A Backward Look At DM

April 2, 2009

Now remember, I’m not a scientist or a mathematician — just a lawyer . . . and I don’t want to beat the DM topic to death, but I want to look at the testing from the other end.  The primary opposition to performing the DNA test for Degenerative Myelopathy seems to be “if we cannot predict which dog is going to exhibit DM symptoms (actually be affected), then the test has almost no value”.  I look at it from the other direction:  what we do know about the DM test results?  What we do know is that dogs that are “clear” or are “carriers” will NEVER be symptomatic.  So, testing and breeding carefully allows us to be certain that the puppies/dogs we place with others will not spend their last year or so with no feeling in their rear ends, with that numbness moving gradually up their bodies.  I don’t really care if .05% or 25% of Cardis will exhibit DM symptoms — what is really important is that we have the ability to take that percentage to 0.   Don’t we have that obligation as well?

I look at Hip Dysplasia the same way.  If by testing (and using the results) we can reduce the incidence or severity of Hip Dysplasia, don’t we have an obligation to do that?

I think everyone who seriously breeds (non-commercial) hopes to produce a shining star — but to produce a shining star that will still be a healthy, loving companion when it is 15 or 16 or 17 years old — priceless!

  1. Ariel says:

    I went to church with a couple many years ago who had GREEN children. Each and every one of their children were born with liver problems- which required liver transplants- and they were told after the first one that their genetics combined meant they WERE going to have that problem if they had a child again. And yet they were at 4 when last I saw them….
    One of my best friends had a child with massive heart problems- and then when her second child was born SHE had heart problems too! And yet, she had a third child. Third child is fine, as far as I know. I don’t understand it! I don’t blame her for wanting children.Her first 2 children are both in need of heart transplants by the time they are 18…I’m not saying her children are not cute and wonderful and worth every life saving surgery, I guess I’m just saying there are other options.

  2. Kristine says:

    Well said Penni!

    And to anyone who thinks that Corgis can’t continue to be very active in their ‘veteran’ years, think again. At the AKC Agility National Championships last weekend, there was a Pembroke competing at the age of 13! Now that’s a performance dog!

  3. Sandy says:

    Good morning Penni…..the way I look at “it”…..it comes down to selfishness and the grab for the almighty DOLLAR. Why else would a breeder (backyard, fancy schmancy show dog breeder,puppy mill or whatever) breed for a dog that might not be as perfect as can be? The “I want pups from Cardi-poo so the kids can learn about sex” is an old, old “excuse”. So the pups are created and there is instantaneous delight, the pups go to new homes and are never heard from again. But, by golly, it was fun, and selfish.

    The “show dog breeder” often breeds to promote their dogs…we all know that. The delight is not quite as instantaneous, they have to wait for the titles to roll in and then the prices for stud fees and pups goes up. I know, I know, there is NO profit in breeding dogs. But then, if not, does it put the show dog breeder in the same category as the selfish breeder?

    In the Quarter Horse world, uh, about 25-30 years ago a stallion named Impressive was THE hottest thing on the planet. He had an astonomical stud fee and tons of his babies were on the ground (and being bred) when doctors and geneticists discovered Impressive carried a gene that cause a debilitating condition, resulting most often in the horse being euthanized. The Quarter Horse world came to a screeching halt. Millions of dollars were lost because owners had horses no one would breed to because of the “Impressive gene”. Rules were made in the breed association about eligibility of horses with Impressive in their pedigrees. It was a huge wake up call.

    To think we could have a part in avoiding something so catastrophic in the Cardigan breed is, at the very least, exciting…and more important, I feel, a priority. I would go so far to say (and I won’t make friends with this) folks not breeding with this in mind are truly not thinking of the future of the breed — but only themselves.

    It’s that selfishness thing again.

  4. Joanna says:

    Since I’m the one that has the unpopular opinion, let me try to explain.

    It’s not that we don’t want to get rid of the gene, or that we don’t feel an obligation to puppy people or owners.

    It’s that getting rid of the gene comes with a VERY, VERY high price, and the good possibility of so skewing the gene pool that we end up with a much worse issue.

    There are cardinal examples of this in other breeds: The Basenji people tried to rigidly breed away from one disease, and ended up with a breed epidemic of Fanconi syndrome.

    I saw in happen in Danes, where everyone avoided a dog line known to carry megaesophagus. They chose to favor a dog line that was absolutely sure not to have mega. Unfortunately, that dog line turns out to have major thyroid and heart problems. Now the breed is in substantially worse shape.

    The Chessie people actually imported a lot of their DM, because they brought over a dog from England and used him heavily… because he was not a PRA carrier.

    In the Quarter Horse example, nobody KNEW Impressive was going to have those issues. Presumably, we won’t know that whatever big stud we choose and preferentially breed to because he doesn’t have DM won’t bring some other, much worse illness into the breed.

    If we have an obligation to puppy buyers to NEVER breed any known illness, we need to stop breeding Cardigans entirely. The dwarfism gene is KNOWN to cause IVDD, which is not only incredibly painful but can occur at much younger ages and affects, at least in my experience, many more dogs than DM. We know what causes it and we deliberately breed dogs that will end up with it. It would be simple to get rid of it entirely by no longer breeding dwarfed dogs. If the obligation to never knowingly produce a health problem trumps all, then you have to be consistent about it with IVDD too.

  5. C-Myste says:

    “fancy schmancy show dog breeder”?

    It is the show breeders who care about preserving their breeds, and about the future of their breeds.

    And I haven’t seen the prices of puppies and stud fees going up as the “titles roll in”. Perhaps that is more common in horse breeding? Puppy prices are pretty much market-driven in each area.

  6. My local petstores, sell their mutt puppies for generally hundreds more than I paid for my health tested, titled lined Cardigans, from responsible breeders.

    No, I don’t feel show breeders are the problem, and don’t see prices hike from show breeders either. If anything, I’ve found that buying from a breeder has been a GREAT discount for me so far, as apposed to my free mutt with massive health, and behavior issues of genetic predisposition and cause.

    My opinion- if you don’t want to support responsible dog breeders, don’t buy from them. It’s very easy to avoid buying a dog from a responsible breeder. NONE of them out out there trying to make anyone buy from them. There’s PLENTY of shelter and rescue dogs looking for homes with people who don’t want to buy from a responsible breeder. That’s a very noble, and valid option for bringing home a pet if that’s your personal preference.