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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Health

Purebred dogs needlessly suffering, report says

Purebred dogs "need our help now" to overcome needless suffering from illness and ailments caused by mating of siblings and offspring with each other, a breeding practice that must end to protect their well-being, a research report concludes.

The incestuous breeding is causing high levels of disability, deformity and hereditary disease, according to the report done for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Pedigree dogs would be healthier if stricter rules are implemented to prevent breeding closer than three generations apart, the report states.

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"The RSPCA recognizes that finding remedies for the many problems facing pedigree dogs is a difficult, complex challenge," Mark Evans, the RSPCA’s chief veterinary adviser, states in a media release. "But that isn’t an excuse to shy away from it - the fact is pedigree dogs need our help and they need it now."

Britain's Kennel Club recently announced that it would no longer register puppies whose parents are closely related. The Kennel Club is defining close relative matings as those between mother and son, father and daughter or brother and sister.

But the authors of the RSPCA-commissioned report recommend stronger guidelines. It says that grandparent and offspring and half siblings also should no longer be mated.

"I hope this independent report will be seen as a constructive contribution to the debate and that it stimulates discussion amongst everyone involved in order to identify practical, evidence-based solutions that really make a difference." Evans said.

Exaggerated physical features and inherited diseases are causing serious welfare problems in purebred dogs, the study states. But each breed has its own problems, so one cure-all solution is unlikely to be found.

The report's authors suggest four measures priority actions:
  • Systematic collection of data on the diseases all dogs suffer from and causes of death.
  • Changes to current registration rules to prevent the registration of puppies born from the mating of close relatives.
  • Changes to current registration rules to allow new genetic material to be introduced into breeds. Currently a dog can only be registered with the Kennel Club if both its mother and father are registered members of that breed’s studbook.
  • Monitoring of the effectiveness of any changes to breeding strategies.
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The RSPCA said it is working with the University of Sydney and the Royal Veterinary College on a three-year research project to create a new, electronic, system for collecting, analyzing and reporting data on inherited disorders in specific breeds of dogs and cats. The information will allow the effectiveness of any new breeding initiatives to be monitored.

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