Increasing numbers of doctors express interest in a mechanism I first began to examine thirty years ago. It’s triggered by a variety offactors that attack the stability of an animal’s health.
This biologically complex mechanism helps explain many of the negative medical effects that are the result of breeders’ drive to create “perfect” dogs. The effects appear with greater prevalence due to an increasingly intense combination of flawed genetics and toxic environments. Depending upon the nature of breeding, or rather the lack of nature, the consequences of negative factors vary.
Functional breeds, like field trial dogs, fortunately face better chances in being bred for the right reasons. Animals, when breeding through nature’s influence alone, emphasize the funconal qualities they serve. In nature, the fastest and strongest animals breed with each other, along with the most intelligent and healthiest specimens. Because working breeds are bred for their “functioning” qualities, breeders minimize the risk of flawed genetics.
Unfortunately, most pets are bred for show qualities: color, trophies, coat, and trainability. The goal is to produce the perfect specimen of a breed, which leads to very similar genes in the animals that represent those “perfect specimens.” These breeders, through their desire to create perfect show animals, actually produce a gene pool with limited variety.
This is what leads to flawed genetics, in nature’s eyes. Nature, the ultimate supervisor of animal breeding, succeeds only with varied gene pools. With a very diverse genetic code for a species, nature assures itself that weaker qualities won’t perpetuate across generations. Thus, when the gene pool is limited, the weaker attributes become more prevalent.
Examples of obvious genetic defects caused by limiting the gene pool include deafness in Dalmatians and hip dysplasia in German Shepherds. Most dog aficionados can recite a list of these conspicuous conditions that plaque specific breeds.
However, not well known to pet lovers is the impact that genetic flaws have on the biological functioning of the animal. If poor breeding routinely causes visible defects in an animal, than even elementary logic would conclude that it likewise could cause system-wide weaknesses.
This is the exact condition I’ve studied for three decades. As more clients brought inexplicably sick animals into my clinic, I wasn’t satisfied with merely treating the superficial health conditions. It was clear that many animals were more susceptible to disease and allergies. Through study of bloodwork to determine what qualities these animals shared, my hypothesis of a systematically “weak” animal gathered evidence to support it.
Bloodwork showed that the hormonal levels in many of the sick animals were different when compared to their healthier peers. The endocrine system, which are the glands and vessels that produce and deliver hormones, is responsible for sending chemical messages throughout the body. Hormones, among other duties, help regulate immune cells.
If the endocrine system, and/or some of its components, has genetically determined defects or imbalances, it could suppress normal functioning of an animal’s immune system. In normal functioning, if an animal is exposed to a pathological agent (i.e., a mold, fungus, bacteria, etc. that can cause a negative health reaction in the animal), the immune system immediately reacts to counter and destroy the agent; building antibodies that further protect the animal. Obviously, in a malfunctioning immune system, the animal’s natural defenses are either weak or hypersensitive, and hence the animal is more likely to become diseased or face severe allergic reactions.
This explains the situations in which a previously vaccinated dog can develop parvo. If the animal’s immune system doesn’t build the antibodies that a parvo vaccine is intended to trigger, the animal remains susceptible to the parvovirus; and the dog can develop the disease when exposed to the live virus.
This genetic defect explains why a puppy’s bloodwork examination may show no production of distemper or parvo antibodies (i.e., the immune cells that build up to counter future exposure to the pathogens) weeks after a vaccination. In such a scenario, the puppy has inherited the hormonal imbalance, which is attributed to breeding two weak animals (by nature’s standards).
In the second part to this article, I describe how to resolve this condition and how to ensure that breeders can ensure that the “unseen” genetic flaws are not perpetuated in purebreds.