What's Behind the Scenes?
Working GSD breeding is in full swing! IGP enthusiasts are pampered with excellent performances at the sports fields. Dogs that manages to convince experts with their features, rise as objects of admiration. Many breeders build their breeding plans for these “icons”, not because of thoughtful breeding planning, but because that way litters are easier to sell. However, a peek behind the scenes of IGP sport should upset even the most experienced enthusiasts.
IGP enthusiasts are an easy target for performance-oriented breeding work
While health issues speak for themselves, performance seems to take precedence over health in working GSD breeding. Males are advertised with great videos and breeders announce litters with pedigrees full of iconic dogs. Health information are mentioned as long as there is positive to tell. Working abilities are easy to demonstrate and celebrity dogs make litters “bestsellers”. And that is what people seem to value the most.
Despite of all the health risks, and methods that have been developed to avoid them, behind the scenes of IGP sport there are still breeders and stud owners who are not interested in clarifying the relevant health information for their dogs. There are combinations, that has sufficient researched information about both parents, including x-rays and genetic tests. The clear majority, however, represents breeding where data is only partially found. And what about those litters where parents have very limited health data, only HD / ED results? One may wonder, whether this is ignorance or whether bad health information is simply left unreported. Or maybe there is nothing wrong, but lack of important data allow to suspect health issues. But when the focus is on dogs and their performance, it is easier to ignore gaps in health information when needed.
Health issues are becoming increasingly difficult
There are two important but simple cornerstones in the breeding of a working German Shepherd – health and working qualities. You simply don’t have a complete package if one of them is missing. In theory, it is easy to agree on this, but behind the scenes of IGP sport practice has shown the opposite. While browsing working dog – site I found many theoretically interesting combinations. Among several of these combinations were inadequate info of skeletal health. In addition combinations with the risk of autoimmune diseases is obvious were particularly strongly represented. For some reason, taking care of the health of the breed is not particularly strongly reflected in the puppy plans of all breeders. In any case autoimmune diseases have long been a serious and insidious concern. It is very clear that with these kind of choises the German Shepherd suffers from health problems that are becoming increasingly difficult, or almost impossible to control.
are the reason why working GSD breeding is in crisis
Autoimmune diseases are related to an individual’s defense mechanisms. Autoimmune disease erroneously destroys an individual’s own tissues and is often associated with hereditary predisposition. There are numerous autoimmune diseases. The most common autoimmune diseases in dogs include allergies, atopies, hypothyroidism and diabetes. There is also Addison’s disease, thrombocytopenia, and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia. In addition to these, there are rheumatic diseases, autoimmune meningitis, and various intestinal diseases.
Ignorance is bliss?
Pannus refers to chronic superficial keratitis i.e. inflammation of the cornea. Plasmoma refers to thickening of the third eyelid caused by a immunemediated inflammation. Anal furunculosis is a chronic, progressive inflammation of the area surrounding the anus. This painful disease causes one or more fistulas in the anal area which can become very deep.
Don’t say you’ve never heard
Wrinkling, licking, flaking. Hairless spots in the skin, yeast in the ears, atopy, vesicles, metabolic problems.
Canine pemphigus diseases are skin diseases that cause autoimmune blistering. Five different forms of pemphigus are known in dogs. The most common is pemphigus foliaceus. Pemphigus erythematosus has been found especially in German Shepherds.
You know the risk lines
Even with a little research and drawing conclusions, it is possible to deduce males inheriting autoimmune diseases. For bitches, the investigation is more difficult but possible. Also dogs with back issues are quite easy to see.
Enthusiasts are accustomed to dogs health problems
The health of the German Shepherd has not collapsed over the night, nor has it happened without the knowledge of the breeders. Dog owners have long been accustomed to live with a variety of dogs “ordinary ailments”, but not been associated in to immunological problems. Knowledge has however increased. Now we know, that under autoimmune diseases, there is a really wide range of diseases. For many reasons, they have been ignored. And now behind the scenes of IGP sport with systematic breeding they have spread explosively.
