What Is It About Breeders That Makes Veterinarians’ Blood Boil?

Breeder vs. vet

Like a judge or politician who must divulge conflicts of interest, I fully admit that I have a bias against many dog and cat breeders. I don’t routinely welcome them into my practice because they are often very bad pet owners and clients.

But every week, I have new, happy clients who have just purchased a puppy or a kitten from a breeder, and I have to wade through the information their breeder has given them. The stuff the breeder says is often not based on sound medical evidence. Fads, unfounded opinion and old wives’ tales or new-wave crap are often the order of the day.

“But my breeder said…” — this makes veterinarians’ blood boil.

Why? Because most of these breeder ideas are wacky and put the puppy or kitten’s health in jeopardy. The breeder didn’t spend eight or 12 years studying to be a veterinarian. “But my breeder has been doing this for 30 years…” It doesn’t take 30 years or a lot of smarts to put a male and female dog in a room and watch them have sex. However, it takes a tremendous amount of effort and knowledge to become a veterinarian.

Okay, all you good breeders out there. Cool your jets. Of course some of you are wonderful, ethical breeders who work hard to improve your breed. You are welcome at my practice. Unfortunately, you  are in the minority.

Many breeders are interested in only one thing: emptying their kennel of puppies. Veterinarians are interested in something else: keeping those puppies healthy for the next 15 years. Who do you think has more interest in giving you the best advice possible? The breeder you’ll never see again, or your vet — who might be with you from puppy kits to geriatric screening?

The Puppy Visit

Malipoo puppy So Mrs. Luvapup comes in with her new maltipeekapoo. “My breeder said this breed is very sensitive to vaccines. You should only give her half a dose.”

(To myself: Well, this is not a breed. This is a mutt. All dogs get the same dose of vaccine. If a little dog should get just a little vaccine, should a Great Dane get four doses?)

“My breeder said this breed is very sensitive to anesthesia. You can’t use any drugs.”

(To myself: Again, this is not a breed. She is a little dog with no specific sensitivities to anesthesia. And if she was a breed that had special needs, I would know how to carefully anesthetize her — because I’m a veterinarian.)

“My breeder said I didn’t need to bring a stool sample in because the mother has no worms.”

Out loud: “I give up.”

The Handout

Now we move on to the literary segment of this frustrating episode of “My Breeder Said.”

Many breeders load up their new owners with lots of information in handouts, covering everything from nutrition to disease prevention to vaccine schedules to training. New owners are ready to follow the breeder’s opinions like it’s a bible. This drives veterinarians nuts! NUTTY TIME! NUTS!

Many new owners don’t realize they’re offending their new veterinarian by saying, “But my breeder said…” 500 times. Why would you bring your new puppy to a veterinarian if the breeder knows everything there is to know about that particular breed, and all veterinary medicine as well? I honestly think some new owners would like a drive-through window for a vaccination and a deposit box to drop off the handouts they got from the breeder. There might be something in those handouts I don’t know.

If they don’t want a veterinarian’s advice, they should keep their handouts to themselves and go get their vaccines at a Pets-R-Us. That way, they’ll get no exam; they won’t find out about the umbilical hernia or the puppy’s luxating patellas; and Pets-R-Us will sell them vaccines they don’t need.

Next: My favorite breeder mantras

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From Around the Web

  • Vicci

    I agree with everything in this article but can I also make a plea for veterinarians to know their limits and not get caught up in their own ego and high opinion of themselves and their profession: other people are ‘experts’ too. 1. Vets are not usually behavioural experts; don’t tell the owner that the dog is beyond help and/or make random guesses about its behaviour. 2. Think about the social advantages of leaving a dog with its litter mates until at least 8 weeks old even if it has been weaned early (a vet told a client of mine that it was ok to take a pup from the litter at 5 weeks because Mum had stopped feeding it – ludicrous). Thank you.

    • Cathi

      Vicci, 5 weeks oh heck no….Momma is still teaching them lessons.

