Last weekend I attended a two day seminar sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club. The presenter was world famous canine structure expert Pat Hastings. I’ve been to a number of her seminars in the past. This time was the third time I have served as part of the seminar commenting on veterinary issues caused by structural problems.
Canine structure interests me not only as a breeder and competitor in dog sports, but as a veterinarian. Incorrect structure leaves a dog susceptible to injury , arthritis, and pain. It is important for every breeder to consider structure when breeding as the goal is (or should be) to produce puppies that are as healthy as possible. As a veterinarian, it is my job to recognize weaknesses in a pet that could cause a decrease in the animal’s quality of life. The average pet owner does not recognize early signs of pain.
As an example, when doing a routine examination on the table, I may find “slipped hocks”. It is not a serious issue for a pet dog, but can be a hindrance if the dog is to jog alongside its owner for exercise, compete in a sport like agility or even be expected to go on long hikes on the weekend. At this point I need to explain to my client the limitations this flaw in structure means for their dog. Yes, the dog would likely be able to compensate short term and perform as the owner wishes, but long term, the compensation would lead to break down and pain.
Another part of the animal that can cause chronic pain and is often overlooked is the mouth. When a dog’s dentition is not what it should be, meaning an overbite, underbite or even crooked teeth, it will likely develop more decay. Teeth may even push into the opposing palate causing pain and infection. As a veterinarian, I want to be proactive and manage a problem as soon as it is recognized. As a breeder, I want to do the best I can to prevent dental issues through genetics.
One of the questions I have been asked is why do I go back to the same seminar again and again. It’s a simple answer. I learn something new every time. Different dogs are evaluated and I get to handle some excellent examples of various breeds. Even outstanding dogs have flaws. In a breeding program, their owners must endeavor to find mates that will improve on the next generation.
I love all dogs. My goal as a breeder and a veterinarian is for every dog to live an active, pain free life.