Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Testing your animals - another long one!

Sheep, cattle, dogs, whatever.

You should test your animals if you are going to breed them.

Its that simple.

This year I decided to test my sheep for OPP and Johne's, two infectious diseases that are transfered through contact or through newborns nursing from infected moms. I couldn't take the risk. It stated that around 25% of all sheep/goats in the USA have one of the diseases. Some flocks its higher, some lower. I'm happy to report that after $500 worth of testing all adult animals on the farm, that they are all NEGATIVE. I have 10 more that I purchased over the past 2 months that I have to test as well. They've been in quarantine waiting for the vet to have time to come and take blood samples. This group will also get tested for CL. The lambs from this year, once they are 6 months old will be tested for all three. Three negative tests 6-10 months apart will give you a "free" status for your flock.

Why work your butt off for years...blood, sweat and tears....only to lose animals to some disease that you really could have prevented? In an earlier post I commented on how I'm closing my flock. I don't think that that will ever be a total reality but I will have to have agreements with all future prospective sellers that if the animal is found to have OPP/Johne's/CL that they take the animal back, or refund the money as I won't keep an animal that is positive for that. Maybe even have them do the testing at their farms but I would pay for the testing.

Either way I'll be glad to know that my flock/herd are free of these diseases so if something comes up and I question it, I will know that it isn't something as scary as the above mentioned diseases.

Cardigans are a breed thankfully void of many diseases. I thought I remember a collie friend telling me once that collies have EIGHTY FOUR known diseases in the breed! EIGHTY FOUR!!!

Cardigans to my knowledge can be tested for hip displaysia and elbow displasia (OFA or PENN-HIP), PRA tested if not proven to be from clear lines, CERF"ed for eye problems, tested for Thyroid and Cardiac. The latter two not being huge problems, but again, why not test your breeding animals anyway, just to KNOW that your animals are free of it.

I know first hand about hip displasia. Oliver was found by a friend all the way over in Finland. There was a massive amount of money involved in the purchase of the dog, shipping him here and then finding out that he was of poor temperament when I got him at nearly three and a half months of age. By nine months of age his litter brother couldn't walk and I had Oliver's hips tested. He was mildly displastic. Add to that his poor temperament and then having his front never 'come down' into the proper space (he's wide and flat chested....looking back at puppy photos he was the same then as is he is now!)

There was no contract. No health guarantee. Oliver's breeder told me it was MY FAULT that he had hip displasia! I know for a fact that it wasn't ME who was doing it. The stud dog (father) of Oliver lived in Poland. The breeder took him in to get his hips done and the Federal Vet in Poland asked why he was getting done...Cardigans didn't have hip displasia!!!!!!!! THE FEDERAL VET SAID THAT! UGH! The breeder told me he was "OK" and I haven't heard from her since. Unfortunately she has a litter sister to Oliver who in my opinion was the pick puppy of the litter. She's a multi national champion and she is going to get pass on the crappy hip displasia.

The breeder of the bitch we found out later had indeed been tested. She was give an B/C rating. According to the chart they use, that is borderlin displastic!!!

BORDERLINE!!!!!!!! B/C rating is borderline?!!!! Why breed from it! The bitch breeder also kept a litter sister to Oliver and it too is a multi-champion and she has had a litter already, and she looks just like Oliver in the rear. God help that ladies' breeding program.

Now it is true that you can still get a displastic dog out of two parents that are OFA Excellent. But the percentage is reduced GREATLY with each generation that is tested. I know in Briards and German Shorthair Pointers that if they are NOT tested, the dogs cannot be used for breeding. Period. End of Discussion!

I wish all breeds of dogs did would make a better world for the dogs.

Some people in Cardigans keep dogs intact and breed from dogs that have PRA or Hip Displasia. I know of one breeder who breeds PRA carriers, but she is VERY diligent in where those puppies go. She tests them all, she spays/neuters all PRA carrier puppies and places them in pet homes. They will never show any PRA signs as they are carriers and if spayed/neutered cannot breed and make more carriers or potential PRA dogs. She is met with much resistance to this practice but I applaud her testing of every puppy.

