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Is the Affenpinscher a Healthy Example of Westminster’s Best in Show?

2013 celebrates the 137th annual Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) All Breed Dog Show (WJCABDS). After the Kentucky Derby, it’s the 2nd longest continuously held sporting event in the United States. This year’s event drew a 2,721 entries representing 187 breeds, which is the largest entry since 1998.

As a veterinarian, going to the WKCABDS is an eye opening experience. Many of the breeds I see on an individual basis in my clinical practice are clustered together in the grips of competition for the Best of Breed, Best of Group, and Best in Show. It’s quite unique to see a lineup of small, black, and wiry Affenpinschers, which won 2013‘s Best in Show.

The winning Affenpinscher, a five year old male (intact) known as Banana Joe, hails from Allenboro, Massachusetts and is part of the Toy Group. His journey to Best in Show is a multi-step process:

Best of Breed- Members of a particular breed (like the Affenpinscher) are judged against each other to determine which best represents the characteristics of their breed. So, Banana Joe is the Affenpincher epitomizing the breed’s ideal qualities.

Best of Group- The best of each breed are evaluated against other dogs within their group. As the top Affenpinscher, Banana Joe beat out other Toy Group breeds, including the Miniature Pinscher, Pekingese, and Pug.

Best in Show- The group winners compete against each other for Best in Show. The Affenpinscher got a paw up on more sizable breeds from the Herding, Hound, Non-Sporting, Sporting, Terrier, and Working Groups to win Best in Show.

The breed is one of the oldest among the Toy Group and can be nicknamed the “monkey terrier”, as Affen- means monkey and -pinscher refers to terrier. The Affenpinscher sees great popularity in Germany, often believed to be the breed’s country of origin.

This is fourth year during which I've provided media coverage of the WKCABDS and I always strive to put a health spin on my reports. I’ve previously expressed my concern for the message sent to the general public as voiced by the WKC’s selection for Best in Show (see my petMD article: What’s Breed Got to Do with It?)

The Affenpinscher is apparently a healthier choice for Best in Show than 2012’s winner, the Pekingese. Fewer of the The Affenpinscher’s body systems are affected by breed-related diseases (as compared to the Pekingese), including:

Cardiovascular- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA, a congenital heart defect)

Musculoskeletal- Patella Luxation (sliding kneecap)

Ocular- Corneal Ulcers (erosions on the surfaces of the eyes)

Respiratory- Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (including tracheal collapse, overlong soft palate, stenotic nares, etc.)

I feel that electing the Pekingese as 2012‘s Best in Show did not send a positive message to the general public about selecting a breed (or mixed breed) of dog based on physical characteristics that promote long term health and wellness.

The Pekingese has many physical characteristics that affect its quality of life and potentially create great expense for owners striving to medically manage their chosen breed. The Pekingese Health Committee lists the following body systems and their problems:

Cardiovascular- Mitral Valve Disease

Dermatologic- Skin Fold Dermatitis

Musculoskeletal- Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), Patella Luxation

Ocular- Distichiasis, Entropion, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (dry eye)

Respiratory- Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Urogenital- Urolithiasis (bladder stones), Dystocia (birthing problems often necessitating a C-section)

So, just because you see a cute dog either in your neighborhood or television does not mean that particular breed (or mix of breeds) is appropriate for you. Before you rescue or purchase an Affenpinscher, please strongly consider your ability to manage the emotional and financial requirements of managing the breed-related health issues your pooch will likely experience

Good luck,

Dr. PM

Twitter @PatrickMahaney

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Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Patrick Mahaney takes a close look at celebrities, their pets, and other hot-button pet parenting topics from a veterinary perspective. His path to becoming a veterinarian was not the pursuit of a childhood dream, but was rather a serendipitous migration from his original plan, which was to pursue a career in marine biology or fine arts. To satisfy his creative urges, Dr. Mahaney writes a pet health column, guest blogs for Perez Hilton's, and created (CPN), which puts a veterinary spin on issues pertaining to celebrities, their pets, and public health.

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