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Ask a Vet: Research purebred pets

POSTED: August 11, 2013 1:00 a.m.

I’m not a big fan of the royal family. I don’t dislike the royals, but I wasn’t terribly interested in the babywatch recently.

However, despite not being a history major, I retained a bit of obscure details regarding the royal families of the various European countries. Mainly because it relates to genetics. And sideshows.

For years, the European royal families were so worried about sullying their family lines they practiced varying levels of inbreeding; cousins marrying cousins, etc. Thus, the thrones were retained and power was consolidated.

But Mother Nature doesn’t like that. A shallow gene pool is dangerous in the same way a shallow swimming pool is dangerous. If you dive in, you may end up in trouble.

We got our independence from England in part because the reigning king was a bit mad.

King George III had porphyria. In addition to causing symptoms of mental instability, it can discolor and damage teeth and bones, as well as blood disorders. It’s even hypothesized this disease among aristocrats in Europe is partly responsible for the spreading of vampire legends.

But George was truly of royal blood, just maybe not the safest genetically.

Much is the same in our pets, unfortunately.

In animals, we call it “line breeding,” and it tends to increase the incidences of recessive genes being expressed, and heritable diseases occurring.

Of course, there is no guarantee any animal or person will be free of genetically-related disease. But as with all things biologic, you can learn the risks and try to avoid them as much as possible.

Still, some get cancer. Some get kidney disease. Some get glaucoma.

That being said, do not be afraid to have a purebred dog or cat. But do your homework and research where the pet comes from so you can minimize the risk of something cropping up. Certain diseases are more common in certain breeds, but not every family line of golden retrievers will get cancer. And some hybrid dogs (or mutts, if you’re not politically correct) will get bizarre diseases.

Just make sure your new puppy isn’t his own uncle.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at mattsisk2003@yahoo.com.


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