Old English sheepdogs – hip dysplasia

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NEWS AND VIEWS: There is a story today in The Times newspaper which indicates to me that there could be a connection between the Old English sheepdog and an inherited condition: hip dysplasia, which, on research, is confirmed. The story concerns a leading breeder of this dog who’s been ordered to compensate a buyer because it appears that she withheld information about the dog that she sold concerning its health.

Lady with Coom

Lady with Judy Coom. Photo: Judy Coom.

Anette Aldridge-Pendragon has been breeding sheep dogs for 25 years or more. She has shown them at Crufts and she sold one of her dogs, an eight week old bitch called Lady to Judy Coom for GBP1000. We are told that Lady was the offspring of a bitch who had a tendency to pass on an inherited condition, hip dysplasia. In other words this female dog, Lady’s mother, was producing puppies who were predisposed to developing hip dysplasia. As a result Aldridge-Pendragon was forbidden from registering those puppies with the Kennel Club. Clearly Aldridge-Pendragon knew all about this but it appears he didn’t report it to the buyer.

As a consequence Coom spent more than GBP30,000 after Lady developed the disease and required an operation to replace her hip. This occurred seven months after the purchase. Lady had become lame and the disease was diagnosed. After the operation there are follow-up operations and rehabilitation.

Coom sued the breeder for damages covering the medical bills which weren’t covered by her insurance policy. Initially she was awarded over GBP4000 plus legal costs at Merthyr Tydfil County court last August but Aldridge-Pendragon appealed and the appeal judge ordered that Coom be refunded the entire purchase cost of GPD1000 together with much reduced damages of GBP83.49 p.

The story indicates two things. Firstly, the emotional connection that a buyer of a puppy or kitten develops quite soon after the purchase which almost entirely prevents them from relinquishing the animal to a rescue centre or even giving the animal back to the breeder requesting the purchase price and compensation. She was justified in my opinion in doing that. But buyers such as Coom become too connected to their dog or cat and they do their best to repair the damage.

The second point is that the story confirms, as mentioned, that this dog breed and perhaps all large dog breeds have a predisposition to develop hip dysplasia which is a condition whereby the hip socket does not cover the leg joint and therefore there is a poor connection which gets worse through use until surgery is required.

Moral: ask for a pedigree when buying a purebred dog and ask about inherited diseases. Inherited health conditions are common in dog and cat breeds because of inbreeding which is referred to as selective breeding. Inbreeding brings recessive genetic conditions to the fore where they become visible and an issue.