There is no doubt that immunological diseases today are much more serious issues for GSD health than hips and elbows or even the spine. There is no doubt that dogs with inadequate health are used for breeding. Easier said than done, but we should put an end to it by demanding comprehensive health information from the breeding. A small consolation is that skeletal problems are quite well manageable by x-rays. Autoimmune diseases, however, are completely a different story.
Mother of Grauenfeld O-,P, and Q -litters, all litters with different breeding partners
Father of Bora Excalibur Europa, father of Grauenfeld J-, K-, and O -litters, 2 other breedings in Finland, also few breedings in Slovakia
Daughter of Pussi Eqidius x Yasko v. Haus Kasfeld (6 siblings in the litter, grand daughter of Leon v. Staatsmacht)
Are we just following the situation on the sidelines?
Should we do something differently,
The bones of the spine and limbs should be routinely x-rayed: HD, ED, LTV, LÛV, OCD, spodylose, knees, shoulders. In the most obvious cases elbows, spine and knees can be recognise even with the naked eye.
There is only one option if any positive change to the health is desired. Existing knowledge should be put to good use and make choices by leaving sick and symptomatic individuals out of breeding.
In the past few years, the dog's genome has been sequenced, which has opened up tremendous possibilities for uncovering the genetic background of the hereditary diseases.
Don't get me wrong!
Good things are inherited - so are unwanted ones
If either of the parent of the litter has health problems, it means they most likely continue to carry them. Sometimes issues may even jump over one generation. But who consciously wants to take a risk? IGP-enthusiasts need to make a clearer statement to breeders and demand healthier dogs. Before all it requires also a whole new kind of honesty and transparency from breeders and stud owners, as well as careful selective breeding.
- the worst breeding plan ever
There are risk litters in terms of skeletal health, but combinations where the risk of autoimmune diseases is obvious are particularly strongly represented. Looking at those risky pedigrees it reminds more of a puzzle how breeders look to assemble certain dogs for their breeding work. It is almost an obsession to get all those famous and “iconic” dogs in the same pedigree. Maybe these breeders don’t know about the health problems of certain dogs, and how they inherited various illnesses – or maybe they do. However it gives an idea of them being ignorant of the basics of breeding, especially about inbreeding and it’s dangers.
...to avoid these?
Fortunately, there are tools to find them. A wide range of genetic tests have been developed to study dogs. The aforementioned health exams has been available for quite some time. Nevertheless their use is limited. Despite these available tests do not yet reveal all autoimmune diseases, they give information that can’t be left unused.
The result of indifference, covering up problems, and making poor breeding choices:
Puppy mortality, developmental disorders, skeletal problems, skin problems, tumors – and the list goes on.
Enthusiasts have accepted indifferent breeding work as part of the disadvantages of IGP sports
Despite the fact that people don’t want to talk about it, enthusiasts as well as breeders are well aware of all health problems and their related side effects. Dogs have become disposable and recyclable. If a puppy, or an adult turns out to be deficient in characteristics or health, it will often end up being euthanized, or become a domestic dog. Some dogs are sold abroad.
Instead of limiting autoimmune diseases, breeders continue to spread them more widely. There are dogs that shouldn’t be using for breeding under any circumstances. On the contrary, some breeders are drawing those dogs into their combinations from both, mother and father side. In these cases have to wonder, how breeders see their responsibilities for their choices. On the other hand, they strive to make combinations that dog athletes are interested in. IGP enthusiasts should therefore review their priorities, and understand their role in breeding work, including health promotion. In addition expectations for work abilities, health should also be self-evident.
Tests don’t make a breed healthier, only the actions of breeders do
Thanks to those enthusiasts who openly provide x-ray and gene test health information about their dogs. Their assistance is invaluable in the investigation of inherited diseases and their routes. Although the data are limited in relation to the number of dogs, they make it possible to draw conclusions. It does not require a very large expedition into the pedigrees, to be able to form a rough outline of the risk group, and the most common health problems among the dogs in it. There is only one option if any positive change to the health is desired. Existing knowledge should be put to good use and make choices by leaving sick and symptomatic individuals out of breeding. And that is on breeders responsibility.