Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hip Dysplasia - Yet Another Man-Made Mess

OK. Get me going.

Tell me you won't own a shelter dog because of the risk of hip dysplasia. Tell me you're going to insist on buying a purebred dog because it's the only way to safeguard against it.

I can handle most reasons to avoid a pound dog, from worrying about vices and behaviors, not knowing exactly what a dog may or may not be, or concerns about temperament, but bad hips? Seriously?

Hip dysplasia is the result of inbreeding dogs for the show ring. Technically, it came from breeding dogs that were too big for their own good. The deal is, up until dog shows became the happening thing, dogs that didn't stay sound wouldn't be bred, because they had no purpose.  It wasn't until the requirement for how a dog looked became more important than how a dog held up, i.e. show dogs, that things like hip dysplasia appeared.

I first began studying hip dysplasia when my first dog as an adult, Rita, a GSD/St. Bernard mix, was diagnosed with it. I watched her shoulders expand and her hind end shrink until she was barely mobile, and she was only eight-years-old.

I learned it was a disease seen in the giant breeds and retrievers. This was back in the late 70's, early 80's and it wasn't all that common. Researchers had found a correlation between a dog's size, their growth rate, and the frequency of orthopedic problems.

I was told it could be avoided by buying a puppy from sound parents.

I stayed with this very basic education for many years. I also started to observe dogs and try to understand soundness in dogs.

It seemed broad, loose limbed, shambling dogs had more issues than tighter, narrower, more graceful dogs.

Keeping this in mind helped me dodge the joint problem issue for many years.

In the last ten years or so, I started paying a lot more attention. I had learned to hate vet bills and in self-defense began to study healthy conformation for all my critters.

If you go to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals  website and look at the percentages for hip dysplasia it will really open your eyes.

Hip dysplasia is not just for the big dogs, boys and girls.  It seems to be associated with extreme body types and rare (small gene pool) breeds.
According to the OFA, the top ten dogs with the highest percentage of hip dysplasia were as follows: Bulldog, Pug, Dogue De Bordeaux, Otterhound, Boerboel, St. Bernard, Neapolitan Mastiff, Clumber Spaniel, . Black Russian Terrier and Sussex Spaniel.

Not a retriever or GSD in sight. This confused me, because all my other research, and my vet, kept pointing me to the usual suspects, retrievers, mastiffs, and shepherds.

It took me a bit, but I do believe I figured it out. The stats provided by the OFA came from voluntary submissions from dog breeders. Those rare, elusive, responsible breeders who want to eliminate genetic disease and produce healthy dogs that can perform like they are supposed to.

These conscientious breeders are doing a good job of it too. They have dramatically decreased the incidence of hip dysplasia (as well as other genetic problems) in many of the large breeds. Which is why many of the normally crippled breeds didn't even make the top twenty.

"The increase in percentage of dogs classified as having excellent hip joint phenotype was greater for German Shepherd dogs, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers than for all dog breeds combined. In addition, the submission screening rate for these four breeds was higher than the screening rate for all dogs. Within these four breeds, the improvement was greatest for Rottweilers, which also had the highest screening rate."

Bravo good breeders, bravo.

The majority of AKC breeders do not belong to this elite group. As a matter of fact, it's estimated that 80% of AKC registered dogs come from puppy mills. I'm going to be generous here and assume we can add BYB's to this statistic. None of these people give a rat's ass if the dogs they are mass marketing are healthy.

Does this mean the other 20% are responsible breeders?

Nope. The average dog breeder quits after five years. Which means, the average dog breeder doesn't have enough experience to breed guppies, much less a quality dog. Most of these people either don't know how or can't afford to raise dogs with healthy joints.

This brings up a very sad fact. If I want the quality, healthy, purebred dog that has been certified, justified, tested and retested, touted by a few fellow bloggers, I had better be ready to write some checks. Serious, great big checks. A semester or three of my kid's college fund size checks.

