Breeding genetic problems; epilepsy etc - Page 1

Pedigree Database


by jillmissal on 11 February 2020 - 09:02

I thought we could use a separate topic to discuss this issue/debate as it came up in another thread.

The discussion was re: epilepsy and whether it was ethical to breed a line that MIGHT have epilepsy genes present. Sure it's "low risk" to breed lines that have produced epileptic dogs but frankly so is breeding a dog with epilepsy. It's unlikely to present clinically in more than a very small percentage of the puppies produced. I could breed my epileptic stud and produce all healthy puppies; it's a roll of the dice with the odds on my side. I think the risk is about 2% but I'm sure all responsible and ethical breeders would agree that it is wrong to breed a dog with a genetic defect. And of course I would never do this.

I don't think people have a good grasp on genetics - anything you put in the gene pool is there forever and you never know when it's going to rear its ugly head down the line.

So I suppose my question/discussion point is two part: Why is it so hard to put a stop to this type of irresponsible breeding? It seems like such a no brainer, but obviously it is not. And, for breeders - what in your opinion is the most significant defect that an otherwise outstanding dog could have and still be considered for breeding? For instance if you have a dog that is absolute perfection aside from a completely inappropriate coat type and colour, etc.

I don't have answers, I'm just interested in discussion.


by Sunsilver on 11 February 2020 - 10:02

The reason it's so hard is most breeders, especially show line breeders, rely heavily on line breeding to set type for their dogs. Most harmful genes are recessive, and line breeding greatly increases the chances two dog carrying for the harmful gene or genes will be mated together.

Some problems are multi-genetic: if you have just 2 alleles present that might cause epilepsy, the dog may not be prone to fits. But bring in several more alleles from a closely related dog, and the problem will manifest.

The only way to avoid is to out-cross.

Back in the old days, I understand breeders were more into type-to-type breeding rather than line breeding - they picked the dogs based on appearance rather than how closely they were related. That would be one way to go, but no one seems to do this type of breeding any more. It seems like it would be so simple to do, though. You've got a bitch with weak ears? Choose a stud with really good ears!  


by Sunsilver on 11 February 2020 - 10:02

This topic has been discussed quite a few times before, and there are some really good threads out there if you want to search for them. The problem has been well-researched in the GSD, and apparently can be traced back to a single German dog. Let me see if I can find that thread.

Okay, here's one of them:

One of the currents VA males has, way back in his bloodline,
Quadrille of Eveley, Syrious Norge, Ramacon Philanderer and Ramacon Swashbuckler.
All known producers of epilepsy and all active within a close time span.

I do not know of any recent cases from this bloodline.


And of course, the SV is in denial, which is another reason it's so hard to eliminate inheritable diseases!

Some time ago there was a post on here about epilepsy from a mating with two German bred dogs. I contacted the SV and asked them if there was any reports on epilepsy from these dogs breeding families. The response was that “they had no knowledge of epilepsy in the bloodlines”. They went on to say that they never heard of epilepsy these days and, therefore, there were no records of epilepsy in German bloodlines. Personally, I find this information difficult to believe because Germany has had the disease in their dogs.

The dogs that I have named are well known in the UK for their connection with epilepsy. This disease, as far as these dogs are concerned, did not just begin and end with them alone. The disease was behind them and for how many generations we do not know. Also, we do not know with any accuracy for how many generations it continued. This situation will be the same for any dog worldwide who is known to produce the disease.

Epilepsy, like many other major disease problems has been swept under the carpet in a veil of secrecy and this is a situation which will continue in the future. As soon as these dogs are identified they very quickly vanish with no record left behind as to who is responsible. Although we know that prevention is better than cure but we are left with the only way possible to deal with epilepsy and that is to deal with it if our dogs become infected.



by Sunsilver on 11 February 2020 - 10:02

by jillmissal on 11 February 2020 - 11:02

Having recently gone through the epilepsy diagnostic process, I'm not under the impression that there is any legitimate genetic test for idiopathic epilepsy. It's done by ruling out all other causes.

I wish there were a test. Sigh.

I'm not just referring to epilepsy, though, that's just an example of a defect. Another example might be an otherwise outstanding dog with ears that never stand up as they should. Would you breed such a dog?

I don't think it's as simple as "find a mate without that problem" as the genes are still in there forever.


by Koots on 11 February 2020 - 14:02

I do not know if my dog has genetic epilepsy, idiopathic (no known cause), or brain trauma related.

He is a product of a close breeding (3-2) on a dog that has not been mentioned in relation to epilepsy, as far as I can research. I am not sure if many people have done close line-breeding on that dog, but just because I cannot find mention of genetic epilepsy incidence does not mean it isn't there, as disclosure of defects is not something that is done very freely/often.

Line-breeding has it's place to reinforce/bring out certain good genetic traits, but on the flip side the bad also has more chance of expression. I knew this and factored that into my decision to buy him.

Due to the recessive genetic expression of epilepsy and the drastic life-altering effects of it, I would not even consider a breeding that would risk it. Genetic epilepsy is not a condition that is dependent on environmental factors such as can be argued with HD, so there is no debating about the risk factor when dealing with a known/suspected epileptic dog or line carrying the gene.

Despite not knowing the cause, there in no way that I would even risk passing on this condition. My dog was never bred and has now been neutered since I have a young female and I do not want any accidental matings. Since his first seizure in March 2019 at 5.5 yrs of age, he has had 26 others - each one taking something away from his brain function - despite being on drugs to control it.

by jillmissal on 11 February 2020 - 15:02

@koots did he have a head trauma at some point? I'm guessing that if the seizures could be pinpointed to that point in time it might be a cause, but if much later probably not.

I just got a PM about this that explained a WHOLE BUNCH about why people keep breeding dogs with defects. It's because they have a very poor grasp on genetics and statistics.

So maybe the question I should ask is why should we even bother being responsible, given the fact that there are FAR MORE irresponsible people out there.


by charlie319 on 11 February 2020 - 18:02

Not about dogs but should apply. Who knows how many inflammatory toxins dogs have been exposed to in the last century alone. Some chemicals do damage at the genetic level and may have pushed the system past the "tipping point".

If it were purely genetic, there would be more instances among the unmedicated stray population. Certainly there there would be a lot more anecdotal history...


by Koots on 11 February 2020 - 19:02

If it were purely genetic, there would be more instances among the unmedicated stray population. Certainly there there would be a lot more anecdotal history...

And how do you suppose the instances in any 'stray population' be recorded, since they are strays?

Jill - no brain or head injuries - brain trauma would be related to a tumour(s) or other medical cause in his case.   


by charlie319 on 11 February 2020 - 19:02

Assuming that the municipalities police the stray population, it would have been noticeable by the agency handling it. Particularly here in the US, the industrial animal killers, the ASPCA and PETA would have made a huge deal of it as it feeds into their objective. You really think they would not prostitute any issue to make their point and have us pay them for it?


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