Some people use fluff, or coated Cardigans in their breeding. while the fluff or glamour coat is indeed a cosmetic thing and not a health issue, we'll end this debate now. Sure you can test to see if your dog carries the coat factor, but it doesn't hurt the dog any, and unless you are showing the dog, then its the only time it counts as the standard seriously faults dogs that are fluff/coated dogs. Ell's sire is a coated dog. He will never be shown. But man is he put together nicely. Ell is a fluff/coat gene carrier. If bred to another coat carrier they 'could' produce coated pups, but knowing this now, I will only breed her to a proven non coat carrier so as to not get any fluffs, or just realize that I will get some fluffy puppies. They aren't any less healthy than a normal coated dogs. And I use that term losely. I've seen some wickeldy curly coats being shown and being considered 'normal'. Sadie has that kind of coat and I think it goes back to her line.....Some say its a Finnish line, but Oliver came from Finland and his coat is normal.

Some people claim to test all of their dogs, yet breed to dogs that aren't tested, buy from people who don't test their breeding stock and still claim to have such healthy dogs. Anyone should realize that a dog that tests "FAIR" on OFA from untested stock could be nearly borderline displastic itself. A "FAIR" on OFA from four generations of tested stock to me would make me feel better as I can see that all of their ancestors were tested. From what I've read, researched, studied, and gathered my opinion of anyway.

Ever since Oliver's hip problems were an issue I've made note of 'guarantees' in the contracts that are in place with all dogs that I now have.

Mac. His mother was OFA fair, his dad not passing. Mac will never be used for breeding. In his contract it states that if he were to have Hip Displasia (HD) that he would be returned, replaced or refunded.

Zoe. Her father was OFA good. her mother wasn't tested, but her sire was OFA good. It states in her contract also that if she were to have HD she would be returned, replaced or refunded.

Ell. Ell's parents were not OFA'ed. However they have tested many of their dogs in the past and also guarantee her to be free of HD, or they will replace, refund or return her.

Mitcham. The Briard people are spot on! He is guaranteed to be free of Thyroid disease, HD in hips or elbows, SCNB (night blindess, occurs in Briards), and cardiac. If the were to show that he in fact has any of them, he will also be replaced, refunded or returned.

So even though I did not necessarily get puppies from tested parents, they have had testing in the background at least, if even spotty, and are guaranteed in a contract. this may not be ok for you, but is working fine for me.

I will not breed any of my dogs to animals that aren't tested. Mitcham will only be approved to bitches that clear all health clearances and are free of such diseases. My bitches will not be bred to dogs that aren't clear from all the mentioned above.

My biggest thing is this: IF YOU DON'T TEST, DON'T BREED! If you can't afford to test your dogs (as I've heard several Cardigan people say) than why have them? Why have that many? Even if I don't make any more money on my sheep for doing the testing, its good for piece of mind and for a sound breeding program.

Thanks for reading ;)


Kara said...


If you are like me, having the testing done gives me the piece of mind. Otherwise I would be over analyzing the smallest little thing and think it is something horrible.

Kelly N said...

Garrett, don't forget brucellosis testing in the dogs before breeding. It is a Dog STD. Both dogs should be tested before breeding.

Cindy said...

The biggest thing with testing is that it is a tool. You have to weight the good, with the bad and determine based upon your own personal breeding ethics, which you can live with or live without. Unless it's a cut and dried test like PRA, then you still have the chance of something slipping through but by testing you have the facts to help you make the right decisions.

Good for you Garrett! You're on the right track. You don't do one thing all the while saying something completely different. The future owners of your animals will greatly appreciate it.

penni said...

Add on DM (Degenerative Myleopathy)testing which is now available and, hopefully soon, IVDD testing. I don't see how a breeder makes decisions without testing for what you cannot see when you look at the dog.

So -- keep up the effort, Garrett -- you aren't the only one trying to do the right thing.

Available sheep

With my work load continuing to pile up, and less time to spend with the sheep, I am offering the following: My entire flock of BlueFaced ...