I'm not saying I disagree either. I think a dog whose breeding I can trust is well worth the expense. But guess what? I can't afford a dog like that and neither can the majority of the dog owning population. I am at the mercy of the lower level AKC dog, and let me tell you, these dogs are not going to put me a single step ahead of a carefully selected mutt.

If you stick with the general population of purebred dogs, you're looking at a 20% to 40% chance of your large breed dog having hip dysplasia. I'm guessing the statistics are close to being the same with a mixed breed dog.

Can hip dysplasia be eliminated? To a point. In a study involving 236 German shepherds, it was proven the way to eliminate canine hip dysplasia was through the establishment of "pedigree depth,"  by the use of ancestral lines of dogs radiographically free of hip dysplasia.

In another account, with 584 progeny in a closed colony of German shepherds, it was shown that the prevalence of hip dysplasia was noticeably reduced by selectively breeding dogs proved radiographically to have normal hips at 1 year of age or older. In 3-1/2 years the incidence of hip dysplasia was lowered from 39% to less than 17%.

The dogs have to be clear of hip displasia for several generations for this to work. From what I understand, two dogs with OFA certified excellent hips can still produce dysplastic pups if the disease showed up in either previous generations or siblings.

I also learned that weight and exercise have an enormous effect and can even create hip dysplasia.

Excessive running and jumping before a dog's bones have matured is as damaging as picking up a sixth generation mill dog. Yes, I'm talking agility, frisbee and long distance running. Pulling your fat 10-month-old  dog out of his crate after a 12 hour day and heading out on a five mile bike ride might make him tired now, but can easily have him crippled by the time he's five.

Fat puppies grow faster. They also blow their joints.

A respected breeder of police and protection dogs has some strict advice when it comes to keeping a dog sound.

"Absolutely no high jumps, no stair climbing and only very little run and stop games (playing ball). NO slick floors. It is OK to walk on the slick floors but no running or playing. No forced walks until your puppy is 12 months old and the bones are stabilized. If you have stairs you will have to carry your puppy. No jumping in and out of the vehicle.

"A puppy should be limited on exercise. No long walks on the leash. It is better to walk eight 10 minute walks than two 2 hour walks. Too much exercise is not good for a developing puppy as the bones are not stabilized.

"No rough playing where the puppy could be injured. Please tell your children to be very careful not to fall on the puppy.

"We know it may be hard to limit your puppy but you will be thankful. The US has the highest rate of German Shepherds with hip dysplasia and it is all because people are not educated. I remember my first German Shepherd in Germany. We had to carry him up and down stairs until he was about 1 year old. He was not allowed to go on very long walks and was not allowed to jump. Free yard exercise (back yard) is OK. That means that the puppy is out in the backyard alone walking around."

This information was backed by a study which involved dogs of different breeds that grew up in large, fenced areas. The dogs lived and played together without human influence when it came to exercise. They were kept on the thin side. At a year old, none of the dogs showed signs of hip dysplasia, even the ones with shallow sockets. That's right, none.

My own trainer won't start a dog on jumps until it is two. He says it's just not worth it. Two young, highly bred dogs out of our group are having hip or ACL surgery. Both were avid frisbee players from 6 months on. Both had OFA certified good hips.

As far as diet goes, it wasn't so much about quality as it was quantity. Walmart kibble or organic B.A.R.F. won't make a difference if you let the dog become fat.

What are us average schmucks going to do to keep the odds in our dogs favor?

Tune in next post and I'll share my approach.

36 comments:

Becky said...

Do you have any idea how hard it was to keep my Labrador Retriever on the thin side, so I could feel her ribs?

But I did it, because so much of the stuff I was reading was saying that weight during puppyhood was almost more of an issue than how the parent's hips were certified.

So I bought her uber expensive food (Royal Canin). It's not that necessary for keeping her healthy.... but by golly, for the first time in my life I own a dog that doesn't need a bath to not stink.

Scamp said...

Hmmm. My sicilian grandmother married a sicilian with the same last name. I was born with hip dysplasia and had both of my hips replaced by the time I was 50. Coincidence? I think not.... :)

lil_peanut said...