    • Heath McNutt DVM

      Straight advice. Except that most behavioral issues tend to be organic disease at the root and yes, most vets do actually get training in addressing these issue but we don’t all have time to work them up properly. That’s why there are veterinary behaviorists. While trainers perform a necessary and very professional service. If your at the point where a vet is saying the dog is beyond hope, MAYBE a trainer can help but they aren’t equipped to deal with mental disease. A veterinary behaviorist is and can help.

  • Stormy Weather

    This explains why when I said to my vet that “the breeder told me I had to wash my puppy’s paws in salt water after every walk. I think that’s crazy. What do you think?” the vet laughed and replied “I think you are going to be a good dog parent”.

    • http://www.petsadviser.com/ Pets Adviser

      Ha! Yeah, that just about sums it up. (Salt water paw bath? Jeeesh.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jcrawfordcvt Julia Crawford

    The veterinary world needs to stop grouping true “dog breeders” with “puppy producers”. Dog breeders are ethical people that care about the breed and the future health of their litters. Puppy producers put as you said two dogs in a room watch them have sex and sell the puppies at a profit. Believe it or not though, like Vicci said, vets are not experts on breeds. I have taken My English Setter to many vets that have never seen an English Setter in person, much less touched one, and they can’t begin to understand what genetic health problems the breed has so there is no way they can get offended when I try to explain to them why my setter who is asymptomatic for thyroid disease but has been having health problems really does need to be tested for thyroid disease.

    • Guest

      Incorrect, the true dog breeders need to make a better effort to distance themselves from puppy producers. Vets have enough on their plate already.

    • proud vet assistant

      Actually they can begin to understand what genetic health problems the breed they may have never “met in person” has.. because they go to school for this precise reason.

      • Kay

        It is nearly impossible to know every genetic disorder of
        every breed. I mean specifics not just ‘bully breeds are susceptible to skin irritation’ I mean blue coated american pitbull terriers have recessive genes for their skin pigmentation which is closely linked to immune system and therefore might be more susceptible to hot spots and mange. They are also bred mainly on color over looks so may be susceptible to unstable temperament issues that could lead towards aggression. Vets do not go to school for dog breed history, behavior, or genetics, they go to school for animal medicine – a very broad range of various animals at that. Breeders do not know it all but neither do veterinarians.

        • Guest

          Kay, you are incorrect. Vets DO learn behavior and genetics in school, that IS part of medicine. And just so you are aware, most ALL blue coated dogs have skin. hair-coat problems, not just “bully breeds”. . .

    • Adrienne Lotton

      This article does state the difference at the beginning and veterinarians do recognize and appreciate the difference between true breeders, back yard breeders and puppy mills. And will treat each client accordingly.

    • Adrienne Lotton

      Having a certain breed depends on where you live. I have moved around, and seen many setters in my time.. In shelters and in practice. But then moved to another location and saw none. But its the vets job to educate themselves at the time. They do not have the time to sit and read about each and every breed all the time. They have far more pressing things to stay up to date wtih.

  • https://twitter.com/Micky_D Micky_D

    Well, doctor, I had to just about scream at a young, wet behind the ears
    vet to treat a dying puppy for strangles because “he didn’t have all
    the symptoms”.. Finally, when the pup crashed under her nose, despite
    the fact that she argued with me that “he will die if I give him
    steroids”, I pointed out that he was going to die anyway, so to quit
    being so blindingly stubborn. She agreed to give him the smallest dose
    possible.

    That pup rallied and never looked back. He has a few
    scars on his face from the lesions, but is otherwise healthy and happy
    (and neutered, of course).

    • Lauren

      Seriously? She was trying to do what she felt was the best thing for your pup and you were harassing her like that?? You don’t learn everything in vet school, in fact, in this profession, we never stop learning. In this case, she learned how not to be afraid of steroids and how to deal with pushy owners that don’t understand the serious negative side effects of steroids. Kudos for not being respectful of the time she put in to being able to help your pet. Respect is a TWO WAY STREET.

      • https://twitter.com/Micky_D Micky_D

        I guess you missed the part where the dog recovered from his bout of strangles (from the brink of death), after his treatment included steroid therapy in conjunction with a course of antibiotic.

