Are We at a Fanatical Point on GSD Care? - Page 1

Pedigree Database

Premium classified

This is a placeholder text
Group text

Premium classified

This is a placeholder text
Group text

Premium classified

This is a placeholder text
Group text

Premium classified

This is a placeholder text
Group text

by LMA on 15 August 2023 - 15:08

I'm posting this question regarding evaluations that are consistently done on dogs.   There's no denying  that owners and breeders are marketed to relentlesly for genetic testing, spays and neutering, imaging and surgeries for their dogs.  A lot of it is couched in the notion that we now have harmless tools that will allow producing of healthier dogs.  I am somewhere in the middle of this kind of thought process.  I always strive to the best of my ability to raise and nurture, healthy dogs (I believe most people do as well);  but, I am on the fence or completely opposed to some practices.  For instance,  I see indiscriminate neutering/spaying as absurd.  Usually for stating this, I get the usual "You wouldn't say that if you had a dog that had Pyometra", or   "...if you had a dog with testicular cancer", or some sort of similar remark.  Yet, in over three decades of raising dogs/bitches of varying breeds, all medium to large dogs, I have never had a female or male with either condition.  I've had vets preach spay/neuter, and I've had them agree with me, that the dogs often do better unaltered.  

One thing is certain, genetic testing companies market a lot of disease marker tests, for things that are so unrealized that they are virtually non-existent.  I see some of it as reaching a fanatical point.  The other area is imaging.   I see both the merits and the possibility of injury to dogs from x-ray.   The dogs' reproductive areas are not shielded during scans.   What does it ultimately mean?  I'm not sure it can be completely surmised without a lartge study, but to me it is interesting to look into more deeply.   But, small litters are prevalent in many lines, and it all gets chalked up to COI.  While decreased litter size seems to be a product of COI, could it be only part of the equation?  Yes, we all want to produce or buy dogs with healthy joints.  Historically, GSD joints were not x-rayed during the most important eras of the breed development.  How in the world did that happen?   Same holds true for livestock farmers. I doubt I am the only one who realizes this.   I'm not saying one way or the other is best, but I am saying that maybe too many rely on documentation, while overlooking plain faults in the dogs they breed.   I am reminded that during the American goldrush, most miners came up broke, while the merchants selling the pans to mine with made a profit. 

So to strain this question down,  how certain is anyone that the genetic diseases that are now tested for aren't influenced by, or a genetic alteration by x-ray?  And who besides a vet that stands to make a profit tells you that?  It's a fair question.  Another point likely to come up will be "there are no studies that back up any claims that x-rays harm dogs"; but, if we're being honest, the people that are able to conduct the tests, are the very ones selling the tests.   

This is an interesting site I think people would want to check out.

It's by Barbara J. Andrews, who is apparently part of a Science Advisory Board (still looking into that one).   Is she bogus?  


The Organic Pet

by The Organic Pet on 18 August 2023 - 23:08

Very good points and you have opened my eyes to requiring that my dogs reproductive organs be shielded during Xrays! I am ignorant on what COI is, however... Thank you for this very inspiring post! I'll be following!
Sheri The Organic Pet Lady


by Hundmutter on 19 August 2023 - 15:08

Not sure how much actual evidence exists that X rays will affect the genetics. Sure, we have 'always' shielded human genitalia but in fact that's become more whole-body shielding as knowledge has increased, and still the effects of such limited radiation seem minimal in the wider scheme of things. Would hardly object if the vets wanted to put protection over relevant bits of dogs, though. Although as far as we know most of the big evils in GSD are not sex-linked so its less likely that an x ray of the pelvis would mess up the elbows by mutation for example. I will read the link you posted, though, thanks for that.

However, its not only GSD in which these questions arise, is it ? The whole of the dog fancy (well, pets in general) are now taking more notice of what CAN be done; does not mean it has to be done. We can all surely resist the blandishments of the genetics companies and other advertisers, and just take what we need from what is now available, surely ?

