Pedigree Dogs Exposed
aired in the US on 12/10/2009
This program was shown in the UK in 2008; it was made by an independent group of sensationalistic program makers, whose professionalism and ethics left a lot to be desired. One-sided ‘reporting’ was the main feature of the program. So-called ‘experts’ underlined the lack of ethics and professionalism that should have guided the reporters to the making of an educational valuable and helpful program. Instead, this program divided the dog world in the UK into two groups: breeders and pet owners. One of these ‘experts’ has since been completely shunned in the dog world in the UK, funding withdrawn from this expert’s research projects and previous ‘research’ has been questioned.
Below we are addressing only ‘the health issues’ in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed, since this is the breed we all love and cherish. We feel very strongly about the program, which helps Animal Rights activists (or better ‘terrorists’) to further their goal of enacting laws, which will stop breeding and eventual owning of all pets in the US !! What better way to show in health issues of dogs uneducated Americans that ‘pedigree’ dogs are unhealthy, riddled with expensive illnesses and destined to die almost within a few years of having been born a certain and very painful death!! What better way to pit breeders of pedigree dogs in the US against prospective pet buyers and/or already owners of pedigree dogs!
If you, dear reader, are TRULY concerned about what has been shown in this BBC program and want to know more about SM www.wellsphere.com/wellpage/syringomyelia-in-dogs
please continue reading. Reputable and ethical breeders of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the US (and of course also outside the US!) have always pointed out that the breed has certain health issues, like MVD and for the past few years, also SM. Breeders have never tried to hide the fact that our breed, like every other breed, has its health issues. Breeders have also always pointed out that they are working with veterinarians and researchers all over the world to pinpoint the reason for a certain illness, whether this illness is hereditary or congenital and whether there is cure. Breeders have never tried to hide the breed’s issues. This BBC program is designed to question breeders’ ethics and honesty!
Not once, for example, was made any mention of cross-breeds, mutts, having the same or more health issues than purebred dogs!
There is no sensationalism necessary to ‘force’ us breeders to do our ‘job’ properly. We already KNOW what has been done and what still needs to be done! And we are prepared to do whatever it takes (financially, emotionally and ethically) to make sure that our breed lives a long and loved life and that our children’s children will be able to purchase a healthy and happy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy from a good, responsible and ethical breeder! We are not going away, no matter how hard the Animal Rights terrorists will fight us. We will fight back!
After the program was aired in the UK in 2008, responses and remarks from all over the dog world came forth. Some are published below, credited to the person or persons making them. These remarks ‘hit home’ and should be taken very seriously. We just wish that BBC had heard them before airing this bias and damaging program.
1. A point stressed by Dr. Padgett, DVM : People need to understand that ALL dogs like humans carry the genes for genetic diseases. This is not a rationalization ... it is a reality!
Some principles Dr. Padgett stressed are focused on pedigree risk analysis. I do not feel MRI is the answer……..how many dogs have produced early onset SM yet are "cleared" by MRIs. People need to stress pedigree risk analysis instead of a "screening tool" that has poor predictive values. Dr. Jerald Bell's articles are a must read on risk analysis!
Control of genetic disease requires
knowledge of an individual’s phenotype (genes that are express as actual
appearance) and genotype (genes not express but will be passed on to
offspring). Males and females that are affected with a disease can help define
those related dogs that are carriers of the genes causing the disease, even
though they appear normal. It requires honesty and integrity on the part of the
breeders and owners to determine the males and females that show and/or carry
"We need to quit whispering about defects, and gossiping about defects, and instead set up a sound program that allows the standard selection procedures to go on so that we breed good dogs and avoid major defects." George Padgett, DVM
2. Murray Ingpen.
MB,BS, FRCP(Edin), FRACP : I live on the periphery of the Cavalier
world but have spent the last 40 years involved in spinal pathology including
the Chiari malformation and its association with Syringomyelia and the MRI
evaluation of these conditions. In 2004 I addressed a meeting of the Cavalier
breeders following the anxiety created by the research in the UK. I made the
point at that time that there were multiple causes of Syringomyelia the most
common of which was trauma to the cervical spine. The recent BBC program has
raised a number of issues which I have been provoked into responding to -
A. The clinical research published is seriously flawed and the figures are simply unacceptable. The basis of any study such as this has to be developed from a sound population sample rather than a selected group, which will provide a massive bias rendering it from an epidemiological point of view useless. Unfortunately this is not uncommon in scientific studies when the opinion of the researcher is clear almost before the study starts.
B. The finding of an anatomical abnormality such as the Chiari malformation is relatively common, at least in the human population, but the development of Syringomyelia as a consequence of this is relatively uncommon.