I think this was kinda brought on by me and I'd like to point out that I said hip problems, not dysplasia and that it was only one of the laundry list of reasons I buy purebreds, in order of importance for me:

1. I only want puppies or dogs raised by people I know and respect because I'm a control freak and don't want to retrain or fix other people's problems.

2. I do AKC showing, field trials, obedience, conformation. I never won often in conformation because I had field lines and not bench lines, but I can't do those shows with mixed breeds or the vast majority of shelter dogs.

3. I bird hunt, I want a dog that's meant to hunt, with a jaw that won't damage my birds. Again, the vast majority of shelter dogs don't fit this.

4. I like knowing the kind of food/vet attention/human interaction my puppy got before I ended up with them. This is something that is more common with shelter puppies because litters end up in foster homes often.

5. I like knowing who the parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents, great grandparents are of the dog I'm getting. I'd prefer to meet them and see them in action and talk to the owners about them. This is another thing that's not super easy to get in a shelter dog.

6. I like knowing what specific health issues are going to be a consideration based on what line, this includes hips/eyes/seizures/temperament. (Notice this is 6th in importance.) Another thing that's difficult to find out in shelter dogs other than 'oh you picked up an ESS, they often go blind, have seizure problems and tend towards shitty hips.'

7. I want a pretty dog. Yes I love how certain breeds look and I have found mix breeds/shelter dogs that I think are drop dead gorgeous so this is obviously one of my shopping list that can go either purebred or shelter dog.

I'm the type of dog owner that spends more than my textbooks cost each year on every dog I've owned. I have specific things I look for and I know to get what I want I'm going to have to pay big bucks. My dog's food right now costs more a month than what I spend on myself (Mostly because I eat like a 3 year old) because the dog can't decide if he wants to eat the cheap shitty food or the high quality food and they get fed the correct amount recommended by my vet for their age. The rule I follow for exercise with young dogs is 5 minutes of walk/fetch per month of age after 2 months. My Siberian didn't start running with me until he'd gone through doggie puberty and his joints had all solidified. And at that point I went by the book and conditioned him to work him up to the point where he could make the daily runs with me. Granted he got hit by a car 3 years later and shattered his hip and ended up being a walking buddy instead of a running buddy. Ironic I know.

Another reason I'm hesitant to get dogs from shelters is because there's been studies and evidence that spaying/neutering before dogs go through puberty may potentially increase arthritis risks/severity. No shelter worth adopting from would let me walk out with a puppy being all 'yo I'll be back to chop his nuts off in 18 months, promise.'

Purebred dogs aren't perfect, honestly they're not a good match for most people because of the costs involved in getting a nice one but for me, shelter dogs aren't a good match either. And I don't think purebred is the only way to safeguard yourself against health issues such as hip dysplasia, I do think a well bred purebred is one of the only ways to honestly know your chances of dealing with health issues. Everything else is more of a roll of the dice, except maybe the shitty purebred dogs, those I'm positive in saying you can just assume it'll deal with one of the major health issues for it's specific breed. So perhaps buying shitty quality would be the best way for me to know exactly what I was getting into. ;)

mugwump said...

Did they return you Scamp?

Scamp said...

No, though I'm sure my parents wouldn't have minded being able to when I was in my teens. :)

redhorse said...
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NotAFollower said...

lil_peanut mentioned one of the things that I think (based on observation and research) is a factor: pediatric spay/neuter. Those hormones are important to physical development, and cutting them off (or out) early appears to have a detrimental affect on development.

NotAFollower said...

I've seen purebred dogs from good lines, responsible breeders, parents tests for multiple generations for between $1K and $2K. Considering the life of a dog, I don't consider that too much. I know some more popular breeds cost more.

Also, you have to x-ray a dog after it's mature to be sure if there's hip dysplasia or not. The standard for OFA testing is two years.

mugwump said...

Not A Follower - I didn't say it was too much, I said I don't have it...bear in mind when I say two to three semesters from the college fund, I'm talking Community College.

Anonymous said...

