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Despite significant amounts of research being carried out into canine health, there remain many conditions where little is known about the underlying causes. Some conditions may be inherited, while others may not. If a DNA test or health scheme is not available and it is not known if, or how, a condition is inherited, what can breeders do if they are concerned about a condition in their breed?
Examples of conditions suspected of being inherited where no test is available
- Addison’s disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Cushing’s disease
- Some forms of epilepsy
- Some skin disorders
- Some heart conditions
First seek advice
If you are concerned about a particular condition in your breed, or are worried that your dog may be at risk of producing affected puppies, then you should seek advice from:
- Your local breed club, or Breed Health Co-ordinator (contact your breed club here)
- Your vet
- Your dog’s breeder
- The Kennel Club Health team
These experts may be able to help direct you towards the latest information about the condition you are concerned about, and may be able to tell you of the latest research or prevalence data (% of dogs in your breed affected). It is possible that little is known about how the condition is inherited, but it is nevertheless worth checking.
It is very challenging for dog breeders to reduce the risk of any disease where the mode of inheritance is not known. Sometimes, if the mode of inheritance for a disorder is well understood, careful selective breeding can enable breeders to greatly reduce, or even eliminate, the disorder while allowing the breeders to continue with their bloodlines.
The advice below provides guidelines which will help reduce the risk of producing affected puppies, but can not be used as a guarantee.
Breeding from an affected dog
If a dog is affected by the condition you are concerned about, it is not recommended that this dog is used for breeding. By using this dog for breeding you may be putting any puppies produced at risk of developing the condition, and you could be perpetuating “risky” genes within the breed as a whole.
Breeding from an unaffected dog that has already produced affected puppies
If two dogs have previously produced affected puppies, then this mating should not be repeated. If an individual dog in the mating that produced affected puppies is not affected for the condition themselves, you may still wish to use this dog for mating if it has other excellent qualities. When choosing an alternative mate for your dog, you should ensure that there is no record whatsoever of the condition in their line, paying particular care to immediate relatives. This should reduce the risk of puppies inheriting riskier genes from both the mother and the father.
Breeding from an unaffected dogs with affected siblings or parents
This dog should only be considered for breeding later on in life, ensuring that it is not affected and does not develop the disease later in life. When choosing a mate, you should ensure that they have no record of the condition in their line, paying particular care to immediate relatives.
Breeding from an unaffected dog with affected distant relatives
The risk of this dog producing affected puppies appears to be low. When choosing a mate, you should ensure that they have no record of the condition in their line, paying particular care to immediate relatives.
Unaffected dogs with no history of affected relatives
There seems to be no indication that your dog is at risk of developing or passing on the condition you are concerned about.
Making balanced breeding decisions
As well as considering the implications of the condition you are concerned about, there are other equally important factors to consider when deciding whether two dogs should be mated together, such as temperament, genetic diversity, conformation, other available health test results, the general health of the dogs etc. Your breeding decisions should always be well balanced and take into consideration the qualities and compatibility of both the sire and dam that you are considering.