Saturday, December 8, 2007

Genetics and Breeding Strategies, essays for the dog breeder.

(This blog originally posted on 1/24/2006.)

Genetics and Breeding Strategies; essay's for the dog breeder. By Dr. Susan Thorpe-Vargas.

(This is an e-book, and not so easy to get. You may request a copy for 14 dollars by emailing the author at docvite NOSPAM_OR_SPACE

-- A flat out advocation of out-breeding.
-- A promotion of open stud books.
-- A warning of a bleak future for purebred dogs.
-- An insiders' perspective.
-- A wakeup call to today's purebred dog breeders.

Well, it ought to be the latter, but Ms. X is betting many breeders will just hit 'snooze'.

Ms. X found herself agreeing with the author on much of the book's content, but there was also a sad flareup of AKCitis, and an oddly conflicting push for genetic testing as the ultimate health panacea.

It's a bumpy start at the front of the book, where Dr. Vargas, despite her advanced education, promotes a long list of "responsible" breeder practices. You know, the ones breeders push to cover the breeding problems widely experienced because most breeders don't believe what she goes on to write in this book. Mmm. If you followed that you know exactly what I mean. It's tempting to roll your eyes and put the book down here, but don't. Keep reading. It's worth it.

In chapter two, Dr. Vargas explains a lot of genetic terms. Put a bookmark here. The best way to understand them is to keep reading, then flip back when you come across one of these concepts. Then you will learn it in context of usage.

At times Dr. Vargas almost sounds like an epigeneticist, like when she writes "One should be aware that no matter how high the genetic heretability of a trait, there will always be some environmental component in the expression of that trait."

There's a great section on the immune system. Dr. Vargas writes "When inbreeding occurs, the chance that the puppy will inherit an identical set of these genes from each parent increases. This, in effect, cuts the functional ability of the immune system in half and seriously compromises the quality and duration of life for the puppy."

Amen and amen! Eh?

But by the middle of the book, the commendable has slid into the mundane as this author pronounces "It is strongly suggested that breed clubs look at the heritable diseases associated with their breeds, and establish a well-defined screening protocal mandatory for all dogs owned or bred by members of the club."

Quickly followed by a placatement to AKC ("we are them, they are us") and calls for breeders to fund research - but only research for genetic disease, markers and tests. Not a word about research into environmental influences.

One other interesting footnote, this author also co-authored a multipart paper on Hip Dysplasia that said the disease was about 30 percent genetic, and she states in this book: "Over the several decades that hip x-rays have been done, the incidence rate of hip dysplasia in the general dog population has been virtually unaffected. OFA and Penn Hip, both closed registries, have had minimal impact." She seems wholly to blame this state of affairs on OFA and PennHip being closed registries... not a word about environmental impact studies.

Don't dispair though. This book is a good first step (you'll get this reference when you've read the book) we can hope, to opening epigenetic dialog and studying environmental influences.

Ms. X recommends: Read it. It won't tell you everything you want to hear, but it says a lot you want to know.