I now have a pure bred, registered (with endorsements) dog. Yeah, I spent a lot more money on buying him than I did in buying my first dog from a shelter.
I have spend less on the expensive pup in the four months I have owned him than I did on the shelter dog in the four months I had him until he had to be PTS.
The shelter dog was chosen after talking to the shelter people and researching the breeds that were thought to be in his make up. He sounded brilliant for us. Unfortunately I though that time, work and patience could overcome what appeared to be a bit of shyness.
The dog was hand raised by the shelter from about 3 weeks old. He was neutered at approx 14 weeks old. He was not socialised well with men, especially tall men.

What we were told was a foster placement turned out to be a failed adoption - we never were told why it failed. The poor dog went through 4-5 different placements before we got him age 9-10 months. They even tried to tell us he wouldn't grow any more, despite him having massive growth plates showing on his legs.
He was a rottie/lab/?hound or pig dog cross. Lovely looking but after we had him a little while we had more and more problems. The shelter were not as helpful as they said they would be so we spent a fair bit of money on vet checks and a certified behaviourist and trainer. The poor dog had massive fear issues and it appeared that the bark and growl had been beaten out of him, we did a huge amount of work trying to improve things for him so that we could walk around the house and have the TV on without him having to run from the room in fear. we started making progress, then he started to get sore and was walking 'short' more vet visits and yep HD. His other issues became dramatically worse and we just couldn't keep him sane or pain free without massive amounts of drugs. We PTS nearly 4 months to the day after we got him.
He came from supposedly the best and biggest shelter in the area (within 200km drive)of where we live. I have heard many similar stories from other people and I have lost a lot of faith in the shelter movement.
So yeah, this time I got a dog from bloodlines that have been health tested for generations (direct and sideways) from a breeder that breeds for temperament and type, I don't have any lions running around in the local area to hunt, so he's not going to fulfill his original breed purpose, however he's going to have a good few jobs to do when he's grown up.
In the US I think you have more choice in the shelter dogs, as you have many more of them. I recently met a guy that had emigrated from the US that got a purebred elkhound from a shelter (he was looking for a GSD x!) there are very few pure bred dogs turning up in shelters here.

Unknown said...

Oh, and I woud have kept drugging the poor dog if it gave him quality of life, but the drugs have side effects, and we have to give drugs to be able to manage the side effects and it was a messy, sad circle.

Cindy D. said...

When I was a very young girl, and my family just started out in the dog show world, one of the top lab breeders in the country was having a conversation with my mom.

Her exact words were, "There is a lot wrong in the breeding world right now and it is up to us to fix it. It will take years to undo the damage that has been done to our breed (and to others as well) but it can be done if we stay vigilant, never compromise our principles, and always use our breeding program to better the breed rather than to line our pocket books." She was truly a pioneer in the world of show Labradors.

I was at my first dog show in many years about 2 years ago, and I saw her there. She was in her 90's this time and it was so cool to see her treated as the royalty she really was. I believe she just passed away this past year.

She set the standards for what it meant to be a responsible breeder, and I know so many who follow in her foot steps.

It seems as though their efforts have finally paid off because it is rare for any of the breeders I know to have a dog with displaysia. Still they test every single one they plan on using for breeding. Just in case. They also test for any other genetic problem that could arise.

Lil_peanut- I totally understand and agree with your reasons for buying from breeders you know and respect. Growing up as I did, to me it is what seems normal. It doesn't stop me from wanting to help out rescue's when I can, but I sure do "get" the thought process behind what you do.

GILTgal said...

Mugwump, I am curious (and this is an honest question, no hidden trap being set), what you think should be done about dogs/dog breeding?

It seems like you are saying that we should just leave dog breeding alone and let nature take over and produce those that can survive.

Or am I taking your "man-made mess" statement too literally?

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Super info in this post (especially the comments) Mugs - thanks.

I think I did well by Sweetpea - my larger sized (85lb) lab/pit mix - as far as her feeding and weight went, (she was a fit, slim pup) but had no idea I over-exercised her. Long beach walks and runs. And the thought of how often she jumped up into the back of my pick-up sickens me.

