*Reprinted with permission from both Sighthound Review (the article appeared in the
January/February 1996 issue) and the author.
In my travels to the shows since I became a Canadian Kennel Club Director, I have had a lot of
time to talk to people in many breeds, and their main concerns are the health problems,
genetic defects and longevity of their breeds. In some breeds these problems seem to have
reached epidemic proportions.
It was reported in a letter in English Dog World that in a study carried out in
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, 57% were found to be suffering from heart murmurs by the
age of five years. In Sweden the problem is even worse, and a study there concluded that
this problem probably originated from one or more of the foundation dogs in the 1920s.
Many breeds have a multitude of problems, and it appears that some of the most affected
breeds are those which arose from a very limited number of foundation animals.
I have been involved with Salukis for 35 years, and in that time I have seen them go from
a breed with virtually no health problems and a 15-year life span to a breed suffering
from frequent early sudden death from various causes (common enough to have been labeled
Saluki Sudden Death Syndrome with a research fund set up) and many other health problems
such as thrombocytopaenia, thyroid abnormalities and allergies.
The saluki, although a very ancient breed that spanned a wide geographical area, went
through a genetic bottleneck and exists in our "purebred registered" world as a
result of a handful of imports from the early 1900s and later, and although our four or
five generation pedigrees may indicate that dogs may be not closely related, they are in
fact descended from the same few individuals, and thus have a small gene pool. In the
U.S.A. there have been numerous new imports from Arabia, not registerable of course, since
they were not registered in their country of origin, but their fanciers have breed them
and there are now some 200 unregistered Salukis of new bloodlines. So far, I have been
told, these dogs show vigorous good health, outstanding hunting ability and longevity.
I have recently read Last Animals At The Zoo - How Mass Extinction Can Be Stopped
by Colin Tudge (from my local public library) and the chapter on the theory of
conservation breeding gives food for thought to breeders