Breeding for quality of life
Many breeds of companion animal have inherited disorders that may impair quality of life (QoL) to the extent that it is unkind to keep them alive. If we struggle to discern when this point is reached, why do we breed compromised, short-lived animals in the first place? If we struggle to judge when environmental conditions cause an unacceptable QoL, why not breed appropriately for modern environments? In breeding pedigree dogs, five major problems arise: (1) some breed standards and selection practices run counter to dog welfare; (2) insufficient selection pressure seems to be exerted on some traits that would improve animal well-being and produce dogs better suited to modern environments; (3) the incidence of certain inherited defects in some breeds is unacceptably high; (4) the dearth of registered animals of certain breeds in particular countries makes it extremely difficult for breeders to avoid mating close relatives; and (5) there may be financial disincentives for veterinarians to reduce the incidence of inherited diseases. Before we can judge when behavioural or morphological changes caused by selective breeding result in an unacceptable QoL, we have to know which are prevalent. This paper reviews progress in two Australian schemes to monitor trends in the prevalence of inherited disorders in dogs and to promote behavioural phenotypes likely to cope with contemporary domestic environments.
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