She was pts at 13 1/2, diagnosed with Cushings at 9. History of "allergies" that expressed themselves with skin issues - weepy itchy sores on her belly and allopecia - seemed to be seasonal and not food related. Her hips were giving way by the end, but I honestly don't know how to attribute her many maladies in those final years.

Anyone out there knowledgeable about Cushings in dogs - I'd appreciate hearing some facts. I always thought the seven doses of steroids was to blame...

mugwump said...

"It seems like you are saying that we should just leave dog breeding alone and let nature take over and produce those that can survive."

Wow. I never said that, in any way shape or form.

mugwump said...

FYI I just deleted a comment -- which I rarely do, it was some guy pushing a product...and a video link. I delete that kind of stuff immediately.

zebradreams07 said...

I have to disagree with not exercising young dogs. Using a wild population as an example - wolf puppies have to be able to keep up with adults from a young age. Maybe a few weak ones can't do so but in general the strong, healthy ones have no problem, and their whole body gets stronger and more able to handle exercise as the skeleton matures. Of course I agree with not OVER working them as babies. Much like horses - the best way for them to mature is to run and play in a field like nature designed, not to be pushed hard for futurities nor locked in a stall.

redhorse said...
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PonyFan said...

Calm, Forward, Straight
Re: Cushing's, our family dog developed this disease as well, and sadly, there are no straight answers.

More vets and studies are showing that we have more dogs with hormonal imbalances, i.e. Cushing's, etc today than ever before.

Some feel that this is somewhat natural; we also have more dogs with cancer than ever before, because our dogs live longer than ever before, and these are conditions associated with age.

Some feel that Cushing's is on a rise, like allergies are on the rise, due to increased inbreeding and limited gene pools.

Others feel that these conditions are a result of the increased popularity of the early spay/neuter. In the past, even those who chose to spay/neuter often did so after the dog had at least one heat cycle, and more often than not after they developed fully. There is a growing concern over the long term effect of depriving puppies of sex hormones during their growth. That we are in fact, taxing their adrenal glands by removing their sex organs so early, and leading to eventual breakdown, i.e. Cushing's disease.

That said; most vets are still advocating for spaying and neutering before they reach puberty, i.e. the first heat cycle, because any bitch has a 1 in 4 chance of developing mammary tumors- about half of which are benign and half are malignant. Most of the malignant tumors are still non-spreading, and not life-threatening, but do need to be surgically removed. Bitches that are spayed before their first heat cycle do not develop these tumors. In male dogs, neutering early guarantees that the removal of the sex hormones will influence behaviors, aggression, marking, etc. Male dogs who reach puberty before being fixed are more likely to develop these behaviors, and neutering is less likely to reduce or eliminate undesirable behavior.

And those are only some of the medical reasons early spay or neuter is desirable, I am not even going to touch the societal aspect of it all.

redhorse said...
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Calm, Forward, Straight said...

PonyFan -

Appreciate the food for thought. It makes sense to me that a cause or contributing factor for the widespread conditions our pets suffer from these days could likely be as widespread i.e early spay neuter...

Thanks for letting me briefly sidetrack Mugs. :D

mugwump said...

Redhorse - Please, take your conversation with Jerry elsewhere. He did not come here to enter the conversation, he came here to sell a product. Then, he was rude. Then, he posted a lecture, still pointed at selling his product. My blog is not here for him to promote a product I know nothing about...by tolerating him, even by ignoring him I would be endorsing him.
Jerry completely blew that prospect with me, I absolutely will not tolerate somebody shoving their agenda down my throat on this blog.

Ozhorse said...

I am an Australian sheep and cattle farmer and we could not do it without working dogs. I am talking about working bred border Collies and kelpies. And not about the bench bred and registered border collies and kelpies. I didn’t realize there was so much difficulty with dog breeding until reading blogs.

I don’t hear hip displasia mentioned, or see it, in farming circles. I think it would get weeded out in a heartbeat. So how do the majority of working dogs that don’t get this problem live?

