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‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’

By Dr. Andrew Jones

I recently watched a very disturbing documentary called”

‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’

In 2008, Jemima Harrison directed Pedigree Dogs Exposed, a BBC documentary which uncovered the extent of health and welfare problems in pedigree dogs.

The film itself is very disturbing, and being a practicing veterinarian for nearly 20 years, and seeing the host of health problems with purebred or pedigree dogs, I couldn’t agree more with her.

Her documentary gives the example of a ‘new’ neurologic disorder seen in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Syringomyelia (SM)

In this disease the affected dogs can not walk correctly, they fall to the side, and their legs fail to work properly.

This is a condition in which fluid-filled cavities develop within the spinal cord near the brain. Supposedly it is also known as “neck scratcher’s disease”, because one of its common signs is scratching in the air near the neck.

SM is rare in most breeds but has become very widespread in cavalier King Charles spaniels. The number of diagnosed cases in cavaliers has increased dramatically since 2000. Researchers estimate that up to 95% of CKCSs have Chiari-like malformation (CM or CLM) – also known as caudal occipital malformation syndrome (COMS) or occipital hypoplasia (OH), the skull bone malformation present in all cases and believed to be at least part of the cause of syringomyelia – and that more than 50% of cavaliers have SM. The severity and extent of syringomyelia also appear to get worse in each succeeding generation of cavaliers. (Source: Cavalier Health.org)

——————————————————–
Ectropion, 3rd eyelid prolapse in a Winning Basset
——————————————————–

Another example that she posted on her blog (http://pedigreedogsexposed.blogspot.ca/) was of a Basset that was disqualified at a major UK Dog Show.

Buzzed Lightyear… the DQ’d Basset

And the final dog in the 15 highlighted breeds to not be awarded its BOB at Crufts 2012 was the Basset Hound Ch Buzz Lightyear at Dereheath.

Here is a picture of the Bassett:

Most disturbing is that this dog could EVER be considered healthy to show, breed, and pass on these genes to other dogs.

Here is a more prominent sample of the problem:

The picture shows a dog with everted eyelids ( ectropion), and bilateral prolapsed 3rd eyelids ( cherry eye)

A painful, a very irritating chronic condition that would require surgery.

It has a strong genetic correlation- meaning there are lines of Bassets with ‘normal’ eyes.

But they don’t necessarily look good in the eyes of the judges

SO they are not winning dog shows.

Dr Andrew Jones

P.S. Ultimately it’s up to us as dog owners to CHANGE what is happening.

Make this illegal, and change the breed standards.

Make HEALTH a priority, NOT looks as is the case now.

Ban cosmetic surgery, such as tail docking, ear cropping.

If you are to obtain a purbred/ pedigreed dog, ensure that ALL of the genetic testing that could be done for common diseases in that breed has been done.

That the breeder is breeding for health and functionality..NOT for SHOW

Demand that veterinary governing bodies get more involved- and start to advocate for the animals…by being passive an not saying anything, they are quietly approving of this.

P.P.S. Consider adopting from an Animal Shelter.

Mutts make great pets too.

I have a few which I love, and who happen to be very healthy.

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Topics: Dog Care, Dog Health, Pet Care, Pet health | 25 Comments »

25 Responses to “‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’”


  1. Dana Scott Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 5:12 am

    Hi Dr. Jones
    I have to take exception to the comment that purebred dogs are unhealthy. While I admit that many breeds have been bred to excess, some breeders, myself included, breed dogs that do not have exaggerated features. I breed Labrador Retrievers and in my opinion, this breed does not have harmful exaggerations in size or physical traits, which many breeds do. I would also like for people to consider that purebred dogs are the most vaccinated and chemically-laden dogs to be found and I believe that this factor, not faulty genetics is largely to blame for many of the health issues seen today. Mixed breed dogs carry the same DNA as their purebred parents and they do not undergo the rigorous health testing that purebred dogs do. I volunteer my time with rescues and support adopting shelter dogs, but there are many healthy purebred dogs to choose from as well.

