A Breeder’s Perspective
By Susan Holt
It is firstly important to understand why we decide to breed at all. For us, it was to strive to produce dogs that can fulfil all purposes. Our aim is always to try to produce dogs that conform to the breed standard, are healthy and happy and can fulfil the functions required, whether that is as a family pet or a working earth dog. Good temperament, healthy body and mind and typical breed traits are at the forefront of our breeding plans. To support this, we imported 2 unrelated dogs from German kennels. We have also always restricted the use of our stud dogs, to ensure that if they did produce something we were not aware of, it would never become endemic in the breed.
When we became aware of Lafora disease, it was a shock to learn that there was no testing regime in place and that many people in the show fraternity were unconcerned. A distressing telephone call from someone who was looking for a puppy, having lost their 13 year old bitch due to Lafora, prompted us to do some research and discover that there was a laboratory in Canada that had a saliva test that would identify Affected animals. This enabled us to test all our dogs and confirm that none were affected, which was great news, but still did not tell us if any were carriers of the disease.
One of the reasons Lafora was largely ignored by the show / breeding fraternity is that the symptoms do not appear until later, usually after the age of 7 years. By this time, many breeders have let the dogs go to “pet homes” to make room for new additions, in order to be able to keep breeding and producing new specimens. Although this sounds like a heartless practice, it is, in fact, better for the dogs that they live out their retirement as a much loved one to one pet and companion, rather than among the rough and tumble of a busy house or kennel full of young and teenage animals, all posturing for position. They settle happily the majority of the time and soon bond with their new owner. But the breeder does not always know they have developed the disease and, if they do not see the condition on a day to day basis, perhaps do not realise the seriousness and the urgency with which we need to act to rid the breed of this scourge.
The Breed Council and Health sub-committee have made great strides in making the Affected / Unaffected test widely available. This has enabled us to identify who are Carriers of the disease, as all parents and progeny of Affecteds, will be at least Carriers, if not Affected. Now that the Canadian laboratory has perfected a blood based Carrier test, this is also available to us. Further research is in progress to try to perfect a saliva based Carrier test, which will make testing quicker and simpler.
Now it is incumbent upon breeders to do everything in their power to breed animals that are totally free from Lafora. It will become much easier with the advent of the full screening test. Restricting the use of stud dogs will also help to ensure that any future diseases do not become entrenched.
Education is the second strand of the work on improving the health of our beloved miniature wire haired dachshunds. People across the breeding fraternity including pet, hobby, show and occasional breeders, need to fully understand the implications of their actions. Making use of the testing available can and will help to eradicate the disease and ensure that, just like Smallpox in humans, Lafora in the miniature wire haired dachshund, becomes a thing of the past. Any breeder who is not wholeheartedly in support of the testing regime, is not totally committed to the healthy future of our breed. Selling puppies and winning in the showring, should always be secondary to breeding healthy animals.
Go to Supportive Breeders to find out about other MWHD breeders who support the scheme.