You often see them in malls and other public places looking so cute and cuddly. But laying aside their lovable appearance, is the proliferation of small dog breeds anything to be worried about?
Of course, each one of us is free to choose the kind of pet and breed that we want to bring home and care for. But there are factors to think of when owning a dog, especially the small breeds that are now quite popular and in demand here and abroad.
In an online article for vetfocus.royalcanin.com, Jamie L. Fryer reminds people looking for a pet to “consider the effect this trend towards smaller dogs will have on both veterinary care and the overall health of our canine companions.”
Fryer cites health concerns that may occur in smaller dogs, such as genetic diseases, oral and orthopedic problems, and even behavior issues, with the latter being “one of the most common reasons that dogs are relinquished to shelters.” She also mentions that health problems involving small dogs are “magnified” in “teacup” dogs (a miniature version of a breed of dog that’s already classified as small).
“With these dogs, their tiny, fragile bones, in combination with the canine tendency to be underfoot, can be a recipe for disaster. Fractures can occur after a short fall or jump, from being stepped or sat on, or even from rough play,” Fryer says.
There’s also the problem involving breeders who want to cash in on the demand for small fur babies and thus give rise to more puppy mills and backyard breeders, and those who simply don’t care for the dogs’ health and welfare and view them merely as a source of income.
Dr. Gilbert Cahatol, who is based in Las Piñas City and has been in veterinary practice for 40 years, says that many people prefer small dogs as pets because they’re easy to take care of and live longer than the big breeds. In fact, he owns a Pomeranian that once belonged to one of his patients. The dog is now 16 years old.
But potential pet owners should be aware of a dog’s lineage and not buy a small dog just because it’s the in thing, Cahatol says.
“Actually,” he says, “what’s really important is that you know the genes of the dog. Nowadays dogs easily get sick and die because of inbreeding and weak genes.”
Cahatol equates the long life of his Pomeranian to the dog’s good genes and because he was able to adopt the dog in the 1990s when inbreeding was not yet widely practiced.
According to thekennelclub.org.uk, “inbreeding occurs when puppies are produced from two related dogs, i.e., dogs with relatives in common.”
Cahatol also warns of breeders who perform the vaccinations themselves, and who tamper with vaccination cards to make it appear that the puppies have received the required shots while in their care.
“Aside from checking the lineage, be sure to consult your own trusted veterinarian to see if the dog you purchased is healthy,” he says.
If tracing a dog’s lineage is impossible to accomplish, the next best thing to do is to complete the dog’s required vaccinations, according to Cahatol. Complete shots help dogs, including small inbred dogs, live long and healthy lives, as does feeding them nutritious food like vegetables and brown rice, he says.
The question comes up: What is the ethics in breeding dogs because of public demand (and the eventual profit that comes with selling them)?
To be sure, there are responsible breeders who have dogs with a good lineage, who prioritize the dogs’ welfare, and who conduct strict background checks when selling their puppies. But it cannot be ignored that there are breeders who operate solely on profit. The sad part is that many potential dog owners patronize these breeders who offer come-ons (like cheap prices) that are hard to resist.
In an entry in her blog called Pinoy Dog Mom, Ton Reyes was able to perfectly convey what would-be breeders should consider, like food costs and hospital fees: “ … What I am saying is that dog breeding is not a very lucrative business as it may seem to be. If you think you’d like to wade into it for a quick buck, please stay away and find something else with less risk and with better margins. This way, you don’t add to the ranks of backyard breeders and puppy millers contributing to pet overpopulation in the country.”
All things considered, it all boils down to being a responsible pet owner or would-be pet owner, especially when it comes to small dogs. In our conversation, Cahatol ends with a reminder to take care of the dog you have just purchased, consult a vet when necessary, and be sure to get your pet from credible breeders who make their dogs’ welfare top priority.
And like Cahatol who emphasizes the need to consult trusted vets, Fryer points out that “since the trend toward smaller and smaller dogs does not appear to be coming to an end anytime soon, veterinarians need to be able to lead their clients through the unique challenges posed by these pets.”
The American actor James Cromwell, who starred in the 1995 hit movie “Babe” that is said to have made vegetarians of many children, was quoted as describing pets as “humanizing.”
“They remind us that we have an obligation and responsibility to preserve and nurture and care for all life,” said Cromwell, a vegetarian since the 1970s.
It behooves all of us to take Cromwell’s words to heart, and to truly care for the sentient beings we choose to live with, and not just because they’re cute and cuddly and belong to a popular breed that we can show off to others.
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