"Puppies with a future - from dogs with a past!"
Toy Fox Terrier Health
by AKC Hall Of Fame Breeder Barbara Andrews
Canine health problems is a complex subject full of commercialized health hype and confusing certifications. Relax, well-bred Toy Fox Terriers have fewer genetic health issues than 99.3% of all breeds.
Before you buy a puppy, take a minute to arm yourself with background knowledge and a good perspective genetic health. Telemarketing is probably the only tool puppy mills haven't used to snag buyers. So whether you shop online or down the street, Stop, Look, and Learn the science and truth about health certifications.
A cute puppy has all it needs to snag local buyers so for decades, health problems meant nothing as long as a bitch could pump out litter after litter. Then pet shops, tired of being sued for vet bills on sickly puppies, began to demand health guarantees from their suppliers. Veterinary groups saw a new market and a plethora of health certifications emerged, breeders found a new form of one-upmanship, and puppy mills hastened to buy "certified" breeding animals.
A good idea went awry when veterinary schools and veterinarians tumbled to the realization that dog breeders were willing to pay handsomely for testing and certificates. A whole new market opened up in the early 90s when "research" vets working for private groups but usually representing themselves as part of a well known university, began to develop various tests for obscure genetic diseases. Then all that needed to happen was to start a disease-panic in a few breeds and sure enough, breeders would flock to buy a "certificate" showing their dog didn't have whatever it was. It would be laughable except that in a populous breed, it amounts to multi-million dollar fraud.
And of course show breeders were told it was wrong to breed a dog unless it had a portfolio of certifications. Predictably, that became the criteria by which unscrupulous breeders duped the public. After all, it's a lot easier and cheaper to get a health "certificate" on a crippled, shy, or ugly Toy Fox Terrier than it is to take that dog out in public to try to get a championship on it!
A "Health Certificate" is for air shipment and states only that the dog is free of any observable communicable disease at the time it was examined. Many commercial breeders employ vets who routinely fill out health certifications without ever having examined the dog. The other kind of health certifications are gilt-edged pieces of paper that not a few breeders offer in lieu of unattainable Championship titles on the parents.
The Fallacy Of Health Certification:
To criticize the authenticity of any health test is to invite the wrath of those who in some way profit by the procedure. Thank God for the courage of outspoken leaders like Dr. Jonas Salk (yes, the polio vaccine guy), Barry Goldstein, DVM (vaccines, natural health authority), and Jerry Schnelle, DVM (discovered canine hip dysplasia).
Genetic tests can be used to fine-tune a breeding program but they should never be a marketing tool! What I'm going to tell you is something few Toy Fox Terrier breeders care to discuss but nary a vet will deny.
It all began because people were led to believe health certification was: a) predictive and b) conveyed long-term assurance. How ridiculous is that? Health conditions can and do change, just like in people. A month after a clear checkup, we can have a heart attack or be diagnosed with diabetes. A certificate based on anything other than a proven genetic marker is only a checkup, meaning the dog was clear of that problem at that time. Eye-to-eye, any vet will admit that it in no way implies the dog will remain free of that problem.
For example, x-raying two joints (hips) out of two hundred is ridiculous. OFA, the official sounding Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, was nothing more than a one-trick pony headed by a despot. In my Canine Chronicle columns, I challenged Dr. Corley for over 20 years to also certify elbows, stifles, knees, etc. That would have widened OFA's margin for error and added nothing to the bottom line so "no deal." OFA was on its last legs when AKC bought into it, Corley retired, and the very capable "Beagle Man" Eddie Dzuik took over.
Unlike CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation), OFA still does not require yearly re-certification so an OFA x-ray is rarely repeated, even in the face of deteriorating joints. The same applies to the plethora of other certifications with the exception of CERF but again, few breeders re-certify eyes. Saying a dog is "CERF Certified" may be true but now you also understand that the certificate could have been acquired before the dog went blind. I speak with absolute authority here. Remember, Bill and I had Mini-Bulls. The heartbreak of a dog dropping dead from a heart just certified clear of aortic stenosis and another case where a bitch's lens luxated exactly two weeks after being CERF certified is why we no longer own that breed. That broke my heart but it isn't why I'm sharing these disillusioning insights with you and since we're talking about Toy Fox Terriers, let's move on.
