The Kennel Club Freak Show
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People go to dog shows to see pretty dogs, but let's face it they also go to dog shows to look at some very odd-looking dogs.
And so it is with some amusement that I see Kennel Club apologists expressing outrage that the RSPCA's chief vet, Mark Evans, has said that when he goes to Crufts, "What I see in front of me is a parade of mutants. It's some freakish, garish beauty pageant that has nothing frankly to do with health and welfare."
Nor does it have anything to do with working dogs, might I add.
Now to be fair, not all of the dogs entering the ring look like freaks.
But also to be fair, most of the breeds being paraded have serious health issues.
These issues include jaw-dropping rates of cancer, congenital deafness, liver disease, blood diseases, epidemic-levels of epilepsy, painful eye problems, hip problems, back problems, and ... well it goes on forever.
Almost every breed has a serious health issue that is endemic to it. Many are fatal, and frequently they are quite painful.
What's particularly maddening are those cases where breeders are intentionally breeding for a characteristic that they know will cause real pain and misery in a predictably high number of dogs that are born.
For example, when people breed spotted and merle-coated dogs that look like the tattooed man at the circus, they are also breeding for a coat pattern they know that in some breeds will predictably lead to high levels of congenital deafness in their litters.
With Harlequin Great Danes, for example, as many as one in four may be born deaf and put to sleep -- something a professional breeder might "take care of" by simply slipping a new-born puppy into the freezer.
With Chinese Crested dogs, the gene pool is so toxic that if two hairless dogs are bred to each other, the homozygous offspring is prenatal lethal. Hairless Chinese cresteds are made by mating a "powderpuff" Chinese crested with the hairless variety to avoid perinatal mortalities. All hairless Chinese Cresteds have canine ectodermal dysplasia (CED) which results in teeth loss and a high chance of serious eye and skin malformations and defects.
Bulldogs are such genetic wrecks, one does not even know where to start. This is a dog with a head so large that almost all are born cesarean; a breed so poorly formed that it cannot have sex without assistance; a dog which is so achondroplastic that it cannot run; a dog with such a pushed-in face it cannot breathe; and a dog whose insides are so twisted in a knot that it farts from morning to night. In addition, the dog is prone to cherry eye, frequently has hip issues, and is so prone to skin infections that it is common for the pig-like tail of this dog to be surgically amputated after a show career in order to cut down on veterinary bills.
Shar Pei's are another breed with numerous serious health issues. This is a dog bred for their freak-show like folds of excess skin. In addition to hard-to-treat skin conditions, Shar Pei's also frequently suffer from entropion, caused by excessive skin over the eye which results in the eyelashes curling inward into the the eyeball. Left untreated it can cause blindness. Another common problem in the breed is "Familial Shar Pei Fever" and "Swollen Hock Syndrome" caused by the dog's inability to process amyloid proteins -- a condition which can lead to renal failure.
The Norwegian Lundehund is another dog bred for mutation. In this case we have a very undistinguished-looking small Spitz-like dog whose claim to fame is that it has six toes and a rather serious genetic disorder of the digestive tract (Lundehund gastroenteropathy) in which the dog loses its ability to absorb nutrients from food resulting in malnutrition or even starvation in extreme cases.
And of course, we have all those giants breeds and teacup breeds, most of which are beset with serious, life-threatening and painful health problems. Giant breeds suffer from mind-numbing rates of cancer as well as heart problems and joint problems, and routinely die from bloat. Teacup breeds have bones so weak they can snap by jumping off the couch. In addition many teacup and toy breeds have skulls too small for their brains, resulting in open fontanels at the top of their heads. Add to this other common ailments, such as heart problems and dental issues resulting from their jaws being too small for their teeth, and you have a veterinary bill on legs and misery on stilts.
I could go on for pages, but if I were to only talk about the odd-looking dogs with health issues (and there are many more), I would do a serious injustice to the dogs that look fine from the outside, but which also have serious health problems.
The average Bull Terrier or Boston Terrier, for example, is dead at age 8 or 9 due to cancer, kidney and heart failure.
The show German Shepherd is an animal with such wrecked hips that it is often described as "half frog and half dog."
The Dalmatian suffers not only from congenital deafness, but also from painful uric acid stones.
All of the Setters have cancer rates of about 25% while, the Bernese Mountain Dog struggles with a cancer rate of over 45%!
The average Bloodhound is lucky to make it to age 7 due to serious gastrointestinal issues and cancer.
And so it goes, down almost the entire spectrum of 200 Kennel Club breeds, both old and new.
And so when Mark Evans talks of a "parade of mutants" at the Kennel Club, I suspect he is not only talking about the dogs that look bizarre; he is also talking about the Kennel Club people who profess to love dogs and yet continue to breed and sell animals they know will be in pain and discomfort much of their lives.
There is something seriously twisted here, and it's not all in the double helix of the dog is it?