  • Linda B

    I do not want any species to become extinct, but my numerous years in rescuing badly bred dogs makes me a supporter of this article. I do feel, however, that at times, veterinarians become so involved in the “science” and “physiology” of the animal that they forget the emotional needs. A great vet knows the balance of both. The pet owner is the BEST advocate for their pet when it comes to “normal” behavior and needs to be involved in their pets daily activities, food, stools and overall health. That way they can communicate properly to the vet the symptoms that have them concerned. Vets often prescribe medications as a crap shoot to treat symptoms rather than the underlying problem, but I feel that comes more from the lack of involvement from the pet owner than the vet’s misdiagnosis. Help your vet HELP your pet….Get involved. A great way to be prepared for a vet visit is to research your cat’s symptoms on the internet and keep notes on things that relate to your kitty’s condition. This will help you with terminology and help the vet provide a more accurate diagnosis. :)

    Thank you for writing this. It’s excellent.

    • Pets a priveldge NOT a ‘right’

      A dog is a species – a “Breed’ of dog is not a species.
      ‘Breeds’ should be noted as being modified characteristics of the species “Dog”.
      Breeds are simply human based genetically modified dogs, via selective breeding programs for physical and ‘job’ attributes.
      There is value in having dogs of mixed genetic background (Mutts) as often they can be more hardy and have less issues because their genetic pool isn’t as limited to a ‘stock’ of the same breed mated with each other over and over which can increase the incidence of genetically passed on ‘bad’ health issues.
      I have been involved in rescue for over 30 years and do not believe in breeding other than to continue a blood line and a breed (Yes there is some good stuff that comes from great breeding – in that working dogs and companion animal lap dogs – if NOT overbred can have fabulous partially predictable lifestyle based characteristics)- BUt again – bred for continuance of a bloodline – and NOT FOR SALE to the wider public – and where ‘breeders’ manage their genetic pool by Sharing WIDELY across a diverse pool of like minded individuals who REFUSE to breed for profit. No dogs (or other companion animals for that matter) breed or sold – UNTIL the shelters and rescues groups and organisations have no more animals at risk anywhere!
      Do not bred or buy when shelter pets DIE!

      • Kay

        Without reputable breeders to create excellent examples of a breed you have the backyard breeders and puppy mills left who will always mate two animals, claim to be breeders, and be solely based on greed. Actual breeders are not the problem, irresponsible people- owners and animal sellers alike, are.

        • Pets a priveldge NOT a ‘right’

          The problem is that everyone who breeds refers to themselves as “reputable’ breeders, “ethical” breeders etc etc. If there were ways to make them adhere to, be a part of a system that is there to prevent exploitation of the animals, THEN the breeders who are ethical and reputable and who breed ONLY for the value and longevity of a breed (NOT driven by money/income/or a kennel club version of ‘Desirable Features’ – to the point of the health aspects becoming less important than ‘looks’ – THEN – breeders would not all be lumped together…
          sadly – there is an industry around breeding animals – and sadly – the dollars often speak louder than ethics…
          And THAT is when the animals suffer.
          THAT is why I would like to see it being ILLEGAL to advertise, or in any way promte the sale of animals that have been ‘bred’.
          If ‘Ethical breeders’ wish to sustain a breed, simply for the love of a breed – then they would do this to support the ‘breed’ in the same way as all we rescuers save ANY breed at our own cost, where we provide our time, care and cash to sustain life of all we can rescue!
          Because the true ‘expense’ for breeding is the lives of those who will not get a home otherwise – if ethical breeding was ‘for the love of a breed’ – then MONEY would NOT be involved – at all!
          Rescuers make NO money in rescue – not one cent – and breeders do… unethical breeders ONLY make profit as this is their ONLY intent!
          So until there is no profit, I believe that ethical and mill breeders will continue to be lumped together in the same group – as it is difficult to draw a line between – one or the other.

        • perchristianbye

          I agree with most of what you say. I may be misunderstanding, but I do not mind that some breeders make money from their “products”, as long as what they sell are of good quality. Breeders who do more to make sure that the pets are healthy should, in an ideal situation, be able to charge more, as the likelihood of the offspring is being an economical burden to the new pet owner will be less.
          If no profit, then there will be no resources to do good.