There is not much room for sentimentality as otherwise one could end up with more dogs than sheep, and the retirement positions tend to be reserved for the good dogs after the end of their working career. So genetic selection against would play a part.

They often work hard. When I say hard I mean real hard, like 8 hour days, or until they just wont work any more from exhaustion. If they get exhausted too quickly they don’t get bred from. If they are cattle dogs the cattle will try, and sometimes succeed, in grinding them in the dirt. If they are sheep dogs and will do yard work they get trampled by the sheep and have to jump over yard fences all day. A lot of dogs work both sheep and cattle.

There is a fair bit of attrition from injury. This is understandable. Arthritis is common in older dogs. They will still work very hard for a long time with a bit of arthritis. This is not hip dysplasia.

They jump up and down all day in and out of utes and bikes and over fences. Some old timers said there was less arthritis about when they just followed horses all day and did more miles and less jumping up and down.

They often start their working life young, at 6 months old, and are in full work by one. With a good trainer at 2 they are expected to be fully trained and experienced. While I think too much exercise as a pup might hurt them that does not seem to stack against what I have seen, unless there is also a genetic component.

After a hard days work they get chained up or put in a kennel with where it is often cold. It is generally said that giving them something soft to sleep on reduces arthritis but many dogs just shred bedding so they don’t get it.

Spay/neuter – we don’t (unless it is to reduce the male dogs peeing all over the place). Why would you want to cut out breeding as an option on a good dog? The bitches only come in season a few days a year and that is easy enough to manage. Most of the problems I have is having trouble getting the bitches in pup. Perhaps too much de-sexing of the dogs does have something to do with hip displasia.

The vast majority of their diet is dog biscuits with a cut up sheep every now and then. – So I suspect it is not the dog biscuits in themselves, but the quantity if processed food is a factor if that.

THEY ARE NOT FAT, ever. They cannot work for more than a very short time if they are even a little overweight, especially if it is a hot climate(They can tolerate and extra ½ kg in a cold climate). It does not seem to hurt them to be a bit underweight or even a little stunted as puppies. Perhaps it is the overweight that is part of the problem.

What city folk think is a dog that you need to call the RSPCA about is actually a working dog in working condition. The pin bones over the hips need to be just showing, and you need to see the ribs clearly on a short haired dog. Most city dogs are grossly obese and their owners think they are normal.

So perhaps hip dysplasia is from a combo of genetics, too much food, and possibly too much spaying.

PS I think the story about a large percentage of dogs and bitches getting cancer if they are not castrated is propaganda from the pro-neuter (cant think of a less inflammatory description) dog Nazi brigade (and perhaps from the vet industry).

PPSS These dogs are often working hard into their teens – they start slowing down around 11 or 12 but some are still going well at 14.

Fi said...

Interesting debate going on here. I think the early spay / neuter debate and what it helps and what it hinders is one that is very much still going on. I'm a VN so naturally see a lot of dogs being neutered and also know a fair few people in the profession. My personal view is that a dog should ideally be fully matured and at its adult height and weight before being neutered. I think the bigger the dog the more important this is as obviously it takes them longer to grow. (I'd have less issues with the early neutering of something like a JRT as opposed to a Great Dane). Also having talked to behaviourists I wouldn't advise the castration of a dog with fear issues until they have been worked through as apparently the testosterone can actually help them to face up to these fears and castration can make such dogs worse.

Being in the profession I'm in I see what happens to unwanted / badly bred dogs and I also see some of the health problems unneutered dogs are at risk from so I'm definitely still pro-neutering. My view is that it is generally better for both society in general and the dog and owner in question that if the owner is not planning to responsibly (this being the key word!) breed (including all relevant health tests EVEN if they're planning on breeding a crossbreed!) the dog is neutered.

