Thursday, February 28, 2008

Health Benefits to Owning Cats

The latest battle in the eternal war of cat v. dog goes to...(drumroll please) Cats! According to the latest study on benefits of pet ownership, "Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third".

[Researchers] found that over a 20-year period, those who had never owned a cat had a 40 percent greater risk of death due to heart attack and a 30 percent higher risk of death due to any sort of cardiovascular disease than previous or current cat owners. Researchers found no such protective effects for dog owners.
But never fear, my furry friends. One victory does not determine the entire war. Not too long ago it was the dogs that had the upper hand.

Dogs May Protect Kids from Allergies

(This blog originally posted on 12/20/2006.)

More good news for dogs (sorry cats!)

Infants who live in a house with multiple dogs may be less likely to develop allergies later in life, according to a new study.

Ms. X did not have dogs in the house when she was an infant, and guess what? She's "mildly" allergic to many things. Miss X on the other hand, was born into a house full of four (and 2) legged critters. So far - no allergies.

Read on at Dogs May Protect Kids from Allergies.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Genetic Disease or Poor Health?

(This blog originally posted on 3/23/2006.)

Thorough genetic screening enables responsible breeders to minimize their chances of producing a health-compromised puppy.

This seemingly benign sentence is shaping a dangerous trend in dogdom. Maybe more than one. This statement has become one of the mantra's of "responsible" breeders, and surely nobody could argue with it!

Nobody except maybe Ms. X, who never hesitates to pick up the dog poop and throw it in the composter, rather than just side-step around it. And maybe her furry readers, who are becoming experts at clearing the poop mines out of the yard in record time.

Let's start at the top. "Thorough genetic screening..."

Even with rampant inbreeding there are relatively few diseases in dogs proven to be monogenic. You know from the posts and readings on epigenetics that most diseases have environmental factors. And genetic screening means screening only those diseases that have some degree of identifiable genetic component.

So right away you know allergies, asthma, cancers, etc. have been excluded from this screening requirement.

What genetic screening does do, is shrink the genepools. When they write "enable breeders to minimize ... producing" they mean by not breeding animals that do not pass genetic screening.

You minimize producing by minimizing matings.

Some will take an extreme position here, and stop breeding every dog linked to a genetically related disorder, while others will limit the breeding of those dogs to only "clear" ones. At the end of the day though, the results are the same. The genepool shrinks. It's just a matter of time.

Things happen when the genepool shrinks. For one, when a particular disease is "selected against" or a physical trait is selected for, it's not uncommon for a new, previously rare, or unheard-of disease to suddenly become prevelant and widespread. Usually this is referred to as doubling up on bad genes.

Something else happens too, and it's much worse. Good genes are also doubled up on. Those good genes are the ones that control the immune system, and doubling up on them is BAD. Every time a dog gets two copies of the same gene in this area, he loses some functionality of his immune system.

And guess what increases? Allergies, asthma, cancer, contagious diseases etc.

That's the problem.

HEALTH is not defined by genetic disease load. And it's a MISTAKE to foster that interpretation. Today's "treatment" of genetic disease is genepool shrinkage, and as we just realized, genepool shrinkage fosters major compromises to health.

When genetic disease load is the sole measure of health, people don't hesitate to breed dogs if they can give drugs to mask another condition (allergies etc.). Then they inbreed those dogs, just because they happen to be clear of the feared genetic conditions. This, of course, increases the real health problems.

Well, I feel like I'm just repeating myself over, and over, and over... so let's just sum up.

No, Ms. X is not saying don't do genetic screening. It has it's place, and it's place will become more important when breeders learn to manage environmental influences as treatment for genetic disease.

Ms. X is saying it's NOT responsible to say that health is measured with genetic screenings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cool Dog Pics

I could not resist blogging this. Just dogs being dogs. (And the commentary's not bad either!)

Dogs about town

The Silence of the Woofs

(This blog originally posted on 6/29/2005.)

Have you heard of PAWS? If not, check out this link, and this one.