  2. kim Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 5:14 am

    How dare you give accolades to that show. We condemn cruelty to animals but when a producer does it is it okay in order to make a picture. That poor cavalier did not need to be tortured by putting a collar on it or taking it for a walk. That dog had barely any symptoms until something was strapped around its neck. So until the owner tortured it by putting on a collar for the producer it was happy. Is it okay to torture a dog for a few seconds of filming NO. Anyone who owns a cavalier knows that being at home in the house is just fine with it.

    Did u also know that many cavaliers screened positive for syringomyelia by MRI live out their life with no symptoms. There is no genetical test for it. Can only screen for it.

  3. Paul Syrett Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Mmmm, I agree with Dr there is or can be a problem with pure bred dogs. The problem is that people do like their breeds, and some do not seem to suffer ill effects, while others do, trying to stay neutral on all this, but I have seen Bassets with short stumpy legs with the penis dragging on the floor. On the other hand, my brother had a German Wire Haired Pointer who made 21 and looked like a young dog when he had her put to sleep because she became incontinent and her quality of life was such it was the right thing to do. Saying that, there is a strong opinion that
    dogs should make 25 years, so did she die young? When I speak to dog owners they accept that most will not pass 15 years of age for a big dog, and 17 for a small one.

    We had a Boston Terrier when I was young and it’s breathing was not brilliant, and most had to give birth by ceaserian section. So there are issues with certain breeds, maybe all if they don’t live till they are 20+.
    I have two English Pointers, both rescues, and they seem pretty healthy despite a bad start in life (I feed them a very good diet and walk the 4 hours a day, I walk 10 miles so they do 30). The Pointer breed itself is an old cross of greyhound, bull terrier, fox hound and one other I cannot remember, but it has been around for 300 years, but it is inherently a cross breed.

    As for the BBC, OK journalism has to be sensational to a degree, but they (I am in the UK) do play it fair and report what they see.

    Here in the UK they are crossing Dalmatians with English Pointers, to try and sort the deafness gene that afflicts Dalmatians. The two breeds are similar, so this would be a good compromise, of having a cross that stregthens the species while maintaining the cosmetic look of the breed. Just trying to be pragmatic with solution to keep people happy.

    I am waiting for the hate mail now!!!

  4. Darryl Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:16 am

    Hi Dr. Jones

    I was a breeder and showed dogs both in the breed ring and obedience ring for many years.
    As to breeders losing the plot and trying to breed dogs that judges are looking for has got out of hand. A lot of breeders not all are trying to win in the ring at all costs and forget what they are doing to the breeds of dogs.

    I no longer breed or show dogs because of the pettiness of some breeders.

    The story that you have highlighted is only a tip of the iceberg and happens all over the world, but I have to point out that its not only pedigree breeders that are harming dogs, back yard puppy farmers are even worse as they are only in it for the money.

  5. Sharon Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Thank you for highlighting this serious issue Dr Jones. Thanks to the airing of that show, I am now aware of yet another level of cruelty that I was oblivious to up until I saw it. I rescued a 2 year old Great Dane here in Ireland from a breeder who surrendered her to the local dog warden because she was not ”show quality” due to her colouring (mantle-marked merle). This beautiful, healthy dog was on death row and 4 days away from unnecessary euthanasia when I happened to come across her. She is still healthy and fit 6 years later and the only time I have ever had her at the vet was for her annual check-up. No health issues whatsoever. There are a lot of sides to the breeding/show industry that need to be uncovered, addressed and put a stop to. It is up to us as owners to address that and do something about it. Without the airing of that show, the majority of people are oblivious and ignorant to these happenings. I’m delighted, for all dog’s sake, that this show was aired.

