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Myths Most Dog Owners Believe about the AKC…

October 05, 2010 | 15,731 views
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Filling up formsThe American Kennel Club recently announced Pfizer Animal Health is now the exclusive ‘biopharmaceutical partner’ of the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation. Pfizer made a financial commitment of $500,000 over two years to the foundation.

Per DVM Newsmagazine, quoting a statement from Pfizer:

“This collaboration is part of its commitment to veterinarians through training and education, research and development, and investing in the future of the veterinary profession.”

Dr. Becker's Comments:

Any exclusive agreement between an organization concerned with the well-being of companion animals, such as the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation (CHF), and a major pharmaceutical company like Pfizer gives me pause.

An Unholy Alliance?

It remains to be seen whether the tail (Pfizer) will begin to wag the dog, or whether the CHF will set its own agenda and direction for future research into canine health. But I think it’s important to be aware of the potential for conflict of interest in such a partnership.

Certainly pharmaceutical manufacturers have a place in the research and practice of healthcare for both humans and animals.

But these companies exist to sell drugs to treat the symptoms of disease. As such, their interests lie in neither preventing nor curing the underlying causes of disease.

As an integrative practitioner who works to proactively maintain the well-being of healthy pets in order to reduce the occurrence of disease and debilitation, a major drug company would not be my first choice as a research partner in the study of pet health.

A Little about the AKC

Because the American Kennel Club is such a recognizable institution and many pet owners assume anything AKC related is synonymous with quality, I want to take a few minutes to discuss what the AKC is and what it isn’t – what it does and what it doesn’t do.

The AKC is first and foremost a registry body. It records the existence of what it assumes are purebred dogs, and issues ‘blue slips’ to dog owners as proof of registration.

Secondarily the AKC:

  • Sponsors dog shows and events
  • Encourages responsible pet ownership
  • Contributes to pet health initiatives through their Canine Health Foundation

What AKC Registration Is

There’s really only one thing you can be assured of with an AKC-registered dog – both his parents are also registered.

That’s it.

AKC registration says nothing about the relative quality of your dog or his health. All it takes to get an AKC ‘blue slip’ registration is to send an application and the required fee. If your pet’s parents are registered, your pet will be entered into the database as well. He’ll receive a registration number, which will appear on the blue slip you receive back from the AKC.

Your dog is now AKC-registered.

If you’re interested in seeing your dog’s ‘pedigree,’ for an additional fee the AKC will generate a list of the names of your pet’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on.

A pedigree is really no more than a list of names of sires and dams.

… and What It Isn’t

The AKC registers ‘Best in Show’ dogs exactly the same way it registers animals bred in puppy mills.

And unfortunately, the AKC has no policies against line breeding, which is mating brothers with sisters, fathers with daughters and so on.

The reason it’s illegal for humans to procreate with relatives is because as is the case with all animals, there is an increased risk of bearing children with unhealthy recessive genetic traits (abnormalities).

Line breeding of companion animals has the same result. It’s why we see so many health and temperament problems in purebred pets. Excessive line or inbreeding creates unstable, unhealthy litters of pups.

Obtaining an AKC-registered dog or a puppy that is register-able because her parents are papered, says exactly nothing about your pet’s health, temperament, genetic challenges, or whether she meets breed standards.

In fact, unless you get your dog from a breeder who provides proof of DNA testing on the parents and each member of each litter, you can’t even be assured your pet is the breed you think she is.

But at Least I Know My Dog is Purebred, Right?

Not necessarily.

It’s far more common than people realize that unscrupulous breeders register litters with falsified parentage.

For example, a ‘backyard breeder’ owns AKC-registered male and female Golden Retrievers. The female goes into heat and the yellow Labrador Retriever next door jumps the fence to procreate with her.

A litter is born from this union and the breeder registers the puppies with the two Goldens as parents.

You’re looking for a Golden Retriever puppy. You see the breeder’s ad and visit the litter of puppies. Unless you’re very knowledgeable about dog breeds -- which is unlikely if you’re looking to acquire a puppy from a ‘backyard breeder’ -- chances are extremely high you won’t be able to tell these pups are half Golden and half Lab.

So off you go with your mixed breed, AKC-registered pet. As he gets older, you notice his coat isn’t very full and his frame is much heavier than the frames of the dogs you were told were his parents.

None of these curiosities really matter to you because you’ve fallen completely in love with your pet and have no intention of either breeding or showing him.

The point is -- AKC registration in and of itself should never be the basis for a decision about acquiring a pet.

A Word about Breeders to Avoid

If a breeder doesn’t want you to come to her home or other location where she raises puppies, my advice is to steer clear.

You should be able to get a good, close, first-hand look (and smell) at the conditions the parents and puppies live in. You should be able to meet or at least view in person the sire and dam of the litter you’re interested in.

Good breeders are happy to show prospective pet parents every nook and cranny of their operations – they are proud of the conditions their animals live in and the way litters are cared for before the puppies go to new homes.

You should also ask lots of questions about how the parents of the litter have been raised.

Go here for a list of questions to ask the breeders you visit about the parents of the puppies you’re interested in.

A Few More Facts about Other AKC Partnerships and Sponsors

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