C. There is no doubt that where Syringomyelia is clearly defined, as with mitral valve disease, there should be no further breeding with that animal and probably some clinical screening of close relatives. I must make the point that Syringomyelia is not just a diagnosis made by MRI but is a neurological syndrome with multiple features. Many with MRI abnormalities lead a totally normal life.
D. As far as breeding is concerned it has yet to be determined the degree of penetrance in a genetic sense of the Chiari malformation and the subsequent
development of Syringomyelia. It remains the case of care, responsibility and further data regarding this with time.
E. The BBC program is yet another example of the media encouraging a 'state of fear' knowing that there is little that the general population can do about extravagant and damaging claims. In this case it is close to character assassination.
F. Whilst in the UK in 2007, I was invited to examine a number of MRI images relating to this problem. There was one, which was clearly diagnostic and it is my understanding that the breeder took responsible action. I also had the opportunity to view the MRI referred to in the BBC program. I think the images were poor, inadequate and certainly not diagnostic anatomically.
There is no doubt that the problem has to be looked at seriously but in my view at least the evidence available does not support the propaganda. I sometimes wonder which 'bitch is on the end of the lead'. Murray Ingpen. MB, BS, FRCP (Edin), FRACP.
3. "Scientific research is grounded in values such as integrity, honesty, trust, curiosity, and respect for intellectual achievement. The expression of these values in the diverse styles and approaches of the various scientific disciplines has contributed directly to the discovery of knowledge and thus to the achievements of the U.S. scientific research enterprise," noted the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy in the report, On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research.
...give significant errors and/or bias in the published data, opinions, press releases and/or public statements?
...take reasonable steps to correct those errors after they occurred, through appropriate publication and media means?
...ensure research results were reviewed and vetted by appropriate peer groups before public release? One of those vetting groups should be the funding source and/or organization that retained his or her services.
...clearly differentiate facts, opinions, and hypotheses?
...implied interpretations with greater confidence than the data actually warrant and caused harm?
4. On the matters of health
and welfare of Cavaliers, much criticism has been directed at the
"breeders". The TV program was called Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
But, in respect of Cavaliers, how can you expose something that was
already apparent. The conditions MVD and SM were already extensively
documented and Cavalier enthusiasts
were neither hiding nor ignoring
these conditions, as has been suggested. Indeed, the "breeders" are as well-informed and cognisant of the conditions as anyone and make their decisions on any breedings in the FULL knowledge of all the research and its findings to date. There are quite rightly differences of opinion on the findings of the current and ongoing research. However, while the UK and indeed the EU continue to preserve the principles of freedom of choice and views, surely those who consider this research as ongoing and, as yet, inconclusive, should be permitted to act as they consider appropriate without being verbally attacked and vilified by those who take a different view.
5. Meredith Johnson-Snyder - The
following is only my opinion, interpretation, and understanding of the BBC
scandal. I have held back on commenting on the SM debacle on the BBC
which I feel is absolutely awful, degrading to reputable breeders, and
erroneous. For a major source of information to present a most likely
edited program geared toward sensationalism is totally unprofessional and
immoral. I have read most of your comments and feel I need to state my
views as a breeder who had been hit pretty hard with SM to the point that my
breeding program was very seriously impaired. My first clue to the
problem of SM was through a couple of my pet people who notified me that their
dog was having problems. Until then, I had been rather ignorant of the
disease. I had heard about the "scratching disease" but like many,
had paid little attention until it hit home when a couple of different imported
bloodlines and my own did not produce beautiful music together— beautiful dogs
with not so beautiful SM. With the now defunct Ohio State Study
(defunct through no fault of mine, but of university politics and neurosurgeons
playing university musical chairs), we embarked on a series of MRI's and with
the advice of the neurosurgeons and Clare Rusbridge, I placed several very
beautiful Cavaliers some of which I would not place today as they continue to
be asymptomatic. I met with Clare Rusbridge and Penny Knowler privately
in the UK and then with Clare here. Although I thought well of their research initially
I soon changed my mind as I thought that Clare and Penny were more interested
in Clare’s research for her advancement than the welfare of our breed. Clare
started to be treated rather like a rock star with groupies. Clare and Penny
did their initial pedigree research by using online databases, which they were
advised might contain inaccuracies, as they were not based on official Kennel
The point of the OSU study was to follow a family, my family, of Cavaliers through at least three generations, which we had readily at hand. We were interested in doing MRI's on all the progeny of an unaffected sire and dam to try to see mode of inheritance. We were also to send blood of affected Cavaliers, diagnosed by MRI, to Rusbridge's chosen lab in Canada, which turned out to not be a great idea as the lab seemed to drop the ball. Through all of my heartache and depression, I began to doubt Dr. Rusbridge's intentions and knowledge. She had not been able to do her own MRI study in England due to the fact that she was evidently not allowed to MRI without a real reason to diagnose a real problem, so few MRI's were done to add to her study until breeders started to seek out MRI’s on their own. Her mother, not knowing a thing about genetics, just genealogy, meanwhile was scouring online pedigree databases to do research and predictions, later joined by a gentleman in the US who said he was a scientific statistician and who now with the Rusbridge team says he can analyze pedigrees and predict what pedigrees and combinations are safe which I feel is bunk as no one really has answers. I think that SM is very real, but that every dog diagnosed by MRI is not always symptomatic or ever will be. Most of ours were not and we studied dogs as old as 11 and 12 who were affected on MRI but never exhibited symptoms. Someone in England recently went up to a friend visiting the UK from the continent and asked accusedly about me, "so is it true that Meredith had all of her SM dogs put down." My friend told her that was not the case, but I doubt if she believed him. The truth is that I needed to put only one down from extreme symptoms, which interfered with the quality of his life when he was about a year. The others both living in my home and in their pet or co owner homes are easily maintained on or off meds with great quality of life. I have diagnosed and neutered dogs here at my feet now living wonderful lives.
