How does having an affected or carrier dog affect my breeding program?

The degree to which one’s breeding plans are affected by the appearance of an affected or carrier dog in the horizontal or vertical pedigree depends on how recently in the pedigree the dog appears. Obviously, affected individuals should not be bred, and neither should first-step relatives (parents, offspring, and siblings) of the disease.

But what about dogs who are not first step relatives or affected dogs? This area becomes a bit more gray, because while there is a very good argument for not breeding close relatives of affected and carrier dogs, we also cannot afford to eliminate all dogs in the gene pool who meet this criterion–to do so would risk further constriction of the gene pool to the point where the remaining “epilepsy-free” individuals might have higher-than-normal frequency for genes that contribute to some other genetic disorder. Relationship to a dog with epilepsy should be considered a fault; the closer the relationship the greater the fault. For dogs that are not first-step relatives that fault needs to be weighed with the individual’s other virtues and faults before a breeding decision is made.

The decision about whether this type of dog should be bred is a highly personal one, and is largely dependent on the would-be breeder’s comfort with risk-taking. In any case, the people buying offspring from any high-risk breeding should be notified in advance of the risk their puppy carries, so that they can make the best choices possible for their dog.

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