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Dogs, dogs, and less dogs

Do you have a dog in your home? Are you also one of the many people who loves having a furry friend by their side? Dogs are now part of most households in the world and 65% of US households have a pet. But there is an undetected cruelty that takes place with dogs, before we welcome them into our homes.

Although not common in rural households, most urban households of India prefer getting dogs of pure breeds which have desired traits. Pugs, shih-tzus and Labradors are common to many homes, and we pay large sums of money to get them. The sad reality of taking these dogs in, is the inbreeding and mistreatment of them by breeders.

Inbreeding is the mating of two dogs that are closely related to each other genetically, such as if they belong to the same direct family. This process has been taking place naturally for quite some time, but now that we know its effects and its benefits, breeders are taking advantage of it.

Dogs, just like humans, are 99.8-99.9% genetically similar to other members of their species. However, the ‘supply’ of pure breeds simply does not match up to their demand in cities. Thus, to get desired traits from dogs which would please the customers, breeders forcefully make pure breed dogs inbreed to produce more of the same kind.

Why is inbreeding dangerous then? Every dog carries certain variations, or mutations, in their genes that they have inherited from their family. If these dogs crossbreed with different dogs, the chance of these mutations being concentrated in the offspring is 0.01% – very small. However, if two dogs with the same negative mutation mate, the chances of the offspring having the same mutation in a concentrated amount heightens exponentially.

Let’s consider what happens in a mother-son mating (which is very common amongst Indian breeders). A mother passes on 50% of her genome to each pup, so each mutation would have 50% chance of being transmitted. If the mother was to then mate with her own son, there would be a 25% chance of the offspring inheriting two bad copies of mutations, a greater than 100-fold risk as compared to an outbred dog!

Inbreeding in dogs has drastic consequences. Just a 10% increase in inbreeding can lead to a 6% reduction in adult size, or stunted growth, and a 6-10-month reduction in lifespan. There is also reduced fertility and litter size of the dogs. Conditions such as hip dysplasia and patella luxation are common congenital diseases caused by inbreeding.

Apart from these, breeders, especially in India, treat female dogs very poorly as they are used to produce as many dogs as they can. This has a severe impact on their health and can cause fatal illnesses. These dogs are forced to mate – almost raped – by breeders with their own progeny.

So, the next time you or someone you know is getting a dog, try to suggest a mixed breed or a stray, as they will make your home as happy as the pure breeds will.

Jai Kapoor