  6. Nikki Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:18 am

    It is utter rubbish.
    Do cross bred dogs not carry the genetic, and potential disorders of their bloodlines? Of course they do.
    The designer crossbreeds are the worst victims.
    They are usually the ones from the litters who are not good enough to go to reputable show/ breeder homes, the ones that don’t meet the breed standards- yet these are the poorer quality dogs that are used to make the designer spoodles, groodles, labradoodles, cockerpoos, and whatever else they have. These are the new mutts and they have just as many, in fact more, genetic issues: there is no governing body, no breed standard to aspire to, no pre breeding screenings required., no generations of careful breeding to breed out problems and strengthen and maintain a standard.
    THOSE dogs are the ones we should be concerned about: they are the most at risk. But do the media launch at them ? No they do not. Stupid, ill informed, irresponsible sensationalist journalism at its worst.
    The breeders, exhibitors and owners of (for example ) cavs are the ones doing the absolute most they can to prevent SM. The people who own, breed and exhibit the breeds of dogs mentioned in the article do so because they love them and are passionate about the breed and it’s well being.
    Put the media push into preventing puppy farmers churning out designer pups in appalling conditions.
    Do something useful with their public platform instead of stirring up bullshit.

  7. sharon sharpstone Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:23 am

    I am from the UK and very aware of what this stupid woman has done. The Kennel Club have a hit list of 15 breeds, some of which were on her programme and some were not. This year at Crufts the so called vet took away the best of breed from the Bulldog, there was absolutely nothing wrong with that dog who had already passed two vet checks due to a scar on her eye that was caused by a incident when she was a puppy playing with another dog. Then there was the Basset Hounds and the winner of best of breed also had the same problem, but they were already aware of this as they were told in the morning that this was going to happen to various breeds, this is a disgrace. This stupid woman who did this programme has done nothing but gloat ever since. Dr Jones you should be ashamed of yourself for agreeing with her.

  8. Esther Hall Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:38 am

    In defense of purebred/pedigree dogs.

    I have been a breeder/exhibitor of pedigreed dogs for 35+ years, Shetland Sheepdogs to be exact.They are also my pets. Advances in medical care and screening have helped tremendously in the eradication and control of many canine issues. While I too, found much of that program disturbing and not without some merit, it was a very one-sided/biased look at the sport of dogs.
    There are just as many ‘issues’ with cross-breds,
    the unfortunate thing is that statistics are not kept on those dogs like they are with purebreds.
    breed clubs all over the world have spent/donated billions of dollars to find markers to assist we breeders in eliminating and reducing the incidence of many of the disorders found in ALL dogs.
    Why has John Q Public allowed themselves to be brainwashed that ‘pedigree breeders’ are the scourge of the earth? While there are unscrupulous breeders there are also so many great breeders trying their best to produce healthy, long-lived dogs, not just for themselves, but for our buying public.This is no different than car salesmen and yes, even Doctors.
    This smacks heavily of ARistas, and taking away our rights to own any pet.
    WHY do so many people today belive we can completely eliminate all disease in our canines, when the human population has spent BILLIONS, and still cannot control/eliminate disease in our own race? While I do agree that our closed gene pools are a contributing factor, we sure don’t see anyone telling a family with genetic issues that they are not allowed to have children! Just look at the huge cost to our medical/social system that costs each of us.
    Our rights are slowly been eroded and taken away. I pity a world where one will no longer have a right to choose what any type of pet we wish.As I write this, three of my Shelties are at my feet and as I gaze into their eyes, I truly wonder with shows like PDE and Veternarians taking a stand against purebreds,what this world will be likewithout them. I just hope I am long gone before that happens!

  9. Patrice Taylor Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:39 am

    No one should ever breed dogs. There are over 70,000 puppies born every WEEK in the U.S.A. alone, and not enough homes for all of them. If, for some reason, you have to have a pure bred dog, there are many breed specific rescue groups, and they often have puppies available.

