Polygenetic diseases and inheritance

To every dogbreeder or owner who prefers to live in the reality and the here&now when it comes to the inheritance of polygenetic diseases, of which there are many, I strongly reccomend to read this article:

BINGO! Understandig Polygenetic Inheritance by C.A. Sharp

It’s frustrating to see breeders refusing to educate themselves, while I feel we have a huge responsibility to do so before breeding. We need to know what genetic diseases could become a problem in our breed, what diseases we are facing, how they are inherited and the best way to try to make sure we do not produce puppies affected by these diseases. If we are not facing facts or relying on irrelevant or out-dated theories, how can we honestly say we are doing all we can to produce happy, healthy dogs?

This article simplifies, in as much as such complicated matter cán be simplified, how poylgenetic diseases like HD and Primary Epilepsy are passed off from parents to offspring. Especially with diseases involving many – as yet unknown – genes in combinations that are still unclear, Mother Nature sure can be a bitch and present a breeder who felt a certain line or a certain dog was ‘safe’ with a nasty surprise by producing exactly that disease.

The article also clarifies why it’s near impossible to ever say a line or an individual dog is free of these genes. While dogs suffering from a disease are easily spotted and we can indicate dogs that have produced diseased offspring while they themselves are healty as carriers, a breeder can never really state with certainty a dog or bloodline is free.
A male with a large amount of offspring with females from different bloodlines which hasn’t produced a single offspring with the disease, could be considered clean. However, in our breed, having large amounts of offspring from one male doesn’t help the genetic diversity so I don’t see the point in that. The males with large amounts of offspring in our breed, tend to have been bred to the same bloodline or even the same female over and over again, thus not giving us much usefull information.

It scares me when I see people stating ‘facts’ about diseases, how they are passed on in general and going on to say they have yet to produce it, indicating their dogs are free.  Is that what they tell potential buyers?
Of course, every potential puppy buyer would love statements like that. Isn’t that what we all want to hear when looking to buy a dog? That it will guaranteed be healthy and live to a ripe old age without ever seeing the vet?
I sure hope breeders are more realistic and honest when it comes to informing potential buyers!

Breeders pretending the inheritance of polygenetic diseases is simple and stating their dogs or lines are free, are not doing themselves, other breeders or their puppy buyers any favors if you ask me.
If science indicates the inheritance is still largely unknown, how can even the most educated breeder state it is simple and they know they are breeding disease-free puppies?
Naturally, knowing pedigrees and bloodlines in your breed is a big help and good breeders do their homework. But as the article also does a good job of showing, one can never know when a certain nasty disease comes out. Often when you least expect it!

Most breeders are working very hard at educating the public that breeding dogs is not exact science and buying a puppy is not like buying a new car. We are talking about live animals. Any living thing is at risk of getting ill, of which some diseases are genetic. Breeder should not be held accountable for every imperfection when they can show they have taken every precaution.
While for a lot of autosomal recessive inherited diseases breeders can turn to DNA-testing nowadays, for polygenetic diseases most aren’t even close to even having as much as a marker test.
With DNA-testing breedingstock (and if needed puppies), guarantees can be given, often before the puppy leaves the breeders home.
When breeders start pretending they can guarantee their puppies won’t suffer from polygenetic diseases, they are given the buyers a false sense of safety.

By pretending to be able to give this sense of safety, breeders are basicly encouraging buyers to view their puppy as a product instead of as a living animal. The recent rise of the number of court cases where buyers sue breeders for not delivering a ‘perfect product’, indicates the way our society is equating an animal to a product nowadays. It also shows the risks breeders take when not careful about emphasising their buyers they can NOT guarantee their dog will ever get sick.

There is no need to actively scare owners about the fact their new puppy can get sick and most probably will not get trough life without a few bumps as every living thing. Especially not when the breeder can show he or she has done his or her homework, and can – and does!- show the potential puppy buyers why they feel their chosen combination if hopefully safe for inherited diseases.
What we need to give is honest and realistic information so all parties know what they are getting into.

As breeders we have the duty to show potential buyers – and even the general public – what we do to prevent to produce sick dogs.
We have the duty to be able to justify why we do a certain combination. We do health testing and we show the results to the potential new owners. If possible we guarantee them that their puppy will never get this or that disease because we can show the parents are geneticaly free, or that their puppy is carrier at most in diseases where carriers will never be affected.
At the same time our duty is to tell them they are buying a living animal, with all the risks attached.

When breeders are pretending breeding healthy dogs and getting away from polygenetic diseases is simple, they are being dishonest and deceiving both themselves and their buyers.

If a breeder wants to offer their buyers a guarantee, in that they will provide money back or a new puppy should their dog be affected with a disease considered genetic for which we cannot DNA-test: by all means do. It shows you stand for your breeding programme and have confidence in what your dogs produce.
Guaranteeing that these diseases will not pop up at all, is simply impossible.

I hope all breeders, in whatever breed, educate themself on diseases that are or could become a problem in their breed. It’s important to understand, as much as possible, how every disease is passed on to offspring. Showing potential buyers what, if anything, can be done to guarantee healthy pups, should be normal.
I also hope it will become normal procedure for potential puppy buyers seek objective information to educate themselves so they know what to ask for, but do not have to rely purely on the information breeders give them.