PAWS, in a neutered nutsac, is repressive, anti-breeder legislation being pushed by a conservative Senator, PETA and the AKC (INSERT COMMENT ABOUT POLITICS AND STRANGE BEDFELLOWS).

PAWS will cause anyone who breeds 6 or more litters a year to be USDA Licensed.

PAWS is one gigantic problem. Property rights and personal freedom are only two of the ideals PAWS tramples.

But this post isn't about PAWS alone. This is a look at the total anti-pet puzzle, of which PAWS may just be one of the last pieces.

Ms. X pulled out her crystal ball and asked what the picture on the puzzle was. What she saw was the non-future of pets. That's right. The picture is mostly blank and gray, with a few ghost shadows of dogs.

"What's going to happen to our pets?" You ask. "Is David Garcia going to steal them?"

David Garcia is one piece in this puzzle, and really, not a very big one.

Let's look at the big ones.

Piece 1: Demonization of Pet Stores (that sell live pets). Scarcely a puppy store owner today hasn't come under attack from some anti-pet group, and scarecly anyone can mention buying a pet store puppy without blistering criticism from the water-cooler ethicists.

The anti-pet movement has been changing public sentiment about pet stores. The movement knows a large commercial kennel will have trouble selling its puppies without the public access stores, thereby forcing many commercial kennels out of business. The movement then uses people like Garcia to demonize commercial breeders.

Piece 2: PAWS At the other end of the issue is the small volume "hobby" or "show" breeder who will be forced by PAWS to build a USDA approved kennel, or stop breeding. Most will stop breeding.

Piece 3: Pet Limit Laws. I suspect most of the five litter a year or less crowd are family breeders who do not show. They just have a bitch and a male they breed once or twice a year.

They would stay under PAWS radar, but they are being squeezed by two other vises, Municiple Pet Limit Laws, and

Piece 4: Mandatory Spay/Neuter. Mandatory neuter endangers the family breeder in two ways. First are the punitive fees for keeping whole (breedable) animals in the city/county limits. Second is the push within the 'fancy', both cat and dog, to do early neuters and sell 8 week old puppies and kittens already fixed.

The second limits the number of potential family breeders, and the first wipes out the few that slip through.

So what to expect in the future? Well, despite the four puzzle pieces above, the demand for pets has not even blinked.

And what happens when supply dries up while demand increases? That's right. The prices skyrocket.

Look at it this way - small dogs have small litters, so a breeder has to have 10 small breed litters a year to match the number of puppies from two large breed litters. That of course, would be
prohibited by Piece 2 and Piece 3. So small dog prices will rise the highest.

The high price of small breed dogs may drive some buyers toward large breed dogs. The ratio of large breed dogs to small breed dogs may initially rise, but this avenue is quickly being blocked by

Piece 5: BSL Breed Specific Legislation targets breeds that can do the most damage to humans during an attack. That always means large breed dogs are banned first.

When you have all the pieces, it's easy to see what the puzzle looks like.

The last question Ms. X asked her crystal ball was "how did they build all the pieces under our very eyes? Are we blind and didn't see?"

And the answer was harsh. Every piece had been built with the help of one or more groups of "dog lovers".

Our own greed and drive to force our concepts of "responsibility" on all dog owners has paved our way to hell ... to the silence of the woofs.

(Update: PAWS died in congress, and Rick Sanatorum is no longer a Senator. But that shouldn't be interpreted to mean we are safe. No indeed. An opportunity for repression cannot be lost, and in this case, there is a lot at stake. You may be very sure PAWS will revive sooner, rather than later, in another (probably more devious) form.)

What's wrong with the CKC?

(This blog originally posted on 7/23/2006.)

CKC, or Clueless Knaves Confounded

It's fast growing, popular and the most derided dog registry in the country. No, I'm not talking about the Canadans (Canadian Kennel Club), I'm talking about the Continental Kennel Club - CKC.

"Ooohh" said the knave, "That's the registry puppymillers and irresponsible breeders use. They'll register any dog, all you have to do is send a picture and some money."

Some detractors even set up a website (only the archived version is now available) listing all their grievences against CKC, which they proceeded to label as gospel since CKC never deigned to dignify their clueless confusion with a response.

