The pedigree dog that broke our hearts

February 28, 2012

This is Taupo. He was our beloved Cavalier King Charles spaniel. We got him from a Kennel Club registered breeder as a puppy, after viewing him several times with his mum. My son chose him himself from the litter. We never wanted a showdog, we wanted a pet, and that’s exactly what he was.

Taupo had a healthy diet, he was exercised several times a day, and much, much loved.

He was diagnosed with Mitral Valve Disease at the age of seven and died a year later. We were all broken-hearted.

MVD isn’t the only disease affecting cavaliers. But naively, I’d thought that getting a pedigree, Kennel Club-registered puppy, where we were clear about the parentage, guaranteed health.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Last night’s BBC4 documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On revealed that despite steps taken to stamp out health problems in some breeds of pedigree dogs, many still exist (if you’re thinking about getting a pedigree puppy, I’d definitely recommend watching it).

Of course there are good breeders and bad breeders, and thankfully not all pedigree breeds have such serious health issues as the Cavalier or Bulldog. But as the documentary showed, one of the biggest problems even the most responsible breeders face is that health problems can be a result of genetic mutations which of course may not be visible in parents or grandparents or even older generations.

Breed standards, including those demanded by shows like Crufts, compound the situation.

And by the way, when we were looking for a new dog, we decided to get a rescue dog. I can’t tell you how many pedigree puppies I was offered.


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  • Crystal Jigsaw February 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    What a beautiful face your dog had, truly beautiful. I do think some breeders and dog owners are just irresponsible, and many are only in it for the money. Diseases only tend to affect the dog once it’s been taken away from its mother and is usually then no longer the responsibility of the breeder. We bred Sparky a few years ago but she’s a registered border collie (or working sheep dog) and her 6 puppies are now sheep dogs themselves, including the 2 we kept. But I do know that spaniels are prone to conditions that can be and often are fatal. It’s so terribly sad.

    CJ x

  • Kelly Wiffin February 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I am so sorry. I know how attached I am to my dog. I can’t imagine life without him. I know that is silly of me as he will eventually not be with us but I will deal with that when it comes to it. I am going to make sure that I enjoy every day with him. He is a border collie cross dalmatian so not a pedigree, I don’t have any experiences with pedigree dogs (or any other dogs apart from my dog).

    I didn’t watch the programme but I feel that all dogs, no matter what they are should be bred to be healthy and happy.

    We have only had to take our dog to the vet because he had eaten chocolate (three times!), once where he got a tub of drinking chocolate off the kitchen surface, once where there were some chocolate posted, and once where he got some Marks and Spencers cherry liquers off my bedside cabinet!

    It is sad that dogs, like any other animal, can get genetic diseases.

    I also have chinchillas and two of mine had teeth problems. Teeth problems in chinchillas can be genetic as well.

  • Mrs Lister February 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    I watched the programme last night – the ignorance from the Boxer breeders made me seethe. They’re like mafiosa!!

    Dogs should be bred to be healthy and happy – not as a vanity project for a bunch of overindulged middle class wankers.

    We should be looking to Sweden for inspiration. According to that programme they have much healthier, realistic pedigree guidelines/rules.

  • Emily McMillan February 28, 2012 at 9:38 am

    That is so sad 🙁 I watched a programme, must have been the previous one and it was so upsetting. My mother-in-law always has Cavalier King Charles, they are such lovely pets and really gentle with the children, and very easy to fall in love with. So far touch wood, none have suffered from this, I had no idea about it till I saw the documentary.