Clare Rusbridge receives and then interprets MRI’s from all over the world; she has developed her own rating scale even to the point of declaring only one bitch in the world to be truly clear which is untrue as I have had a few. Much to Margaret Carter’s disappointment, I would not send the MRI’s or the evaluations to England to be publicized there or anywhere else. I am sure there are others who have either never had an MRI or whose MRI has never been sent to Rusbridge. She has not seen all the Cavaliers in the world or all their MRI’s, to be able to proclaim any kind of percentage. Rusbridge at the beginning did not have enough of her own MRI’s to base a study so she has depended on other MRI’s, whether of quality or not, to base her research. Again, this is only my opinion.
I know this for a fact: the validity of the diagnosis of an MRI depends on the excellence and Testa strength of the MRI machine; on the expertise and technique of the technician doing the filming; of the positioning of the head; of a full MRI going from skull down the neck; of the quality of the films themselves; of the expertise and experience of the radiologist reading the MRI who should have evaluated many, many MRI’s to gain comparisons so as to do a rating, and of course on the ability, knowledge, experience, expertise, and educational background of the neurosurgeon or neurologist doing the diagnosis on dogs within a breed or breeds which may have a problem with SM. I know a fellow breeder who had her MRI’s done by a supposed neurologist who admitted to knowing nothing of the disease and was not sure how to read an MRI for this disease, but passed the dog anyway. True story and there are others like it. Many veterinarians and neurologists in our country alone have no real knowledge of the disease or how to expertly read MRI’s with the result that affected dogs are cleared and unaffected dogs are misdiagnosed with SM. One of the other real problems, as I have already stated, is that full scale MRI’s are not always done.
Dr. Mike Harrington a very well known neurosurgeon in Seattle told me that the canine brain is the same size whether rattling around in a Saint Bernard’s head (only kidding, but you get the point) or being crammed into a toy’s head where compression of the cerebellum may occur. From what I understand, if the bottom part of the skull with the right shape and density of bone and an adequate opening of the foramen magnum so that no herniation is evident, then that dog may be clear of SM. Other factors may enter into the picture such as hydrocephalus and maybe a more deeply curved backskull with the occiput placed in a more downward position rather than at the top of the backskull. I am totally a layman so do not take my evaluation as gospel; this is just the way I understand the problem after doing MRI’s on quite a few of my dogs and looking at head shapes. SM cannot be diagnosed without a full scale MRI.
In my opinion, we cannot play God and predict the result of breeding or give advice on which dogs are safe for breeding. Those doing this are doing a disservice to our breed. Clearing up a problem totally in a breed is nearly impossible, in my opinion, or will be until we can isolate a gene responsible for each disease, which our sending blood to the lab in Canada was supposed to help accomplish. Reputable breeders do their best, but so many factors enter into the genetics and environment behind each dog. We are not the only breed with a problem: German Shepherds with elbows, hips and bloat; Goldens and Flatcoats with cancer; Dobermans with cardiomyopathy; Boxers, a breed I really love, with cardiomyopathy and SAS; Dalmatians with deafness; many breeds with elbow, hip, or patella problems; breeds with eye problems and so on and so on. Having started in German Shepherds, I know that one can breed dogs free of hip dysplasia for three generations and get wiped out in the fourth. Genetics can bite one in the behind when least expected. No dog is perfect, or human being for that matter; breeding as we all know is a balancing act full of compromises trying to get the perfect dog with beauty, type, structure, temperament, and HEALTH. What an awesome task! We get blamed for problems sometimes created by unreputable breeders. No breeder, as I said, can predict animal husbandry; we do the best job we can with the best of intentions. No one wants to breed a problem dog that will break a family’s heart.