Well, Ms. X doesn't think anyone should be confounded in this day and age, so she charged up the truthlight and has it aimed directly at this shadowy web.

Open registeries aren't for children. Someone said once that children were born nazis. Meaning, that they crave and thrive in the security of a tightly controlled environment. That's why adults run the world and secure the liberty mankind as a whole thrives in. Dog registeries are the same way. Children crave security of a closed registry with arm length pedigrees, stamped and certified. This puts boundries on the the decisions they have to make as breeders, limiting their responsibility while it limites the capabilities and genepool of a dog breed.

What follows are exerts from the knaves attempt to discredit CKC, and what Ms. X 's truthlight reveals.

1) Open Registry The open registy maintained by CKC registers a dog for whom photographic evidence as belonging to a particular breed has been submitted. This evidence is submitted along with affirmations that the dog is indeed that breed. The evidence is subject to CKC approval, and if approved, the dog is admitted as "foundation stock".

2) "Breeding to much broader standards" A frequently levied complaint is that CKC doesn't have any standards. Why this is a complaint, Ms. X can't figure out. Most registries maintain a set of standards, and none of them are exactly the same. And none of the standards are the same as the standard that was written when the breed was first recognized. Instead, all these differend standards conflict with each other in what is allowed and what isn't (colors, for example), what the size and structure of the dog should be... So finally a registry DOESN'T throw yet another set of standards into the mess, but rather gives its breeders leeway to use what they feel is best for the welfare of the breed. And this is a bad thing?

On the contrary, this is the best approach to keep breeders from focusing on extremes in appearance and constantly changing the standard to keep up with the showring.

3) Services from CKC v. Other Registries Why is "non-profit" a service? The bad thing about non-profits is they don't come with a focus on competitive business practices, and customer service. No Conformation Shows? Ms. X doesn't think any registry should hold these. Conformation shows should be the function of the breed club, and participation dependent upon the competitive goals of the breeder.

CKC does sponser competitions like obedience trials and weight pulling.

4) Why are conformation shows important? They're not. Unless you think all pet buyers are stupid and all breeders have their heads up their u-know-whats. Contrary to the claims of the knaves, the best way to make sure a Golden Retriever looks like a Golden Retriever is to educate the puppy buyer to read a standard and learn about structure. Period.

Likewise, proper genetic testing doesn't do much to ensure the parents of a puppy are healthy. On the contrary, improper obsession about genetic tests can result in less healthy, inbred dogs.

I love this quote: "Responsible breeders can examine pedigrees to determine what defects may exist in a particular line..." I think somebody has found a way to smoke dog poo. A pedigree says nothing about any health or genetic abnormalities in a dog. You find this out by talking to the breeder. The information any breeder gives you about a dog is only as good as the integrity and memory of the breeder you talk to. The other way to get information is to look at publically available test results from places like OFA.

Then the knaves drag out the myth of hybrid vigor. Uuggh.

6) What is a responsible breeder? The clueless trot out a truely tired and inaccurate list. Keep reading this blog, we'll take each one on in separate posts.

7) What is a puppymill? A puppymill is NOT a "volume producer of puppies, who sell to a wholesaler." That is a commerical breeder, who is licensed and inspected by the USDA. The USDA has some strict standards for these breeders. A puppymill is an extremely substandard facility where the level of care qualifies as abuse. These are rarely USDA inspected facilities.

The knaves then list a large number of "signs" of a "puppymill advertisement":

-> "Call for prices and availability". Why is there disapproval of a breeder who wants to talk to someone before telling them prices and when a puppy might be available? Price is extremely important to puppy buyers. Most don't want to pay thousands of dollars for a long list of champion parents when the pup will have allergies, cancer, diabetes, and be brainless and hyper! Acknowledging the customers interest is a good customer service, a hallmark of an ethical breeder.

-> "No specifics of health tests done prior to a clear sign of a puppymill". Hhmmm. And a clear sign of an unethical breeder is no mention of the COI of the pups in the ad. Please. Advertising is geared to puppy buyers, not peers. An early screening tool is seeing how knowledgeable a buyer is by the questions he asks. If you play your hand before the game starts, you're going to lose.

