mange, hooded vulvas, angular limb deformities, and behavior.  I'm sure I've missed a few, but please note - with reputable sound breeding programs these conditions above are not acceptable.  They are considered poor traits and are excluded.  Many breeders (and I'm losing this term lightly now) are breeding FOR these traits.  They desire the round chihuahua skull, they want the narrow nose and wide face of a bull dog, they want the short crooked legs of a basset hound, and so on.  Folks, it's expensive to manage these conditions properly.  And in some cases - the condition may cost your pet his/her life.  Yesterday I told one of those clients I would most likely end up needing to surgically remove the pet's eye.  Glaucoma!!!!!  Another pet is fighting for her life - liver, kidney and endocrine disease - she's 3 years old.  And the final one, well, we're starting a battery of diagnostics each step in the hundreds trying to determine the origin of her elevated liver values.  She is also experiencing parasitic disease most common in crowded unsanitary conditions (breeding facility) and skin disease. 

Next time, consider adopting.  Plenty of "purebred" animals are found in shelters.  And they already exist - there's no need to make more.

Sincerely and with deep respect,

Dr. Sparke

Please visit this website  for a quick link to "congenital disease conditions":

Gayle Allen Dantzler said:

Your very specific examples and experience-based advice are what people need in order to make good decisions. A lot more effective than slogans. "Don't shop, adopt!" Has a nice ring, but reality has impact. Sad for those clients. Hopeful that others will avoid this grief.

2016-06-14 11:07:11

Anonymous said:

I have got pure bred dogs. I also have 1 rescue. I have had at least 4 rescues. I chose to buy from a breeder this time. It's my choice. I do not like feeling like I did the wrong thing. Not wanting to take them in knowing how and what there vet is thinking, because there not from a rescue. We should not feel this way taking our pets to the vet.

2016-06-16 11:54:14

Liz Hollister-Garcia said:

Great article, sadly the people who most need to read and understand it are the ones least likely to do it. There is an arrogance in back yard and mill breeders and they either think their dogs are fine to breed or simple don't care. They aren't dealing with the consequences of their greed.

2016-06-16 18:48:33

Tamara Gilson said:

Thank you for putting this out there for people to see what's happening. My family at one time bred dogs, and I am now a convert to adopting shelter animals. I understand that there is a place for purebred animals, but if you only seek a companion, it is not only saving a life to adopt but your costs of obtaining the pet and maintaining their health are much lower. My recently adopted shelter dog is more healthy, happy, loving, and intelligent than any other dog I ever had.

2016-06-17 03:24:51

Dr. Rachel Sparke said:

These are great responses. I am saddened that one might feel uncomfortable bringing their pet to their vet because it is a purebred animal. My goal, and I hope the goal of many, isn't to make anyone feel badly about owning purebred animals. I began my post indicating how upset I was because these poor families are led to believe they are getting a "good product" and instead are being dealt lemons. I mean to bring this topic up to highlight 2 terrible situatons: 1st - puppy mills and breeders with poor skills for choosing healthy animals and 2nd - the # of animals in shelters/rescues awaiting a home. Many clients of ours have purebred animals. We enjoy them and I hope they enjoy us. I'm just seeing a horrible shift in quality of purchased purposefully bred animals and I'm frustrated. Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog and provide comments. It is really appreciated.

2016-06-17 05:40:28

Christi said:

Thank you for bringing this to light. You didn't do it to shame people who buy from breeders but to highlight that there are very few breeders who care. I have 2 dogs. A rescue and a "breeder return". Someone didn't do their homework and weren't prepared for a hyper lab puppy so they returned her. Silly people. Lol. Anyways, my brother and his furbaby were victims of bad breeders. He had a beautiful golden that went blind at 3 because cataracts were bred into him. It was a terrible situation. Please just do your research before you buy! Or look for " breeder returns". They're awesome!

2016-06-17 16:29:08

Dale Pace said:

Thank you for your comments, Dr. Sparke. My dogs have all been rescues. My last four are pure blooded Scottish Terriers. Older dogs, ones no one else would want. My Neal had cerebellar abiotrophy and was a puppy mill dog. He also developed seizures. I am so angry at the millers and backyard breeders and hate that so little is being done to stop them. I have a 10 year old girl now who has bladder cancer. . . about 100 days left if the oncologist at Purdue is correct. I happen to like the Scottie breed, but I found my dogs through rescue. Everybody in my family rescues, but the millers breed more dogs than people can take in. We just don't need that many dogs. The Amish now have taken to it in a big way in Indiana. It's a cash crop for them. People need to quit buying from those breeders and contact their legislators about beefing up the laws to protect these poor animals and the reduce the numbers of animals they produce.

2016-06-17 18:10:02

Nancy Vida said:

I hate it when people advise not to breed a good dog. Those dogs in shelters are not going to be 100% healthy either. Let's not bash a good breeder that loves her breed of dog or dogs and does all the health clearances prior to breeding and waits a good length of time to make sure the dog is healthy. They don't mention cancer in this article. Cancer is in all breeds and will come out of now where, just as it does with us. True some breeds want to breed the breed that makes the dog require AI's, eyes that need to be tucked up and snub noses that can't breath, and German Shepherds that have over angulation in the rear. But there are plenty of breeds that are being bred that are good, solid dogs with great temperaments.

2016-06-18 08:11:22

Dr. Rachel Sparke said:

This is such a healthy discussion. I'm a huge fan of discussion. It helps everyone to work out the frustrations, misinformation, and to really understand all sides. I personally am not one that lives in black and white. Perhaps because I am a scientist. I believe the world is all shades of grey. There are good breeders, there are bad. There are good rescue groups, there are bad. This goes for everything - a good version, a bad one. I'm also an optimist. I like to believe that in most situations lack of full education on a topic is what leads to anger and in some cases hate. I appreciate that everyone here has kept it civil. Thank you for that.

2016-06-18 10:31:16

shirley said:

I have to admit I have 3 brought Tzu;s and so far so good!! They are all seniors now one is 13,11 and 8 and besides some sensative tummy issues and one has some dry skin...thats it. So I fell blessed. But I really wish I had known more years ago about adopting but I'm 66 and think myself lucky to have my 3. But my advice...adopt!!!!! Thanks Dr

2016-06-23 20:00:18

Jody said:

Behavior issues, yes. I am the first to give kuddos to a pure bred puppy that comes to puppy kindergarten with a good temperment. That being said, I have observed, over the years of behavior management, that the old saying "it's not the breed, it's how they're raised" does NOT hold true. So much of behavior is genetic. I know this because I work with young puppies, some with serious behavior issues. Not always from a breeder, but almost always in the breeding.

2017-03-01 12:45:06

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