        • Cathi Sadocha

          Kay, I agree with you. John Q. Public needs to be educated on what a backyard breeder/puppy mill is. I detest seeing puppies in a crate or box being sold at a strip mall. The owners of these dogs have no idea where they will eventually wind up. Tossed out to become a stray, to be neglected, abused, used as a bait dog, at a shelter and worse still sold to a lab for chemical testing.
          My breeder (Pharaoh Hounds) and others only sell to people after doing a credit check, calling references, having home visits done and they also have a contract. Within that contract, the adopter agrees to turn the dog over if at any time, they can no longer care for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jayandchristy.sharp Jayandchristy Sharp

    Good article.

  • Don’t shop, ADOPT.

    I stopped reading after this line: “Okay, all you good breeders out there.”.

    There is no such thing as a “good” breeder.

    • Kay

      And that is where you are wrong.

  • DD

    How about just adopt an animal from a shelter? There are millions waiting for a home and quite a few of them are “pure bred” dogs.

    • Cathi Sadocha

      Adopting at a shelter is wonderful. I have done it many times. I also have Pharaoh Hounds which I bought from my breeder. It takes all kinds to make the world turn. It is not responsible breeders that put the dogs in a shelter. It is the backyard breeders, puppy mills that make hundreds of puppies, all kinds of breeds, who sell the puppies to anyone anywhere never knowing the fate of that poor cute puppy.

      • DD

        There is no such thing as a responsible breeder.

        • Adrienne Lotton

          Speaking as a veterinarian yes there are responsible breeders, and I question my clients heavily where their animal came from. But there are breeders in it, truly for the breed, nothing to do with money. As the invest so much time and effort into the litter, which may only be one or two a year, money isn’t their objective.

        • Regret A Vet

          ……”truly for the breed nothing to do with money”
          How laughable! Breeders are part of the PROBLEM…NOT THE SOLUTION. Any veterinarian who condones breeding is JUST as guilty for the death of endless animals everyday.

        • Leanne

          I have a very Important question.. I bred my bichon, she has 3 beautiful healthy bichon puppies ..but last night she became stiff and was panting very hard (at this time puppies are 4 weeks ) I rushed her to the vet ( btw she is 2 and a half years old and this is her first litter) theykepther overnight gave her calcium and gluclose etc. … I was told that she cannot have anymore litters, could you please tell me if this can be prevented from happening again ..because I have 3 breeders who tell me to up the calcium in her pregnancy and lactation and she will be perfectly fine to whelp again .. I need the truth! I need to know if my vet just doesn’t like breeders or if the breeders are in fact right! Please help me!! Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/gazillionkisses77 Heather Lumkin

    Actually there is a lot more to breeding dogs than simply putting two together, and in fact it takes many years of researching, studying, mentoring and experience to know what all goes into bettering your breed and all the necessities into becoming a reputable breeder. It takes a tremendous amount of effort and knowledge to become… a reputable breeder. Learning about health testing, pedigrees, the different lines, conformation, how a dog of your breed is supposed to be put together and move, evaluation, the list goes on! This is a hobby to us, not a business. We put money INTO it, and are lucky to break even. Believe it or not, those of us who have put all of this time into our breed, we may know a thing or two about our breed. I know this post wasn’t directed towards responsible breeders, but there were a few untrue statements, such as what I’ve already mentioned above, and a few commenters who are ignorant and don’t appreciate all the responsible, reputable breeders efforts into bettering the breeds we all love and adore. What happens when all dogs are spayed/neutered? No more babies produced. And in 20 years, there will be none of them left. They will be extinct.

    • guest

      Maybe then all the dogs in shelters will start being adopted.

      • Kay

        Unrealistic. Responsible dog breeders do not cause shelter dogs, irresponsible owners do.

    • Adrienne Lotton

      But your speaking of one of the actual true and respected breeders, which are not seen nearly as often as back yard breeders, pet store buys or puppy mills. I give high respect to my clients that actually did their research in seeking an appropriate breeder, in which they interviewed each other. but it doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything the breeder recommends, as I will be their doctor through life, but I don’t just disregard what is said because the owner starts with ‘well my breeder says’.