Here's a classic example of health certification hype that even prospective pet owners have been told to ask about EVEN THOUGH if a TFT puppy had CHG it would have died in the nest! Go figure.
Congenital Hypothyroidism with Goiter (CHG)
By its nature, its so rare as to be mythic! You will find the three part CHG interview with Dr. John C. Fyfe, who "discovered" Congenital Hypothyroidism With Goiter, to be proof of the terrible duplicity created by "health certifications." I have yet to talk to a single Toy Fox Terrier breeder that has produced this fatal genetic defect. And surely they would know because puppies are born with CHG. And here's the catch line in this ridiculous but profitably promoted affliction....
Afflicted Toy Fox Terriers die. Period. They rarely make it past two weeks of life. They cannot survive past three weeks. Truly this is a "self limiting" disease. So what's the big deal you ask?
There will be those who wish I wouldn't answer but here goes. If you inadvertently breed a CHG carrier to another CHG carrier (remember there is no such thing as an affected adult) you could get an affected Toy Fox Terrier puppy. It will promptly die. Okay, now you know you have a bitch who is a carrier. If you breed her again (which I would never do!!!) you have to be sure the stud dog is not a carrier. So breeders are "coached" into demanding a CHG clear certificate on every potential stud dog. Good advice if you don't know squat about genetics and are going to outcross your bitch to a dog of an unknown bloodline owned by someone you can't trust.
In 45 years of breeding dogs, I have never done that and I don't plan to start now. I know exactly what physical faults my dogs have produced and I know they carry NO GENETIC HEALTH FAULTS so if you are looking for pieces of paper to prove that, you will have to go elsewhere.
The Real Health Test:
Go to any show and note the bad toplines (back problems) twisted joints (guaranteed future arthritic suffering) bad mouths (can't eat normal food and gum infections lead to death from heart problems) slipping patellas (arthritis) and a whole host of serious, painful, even deadly conditions being proudly shown by "concerned" Toy Fox Terrier breeders. Yet an increasing number of them have Health Certifications. Gimme a break!
Makes you wonder how the Toy Fox Terrier and other breeds survived before all these tests came along. Most health certifications require expensive lab work, DNA analysis, "reading" or interpretation by some other vet, and are just part of the everyone-gets-a-piece of the cake system that is so rampant in human medicine today. If you have a good vet who doesn't pick up on the possibility of a specific problem, be grateful. He's just saved you a bunch of money and spared you and your dog the stress of unnecessary tests.
In defense of the system, I must say that vets would be financial fools to refuse to help breeders obtain health certifications. So maybe we should look at the breeders who innocently (or otherwise) have given rise to a whole new industry of veterinary services. An industry which is needed and welcomed by those who seek to sell poor quality, shy, or defective puppies. Think about that.
The Give-Away on Health Testing:
This one is not up for speculation. We have established there's substantial profit for vets and organizations that administer, read and certify test results. There is however, one compelling piece of evidence that says it all. If positive I.D. were required on each dog, it would dramatically reduce the rampant fraud and uh oh, here's the catch, it would reduce the number of dogs presented for clearances. Could there be any other reason for the industry's steadfast refusal to require tattoo or microchip?
With no requirement for positive identification, dogs known to be clear of a problem are simply substituted for afflicted dogs! It is so common, breeders joke about dogs that "glow in the dark" from having been repeatedly x-rayed in place of dogs that couldn't pass OFA. It isn't funny. I've written about the duplicity in Health Certifications for over thirty years.
The obvious solution? No health certification should be issued on any dog prior to tattoo or microchip. But above all, a dog should also be pointed in conformation shows to prove it is physically and mentally healthy enough AND of sufficient breed type to warrant contributing to the gene pool. Maybe, just maybe, if I keep harping about positive I.D. requirements prior to health certification, it will happen some day. In the meantime, we hope more Toy Fox Terrier owners will bring their dogs out to AKC or UKC dog shows before breeding them. That way prospective TFT owners and other breeders can scrutinize them for temperament, physical soundness, good eyes, teeth and normal jaws, plus overall health and condition.
Excerpts from author's ShowSight Magazine and Canine Chronicle columns