One of the factors that first attracted me to the Belgian breed was the relative lack of hereditary health problems. It is still a very healthy breed. It is not a popular breed and breeders have, to a large degree, been very diligent in checking breeding stock for hip and eye problems in recent years and only breeding healthy dogs. We have a limited gene pool and most Belgians here in North America are all related if you go back just a few generations and even the imports from different countries in Europe are related with popular studs and lines showing up in pedigrees of dogs from diverse regions.
What two dogs produce in a litter is a combination of traits, not only of the sire and dam, but of many traits they carry from dogs far back in their pedigrees as well. Recessive traits can hide for many generations, some traits are the result of many genes working together in combination with environment, as in hip dysplasia, and what we see in a dog may be not give a true picture of what that dog will produce in his or her puppies. Being a breeder can be very rewarding but also very frustrating as recessive traits, long hidden, crop up in the most carefully planned litters and cause suffering for the dogs and heartbreak, as well as a financial burden, to their owners.
I was inspired to create this page by seeing ones like it on some of the Swedish, Australian and Finnish web sites. I have been breeding for 30 years now and have yet to find a line without some sort of problem occasionally showing up. Responsible breeders try to avoid doubling up on the same problems in their lines and make informed choices. If problems are not talked about breeders, especially new ones, will make the same mistakes to the detriment of the breed as a whole. I will do the best I can to keep it up to date and accurate. I hope more breeders will create their own pages and help everyone realize we in this together for the good of , and that when a health issue does come to light it is something to be from and not fuel to condemn, point fingers, or gossip about another’s ‘line’ of dogs.
One thing to be aware of in searching CERF and OFA websites is that owners can decide when they send in x-rays to submit them as ‘closed’, where only good results are published and available to the public, or as ‘open’ where both good and bad results are published. There is an option to download quarterly reports and they have data on which dogs were submitted as closed vs. open.
Some owners don’t even bother submitting any results they don’t think will pass. For some they don’t feel it is anyone else’s business, for others they don’t want any problems published associated with their dogs or line. On a personal level I can understand as our dogs are not just livestock but a part of our family and we love them and don’t want anyone to say anything negative about our ‘family members’ and we are used to having health issues private in our society.
But as breeders we have a greater responsibility to the future of the breed, to the people who place their trust in us when they buy one of our puppies, and to future breeders who will try to research and make sound breeding decisions. To every owner who loves this breed and would like to have healthy puppies available in the future you need to be open about health issues. That said not every health problem is hereditary, there are nutritional and environmental issues that affect health and injuries can and do happen. But the more data you have the better you can make informed decisions based on fact and not speculation.
If anyone has any questions on health issues in any of my litters please contact me directly, rumors can be very misleading, I am amazed at what I hear sometimes! I’m truly happy discuss health issues and the rationale behind my breeding decisions and if anyone does have health information about my dogs and their relatives I hope they do let me know. I don’t bite!
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA)
Traditionally OFA has been the database for hip and elbow results. Recently it has added it’s own database for eye clearance data that formerly was sent only to CERF.
Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF)
It is not always easy to get pet owners to do x-rays of hips and elbows as well as eye exams, even if it is in the puppy contract, as it is in mine. I will be contacting pet homes and encouraging them to follow up as much as possible as these youngsters mature.
A BIG THANK YOU to those who have already submitted data on their dogs!!
If you have an Isengard Belgian please x-ray and do eye checks!