Personally were it my own dog I would probably aim to let a bitch have her first season (slightly increased risk of mammary tumours compared to pre first season but still a big reduction in risk but main reason for this is risk of pyometra, having seen MANY a pus-filled uterus it's something I really would not want my own dog to have to suffer). A dog as long as he coped fine and was well behaved I'd let him get to about a year or so (depending on breed). I still personally would neuter both to lessen the chance of the humping of random objects, chasing girls and marking stuff but also to eliminate risk of testicular cancer and lessen chance of prostate problems but I can totally see why a person may decide to keep a well mannered dog entire and deal with health problems if they occur (although people who refuse to castrate for their own psychological reasons when the dog being entire IS contributing to health issues make me want to tear my hair out)

Interestingly cats are routinely neutered at around 5/6 months and aside from urinary problems in male cats and weight gain if fed too much we don't seem to see any problems that would suggest cats don't cope with early neutering (good job really cos there is a massive, massive over population problem with stray cats over here in the UK and very few charities willing to actively take them on and rehome them, esp if injured and entire cats are a pain in the bum to live with normally!)

mugwump said...

This is why I love this blog. I learn so much. The old timers theory about arthritis being more common now that dogs are jumping in an out of vehicles seems to support the "no jumping until they are two" rule from my trainers.
I have never considered the effect on a dog's psychological well being from his testosterone levels, but it makes so much sense - especially since we call gelding our horses "brain surgery."

Ozhorse said...


Working farm dogs sure do seem much simpler than city bred dogs. I know only one dog that has died from mammary cancer and it was a town dog. Testicular cancer, mammary cancer I havent heard of them getting that much either. Pyometria - I can see why a bitch that has had some litters might get it. Behavioural disorders? I would say they were more likely to be caused by the handlers not knowing what to do with the dog and perhaps a forced sedentary lifestyle.

I have 8 dogs at the moment, 5 bitches and 3 dogs. Often the sexes are kennelled together. One of the dominant bitches, or a visiting bitch, will lead the others into season, about 2 x a year. It is easy to keep them separate. While the dogs do ask me to let them in with the girls it is no big deal, I just call the dogs away and they work fine. In 7 years I have only bred 2 litters and that was on purpose. I have not been able to get pups on 6 other occasions when I wanted them.

On the other hand I am not a vet nurse in the city so perhaps the sedentary lifestyle, inbreeding and overfeeding bring on a whole raft of problems for dogs.

A good trainer I know thinks working dogs benefit from their testosterone, to give them more drive. Bitches are known for very good work ethics.

Other working dogs are often bought onto farms by shearers and contract workers and employees. Generally they get on surprisingly well. More often I have seen the bitches fight than the dogs. The boys just seem to posture amongst themselves more.

mugwump said...

Redhorse - thank you.

PonyFan said...

The problem is that early spay/neuter has it's fingers in so many pies, spaying and neutering can contribute to obesity, slowing a dogs metabolism, quite likely contributing to hypothyroid disorders. The effects of obesity on puppies is profoundly more long lasting, potentially lifelong.

That said, if people as a whole are failing so profoundly in managing their dogs condition with diet and exercise, do we want them assume responsibility for managing their dogs reproductive abilities?

I tend to think of neutering not so much as a black or white issue, but more of a shade of grey. The health concerns do seem to pan out, one female dog I chose to spay when she was older (9) because she was starting to get yeast infections, and I was worried about pyrometra. At the time of the spay, they found and removed a small mammary tumor. She had never been bred. Another older male dog was neutered at 12 because he was developing testicular cancer and his prostrate had become enlarged. He had never been bred.

I do not have that much experience with hip dysplasia, likely because my family prefers smaller dogs. However, we have struggled with luxating patellas quite a bit. So far we have not had a dog with one serious enough to require surgery, but it has been a common theme. None of these dogs have jobs other than family pet, and I do a lot of lecturing about feeding less and exercising more, but I have a feeling my day is coming: I keep seeing a "skip" in the step of my new dog, despite the fact he is only two years old and as light as a feather. I know nothing about his breeding (he is a rescue) except he came with "papers" stating he was purebred. Looking over these papers, they do not contain any contact information for the breeder or any bloodlines. They are not any sort of registry papers, so I can only assume the type of breeding operation that produced him.

So, I'm not inclined to rule out genetics.

Anonymous said...

There may be grey areas on spay/neuter for a few people (the bona fide responsible folk, hard-core working dog owners, etc.), but, for the vast majority of dog owners it really is black and white. Obesity risks and some possible but not yet scientifically established health complications scare me a lot less than another million pit/lab puppies getting dumped at the pound or on Craigslist.

PonyFan said...

Well, Anon, I guess I just don't believe the vast majority of dog owners are the ones contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.

The vast majority of dogs I see are neither labs nor pit bulls.

The vast majority of dogs I see are obese, if not plain old fat, though.

Sorry, mugwump, I started out with a little detour, and then at some point took a sharp turn and headed out in the opposite direction.

Fi said...

I don't think neutering should be used as a scapegoat for obesity. Yes neutered animals have a lower energy requirement but if this is taken into account with type / quantity of food fed, exercise and not going overboard on treats then there is absolutely no reason for them to be overweight.

I think the problem is that most of the owners who end up with overweight animals haven't really thought about what they're putting into their pet on a daily basis. Either they won't weigh / measure food at all but will just put a bowlful down and replenish when empty or they'll measure the main meals but will top that up with unlimited treats and human food. Yes neutered animals will gain weight more easily but any animal will become overweight if the amount of calories going in greatly exceeds what is expended in exercise.

zebradreams07 said...

My dogs are all fixed before they're a year old, and the only trouble I've had with obesity was when my former boss stuffed my senior pitty full of every treat imaginable. He's always been somewhere of an "easy keeper" and I always cut his rations if I saw him starting to pack on pounds. Since leaving that job I've gotten his weight back down but he now has chronic health issues as a result. I should have left sooner :(

Anyway, the original point of this post is that I have no problem keeping my fixed dogs at a healthy weight if they are fed appropriate amounts of good quality (I don't mean break the bank) food, adjusted as necessary, and healthy treats fed SPARINGLY. My lab mutt is about 50 lb at 7 months, and his ribs are just covered.

mugwump said...

I haven't had any trouble keeping my dogs at a healthy weight.They have all been neutered and all kept so I could easily feel their ribs, spine and hipbones.
How do I do it? I feed like I was taught as a kid. The dog gets fed, twice a day. If his bones feel stark, he's not getting enough, if I can't feel them sliding under my hand when I pet him, it's too much.
Now, I wish I could get somebody to do that for me.
"My, I can't feel your ribs,here's your new ration. "

Alyssa said...

So, long time reader and first time commenting here. I currently have a 3-year-old male GSD mix who was fixed at 2 by the shelter we adopted him from, and a 5-month-old Boxer female who I have not yet spayed. I recently came upon the debate of the pediatric spay/neuter last week, and now it shows up here again. Does anyone have any good sources for information regarding it? A month ago I would have told you she was being fixed in May for sure, but now I'm not so sure if that's best for her. In my opinion, she's already at a disadvantage because of where she came from (BYB for sure, came flea-infested and with tapeworms). I just want to do what's best for her.

P.S. mugwump I've read your blog beginning to end and you never cease to make me think about new things, I love it.

Ozhorse said...

Alyssa, the problem with not spaying your bitch is if she gets in pup when you dont want her to. That is likely to depend on what housing arrangements you have for her. If she lives in your back yard in the suburbs with a fairly low fence, or a not so secure fence then either she could get out or a male dog could get in. In that case it might be better to spay earlier.

If you have a totally dog proof kennel to put her in when she is on heat for a fortnight or so then you just lock her in when she is on - no problem. Spay her when and if you want. They only come on about 2 x a year, sometimes less. It is not that big a hassle. If she lives in the house with you she will drip blood for a while before she is fully in heat which you wont want around the house so that is a second reason to spay. The kennel also avoids that problem too.

Alyssa said...

Right now (and for much of the future) I live in an apartment so the only time she is outside is on leash, so I have no worries about accidental pregnancies. I'm going to talk to my vet more about it when she goes in next as well, they are the best vet I've had before with regards to a lot of things so I think I can trust what they say. Thank you for the information Ozhorse. =]

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