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Battle of Theories
I've read and thought about these two quite a bit. (This article only
examines numbers for Swissies. These numbers do not apply to other
breeds.) I've done some number crunching. For once I'm actually putting
what I learned in school to good use. Looked at it from a scientific view as if
Foundation for Animals) and
PennHip were two
competing theories. And like all other theories, they aren't perfect. They tend to make broad suggestions about changing the world.
With new data available to Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and as my own Mouse ages, I put some thinking into this topic again. Part I :At 12.5 years old, I took Mouse in for his senior checkup along with x-rays to see how he is doing. He's moving slower and weaker, but nonetheless pretty happy. He's been on adequan, acupuncture, supplements, and swimming when we can. Much to my surprise, three different vets at three different clinics confirmed that he was free of hip dysplasia and arthritis at 12.5 years old.
Mouse had pre-limed at Good and he rated a Fair at two years old. I was pretty thrilled that his hips were still in good condition at a ripe old age, and his breeder insisted that it was environmental at that point. While I can't take complete credit, I am a strong believer that the impact of our environment (nurture) is very strong. In humans, it is suspected that 90% of our long-term health outcomes are due to environmental factors! You can watch this TED talk by Dan Buettner on Blue Zones for more information.
He swims at North Padre Island at 12.5 years old.
I won't say that what I did is what everyone should do. Try a few things out. If it seems to work, persist. If not find something else. Here's the short version of the things that worked for Mouse: 1. A job or activity he loves (therapy dog). That's true for humans too. There's plenty of research on mortality after retirement. 2. Exercise: Swimming, swimming, swimming. Short walks, backing up, cavalettis (4 inches off the ground), and holding a stand with only three legs. 3. Supplements: Tumeric, Phytofex (includes glucosamine and chondrotin), coconut oil, vitamin b and e, fish oils, and coconut oil. 4. Quality Food. Feed something that works well, and keep your dogs lean. 5. Adequan. For his weight, he gets 2.5 ccs every four weeks. There's also a loading dose period of adequan. 6. Acupuncture every other week. 7. Massage time. On days he's at home with me, we have Mommy and Mouse massage time
Part II: Recently, someone posed this question: "If my breeding program produces mostly healthy hips, what else can I do?" Since I'm not a breeder in the traditional sense (I've yet to have a litter on the ground as of today), I can only use the available data to evaluate what is going on in my breed.
When I wrote
the first part of this page sometime in the mid-2004, I
went through OFA's database and our breed's online
database (which since our national club has removed from
public view.) People could submit PennHip to the
national club at the time. I also called around, and
many people told me what scores their dogs got. Of
course, it was really easy to see which dogs had failed
OFA Hips, and decided to make their PennHip scores
instead. They'd have all passing OFA clearances except
Hips, and their PennHip scores on personal websites.
What I'm actually seeing in my breed is improvement of hip scores on submitted dogs. If you look at failure rates within litters, it tends to be the dogs that are overweight who fail. Our breed, like the majority of overweight American pets, is currently being plagued by the obesity issue. In the conformation ring and pets on the couch are both fairly overweight in my opinion. However, I have a fairly specific definition of fit dogs. I like my dogs to function like athletes.
My personal opinion on what's going on in my breed is that health-focused breeders are improving hip scores from a genetic perspective, but owners who do not grow their puppies slowly and keep them heavy may see higher risks of hip dysplasia. My interpretation is that if you finding success in your breeding practices, keep doing what you're doing and make sure your puppy buyers don't keep their dogs heavy. Breeders focus on genetics, and the dog owners should be focusing on environment once the puppy is in their hands.
However, breeders are left with a different dilemma, do they breed to what looks good at two years old or do they breed to longevity in health? We sure do hope that the two are correlated. Taking hip health to another level could mean not only breed to dogs that passed at two years old, but also would look for pedigrees that maintained that hip health far after the dogs are retired. *Hip health is only one aspect of canine health. Many other considerations should be made when making breeding decisions. You're not just breeding to a dog's hips. You're breeding to the entire dog.
Mock up of social graphs I can make.
I have a small obsession with data visualization, and if you (the reader) had data on your breed and a particular health issue, I could plug it into something like the graph above - with clusters for each pedigree in your breed and color coding the health issue. Green are not affected, and red are affected. It would be very easy to visually see which pedigrees were throwing what and which combinations of pedigrees were successful. If I could find the time, I could scrape the data from OFA and plug it in myself. Or OFA could be really nice and just sent it to be in data file. :o)
New: Post I made on Show-Dog L - OFA vs. PennHip article below (sometime around 2006).
A while back, there was debating on the merits of OFA and PennHip. I
decided to do an investigation on the results, meaning, and generalizability
of both methods in regards to my breed.