Recently the country of Norway amended its existing Animal Welfare Act to emphasize the importance of breeding healthy and fit purebred dogs.

They have declared that breeders who violate healthy breeding standards may be held liable. This includes breeding for extreme physical conformations and not screening out genetic health conditions that cause suffering, for example, brachycephalic muzzles in breeds like the English Bulldog.

According to an article on the new amendment in Veterinary Practice News, Norway has deemed the breeding of two dog breeds to be a breach of the country’s animal welfare laws: the English Bulldog and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

For these two breeds to continue in Norway, they must be outcrossed with other, healthier breeds.

Why the English Bulldog and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which endorses the legislation, explains. In the case of the English Bulldog, extreme brachycephaly can cause lifelong breathing difficulties and distress, invasive surgery, and even death.

For the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, there are two serious genetic health conditions of concern: early-onset heart disease (mitral valve disease (MVD)) and a painful hereditary brain condition called syringomyelia (SM), which is related to the conformation of the skull.

The WSAVA says of health-focused breeding, “Selection of breeding stock to improve and maintain the genetic and conformational health of animals must be a primary factor in breeding decisions.”

They advise breeders to avoid selecting for extreme physical conformation, and to select against common and breed-specific hereditary diseases that can cause suffering in pets. This can be done with the help of outcrossing, health screening, and DNA testing.

To learn more about the genetics of dog breeding, check out this article in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.

 

 

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