As to relative values of getting answers: as far as joint diseases are concerned, we should not lose sight of the value of knowing e.g. hip status, not for its own sake so much as using the knowledge to reduce breeding from dogs who may pass their faulty structures to future generations - a point too often forgotten / disregarded.
And yes statisticly we may never experience a pyo or a testicular cancer in our own dogs ( I certainly have not yet done so either, though I do know a couple of pyo cases close to me), but while that is fine for us it is meaningless to someone who IS affected, and thus wishes they had got their dog fixed. There are additional concerns & arguments about the age of dogs before neutering. You just have to weigh up all the info and choose what works for you. Not be swayed by others' views, or advertising, if those views don't fit your circumstances.


by alexnds05 on 20 August 2023 - 14:08

I hope I fully understood your post. The answer to your question, in short, is "no".  You are essentially asking two questions. The first, is are we over-emphasizing castration and hysteroctomies in our pet dogs. In that regard, I agree with you.  I think that the endocryine system is a very key component in the health and growth of an animal and we can control the pet overpopulation by other means: simply not allowing dogs to mate that live the same household or to roam freely. That' as matter of management, and human responsiboility, not surgery.

With regards to the second part of your question, the need to stop X-raying, the answer is 'no".

With regards to X-rays, the need for O.F.A hip and elbow X-rays as way to reduce the incidence of hip and elbow displasyia in German Shepherds is an absolute necessity.  In this study: click to view, there were over 450,000 dogs studied only a small percentage of purebred dogs had elbow diseases. The efforts to do hip and elbow X-rays, although not done in the early part of the breed history, which is the 1900's to 1920's, as you stated, does not lessen the need to do it today. Back in the 1900's, the X-ray machine was only invented in 1895 by Professor WIliam Roentgen, and the German Shepherd only became a breed in 1899!  So how could X-rays be applied to a breed only 5 years after the X-ray machine was first invented?  Besides, the X-ray machine wasn't widely used until World War I, and the cost to use it for dogs would have been prohibitive as we were barely able to afford to do it for soldiers in the 1918's never mind dogs.  So your argument that it wasn't used early in the breed's history doesn't take into account the historical costs of this equipment and the high voltgages and heavy weight of the early X-ray machines and the high costs of that time period. We barely had X-ray machines the hospitals in the 1930's for humans, so how do you think we had it for dogs?  However, now that we do use it for dogs, here's a link that shows how we reduced this disease as a diagnostic tool prior to breeding: Elbow Faqs - OFA

With regards to genetic testing and not being used in the early part of the 20th century or not even used at all in the past (meaning the 19th century).  Right now, I can go to and do a DNA test kit for dogs for only $120 to $150.  This is not that expensive to avoid breeding a carrier to another carrier  We didn't even map the canine genome previously, so how could we do genetic testing until testing became cheap and easy?  According to this article: click to view, the canine genome wasn't sequenced until 2004. So how can we do genetic testing prior to that? The Canine genome was squenced 105 years after the breed was invented! So how can it have been done in the past?

So your argument that we didn't do X-rays or genetic testing in the past, and we're doing it too much now is pretty flawed. It doesn't take into account when the X-ray machine was invented and when genetic sequencing even became available, and cost effective enough to be done for dogs.  The argument that it wasn't done in the past, and now we're doing it too much is not a valid one. We now have tools at our disposal that the average breeder can easily afford, that would have either been cost prohibitive or simply un-available in the past. Can we shield the sexual organs during an X-ray, of course. But should we do X-rays to not breed dogs with bad hips? Absolutely!
The German A-stamp system and the American O.F.A have significantly reduced sickness and disease in our breed and it's definitely worth the effort to test dogs. So in fact, we're NOT at a fanatical point of GSD care. We reached a point where technology and science made it so cost effective to do it, that we are irresponsible as breeders if we don't dog it.


by Hundmutter on 20 August 2023 - 17:08

LMA I read today of another paper that you might find of interest:

Maneuvering The Maze of Genetic Tests: Interpretation and Utilization.
Jerold S Bell DVM
Dept of Clinical Sciences, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Nth Grafton MA.

Apologies for not being able to link it for you.

mrdarcy (admin)

by mrdarcy on 21 August 2023 - 05:08

Hindmutter linked it for you.

by LMA on 30 August 2023 - 16:08

Good points from everyone above, and I am always interested in reading more so I appreciate all the article links!

