The modern veterinary clinic depends on a whole series of tools to communicate with pet
It would seem that veterinarians and dog breeders would be natural allies. However, that isn’t always the case. A quick survey of current online conversations on the topic reveals deep rifts between these seemingly allied interests.
Vets express exasperation with dog breeders and vice versa. Good working relationships between dog breeders and vets are called “precious” and often envied by those who struggle to make less than ideal situations work in the best interest of the animals in question.
On Whose Authority?
In her blog “What Is It About Dog Breeders That Makes My Blood Boil,” Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, laments her dedication to an animal’s entire lifecycle whereas a breeder is seemingly only concerned with producing healthy puppies to increase their bottom line.
She also notes a plague of misinformation moving from breeders to pet owners that often gets in the way of her ability to give animals comprehensive care. In addition, Lichtenburg observes wryly, “It doesn’t take[...]a lot of smarts to put a male dog and female dog in a room together and watch them have sex.”
Despite having tough words for the types of dog breeders she can’t stand, Licthenberg does pause to note there are reputable breeders out there. She, however, claims not to treat too many dogs that come from them.
Covering Animal Care
There are veterinarians who specialize in animal reproduction who do work with dog breeders, but they are not as easy to access as a local or regional veterinarian or in the event of an emergency. For that reason, the American Kennel Club advises members to interview potential veterinarians to ensure the vets' healthcare views and practices are compatible with the breeder’s before care is needed.
This is especially true for emergency reproductive care, c-sections and/or care for newborn pups that may or may not already have owners. Veterinarians have standards of practice for good reasons and while they may differ from location to location, the time to find out there’s an issue isn’t in an emergency when lives and welfare may be at stake.
Border terrier breeder and veterinarian Steve Dean argues that vets need to be aware of the larger issues that dog breeders deal with as well as those affecting intentionally bred and purebred dogs. From genetic conditions to physical limitations, purpose-bred dogs often need special care.
Dean also encourages veterinarians to “stand up” to dog breeders when necessary and to actively participate in dialogues surrounding breeding programs to curb the spread of genetic diseases in purebred dogs without simultaneously creating new problems by too severely limiting the gene pool.
Doing this, he says, would require humility on the part of veterinarians and reputable dog breeders in the best interest of the animals in their mutual care.
Finding A Balance
Patty Kuhly, VMD, MBA writes for Veterinary Practice News that the purebred dog problem is an inescapable conundrum for veterinarians as that market is driven largely by cultural trends, celebrity, and fads. She points out, though, that along with that influx of cute, flat Frenchie faces into her practice, she also benefits from that income, which is something independent veterinarians can’t afford to ignore. And, she says, that she, too, has owned her fair share of purebred dogs.
Reputable dog breeders who make the health and welfare of their breeding animals a priority should have nothing to fear from a veterinarian with the same mission. In fact, it makes sense that ethical dog breeders and veterinarians would align for the purposes of stopping puppy mills and dog breeders that run substandard operations.
The Humane Society of the United States has made a practice of highlighting the conditions of puppy mills and the conditions described are worth fighting against. Dogs kept in squalid conditions without care for the sole purpose of churning out puppies for profit is enough to make most anyone’s stomach turn. The Humane Society recommends that before anyone buys a dog from a breeder, they first develop a relationship with that breeder. Seeing how parent animals live and interact with the people who care for them is an important indicator when looking for a reputable dog breeder.
Further, the Human Society asserts that high-volume dog breeding facilities most commonly sell through internet sales, online classified ads, flea markets, and pet stores. Responsible breeders, the organization asserts, will encourage an in-person meeting and be happy to show prospective puppy parents their breeding dogs, spend time answering any questions, and stay in touch during the whelping and early infancy of their puppies. However, dog breeders and veterinarians may find they have something very much in common when it comes to stopping the rampant animal abuse and mistreatment that occurs when disreputable breeders become involved.
Using a collaborative approach could help those looking for a specific type of puppy or a purebred dog connect with conscientious dog breeders and/or veterinarians in their region who are knowledgeable about those breeds. This could also help stamp out disreputable breeders or pet buying services that do not follow best animal welfare practices or run questionable operations.
The Way Forward?
For those pet seekers who insist on getting the pet-of-the-moment or for those who just don’t know any better, an aggressive educational program run by reputable dog breeders and veterinarians may be a way to bridge the gap between the two disparate groups and end all the side-eye, mistrust and disgust.
Putting the animals first may be the way forward for dog breeders and veterinarians who may not agree on everything, but who do share a commitment to animal health, welfare, and creating more lasting bonds between people and dogs of all shapes and sizes.
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