22nd August 2008, 11:35 AM
Idea for SM breeder register?
I have read these boards as a guest for several weeks, but with the "pedigree dogs" program the other night I have been reading much more often.
The first thing I will admit is that I am no expert on any of this, but I do want to find a way to try to help the average cavalier pet buyer.
I was wondering if it is a possibility to start a website ( I can do this) where we can attempt to contact every cav owner with an official SM diagnosis. (this can also be introduced for MVD and other hereditary ilnesses)
For every dog we can "register" with an official diagnosis (MRI scan results and vet report has to be shown) we could then get a list of A) breeder names and B) infected dogs parents names (kc reg dogs only of course.)
This list could then be a helpful start when looking for a new puppy.
I can see that a LOT of breeders are going to hate me for this suggestion, but we can also add a section for each breeder stating that we have spoken to them and that they have scanned their dogs now and are no longer breeding from infected dogs, are planning on scanning before breeding again or they couldnt care less. (various other breeder comments can go here)
My only issue is trying to work out libel laws. If "fact" is the defence behind libel then seeing the scans and pedigree papers of each dog added would surely safe guard me from any legal issues. (yes I may just be totally naive)
Ideas on improvements, logistics info, anything else you would like to see would be much appreciated. If this idea is to work it will take a lot of honesty from people. It would be nice if this didnt alienate the breeders, as all moral, ethical people must see that breeding from infected dogs cannot continue.
If naming and shaming is the only way forward I for one am up for it. The good breeders ( I do know there are some) will surely be happy to help as it will boost their reputations rather than adversely affecting them. I dont have connections with any of the breeders, show people, cav clubs etc and if the ones perpetuating this suffering hate me, then so be it
22nd August 2008, 12:44 PM
I know this is proposed in good faith as a useful solution.
The problem is that this would cause greater difficulties for everyone, including the health focused breeders, and would discourage breeders from MRIing, and also would be a very blunt instrument for a very complex problem.
It would be worth reading some of the researcher's reports and background material to understand why, though some of this is touched upon in other threads.
First off, if all breeders MRId all their dogs, many would undoubtedly have SM. If you look at the five generation pedigree of any dog, the chances are that several in it would have SM. Those that do not have it, most likely are carriers of the genes. This is, according to researchers, a condition that is now very widespread genetically in the breed.
As with MVD, even a breeder carefully working to reduce onset will, by the genetic roll of the dice, sometimes breed dogs with early onset MVD or SM. Does that mean the protocols or breeding recommendations are useless? No. It means they work within genetic probabilities that we learn about in high school. It also means that for unknown reasons, environment -- which Sarah Blott believes has a 20-30% role in SM -- may cause one dog to develop SM while another will not. 'Environment' is a huge catch all and could mean practically anything from early care and feeding to using a choke or prong collar on the sensitive neck area to what's in the water or food or even the weather (many of us know our SM dogs have a harder time in changeable weather probably due to pressure shifts in the atmosphere).
Such a system of naming lines or dogs risks indicting an entire line or a breeder when what it is more likely to reveal is some responsible breeders who do MRI, producing the expected poor results along with some good ones. Context is everything. Few people will take the time to understand context. And context still is not well understood so it is easy to make assumptions that simply are not true.
Breeders need to MRI and submit in confidence those MRIs to research. They will also hopefully share the scans on their dogs they use for actual breeding and participate in schemes to lower incidence. But I do not believe all scans should be shared and breeder privacy in this way should be protected for *general scanning*. I would hope that results of breeding dogs, espcially well-scoring dogs, would be shared.
But consider a point raised elsewhere that the breeding recommendations from a board of neurologists and researchers *allows* for a small syrinx even on an A dog and must also allow for the malformation. Also due to the very small numbers so far of A dogs, breeders need to use other dogs as part of their programme. There may be other genes important to conserve as well. So a scan is not everything it might seem on first glance to those unaware of the complexities of SM and the realities of the existing breeding guidelines; nor is a non A grade dog necessarily a problem for a good breeding programme (only an F dog is considered a problem). And scans can and do change over time as the condition is usually progressive.
Hopefully Sarah Blott's research will produce estimated breeding values that give breeders better insight into the suitability of a dog for breeding based on likelihood of passing along CM/SM genes. But for now breeders must rely on scans and a limited number of scans so far are entirely clear for SM much less clear for both CM and SM.
A more productive way forward is to encourage a breeder health registry. One already exists in the US and there is further talk here on how this might be done and some breeders are involved with working on such ideas. This would enable breeders to more easily find well graded dogs especially studs.
Finally, there are major legal implications in setting up websites with unverified information. It is one thing to post the scans from your own dog. It is another to take what someone else says was on a scan, when there is much hearsay on this subject as is; or to draw conclusions that at this time, some of the leading researchers and geneticists in the world working on this condition are unable to make themselves. Science often reveals that what might seem on the face to be an 'obvious' conclusion, is not (and that is why research is needed in the first place -- because going on the results to pedigree dogs over many decades -- and most breeders only have a short perspective that misses most of the genetic big picture over time! 20 or 30 years is nothing in genetic terms -- simply going on what many breeders have assumed is a good mating is damaging breeds). Scans, or parentage of SM offspring, should not became a potential source of attack against breeders unless the wider context is understood. (The context for the Malvern BIS dog does cause great concern; pointing to an informed decision to breed an affected dog with severe syrinx. That is different from guessing at intention, level of knowledge of the breed, status/grade of scan etc). The idea is to encourage scanning and that breeders use the information they obtain from them to breed responsibly.
In memory: Lucy
Cavalier SM Infosite:www.smcavaliers.com