Despite currently being the proud adoptive-mom of a beautiful boxer, I’m really a mutt person at heart. There’s something about the one-of-a-kindness of a real Heinz 57 that draws me in. That said, my boxer has provided me with an entrée into the world of purebreds that being a veterinarian never did (people tend to let it all hang out when they think I’m just another boxer lover rather than a vet). One parent at my daughter’s school recently told me that he was on his eighth boxer and would never consider another breed, "despite all their health problems."
He nailed the downside of boxer ownership. I look at Apollo and can’t help but picture what the future might hold for us. I don’t know which of the deadly diseases that boxers are prone to will get him in the end, but I bet I’ll think "I should have seen that coming" when it arrives. Mutts are the great unknown in this regard, and they’re generally healthier than purebreds, so it hardly seems worth worrying about that sort of thing.
Part of being a breed devotee is doing everything possible to improve the health of that group of dogs. Thankfully, there are some good online resources available to veterinarians, breeders, and owners that can help us all do just that. I bet many of you purebred folks are familiar with at least a couple of these sites, but a few might be new even to you.
The Canine Inherited Disorders Database (CIDD) provides a user-friendly list of inherited disorders arranged by breed, with links to descriptions of how each is diagnosed and managed. This is an excellent place to start your research into the health problems that face particular breeds.
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)website presents a list of commonly available DNA tests and which breeds should be tested for which diseases. This organization is also an excellent source of information on non-genetic testing for a variety of orthopedic diseases, heart problems, thyroid disease, and more. OFA maintains a searchable database of dogs that have undergone testing for inheritable disorders relevant to their breed.
Another good source of information is the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). Their website includes a list of breeds enrolled in the CHIC program and associated with each breed is a list of recommended tests. The CHIC also maintains a DNA Bank and database to store canine DNA samples along with corresponding genealogic and phenotypic information. This information is searchable to facilitate breeding or purchasing decisions and help with future research into inherited disease of dogs.
Check out Inherited Diseases in Dogs (IDID) and Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA) if you are interested in finding out what the latest scientific advances are regarding genetic diseases in dogs (and other species in the case of OMIA). These two sites have a more research-based versus disease management focus.
There’s plenty of information out there. Now we just need to make sure that veterinarians, breeders, and owners make good use of it.
Dr. Jennifer Coates