To live in a perfect world is a dream that man has long strived to behold. The Oxford-English Dictionary defines utopia as a place, state, or condition ideally perfect in respect of politics, laws, customs, and conditions. It also describes utopia as an impossibly ideal scheme, especially for social improvement. As impossibly ideal it may seen, since the 1700s and 1800s of the Victoria era, man has taken strong interest in creating everything as perfect as can be. None are exempt of the consequences, including man’s own best friend, the dog. There are many dogs that suffer from medical defects and health issues directly related to the irresponsible breeding of our canine companions; two of these breeds in particular are the Australian Shepherd and the pug.
Australian shepherds, or Aussies as they are often referred to, are a hardy and versatile breed of herding dog that was developed in the Western United States and has become widely popular today both as pets and working animals. Because of the increase in their popularity irresponsible breeding has led to a subsequent increase in genetic problems and defects. One of these problems has been commonly coined “Lethal White” or double merle, and leads to partial or complete blindness and/or deafness in dogs that carry a double recessive merle coat pattern allele.
Australian Shepherds come in a wide variety of coat colors and combinations including black and tan, red (liver), blue merle, and red merle. The merle allele produces a patchwork combination of dark and light areas and is the most common coloration associated with the breed. However, when two merles are bred there is a 25% probability that the offspring will end up with two copies of the merle gene (double merle) and the result is an overabundance of white in the dog’s coat. The lack of pigment results in hearing loss and multiple eye defects leaving most double merle dogs blind and severely hearing impaired, if not totally deaf.
Disreputable and uninformed backyard breeders and puppy mills are to blame for mostly to blame for the continuation of genetic problems such as double merle in Aussies and other breeds. Breeding for the sake of a bottom line dollar sale rather than the health of the breed as a whole causes many dogs to land in shelters or culled because families unknowingly sold a “rare white Aussie” are unequipped to deal with the challenges of raising a blind/deaf puppy or they are simply unwanted.
The pug breed is widely known to be a very sickly breed of dog, requiring frequent veterinary visits and susceptible to a myriad of health problems and issues such as, NME also known as pug dog encephalitis (PDE),an inflammation of the brain and meninges, to which there is no know cause or cure. They are also prone to hemivertebrae. The screwtail is an example of a hemivertebrae, but when it occurs in other areas of the spine it can be devastating, causing such severe paralysis that euthanasia is a serious recommendation. The list goes on…. Hip dysplasia. “Reverse Sneezing” also known as Pharyngeal Gag Reflex, Demodectic mange, also know as demodex.
The main reason for all of the pugs ailments can be directly linked to breeding or more specifically, the irresponsible inbreeding by breeders. A recent BBC investigative documentary revealed that the 10,000 pugs within Europe have a gene pool the equivalent of 50 individual dogs. This history and active practice of inbreeding is not exclusive to Europe nor to the breed of pugs in general, but a very real problem that encompasses many breeds of dogs across the world.
As overwhelming as these problems may seem, there are still things that people can to do help prevent the mistreatment of dogs. Simple plans such as checking out who or where you are getting your dog, or researching how reputable a breeder is, can slowly help bring the problem of over-breeding or inbreeding to a level where hopefully one day it can be controlled. A great choice for people looking to get a dog would be to just go to a local shelter, many of which have loving animals looking for a great home.