Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ask the Vet, with Dr. Pat: Conscientious Breeding

by Pat Bradley, DVM
King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Puppies

Hello Dr. Pat:
I have just bought a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who has had a MIR scan. He is clear for Syringohydromyelia but has cerebella herniation present. Would this be a problem for using him for breeding?

Thank you, Ann
Dear Ann:

First I'd like to thank you for being such a conscientious breeder that you would even ask this question, much less have these scans done.  On some MRI’s Cerebellar herniation is an “incidental finding”, meaning an abnormality is seen, but no symptoms are present.   One problem with technology today is that sometimes we're not sure if diseases are really increasing, or we’re just finding them more often. Have you ever noticed that when you buy a certain brand of car, you see them everywhere?  It sure seemed to me that dozens of other people miraculously bought Subarus on the same day I did.  But it’s doubtful.

However, there seems to be little doubt that syringomyelia is one disease that is truly increasing in frequency and genetically transmitted. It is a devastating neurological condition of this oh, so adorable breed, in which the brain outgrows the size of the skull.  As one neurologist put it, "It's like trying to fit a size 10 foot into a size 6 shoe."  When we’re talking about the brain, this can cause very serious problems that are often impossible to treat.  I would consider cerebellar herniation to be part of the same genetic problem.  While it’s possibly an “incidental finding”, I can’t recommend that you breed him.  Luckily, well-intentioned people like you are trying their best to eliminate it from breeding stock.   

Recently I attended a talk given by Wayne Pacell, the CEO for the United States Humane Society.  Here is one of the stats he quoted:  Every year there are 2 million puppies sold through puppy mills and 2 million animals euthanized at animal shelters." Math again, Dr. Pat?"  Well, you have to admit that this is not only the easiest math question you'll ever answer, but also one with a crystal clear practical application:  Get a dog from a shelter or reputable breeder. Puppy mills, and the enormous suffering to animals they bring, will be put straight out of business if we stop supporting them with our hard-earned paychecks.  

(c) courtesy P. Bradley

Have a question for Dr. Pat? Write to
For a personal consultation about your pet's needs, visit Holistic Veterinary Services.
Dr. Pat's opinion or advice does not replace an actual exam with a veterinarian

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Samantha said...

Thanks for this, Dr. Pat. One of the things Wayne Pacelle mentioned that day to all of us who were like, "What can we do?!" was to vote on local measures. I just heard that Missouri, the #1 puppy mill state, passed Prop B and chose to save dogs suffering in Missouri puppy mills. Hurray for pups everywhere! :)

JackPDB said...

This is yet another argument against puppy mills and backyard breeders. We already know about the terrible conditions in some of these kennels, but without proper genetic screening for the sort of birth defects that are inevitable with highly-selective breeding, a lot of these dogs are doomed even before they come into this world. Thanks for the food for thought.
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