  • Sarah

    What happens when ALL breeders stop breeding, and all shelter dogs are finally adopted out over the years? What do the people in 50 years time own as pets?

    • Jess

      It would take a very long time for that to happen and, realistically, it won’t likely happen. Also, there are other pets you can have to enjoy besides dogs and cats. To think about breeding in that way, as though you are preventing all dogs everywhere from being extinct, is ridiculous. There isn’t any reason to worry about dogs going away. They’ve been here for a long time and will continue to be here for a long time.

      • http://www.petsadviser.com/ David Deleon Baker

        Agreed. 3-5 MILLION dogs and cats euthanized from shelters every YEAR because there aren’t enough homes willing to take them all in. Let’s be realistic.

  • Ego 911

    I am one of the “Responsible” breeders that often get’s labeled by opinionated vets that unfortunately have a “God Complex” because of their medical degree. I have often had vets that my puppy owners go to make judgements about me and my dogs that is UNETHICAL they have never met me. They just wig out a new owners with snap judgements without even contacting the breeder to give them the opportunity to provide feedback.

    This message is for the vets that make snap judgements. STOP

    I have vets now that want my business and I am in the position to pick and choose vets that are ETHICAL. So to the vet that wrote this article. I WOULDN’T PICK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Believe it or not may breeders are responsible and it seems that if you make a profit breeding a litter that you are labeled a Puppy Mill. Breeding is a business and I wish any responsible breeder to be profitable.
    Everyone wants to label any breeder that does make a profit a “Puppy Mill” that is so wrong. If it wasn’t for the respnsible AKC breeders that stay in business how can we bring our wonderful breeds into the world and survive without making a profit. It’s so narrow minded to think this way.
    Okay I’m done Kudo’s to the vets that follow ETHICAL business practices. Shame on the vet that makes SNAP JUDGEMENTS ON BREEDERS and spread false information to puppy owners.

    • perchristianbye

      Shame to those breeders destroying the health of a breed! and make snap judgements on which animals to breed based on their exhibition results, and the breeders’ gut feeling.
      The last 50 years of breeding has resulted in a massive increase in defects. That has been caused by breeders not responsible, or too ignorant in what they are doing.
      And shame to those breeders spreading false information to their clients, like feeding animals with raw meat, preventing puppies from exercising before they are 6 months, adding water to the pups dry food, using herbal extracts against ticks, etc.

    • Bichon Lover!

      Hi ego 911 I need some advice/help ..
      how can I chat with you off of this site?
      I’m a bichon breeder and have been told something by a vet and
      I’m wondering if you can confirm what I’ve been told ..you are so right about vets labelling you as bad just because you are a breeder…I’m wondering how they would make their living if it were not for us breeders in the first place! please help me!
      thanks

  • Paul

    There are terrible vets just like there are terrible breeders. The reverse can be said about many vets as well.

  • Erin

    Getting veterinary advice from a breeder is like getting gynecological advice from a pimp.

  • perchristianbye

    As a vet in Norway, I couldn’t agree more!
    We have few breeders in our practice, but those we have are keen in making sure that they will not pass on genetic faults, and we always start with a minimum database. These breeders get problems from the other breeders of that particular breed, as they reduce the number of available animals for breeding. The fact that we actually find genetic disease, certified by pathological and genetic tests, does not clear our breeders. Off course the owner of the parents of the breeder dogs did not have genetic diseases in their dogs.

    There are differences in vets, their focus, their interests, and their ability to communicate with the pet owners. I am always amazed that we have to fight so much to gain credibility. The amounts of dogs or cats the breeder has had, and their diseases, in their 30 year experience, I will see in a week. And then I also am responsible of getting them well. I did have some studies to go through before I became a vet. Off course, the knowledge I got was just an accident, and there was no plan from my university how to make me prepared for the real world!
    Good article. Nice views. Very diplomatically formulated.