As for the comments from Alexnds05,  I don't contend that the x-rays should have been done at the beginning of GSD breed establishment.  I don't try to chronologically align a timetable for when tests became prevalent at all.  The point is that "while" the breed was established and well beyond, x-ray wasn't encouraged.  I attribute this to the breeders.  In those days, families relied upon and bred small programs for purpose.  If they produced flawed animals, that couldn't work, it directly impacted the quality of life for those families.  So, animal husbandry was not a hobby, but a way of life.   They weren't sitting around clamoring for a scientific machine to irradiate their animals so they could be sure the dogs could hold up during herding, or otherwise.  Also, history shows that even shoe stores encouraged customers to insert their feet into x-ray boxes, as a scam to better fit a person's foot to their bone developments.  The only issue is that back then, those simple x-ray devices caused cancer in many humans and were quickly abondoned.  The second point I think worth looking at is environmental injury.  How does a line of strong hipped and elbowed dogs suddenly have a progeny with bad joints?   Sure, genetics is likely a culprit, but environmentals contribute too.

@hundmutter makes some good points too.   As far as x-rays not affecting genetics, I agree we need more info.  I will share my own background about radiation here, if you're interested.   I worked on an airfield for a decade, around jumbo yets routinely having their radomes opened to maintain aircraft.   On one occassion, a mechanic rushed out of the plane and chewed me out for walking as close to 50 feet in front of the plane, because of the danger of irradiation.  Was he serious?  I don' know.   A couple years later, I came down with thyroid cancer, had half the thyroid removed and began a long history of survivorship.  15 years later, the cancer recurred in the other half of my thyroid, I received a second surgery, and the addition radioactive iodine (very high dose) to ablate any remnant of thyroid tissue left in my body.   Now, did the history at the airfield cause the cancers?  I don't know.   But it's curious to me that of the geneitic test we now screen for in GSD (and other dogs I assume) we find thyroid issues in them. Also, I have concerns of many small litters I now see from very pure lines, but without tight linebreeding or  back massing.  I also still see litters of 10 or more so all hope is not lost, but it does call into question the concern of diminished fertility in the dogs, for me at least.  Radiation is no friend to fertility.  But, yes I agree working toward strong dogs with excellent joints should be at the top of the list for anyone who isn't justa dog multiplyer.

For The Organic Pet above, COI is simply the Coefficient of Inbreeding (the probability of gene variant inheritance)  Glad this has caught your eye.  In the end, we all have to do what we see as best.  I just think it's worth considering why we "NEED" all the genetic tests?  Are some conditions a by product of mutations from ionized radiation?  I don't think we have those studies proving they're not, and I doubt we'll ever see them.  There's too much money being made.   Thanks again for the responses.

by LMA on 30 August 2023 - 16:08

Sheri - I apologize for missing your name above. I saw your name after reading thru this thread again : ) I even missed the "Lady" at the end of your moniker. Wouldn't hurt me to read a little more slowly- lol.
Thanks again for your post!

by LMA on 30 August 2023 - 22:08

Sorry for not linking to anything of the foot x-ray boxes of the past. Here's one:

As usual, you can find claims that no harm was done to those people who participated, but it's worth considering that "no studies" (there's that convenient phrase again) were conducted to follow people afterward to see the effect of fluoroscopes.   The shoe store workers didn't do so well, apparently.  There are interesting comments below the article from those who believe they may have been adversely affected by this fad.    And, I'm well aware that correlation is not necessarily causation, but that seems more of another convenient word play the legal profession has given the world (not lawyer bashing).    I think it's just as much true for claims that x-ray has improved joint health because of declined numbers.   It's convenient to claim that, but it is also just correlation.   The reality could be as simple as breeders that became more judicious in selecting pairs once the hip/elbow practice became fashionable, specifically because of the added expense.  But again, if  generations of x-rayed dogs, with good to excellent hips,  can produce fair or worse hips downline, I struggle to see how x-ray improves, or mitigates (on the whole) joint issues.   It hasn't if you follow pedigrees.  If all four quadrants of a pedigree are filled with x-rayed dogs of impeccible joint health, where and how would a dog with lesser joints manifest downline? 


Contact information  Disclaimer  Privacy Statement  Copyright Information  Terms of Service  Cookie policy  ↑ Back to top