We are now in an era with the animal rightists trying to destroy and discredit breeders of purebred dogs. It is duly noted that there are no health statistics kept on mixed breeds, just on purebred dogs. Who knows how many mixed breeds die of disease or breed problems gotten genetically from their mixed parentage? Yes, our dogs do have health problems which are recognized by the public because purebred dogs are recognizable and parent clubs try to keep a record of problems, fund research to increase diagnosis, treatment, and hopefully someday elimination of problems. We need to educate the public about the problems in our breed not hide our heads. We build trust by being open. One of the problems has always and continues to be the reluctance of some breeders to ever admit that there has ever been a problem in their breeding program. Because it is known that I have dealt with SM, I get quite a few calls about SM from pet owners who tell me that they have a Cavalier with SM whose breeder totally denied having ever produced such a problem. I do repeat any information but suggest that the pet owner contact the breeder, but I know I have been told by a breeder that mitral valve and SM has never been a problem for that breeder when I know that at least one pet owner buying two dogs from that breeder has encountered early MVD and SM. Why not just be honest; no one has ever not bought a dog from me because I was honest.
One of the best ways to increase the respect of the public is to admit to the problems in our breed and in our own breeding programs. That is what can set us apart from the commercial breeders and puppymills. I have a place on my pet bill of sale for the new owner and myself to initial that we have discussed the genetic problems in our breed. This is not to scare them, but to educate. No one has failed to take their puppy home because of this clause. Nor have I had any of my pet owners blame me if their dog has come down with a problem, because they know that I want to know, I want to help, and I have already stated that no breeder is God able to predict animal husbandry. I am not in anyway holding myself above any other breeder; I only hold myself responsible and must be totally forthright lest I suffer an acute attack of my ever present Irish Catholic (the worst) guilt.
In summary for one of our own breeders to discredit us so terribly on the BBC broadcast is unconscionable and for a veterinarian who was trusted by many in our breed to divulge what she did is unethical and, in my opinion, very ignorant of the issues at hand, and devastating to the future of our breed and the trust of the public toward our breed. It is certainly most ignorant of breeding and dogs in general. Maybe our vet in question needs to go back to vet school for anatomy, neurology, understanding differences in breeds, genetics, empathy, kindness, and certainly lack of arrogance and desire to promote oneself at all costs. We are now forced to fight back. Perhaps what we should do is run ads in every major dog magazine and major city newspaper to contact the parent clubs in all countries about our breed. Our health committees must get on top of this. We must be proactive. We must unite and stay united to defeat the animal rightists who are behind all the misinformation and would like nothing more than to divide and destroy breeders.
I am glad I have not trusted a certain veterinarian to interpret and rate my dogs’ MRI’s. I am responsible for my dogs and my breeding program. We should not rely on self-appointed gurus who hold themselves above the rest of us. We are the reputable breeders and we must stand tall and tell the world that we are responsible from birth to death for the precious Cavaliers we bring into the world. Meredith Johnson-Snyder, Rattlebridge.com
6. Judith Gates - As for this latest postulation about brain size - any study can be what one wants it to be if certain influences are eliminated and/or disregarded. Unless and until the vaccine manufacturers are called to task for their heretofore suppressed and undisclosed side effects statistics, I - and many others - will continue to believe SM is autoimmune-related (rather than specifically genetic) due to over-vaccination/multi-vaccine administration in the development years (0-The US public media is just beginning to investigate the vaccine-related possibilities of Autism in children due to recent media exposure of a specific instance of a young boy 'suddenly' developing Autism when he was normal 'prior' to his pediatrician giving him 7 (yes, SEVEN) vaccines at once)!
Some people/animals have the physiological make-up that renders their neurological systems unable to process the assault of external vaccinations' affects normally (as does the normal majority of their species). Anyone ever had a slammer of a migraine-type headache after recovery from surgery that required spinal anesthesia?
Removing bone to alleviate the chronic discomfort is treating the end of the problem - not by any stretch is it addressing the beginning of the problem. Some beings simply don't handle vaccinations well. Judith Gates
Lisa Swoboda - I would like to see a study done on vaccines
and their effect on brain swelling. We already know that one of the
adverse reactions to vaccines is seizures. This is due to swelling of the
brain. We know that SM started appearing around the time giving vaccines
became common practice. Was the Occipital mutation always there or did this
come about in 1967? If it's always been there, what started causing the SM
cases in 1967? It makes more sense to me that the mutation has always been there and
something (i.e. vaccines) was introduced that caused brain swelling.
The current study findings really do not make much sense to me as
body organs will typically grow to the size of the space they have
available in the body. With SM, this is not happening. It makes
more sense that an outside influence is causing the brain to swell
rather than the Cavalier skull being too small. Lisa Swoboda
Before the BBC program was shown in Mainland Europe, several European clubs ordered their own study about SM. The results and the complete study are shown below.
And just in case you have not seen the BBC program, please click on the link below: