An Honest Question
One of the breeders that was doing the scans and all contacted me, feeling quite discouraged, and told me that she can no longer give any sort of health guarantee as A to A crossings have shown that you can still get affected offspring. She is considering getting out of cavaliers at this time. Many other breeders I have looked into have also gotten out of them.
I admit, I am concerned at this time. Although I absolutely love the breed, I am very scared of experiencing so much negative in my first puppy experience. It's especially hard to convince ourselves to spend thousands, knowing that doing so still doesn't guarantee the health of the puppy. I'm worried that nothing I do may prevent my future puppy from suffering...
Is there hope?
How many of you have done all your research beforehand, gotten a puppy from a respectable breeder (incl. all bells and whistles), only for it to get sick?
I read that buying from scanned dogs significantly reduces the risk. Okay, but by how much? How many of those puppies out there are still affected despite both their parents being a-graded dogs?
Yes,it's true that breeders may have affected offspring from A to A matings.
Clare Rusbridge gave a presentation last October and the slides from it are available on the UK cavalier Club site.
From the study done(see slide 23)
With A to A matings 15.4% were affected
A* to A* matings (A* being dogs clear of SM over 5) 7.7% were affected.
The figure of affected dogs from A to D dogs drops in around the 50% mark.
The study claims that where two affected dogs are mated all offspring were affected,although there are breeders who say that they are aware A's from two affected parents.
What many scanning breeders are trying to do is to mate an A to A where central canal dilation is not recorded on one or both parent's scans and /or to use the oldest or clearest parents available.
At this stage,people who have been scanning for a few years are only beginning to see if their own A to A matings have worked and if so, what's the difference between their scans and the A to A's who have produced affected offspring.
Mri scans are becoming so much more detailed and there's still a lot to learn and a long way to go before breeders can say what's worked and what hasn't.
But it certainly appears that an A to A can stack the odds in your favour of an unaffected puppy.
It's a big investment for a breeder to keep the offspring of such matings until it's 2.5 years or an effort to place a puppy in a home where it will be scanned.Not everyone has the space to do this.
I think at this time, I will hold off and wait for things to clear up with the breed before jumping in. Perhaps, in a few years, a test will have been developped and then we will be able to purchase dogs which will be guaranteed free of these illnesses. :)
Thank you everyone for your help. After much discussion, we have decided that it might be wise to wait. I wish you all the best with your cavaliers!
Just as it is impossible to predict what diseases and illnesses and newborn child might encounter in her lifetime, it is impossible to guarantee the health of any pet, purebred or crossbreed. In my own experience, my friends with crossbreeds have had just as many problems as those with pedigree dogs and sometimes the health issues have been more serious and inexplicable. At least with pedigree dogs, one can be more informed about a greater risk of specific types of health issues that have arisen because of the narrower genepool, and therefore an owner can pick a breeder on the basis of whether that breeder does all she or he can to avoid those conditions in the dogs of their breeding–ta combination of adequate and timely health testing in the use of breeding protocols.
No breeder or puppy buyer should be surprised that A x A crossings throw up some effected offspring. This would be a genetic likelihood whatever the case, but a complicating factor is that with a progressive disease, where the adults (if they are scanned) tend to be scanned only once at a young age, and where few breeders are scanning their older dogs to know their status, it is far more difficult to fully understand the likelihood of this disease in a given dog over time. An A at 2.6 may have SM by age 4. That is why cardiologist testing dogs at age 5+, and MRI scanning if at all possible after a dog is age 5, gives far more valuable information to breeders than testing a dog at only age 2 1/2, when the statistics show that there is a 75% or so chance a dog will MRI scan clear and almost certainly will heart test clear. A big problem too is that so many breeders still breed their dogs at under the recommended ages–and this includes club breeders (as anyone can see from the puppy records or the online pedigrees, especially for stud dogs). Puppy farmers, and your neighbor down the street who decides to breed her dog, is quite likely breeding on the first heat or second heat when these dogs are really young, and without any health testing out all. That is why working with a good breeder who does the proper health tests, and ideally someone who has also scanned some of their older dogs, is the best way forward. It is also why on this board, we established Rupert's Fund to help breeders scan their dogs when they are older than six, as this information is not only priceless for research into this condition, but also is extremely valuable information for the breeder. :D
All the same, this is a seriously health challenged breed, whose health problems are, sadly, diseases that can be costly to diagnose and treat, and have a very early onset, and cause great suffering and a compromised quality of life especially if they remain undiagnosed or untreated. If I were a breeder, I do not know myself whether I would wish to stay in this breed because doing responsible, ethical breeding requires a considerable cash outlay for the needed tests. It frustrates me that so many breeders consider this to be a reason not to do testing though–surely it is better not to breed at all, then just ignore the fact that the breed has these serious issues which could be better managed through careful testing, in order to make money off of puppy sales or to continue to show dogs? Those are the most selfish reasons for breeding, and a breeder who knows the challenge is too great both in terms of risk and cost, must be respected for knowing this is no longer the breed for them. The really sad part is that if all breeders were conscientious in breeding and did the proper health tests and stuck to the protocols, the two biggest health problems could have been contained and managed much better, many years earlier. Incidence of MVD has not changed in almost 2 decades in the UK where club breeders have been chastised by their own club cardiologist for not adequately testing or following the MVD protocol in all that time. I think if MVD were as costly to diagnose as SM generally is, and if there were as many cases of early onset causing severe pain, then many more breeders would have acted to either get out of the breed or make the effort of breeding healthier dogs. Because the ravages of MVD hit the breed many years after most owners purchase their puppy, and long after those puppies are forgotten by many breeders, and long after the owners have any contact with the breeder, the dogs' suffering is nearly invisible and seems now to have been accepted as the norm with Cavaliers and not even worth worrying about or commenting upon for many breeders. :(
Whether you decide to take on this breed is a very personal decision. Many here who have owned dogs who have gone through the long decline with MVD, which can be very heartrending and disturbing, or who have found themselves with a dog with syringomyelia that has cost them thousands and whose painful suffering they have had to observe–simply feel they cannot deal with that again and opt for another breed or mix. Others, despite having gone through these difficulties, feel this is a special breed and they will always want a cavalier in their life as long as the breed is viable (this, of course, is increasingly under question). And then there are others who feel they will not want to own another Cavalier, but who will work hard to support better health in the breed, one way or another.
I don't think any of us is going to tell you that this is an easy breed to own. I will say that amongst my own dogs, while there has been discomfort with these conditions there has been no serious distress and pain because all were diagnosed early and are managed with professional advice–neurologists and cardiologists working alongside my vets. But at the same time, Lucy was in fantastic health and fitness in every other way except for her MVD, and without that stupid disease, she would surely have made at least 14 or 15–a more normal age of death for a small breed. It was hardest for me to see her own confusion when she went from a happy, fit dog taking long walks to one having a hard time breathing, who would collapse if she ran up the stairs. :( Due to the ravages of MVD alone, Cavaliers statistically have a lifespan that is about a third less than it should be–simply shocking. At the moment, I would hope to continue to give a home to Cavaliers into the future, but that may not always be the case. I haven't had to deal with a really severe and painful case of syringomyelia. I know owners and breeders who have decided they will not have the breed again after having dealt with a more serious case as it was so distressing.
There are no easy choices. If you look into other breeds, you will see that each has its own problems and requires a well-educated buyer. However, There are breeds in which you are far less likely to get any breed related diseases during a dog's lifetime, and there are many breeds that have less costly and debilitating health issues specific to the breed.
Thanks Sins for the statistics and reference. :)