As you’ve done some research, you are probably already aware that some unethical breeders and even some show breeders routinely use breeding practices that have, over time, increased the prevalence of a number of genetically inherited diseases in the most popular breeds of dogs.
To try to put people’s minds at greater ease over these problems, (many of which they themselves have exacerbated), show breeders have devised a highly organized system of health testing ‘requirements’ that they promote as ‘necessary’ and ‘essential’ to ensure that a puppy buyer will acquire a healthy puppy, with less chance of having a genetically inherited disease.
Many, not all, show breeders insist that all dogs being bred should have an entire battery of health tests, which result in the dog being registered with a ‘CHIC’ number, (Canine Health Information Center). They advertise their own dogs as “CHIC certified”, as if this represents some assurance that the dog is free from genetic disease. The prospective buyer can even look up a dog’s CHIC number in an online database.
This battery of health tests is relatively expensive, and that expense is, of course, passed on to the puppy buyer as a higher price paid for puppies.
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees with all this testing; even if breeders go to the expense of hip x-rays and breed only those with good or excellent hips, puppies can still develop bad hips.
As one might easily guess, the ‘specialists’ who administers these expensive tests, and get paid for doing them, think it is a great idea that all dogs should be tested.
What people who are shopping for a healthy puppy need to know is that there are currently NO tests that are able to detect genetic markers for any of the most common genetic diseases. There are only a small handful of genetic tests that can test for rarer genetic diseases in a very limited handful of breeds, but the tests that make up the battery of CHIC tests simply determine whether or not a given dog has the diseases tested for at the time the dog is tested.
Again, these expensive tests simply give no guarantee whatsoever that a given dog does not carry the genes that lead to genetic diseases.
One of the most common, and most heart breaking, genetically inherited diseases that plague many breeds of purebred dogs is hip dysplasia, (which thankfully is relatively rare in Havanese). The gene pool in many of the most popular breeds has been so limited by restrictive show breeding practices over many years that the disease in some breeds affects a large percentage of individual puppies. In Pugs for example, fully 51% of puppies have inherited the gene(s) that will cause crippling hip dysplasia.
The test that dogs undergo for hip dysplasia is simply an x-ray. The x-ray can determine whether that dog is exhibiting the disease at the time the x-ray is taken. The x-ray cannot determine whether the dog carries the gene(s) for hip dysplasia, and will develop the disease in the future.
Thus a dog can be ‘CHIC certified’, and that dog may be the sire or dam of your puppy, but that dog may carry the gene for hip dysplasia, (or other genetic diseases), and may simply have not yet developed the disease, or may carry a recessive gene for a disease, and may never develop that disease, but may have passed it on to the puppies it sired, or whelped. If those puppies inherit a matching recessive gene from its other parent, who also may not exhibit the disease, and may be CHIC certified, that puppy will develop the disease.
Is CHIC testing a ‘rip off’ then? No…We wouldn’t say that.
For breeders who use breeding practices that restrict the gene pool among breeding stock, CHIC testing may reveal diseases in some dogs before a dam or sire can produce more puppies. That dam or sire may already have produced many puppies, but it is always good to find out as soon as possible that this dam or sire, however beautiful it may be, and/or however many championships it may have won, carries a genetic disease that is common among dogs that are bred from a restrictive gene pool.
The most beautiful dogs do not carry the “best” genes:
If we want to understand the problem of genetic diseases in purebred dogs, we have to take a sober look at the breeding practices of show breeders, (who like to call themselves “reputable breeders”, let’s not forget).
Many show breeders breed for beauty. That’s it. Their highest priority is to breed the most beautiful dogs that can win the most dog beauty contests. THAT is what show breeders do. Period.
The breeding practices that are routinely accepted among show breeders allow a distressing degree of inbreeding among their dogs. It is a well known fact that excessive use of inbreeding and line breeding of top/winner show dogs will further reduce genetic diversity which creates problem diseases in purebred dogs. Popular sire syndrome is a result of a practice common among show breeders that, over time, engenders breeding between dogs that share a restricted gene pool.
The routine practices of some show breeders are ‘worse’ than that, however. Breeding a sire to that sire’s own daughter for example, (or a son to a dam), is not uncommon, nor is breeding closely related siblings to each other.
Show breeders have, in fact, devised a formal ‘point system’ to try to manage these inbreeding practices. Breeding a sire to his own daughter, for example, ‘earns’ a certain number of points to the puppies of that union. Breeding a sire to a granddaughter, ‘earns’ the puppies a smaller number of points. Breeding between cousins, or between sires and dams to their own aunts and uncles, earn even fewer points for the puppies. And so on….
When any individual dog’s pedigree is examined, a certain number of inbreeding points are allowed, and the dog can continue to be bred. If a dog exceeds that number of inbreeding points, it will no longer be bred.
Thus, inbreeding is a routine and accepted practice that has actually been formally institutionalized among show breeders. Is breeding a sire to his own daughter in order to produce a champion for a show breeder really in the best interest of the breed?
Show breeders have developed, and constantly promote, the CHIC health testing system to compensate for the long-term results of their own breeding practices.
CHIC (CHIC stands for Canine Health Information Center) (Basically a data collection service)
Since CHIC testing cannot detect, and therefore does not actually offer any protection against, genetically inherited diseases, we do not have our dogs tested.
When we see how our dogs love to run at breakneck speed, and then roll and tumble, and then take off again at full speed, we just don’t need an expensive x-ray, costing several hundred dollars, to tell us that our dogs do not have hip disease.
When they listen to us and obey our routine commands, we don’t need to get their hearing tested to know that they don’t have genetic deafness.
When they run at top speed for miles, and back again, and are eager and ready to run some more, we just don’t need an expensive test to tell us that their hearts are in good condition.
And so on…..
Our sires, Buster and Kaiser, do not share ANY relatives, for as far back as their pedigrees record, with our four dams, CoCo, Mia, Sadie, and Piper.
A diverse gene pool, and a breeder who is careful to AVOID the inbreeding that is common among many show breeders, is your best bet for avoiding inherited diseases.
You can pay more, if you insist, for puppies from dogs that have been “CHIC certified”, but your money is buying you very little, in terms of peace of mind, since the very breeders who are most prone to insist on CHIC testing, are the same breeders who may inbreed their dogs in their constant quest to produce a beautiful champion.