TRACKING VS. SELECTING FOR DISEASES Debbie Martin: So we should be keeping track of all our dogs that are diagnosed with cancer. Dr. Padgett: Yes. You want to keep track of them, but I would not specifically select against those cancers unless they’ve been shown to be inherited. If you collect data with your own dogs over a period of time and you get maybe like 65 or 70 of these cancers, then you ought to be able to go back and show a progression in a family. That is apparent, as you can imagine, in Sarcoma’s for example. If you find one Hemangiosarcoma way back in a family, then you can trace it. It should reoccur, even though it may not look like that at first. If the gene is widespread in the breed, you get enough cases that tie a family together. Debbie Martin: How should we handle the cancers that have not been identified in the original survey in calculating our risks for breeding? Dr. Padgett: I would not calculate risk on any cancer or any other disease that is not shown to be inherited. What you do if you start selecting against non-genetic traits is you will end up in a situation where you can’t pick a dog to breed. That’s the situation you end up in. You can’t pick anything because everything will have a serious problem. Most cancers are probably not inherited. I mean, about, maybe 70 percent of all the factors / problems are caused during the splitting process of the cell - when it splits abnormally. So most mutations occur during the mating, the early growth process through cell division. The rest of them probably occur due to exterior factors like, gamma rays and chemicals that we eat or come into contact with in our life. So, they’re going to occur. If you track them you’ll be able to tell which ones are inherited, and over a period of time you need to look at them to see if they’re inherited… it’s very easy to do. If you say something is inherited, then it’s got to follow a family; it’s a requirement. Debbie Martin: The environment has been blamed for many diseases such as cancer, allergies, all kinds of things and some people feel that it is alright to breed litters whose risk of diseases like cancers or allergies will be high because you can’t control the environment. Dr. Padgett: You’re not trying to control the environment - what you’re trying to do is control the genetics. And it’s true you can’t control the environment but you can control the genetics because you’re making the breeding, you’re making the decision. So to say that it’s okay to breed a dog that’s going to produce a trait that you don’t want to live with…that’s going the wrong direction in my opinion. The environment plays a role, obviously, in allergic diseases… And allergies are independent, they’re all linked together like we have different allergies among this group sitting right here. So allergies are inherited independently. To make a statement that it’s okay to breed an animal because you can’t control the environment…you’re not trying to. The environment’s out there… what you’ve got to do is control the genetics… control the dog. Debbie Martin: If we can’t determine that a certain cancer is genetic in origin, should still make the effort and treat it as though there’s the possibility that it is? Dr. Padgett: No. You’re going to have enough of a problem trying to control the diseases that we know are genetic. I would track the evidence, and if you track and evaluate them over a number of years you will, in fact, determine whether or not they’re genetic. You will see whether or not they follow families. It takes three generations on some of those. Please allow me to re-emphasize and draw your attention to the point Dr. Padgett just made here. He said, "if you track and evaluate them over a number of years you will, in fact, determine whether or not they’re genetic." Who will determine what diseases are genetic? We will. The simple fact of the matter is, breeders have contact with more dog’s of a given breed than any geneticist. Breeders thus have the data necessary to prove what is or isn’t genetic. WE ARE THE RESEARCHERS! Encouraging Participation Our ability to improve the health of our dogs depends more than anything else upon breeders and pet owners reporting the health problems of their dogs. This fact cannot be stressed enough, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Debbie Martin: There has been a reluctance on the part of some of our members to identify the dogs that are common denominators in relatively unrelated pedigrees that produce similar diseases. They feel that by doing so constitutes a witch-hunt that will discourage people from posting their diseases. Is there any value in doing that kind of in-depth analysis of a pedigree? Dr. Padgett: Sure. I mean you have to do it. What the problem is, we’re not used to talking about genetic disease in dogs. I mean you guys have just started, and if you have an open registry, then the witch-hunt part is going to die. When you’re starting, people are going to say it’s a "witch-hunt." But pretty soon what you’re going to be able to do is find out what everybody’s dog has without witch-hunting. It’s going to show up. And so you’re not going to point out that this dog is bad because you’ll be able to see for yourself. And what you will really find out is that every dog and every family is a carrier of something, and you have to know what that is in relationship to the dogs that you have to make your breeding decisions. Some may call it a witch-hunt, but when you’re tracing where a disease comes from you’re tracing one family, but that dog went in to other families. And that tells you what’s happening over there. It not only happens here, it’s happens over there, and over there. And of course what you’re after is to know where the diseases are. You have to remember to keep in mind our history. Breeders have bred a dog to a bitch, and they didn’t tell the owner of the bitch that their dog carried thus and such, or they might have told them "it didn’t." Now all of a sudden, we want them to turn around and be completely honest. When they do that, the person they bullshitted in the first place is going to be mad, right? They’re going to be mad. So we put ourselves in the situation of wanting to change everything immediately, but we can’t change immediately because of the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into over the years. They may even want to change, and you guys are lucky because you’re not in the AKC. Your breed rules may be essentially the same. For example, if I did intropion surgery on my dog - correct his eyes - and that dog is beautiful except for the eyes, got good hips, good heart, good elbows, good everything, he wins. Now if I show that dog after he’s been corrected, I break the rules, and if they knew I corrected the eyes and showed the dog they’d toss me out. So how can I turn around and tell you what’s true without getting punished. Dale Malony: What strategies have you seen breed club’s use to stimulate participation? Dr. Padgett: The best way to stimulate participation is for the leaders of the club to participate so the rest can observe the people that are supposed to lead them. And the breeds that did not continue… guess what happened? Their leaders didn’t step out in front. If they’re up there telling you what to do and they’re not doing it, you’re not going to listen to them. Dale Malony: Did they do anything to acknowledge the ones who do participate so that they can raise their hand and say "Hey, I’m a full disclosure, genetic health participating breeder?" Dr. Padgett: Some breeds have. I think German Shepherds have "Star breeders" that do certain testing. Several clubs do things like that. I can also tell you for a fact, coercion doesn’t work. Debbie Martin: When certain lines are fully disclosing, some lines partially disclosing, and some either barely sharing information or not disclosing at all. Can you still make progress for the breed? Dr. Padgett: Yes. Yes you will. And depending on the number disclosing, you’ll draw others in to that group. That will be, in fact, the winning group, because that’s the group that will be able to prevent disease. That’s the group that’s going to be able to tell you what’s going to happen to the dogs you sell. And the others are interested. They’re sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens. They’re not rejecting it, but before they go out and potentially get nailed to the cross - which we generally do to people that talk about disease, we nail them to the cross - they’re not willing to take that risk yet, and that’s where they are.
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