My eight-year-old Labrador is a victim of in-breeding in India. He was born with genetic hip-dysplasia and by the age of three, his affected leg had to be amputated. If only he did not have hip-dysplasia, then doing the normal things a pup does would not have caused him to loose his leg. I share my strong spirited pet’s story to share the perils of in-breeding. Being alert to his groans, finding alternate therapy for his pain, supporting him to move, and playing with him have become integral activities of my life. Caring for my disabled and yet strong and spirited dog has been a refreshing and motivating activity each day. Adjusting to his needs even at odd hours smoothly segues into studying, meeting friends, and other activities.
His warm and wet nuzzle releases the stress in my body, clearing my mind. But I wish, my pet did not have to suffer so much. In India, the sudden spurt in demand for puppies has led to a major problem- inbreeding. Not only dogs but other animals also suffer from the evil practice of inbreeding. Inbreeding is the mating within the same gene pool. This method of breeding makes animals prone to genetic or hereditary defects and diseases. There are more than 300 diseases of canines that can be recognized as hereditary. Some of the common ones are:
Atopic dermatitis, deafness, glaucoma, hip and elbow displacia, hypothyroidism, narcolepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are a number of heart diseases which are genetic too, such as cardiomyopathy. After getting our Labrador from the breeder, we named him Ginger. On his first visit to the vet, the vet examined his legs and said that his hind legs were weak. The vet recommended that he should be given calcium tablets. She said that this would make his legs stronger, sturdier and well-built. Two months later, she noticed some improvement in his legs but felt that his legs were still fragile and he needed calcium for another three months.
Ginger was by now six-and-a-half months old. He had developed a taste for biscuits, bread, milk, mangos, bananas and papayas. He loved to sleep or play on the beds. The beds weren’t too high and when ever he was in a mischievous mood, he would jump up on the bed from one side and jump down from the other. He would run around the whole house and drive every one crazy.
It was on a similar day when the sun was shining bright that Ginger jumped down the bed in order to play but instead whined in pain. He was immediately taken to the vet. The vet saw Ginger’s X-Ray report and saw no fracture or sprain but she saw the most dreadful thing – the joint that connects the femur to the pelvis was not well formed. She diagnosed the most terrible disease that could affect a dog. Hip displacia.
This news was disheartening but no one lost hope. Ginger’s leg seemed to be fine for the next six months. He used to run, jump, play and sometimes cry in pain. A new bean bag was brought into the house and this was Ginger’s latest passion. He established instant ownership on it and used to sit and sleep on it and wanted to eat and drink on it too. If someone tried to sit on it, he would come charging and jump onto that person’s lap. Then no amount of coaxing would convince him to get off.
One morning Ginger was in a mischievous mood. He was jumping from the bean bag to the bed and after his second or third jump, the bean bag was moved away from the bed. Ginger did not realize that and jumped from the bed and landed on the floor with a loud yelp. He was taken again to the vet. When the X-Ray was shown to the vet, she saw a hairline fracture on his left hind leg which was then plastered well and he was taken home. The plaster stayed on till three weeks.
Ginger was by now three. He now weighed about 32 to 34 kilograms. One thing he had learned to do is to express his emotions, moods, opinions and affection. If he wanted to go out, he would run to the kitchen, where his chain was lying, fetch it and go to each member of the family until he was taken out. If he did not want to go out, he would loosen his limbs and lie on the floor. When the chain was attached to his collar and he was pulled, he would take his head out of the collar and hide in a corner of the house. It would then take several biscuits to coax him to oblige us with a stroll.
Ginger had also learnt how to shoo away birds. Whenever he saw a pigeon in the balcony he would start barking and not stop until it flew away. The whole house would shake with his barks. Ginger was happy and seemingly healthy. One morning he had gone for his morning walk where he met all his friends- Buddy, Toffee, Bruno and Spice and a Great Dane too. His name was Husky. He was a new dog in the colony and they were meeting for the first time. Ginger moved two steps ahead and Husky moved four. Ginger started to smell him and he started to smell Ginger. Suddenly Husky barked. Ginger retreated and wept. Ginger was unable to walk immediately after the incident. He was in great pain.
His left hind leg was hanging out and the paw was scraping the ground. He was carried back home and then taken to the vet. The vet said that in his left hind leg, the ball had fallen out of the socket. Ginger had no sensation in that leg as the bone had pressed a nerve. This time the leg wasn’t plastered because it wouldn’t help. The paw was bandaged well and like humans he also wore a shoe on that paw. He visited the vet twice a week for his bandage.
Ginger stayed in this state for one-and-a-half years till his leg was amputated. At first no one wanted his leg to be amputated but as time passed this became necessary and the doctors also advised the same. After the amputation of the leg, Ginger remains the same. Till now, no one can make out at first that he is a three legged dog. He still jumps on the bed, shoos away the pigeons and refuses to go for a walk. Most importantly he still has his ownership established on that bean bag.
He has survived the genetic disorders he was unfortunate to be born with due to the greed of his breeder. Most importantly though he has taught me that no matter what life throws at you, it is your spirit and not your limbs that run through a bad patch.
Vrinda Sant is a student with a passion for dogs. Her own pet’s disability has motivated her to spread awareness about the evil of inbreeding in Indian dogs. She believes that the issues faced by animals are as serious as those of humans and need to be recognized.