Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cavalier Matters

Thanks to the BBC documentary ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ there has been some (but by no means enough) publicity about the way in which breeders have caused countless dogs to suffer from genetic diseases and conditions that could easily have been avoided.

The problem is the ruthless desire to create dogs that look a certain way for showing with no thought for the consequences or, for that matter, the ‘rejects’. Obsessive breeders thought nothing of culling dogs that did not meet their desired look nor of using mother-to-son, father-to-daughter and brother-to-sister matings to achieve their ends.

Thankfully, as a direct result of the programme, which was produced by Jemima Harrison, things are starting to change. Nevertheless, it is going to take decades of responsible breeding and vigorous health screening to solve the problem.

In the meantime, caring owners are working to make life better for the poor dogs caught up in this dreadful situation. One such person is Tania Ledger who has created a fantastic site for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lovers.

Cavalier Matters describes itself as offering ‘simple advice for potential and existing owners…including hereditary health issues’. Tragically, although there are plenty of general tips, lots of delightful photographs and some amusing cartoons, the bulk of the site focuses – one way or another – on hereditary health issues. So, while it manages to celebrate this adorable breed it does make for rather chilling reading.

The core problem the dogs face is called Syringomyelia (SM)/ Chiara Malformation (CM). If a dog is described as ‘CM’ it means that its brain is too large for its skull. If a dog is described as ‘SM’ it means that a genetic defect in its skull is destroying its spinal cord. There is no cure for either condition, both of which can be exceedingly painful for the dog. When I tell you that the site recommends allowing £1000 a year for vet bills you will get an idea of how serious these conditions are.

There are several other serious hereditary health issues, too, including: Mitral Valve Disease, Idiopathic Asymptomatic Thrombocytopenia (a blood clotting disorder), Eposodic Falling Syndrome (a type of seizure), Chronic Pancreatitis, Hip Dysplasia, Luxating Patella (knee joint problems), hallucinations, deafness and various eye, skin and coat disorders.

Each of these conditions causes the dogs to suffer and what is so frustrating about it is THE SUFFERING IS UNNECESSARY. If breeders would follow basic, proven protocol the problems could be solved.

Anyway, I strongly recommend a visit to Cavalier Matters if only to look at the first cartoon which shows someone rushing up to a scaffold and saying: ‘Great news your majesty. The Kennel Club is thinking of naming a spaniel after you.’ It is both sad and infuriating that this gorgeous breed should suffer as much as the man it is named for.

1 comment:

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