  10. Marilyn Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Patrice is so right. However, because some people are determined to have puppies and purebreds, I would say leave the breeding up to the professional breeders, and everyone else should stop breeding dogs. It has always been my theory that dog licenses for spayed or neutered dogs should be very cheap, while licenses for unfixed dogs should be $1000 per year to discourage backyard breeders. Cities could use the extra fees to go after those owners who have unfixed dogs, and leave those of us who do alone.

    As for the article, recently I became aware of the types of dogs that seem to naturally have breathing problems – pugs and that type. I babysat one for a day and I felt so sorry for her – she had constant trouble breathing, and if one of my own dogs had breathed like that, I would have considered it a medical emergency.

    I met a bulldog at the beach not long after and he too was having difficulty breathing, although he was quite young. His owner said she was going to breed him, and I thought that it seems cruel to bring more of these dogs into the world knowing they are going to face a lifetime of difficult breathing.

    I have breathing problems myself, but thankfully they’re not constant. I wouldn’t have much quality of life if they were.

    It’s funny how selfish we humans are, hey? (Maybe not so funny to the dogs we create, though.)

  11. Marilu Way Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Money.money.money – it is all about the money!!!! I have a 5 year old “rescued” Female ShihTzu who is simply adorable and a wonderful, obedient pet. She cost me $70 at the shelter – I wouldn’t trade her for a Million Dollars. They tell me she is a pure-bred ShihTzu but since she was in a Florida Tornado and was found wandering a golf course for 3 days – who really knows. More importantly – who really cares! She has since become a Service Dog (for Emotional Support issues)and I have been truly blessed. Go to a shelter and see all the wonderful “muts” housed there and take one home – you won’t be sorry in the end. Dr. Jones is so right-on!! Keep up the good work informing the general publie Dr. Jones!! Marilu Way

  12. Dottie Sinkler Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 8:02 am

    I am on my third Shih-Tzu and have had no problems because I did not purchase my dogs from puppy mills. My first Shih-Tzu was put to sleep at the age of 15 and she lived a very healthy life. My second Shih-Tzu died at the age of 12 because unfortunately she ate the poisoned pet food from China. My current Shih-Tzu is almost four years old and our visits to the vet are very infrequent. I feed her holistic food made in the United States. One thing that I do not do is feed her from the table other than vegetables and fruit. Other than that she is fed a very good holistic dog food. I think the way we care for our pets is very important. more so that the breed of the dog.

  13. Jeffrey Coolwater Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Dr. Jones,

    The story you speak of is obviously troubling and certainly not an isolated case, and I agree with your P.S. only insofar as you’re right to observe it’s up to us to, “CHANGE what is happening”, but my agreement ends there.

    One of the things most people miss when considering the subject of breeding is that dogs, like billions of other animals, are exploited by humans due to their status in our world as *PROPERTY*. The whole concept of “breeding” is based on ownership of a commodity for the pleasure, amusement, profit, and privilege of humans. The love and care the *lucky* ones receive from us is always trumped by the fact they have absolutely no say in what happens to them from the day they are born. When you think about it, they are little more than slaves. Their “right” to an interest in their own lives does not exist. They have now been bred into a completely unnatural existence, completely dependent on their *owner* for their very survival.

    This is exploitation and “regulating” it doesn’t change that fact. When we participate in breeding or *buy* an animal, we support and perpetuate the notion that it is ok to take a sentient being, a bearer of a life, and reduce them to nothing more things. Consider how many, if not most people including many of your readers, refer to a dog or any other animal as an “it” rather than “he” or “she”. This reveals a very speciesist perspective in how many think about animals in a very disconnected manner.

    I agree with commenter Patrice. Thousands of unwanted, abandoned, or otherwise rejected animals exist constantly. Some lucky ones end up in rescues where they are adopted. Millions more are abandoned in shelters every year where many are euthanized simply for lack of adoptive guardians. That breeding, as an industry, contributes to this every day is a disgrace.

    Dr. Jones, when you say we should “consider” adopting from a shelter, I would go one step further and say we have a *moral obligation* to only adopt shelter animals and not cause any more to come into existence.

    I encourage your readers to visit this page http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/pets/ and have a listen to a most thought provoking commentary on the subject of “Pets” by Professor Gary L. Francione on his site at the bottom of the essay.

  14. Janice Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    I am a dog owner,not a breeder.From some of the comments these breeders have made it’s no wonder some of these breeds are being ruined.I’m sure the Jack Russell terrier will be next now that they have been recognized by the AKC.

  15. Dana Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    There is a right and a wrong way to do everything, including breeding and care of animals. To say that all breeders are evil is absurd. To say that it is always better to go to a shelter and blindly take in an animal that may have been abused or improperly fed and cared for is equally absurd, and can become a heartbreaking situation. Too many shelter dogs today were drug dealers’ sickly, starved pit bulls, not properly rehabilitated to be trusted with kids or other animals. Before purchase, be sure you get to know the breeder or rescue agency very well, then thoroughly examine the dog, walk and feed him/her, before taking home. Beware of vets or agents who spay or neuter animals when they are too young: this often leads to severe illness, as does feeding cheap food. As for show dogs, if you study the breed standards you will usually find there is reasoning behind most of them not including the cut or pushed face varieties. I thought cut ears and tails were already banned in Britain. No? Wish they were in the US. We’re headed in that direction. You can always insist the breeder not mutilate. Dogs and cats are far more deserving of good care and consideration than most humans! Give back to them the love and consideration they will give to you.

  16. Charleen Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Dear Dr. Jones,

    I take objection to your post that lumps “purebred” dogs and those that produce them “breeders” and those that “show” them into a category of negativity. This is stereotyping and unfairly points malice at “all”. Many great points have been made here by previous commenters, but I would like to add that you have MISSED a great opportunity to educate the masses and protect the beings that you have dedicated your life to.

    Anyone interested in bringing a canine companion into their life should do their breed research to insure that the breeds characteristics fit their lifestyle. Every breed, will have a “short” or “long” list of breed inherent health concerns, easily found on the internet which should be part of the research process of investigation. “Mixed Breeds”, will have the inherent health risks of at least 2, or multiple “unknown” breeds. I support and do rescue work myself and know from experience that “shelter” or “rescue” dogs may also have the added risk of behavioral issues. Subsequently, choose the source of your canine campanion carefully. Know the health concerns of your breed of choice and obtain your companion from a source that is health screening their breeding animals. Dont be afraid to ask for documentation of such tests for the parents. I am confident in stating that you won’t be able to get this documentation from a shelter, rescue, petstore, puppymill/large scale producer or pretty website that may even be willing to ship you a dog sight unseen. While health screening doesn’t guarantee a problem won’t crop up, it does reduce the risk by as much as a 40% reproduction coefficient. That’s pretty good odds in my book.

    In conclusion, visit the source of your purebreds origin before obtaining. Visit the breeder. See the environment the dogs are kept in and the condition and temperament of the dogs there. The apple doesn’t fall to far from the tree! If you get a “bad” gut feeling…..run as fast as you can to visit another source for your companion. Canine companionship is a long term commitment. If you are not willing to do this then do visit your local shelter or rescue group. It is a good alternative or source for those not willing to invest the time to research or who may be on a limited budget, with the best part being that you may save a dogs life. All those dogs sitting in shelters are those that have been abandoned…… by those who didn’t bother to do their research before taking on the commitment.

    P.S. News and social media is generally one sided, based upon personal opinion or objective and often contains misinformation. Take a look at the Bassett pictured. This is obviously a “puppy” that would have been far to young to be shown at Crufts. Substitute picture maybe?

  17. Dana Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    PS…to Janice, As I said, choose carefully. Jacks are aggressive snappish little critters, and they don’t need the AKC to make ’em that way! They were bred to attack foxes in their dens, and these necessary behaviors will also be applied to your kids, unless you have a prozac Jack.

  18. Dana Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    CHAERLEEN YOU SAID IT ALL AND YOU SAID IT RIGHT. THANK YOU. May I just add that the best breeders or rescue agents are the ones who do a careful check of the potential buyer to be sure he/she has the facilities and attitudes necessary to properly care for the dog.

  19. Maria Says:
    March 28th, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I know people who do not like animals but when they see certain breed, colour, patterns, they would like to own it, just like a piece of furniture or a car. Sad thing!

  20. Tracee Says:
    March 29th, 2012 at 10:40 am

    For all of you breeders out there…I hope you all go out of business. Thousands of animals die each year due to overpopulation, and your actions contribute to the problem. I hope people quit shelling out $$ to you breeders and go adopt a homeless animal in a shelter.

    Don’t Shop – Adopt!!

  21. Mandi Says:
    March 30th, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Dr Jones,
    What a controversial topic you bought up with this.
    I have a mutt (Staffy X Blue Heeler) who in 8 years has never required Veterinary care other than check-ups and sterilization. On the other hand however, I have a pure-bred Miniature Pinscher. although she is only 14 months old, she too has not required Veteerinary care other than sterilization. I got my staffy cross from some idiot who didn’t sterilize their bitch and let it breed, I also took her 3 sisters and 4 brothers along with her mother to re-home to loving homes, all of which I still recieve photos and emails about. AND all of which are sterilized at MY cost.
    My Minpin was not big enough for the breeds standard as she was the runt so she was sterilized by the breeder and sold at a much cheaper price. People need to do their homework before buying any animal be it purebred, crossbred, dog, cat, horse etc.
    A good breeder only breeds to improve the breed and my Minpin’s breeder only breeds a litter when she has requests to cover at least 4 homes and sometimes people miss out.
    As for the millions of puppies out there, some need to put their money where there mouth is and save a few, or save one from breeding further unwanted litters.

  22. Paul Says:
    April 1st, 2012 at 3:18 am

    The problem is not breeding per se, but the tendency for judging in shows to encourage the exaggeration of certain features of a breed. I have three German Shepherds and by far the healthiest is from working lines bred for health and working ability rather than appearance.

  23. Dr Andrew Says:
    April 6th, 2012 at 8:43 am

    Thank you for letting us know, Jemima – we’ve corrected it now.

  24. Karen Says:
    April 17th, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    I have two rescue dogs, and one born to another rescue dog that I was fostering until she could go to her forever home. I have to agree with all who said: take your time in choosing your life long companion. Remember, these are not purse decorations. I was a lucky one: I was feeding food from China and none of my dogs got sick. I now feed a much higher quality of food and my dogs are fine.

    As for the topic at hand: some breeders are irresponsible and some are not. Just as some drivers are irresponsible, some are not. Just as some people are irresponsible with drinking, some are not. Don’t put all these people in one group and call them all bad. My parents bred and showed GSD for years, and none of their dogs were unhealthy, and many went on to be champions, and two grand national champions.

    My point, finally? Always choose your companion wisely. Feed them well, get them medical attention when warranted and no matter what, you will have a loving, long lived companion (unlike some marriages).

  25. Noelle Obcarskas Says:
    December 6th, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Exposing cruelty and suffering produced by human selection or wrong standards to such a large number of dogs is a welcome eye opener. It is fact that cavs according to their own organisation and vet statistics suffer 50 percent of them dreadfully by age 5 and most of them by age 10. http://www.cavalierhealth.org/overview.htm the culling recomendation of ridgebacks in their own STANDARD existed and was applied for years ! nothing wrong with these and so many other truths exposed. Breathlessness in many of the deformed faces breeds is a cruelty issue. The german shepherd standard had to be changed having changed the original straight backed dogs to the shape of hyennas with suffering. i cant see what is wrong with exposing such realities …and thanks to jemmima thousands of cavs sufferings were prevented due to drop in sales. there will always be buyers of sick dogs that fit the requirement for a particular deformed so called cute face look etc. fortunately less so since the exposed dogs programme.

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