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Does greater inbreeding always mean poorer health?

According to the Pedigree Dogs Exposed Blog... it doesn't - and I tend to agree!!


A lot of work has been done recently on recording in the breed database, the COIs of the entire UK-bred IRWS of 30 yearsl - over 10 generations together with some Irish-bred and other overseas-bred IRWS too. So there is a wealth of information to work with.

As the database is arranged chronologically, litter by litter - with the litter COI and those of its parents, together with health test results of all, it can be seen that the COI bears little relation to the hereditary conditions we have already dealt with and to isolated health problems.

As far as can be seen the distribution of COIs has been constant over the 3 decades with the vast majority being in the 11% - 29% region - too high, for sure and breeders are advised to select mates to bring the inbreeding % down. Howeverone judicious mating can bring even a high COI down to single figures but at what cost to the breed's specific qualities - temperament, type and performance - and health? 

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Mel, Dee,

obviously what counts for dogs counts for humans: when two carriers meet up even from unrelated parents - if the gene is the same the outcome will be 'affected'. Still, the chance of that happening is a lot higher in an inbred population than in an outbred one.

There is no living being with only 'good' genes and try as we will: with linebreeding it will never be possible to preserve only the good.


I'm afraid my posts don't always appear where I intend.

I'm sorry Mel, as to the Swiss - no offence meant in any way.

Referring to your sentence:

"To Imply that she is inbred then sorry you have overstepped the mark on this occasion."

I was not aware that I did so in any way. I was actually referring to breeding in general and stated 'from unrelated parents'. 

It seems communication on this site is far too complicated for people like myself. Seems I end up offending people with not the slightest intent.

"Seems I end up offending people with not the slightest intent".........I know exactly what you mean Susan


Have a look at the link I gave earlier on....I hope there are not too many people from Croatia here otherwise I will be the one getting it the verbal abuse next......

Hi Mel,

I am sure no offence at all was meant by Susan....I am very sorry about your mother...perhaps we should have chosen another illness prevalent in inbred human populations.

I don't think Susan was looking from advice from you either....she was just responding, as I did to a conversation of COI in dogs.

My daughter who is a Biologist pointed out to me the following link which illustrates what I was trying to say earlier on .  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2080450/

Interesting article, Catherine.

It outlines the effects of inbreeding on a selected human population from islands along the Croatian coast. The article of 2006 comes to the following conclusion: It confirms the worsening of pupulation health due to founder effect, genetic drifts and inbreeding. These effects where not shown in outcrossed (human) population.

Thanks to your daughter for digging it out! Took me some reading, though...


Yes, I know it brings this conversation on a different level which I thought was more informative and less controversial as so far it has not implicated any close relative to anybody on this Forum ( well I don't know how many Croatians are on this list....I hope I have not offended anybody...). It is interesting to note though the effects of inbreeding on health in human population though.

This is getting really complicated!

Mel, I was not implying any inbreeding with my statement about Swiss relatives.  I was only trying to lighten up the discussion a bit. My mistake! But as you take up the point may I point out that even IF you had swiss relatives and inherited one recessive gene for RP from them that would not imply inbreeding!


I could of course turn it all round and take personal offence in that you are saying all Swiss are inbred??? (very tongue in cheek so please don't take me seriously)



sorry, only very quick course we want to go in the fields - here I found an article which shows relationship between COI and health by example of allergies http://www.ashgi.org/articles/immune_rising_storm.htm#allergies
Thank you Michaela , very interesting article . I lost my 1st Red & White to AIHA when he was 5 . When I looked at the database for the IRWS his COI was over 30 % . Whether that contributed to his Immune problem we will never know . I spoke to his breeder after we lost him and he no longer breeds my dogs litter being his last . This was before I began showing and as a pet owner I was not aware of COI / HD//epilepsy / bloat .

This knowledge has come about by speaking to breeders and obviously forums like ES and the Internet as a whole .
I have not bred a litter yet and although a lot of what I read and research does worry me . I will do all the health tests that are available for my dogs before I do contemplate breeding and any sire I choose I will ask the questions but I love the breed and how they look sorry but I don't want to loose the " type I like " .
I am sure they are plenty of healthy Irish out there that would maintain "type " and are healthy ! Yes probably COI are higher than we would like but they can be decreased by careful selection . It maybe a gradual proccess over 2/3 generations but surely that would be better than just breeding to reduce COI 's and loosing what many breeders have taken years to achieve .

Thanks for this, Michaela.  If anyone would like to read the PDE article just google "Pedigree Dogs Exposed - The Blog".

As you all know IRWS are still relatively closely bred, coming from less that 10 'pure' individuals 30+ years ago. Half-sibling matings, cousins, grandparents etc were inevitable in the beginning - first degree matings- parents to children, brother to sister were 'accidental', it is said.  So you could say the whole breed is one big Line - hence the relatively high COIs.


Which is why IRWS health has been monitored for 30 years, but only three hereditary conditions, in enough numbers to research and deal with, have been found up to now.

I queried this in a discussion with the AHT the other day and the conclusion reached was that we were very lucky that the original IRWS must have been relatively free of genetic health problems and although close breeding was inevitable, the breed-wide attention to health was/is a first priority.

Now that COIs are published by the KC (somewhat inaccurate as there are pedigree gaps that skew the calculations) we have to watch that breeders use the COI as only one tool in the toolbag of dog breeding and do not panic themselves into cross-breeding to another breed.  Greater inbreeding does not always mean poorer health - inbreeding to my mind is not good and I would avoid it, but it is not inevitable that poor health is the end result.




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