Pets' breed, mix can predict behavior, health
How is it that all dogs have the same common ancestor? If you had never seen a dog before and saw a chihuahua and a Great Dane, you'd think they were from separate species; but they're not. All canines originated from the same genes.
So how did they get so different? The answer's simple: We did it to them. By selective breeding over hundreds of years, we manipulated the canine species to fit our needs and desires. For the most part, this was done in order to produce a canine better suited for a particular task. Out of necessity for a dog capable of surviving extreme cold, we bred the Husky. To produce a better herding dog, we bred the cattle dog. The list goes on and on.
Most of our domestic dogs today were engineered, so to speak, to serve a purpose. The American Kennel Club (AKC) website has a lot of great information on the various breeds and their histories. Some of their stories are fascinating. Even if your dog is a mixed breed, you can learn a lot about his behavior from learning about his dominant breed.
If you really want to know more about your friend's lineage, you can have his DNA tested. Several providers now offer a DNA test for your canine friend. This test will not only tell you what mix of breeds he is, but also will tell you the percentage of that breed. Amazing, right? If you're eager to find out about your mutt, check with your veterinarian.
Unfortunately, when trying to manipulate genes to produce a specific outcome, there are side effects. Because of their genetic makeup, some breeds can have serious health problems and need more help to maintain a healthy life than others. Chinese shar-peis and Chow Chows often have a problem with their eyes called entropion. You've probably seen it - it's a rolling of the eyelid inward that causes irritation. It can require surgery to correct the problem. In severe cases, without surgery the eyes can become infected and the dog can lose his sight.
The bulldog is another breed with a peculiar problem. Did you know that bulldogs rarely come into this world unassisted? Most pregnancies are the result of artificial insemination and the birth often requires a Cesarean section.
Problems can also come up when mixing certain breeds. Last week, Maddie, a shar-pei mix, came into the Yavapai Humane Society. Even though this sweet dog was only six months old, she was already having serious eye problems. Without surgery to correct her entropion, we knew she would eventually lose her eyesight and suffer much pain.
Fortunately for Maddie, our staff veterinarians were able to perform the surgery she required. Our veterinarians gave her an eye-tuck by removing a small strip of skin under her eyelid. This procedure realigns the eyelids so that they no longer irritate the eyes. The best news? Maddie is in recovery and will soon be available for adoption.
When considering getting a pet, it is very important to do a little homework. (Am I starting to sound like a broken record with this refrain?) Research the breeds of dogs and cats to find the behavior and characteristics that will fit with your lifestyle. It is also very important to consult with your veterinarian about breeds you're thinking about, even if the dog is a mixed breed. If that cute puppy you are looking at will require extra attention to her eyes or hips or heart, it's nice to know ahead of time.
By the way, according to the AKC website, chihuahuas were used in religious ceremonies and were only the pets of the upper class. This might explain why Squirt has a certain air about him. I hope no one tells him that I'm not upper-class; the counseling fees would break me.
Duane Adams, executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the shelter at 445-2666.