Dogs. They are man’s best friend and loyal pets. There are many breeds of dogs, all equally amazing, but most people would agree that purebred dogs are the highest quality dog. After all, they are the dogs in their most “natural” and “healthiest” states. However, is that really the case? In actuality, these ‘breeds’ are made up and most purebred dogs are riddled with genetic diseases.
Purebreds were born out of England 100 years ago, when competitive dog breeding was all the rage among the wealthy. People worked to manipulate genetics to create new looks for dogs, and then arbitrarily named their creations “breeds.” This means that the so-called breeds are simply cultural creations with no genetic basis.
Over the last few centuries, an increasing amount of pedigree breeds, or dogs that are offspring of two dogs of the same breed, have been made so that desirable features are rigidly retained. The problem, however, is that these dogs are often inbred to maintain these desirable features.
Over time, the American Kennel Club and other such organizations have set standards defining what each breed should look like. Because of these standards, many breeders use line breeding – a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson. Inbreeding causes the inheritance of desirable genes to be more frequent than outbred couples, which is useful when trying to rigidly maintain these certain characteristics.
However, inbreeding also causes the inheritance of undesirable genes to be more frequent, which then causes a slew of health problems and genetic diseases. Inbreeding makes it more likely for a dog to be born with inborn genetic errors, and more vulnerable to bacterial/viral (pathogen) attacks through a lack of genetic diversity.
Take for example, the bulldog. Once a strong and healthy dog species, after generations of inbreeding, almost all of them have health problems and relatively short lifespans. One reason for the relatively short lifespan is the bulldog’s anatomy. Its short face, muzzle, and pinched nostrils give it breathing problems, and they are unable to cool themselves down well because panting is difficult for them. Another issue the bulldogs struggle with is hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint leading to lameness and arthritis. Its wrinkled skin makes the bulldog vulnerable to various skin problems, including hair loss and lesions. These problems were all created by generations of inbreeding simply because people wanted to try and maintain certain traits that the older generation of bulldogs had.
Now that we know the truth about purebred dogs, what can we do about it? Sarah Rice, the president of the Animal Rights Club at Oakwood, says, “Kennel Clubs could fix this problem if they simply allowed these dogs to crossbreed, but that is not something we can control. Instead, the most important thing is to inform the public. Public awareness, education, and especially the support of breeders and/or breed clubs are significant factors in making changes in the currently implemented rules on breeding successful.”