-> "Puppies available year-round" This may very well indicate the kennel is self sufficient enough to hire help when the owners are out working their dogs. Certainly it is better for the health of the bitch to breed her on every cycle.

-> "We produce appleheads and deer heads". Uh-Oh. "Deer heads" don't conform to the AKC standard. Puppymiller! Complaining about this is an unethical breeder warning flag. "Appleheads" cause a lot of problems for chihuahua mothers, resulting in a lot of C-section births. A "deer head" allows a dog a better chance at whelping naturally. But these knaves care more about the prestige of an "applehead" dog.

-> "Selling expensive poo-mixes". Designer dogs (hybrids) are an idea whose time has come. And the AKC-ites have no one to blame but themselves.

8) "Are most CKC breeders irresponsible"? Bad data leads to bad conclusions. Ms. X's furry readers are well aware of that.

9) "Why do people use Continental Kennel Club"? People use CKC to prevent their breeds from falling into the same pits as the Basenji, Dalmations, etc. An open registry is a good choice for breeders who are primarily interested in the function of their dog, because of the relative ease of importing and outcrossing to a good working dog that may not happen to have a long pedigree of AKC recognized ancestors. With an open registry it is easier to bring in crucial genetic diversity and add working ability to lines.

A breeder that knows what they are doing, has the guts to make the best choices to benefit their breed and act in their own best interest, has an invaluable asset in CKC.

(Update: the bolded words were originally linked to posts that have not made it out of the archives. The links will be re-established as those posts are re-aired.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

How Special is Uno?

A beagle has won grand prize at Westminster, the dog world's equivalent of the Miss Universe Pageant, only with less talent required.

That makes him a pretty special dog, huh? Uno, hailed as a "people's dog" pranced and played to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Gardens. There is no question, dog beauty contests are popular. Maybe the Donald can hire him to be a commentator at the next Miss America pageant. 'Coz Uno's qualified. Even the judge said "He does cuteness well".

What else does Uno do well? I saw no mention of his hunting abilities in the write-up. I read about his "golden brown, pleading eyes", and his baying, and of course, the cuteness. But can he do anything as a Beagle that defines him as a Beagle?

Dan Belkin said "So, I must add that not only is a Saluki a dog that looks like a Saluki, but also a dog that works like a Saluki."

It looks like a Beagle, but can it work like a Beagle?

Oh, never mind. I just found the American Kennel Club ad from last Sunday's Parade Magazine. Under a picture of two identical Golden Retriever puppies was the title "It's tough to tell them apart. But something sets them apart." The ad says tells me that what sets Uno apart from other beagles is his AKC registration. AKC, the ad says, is the ONLY registry whose dogs can track their parentage back to 1884. Ms. X isn't sure she can trace her parentage back that far. (She must not be special.)

Registration with the AKC is more than just a piece of paper. Or so we're told. However, if you want a papered puppy, you should "insist" it's an AKC papered puppy. This ad reads like something from the 1950's.

For the soft, naturally pretty curls you want, be beauty-wise and neutralize... insist on Richard Hudnut Home Permanent

Soon I will put up a blog from the archives on the CKC (Continental Kennel Club) in which I explain the advantages of NOT being able to trace ancestry to 1884.

But that's not the only advantage to papers from the AKC. If you register with the AKC, the ad says, you will also support monitoring of canine legislation.

Ms. X got a little choked up over that one. Remember PAWS? Stay tuned. I'll search the archives for some old blogs on PAWS too.

But now Ms. X has to go. She has two identical dogs in her house, and she must figure out what sets them apart.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ron Paul, Hope for America

This may not seem dog related, but Ms. X writes this blog for the humans. So humans, if you like the good things in life, and honesty and peace and prosperity (what better circumstances to love and enjoy your four legged companions in?), VOTE for, SUPPORT Ron Paul!

Do it for yourselves. Watch these videos.

Part I

Part II

Part III