Dog breeding and dogs’ health

Buckley Report
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What a difference a few generations can make.

The dogs in this year’s Westminster Dog Show would hardly be recognizable to the breeders who entered that show a hundred years ago. Well, they might be recognizable, but the changes would, indeed, be stark.

Breeders have changed the breeds significantly.

“Been seeing it as long as I've been in practice,” Veterinarian Ray Coble tells us. What he sees are certain exaggerated features in breeds that may be what helps them win, "Best in Show," but doesn’t do much for their health.

The breeders are creating, Coble says, “What they think that breed should look like -- not necessarily function like.”

So bulldogs have smashed in faces that make it hard to breathe and heads so big and round that virtually all of them have to give birth by C-section. Boxers have back legs that extend on an angle, backward so that their feet sit four or five inches behind where they did a century ago. Dachshunds have shorter legs and carry more weight, leading to the fact that Dr. Coble says they nearly all need back surgery at some time in their lives.

North Carolina State Dog Geneticist Matthew Breen sees the problems too.

“There are many, many issues that many, many breeds of dog have,” says Breen.

But he says it is an issue that -- these days -- the breeders are on the right side of.

“The breeders, themselves are probably at the top of the pile when it comes to those people who are demonstrating real, tangible concern about what they can do to alter that.”

See how much the animals have changed in this edition of the Buckley Report.

Related: Dogs photographed in 1915 and 2015, side-by-side for comparison

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