    • lichtendad

      Thank you. Do you think the dog breeding in Europe is more ethical,or reputable than our free for all system in America? Our AKC does nothing to safeguard what a breeder does here.

      • perchristianbye

        AKC?
        No, I do not think so. We have plenty of problems, and the breeds get worse from generation to generation. Some of the genetic problems has arisen in US, others have been created in EU.
        In Norway we do have a legislation which can enable owners to sue for damages when their new puppies have hidden faults, but it is not much used. I believe that the only way to get a better breeding is to make it costly to sell puppies with defects, and possible ban show-dogs: this does not contribute to a healthy development of the breed.
        In theory, the Norwegian animal wellfare law § 25 (lov om dyrevelferd, § 25), could be used, as it is forbidden to breed animals which do not contribute possitively to the breed, and to breed animals which pass on defects which affects the animals physiology in a negative manner. But we do have an incompetent and ineffiecent control organ for the animal welfare in Norway.
        As a vet, I make plenty of money from ignorant breeding. But this is something I can do well without! That the breeders ignore advice from vets, is amazing, just because they have read something on internet, and have a 25% grasp of that disease or disease process. I had an owner, heavily pregnant, who had been advised to use corticoids for her dogs skin infection. As I told the owner, I do not know how much steroids will be need to affect your pregnancy, but I did advice her to call us in the future. There are plenty of infomration that is not understood by breeders, and that can cause serious problems for others.

  • Cathi Sadocha

    I am so sick and tired of hearing BREEDERS are BAD. Just like races and religion, there are good responsible breeders who truly care about their dogs and puppies. Most of shelter dogs are there because of irresponsible owners, backyard breeders and puppy mills. People think that because they bought the dog with papers it is special. Oh heck no that is totally wrong. Lots of puppy mill puppies have papers….

    John Q. public needs to learn about the backyard breeders, puppy mills. They need to learn what it takes to be a responsible owner. Just as well, they need to understand what a reputable breeder does before, during and after the tie.

  • Adrienne Lotton

    Lets make it clear, although people won’t read this, even the article touched on this. All vets recognize the difference between responsible breeders, that are truly in it for the love of the breed, not money, and the back yard breeders and the puppy mills. So breeders need to take it down a notch. this article isn’t meant for you to take offense to, vets know who you are. But vets have a medical background for a reason, and that is why the puppy is brought to us. We don’t just scratch everything that is recommended from the breeder. But if you had any idea of what vets had to deal with on a daily basis, from garbage diets, to over vaccinations, setting off our schedules, dewormed once, there for all good for life, or 4am c-sections because of back yard breeders that aren’t prepared and then don’t have the money to cover it. So in general, responsible breeders, you are recognized and not dismissed by this so called God Complex!

  • DVM in the trenches

    Good article, and I have seen all the scenarios you describe, and more. I do know several reputable breeders, and respect them a great deal. i keep an open mind about what they might know on the basis of their research and experience. They are far outnumbered, however; since they don’t have contact with the much more common clueless type of breeder I can understand why they may feel defensive.
    There is also a huge network of commercial breeders (puppy mills) who sell litters of puppies to brokers (Hunte Corp., Lambriar (recently purchased by another broker corporation) and several others. They are processed, (over)vaccinated, (over) wormed and (over) treated with antibiotic,at the Hunte plant in Missouri they also have ear crops, “cherry eye” excisions, hernia repairs, stenotic nares surgeries performed (yes, there are vets that work there, don’t know how they sleep at night). Then, they are sorted and loaded on trucks for pet stores, mainly on the coasts. This whole industry has suffered with the economic downturn, BUT they have also expanded into internet sales which are booming. I see so many puppies “shipped” from “breeders” that the client has never met and they trust the pictures on the internet….
    Also going to the breeders is no fool proof- I am in a geographic area where a visit to Amish puppy mill county is driveable, and the puppy producers will bring a litter from the barn into the home and make like the puppies were born and live there, they may even have several clean adult dogs of the same breed handy to pass off as parents.
    I could go on. Being a vet for 26 years in a suburban area, and having spent some time and energy in anti-puppymill activity- lots of stories -