Anatolian Shepherd Dog Litters, Puppies, and
by Kath Coniglio, Gypsy Anatolians
With all the discussion about Ethical Breeders, I thought that relaying an
experience Ive just gone through might illustrate just why it is so important for a
responsible breeder to abide by a strong Code of Ethics that means something.
I bought my girl, Maggie, specifically for breeding. Going back at least 3-4 generations,
she had no genetic ties to my male. The breeder I was working with knew my intent and she
and her business agent, at that time, chose the puppy that they thought would best suit my
needs. When Maggie arrived, at 12 weeks of age, I was very happy with her.
About 3-4 months after I got her, Maggie had a problem. One morning when she got up, she
couldnt use her back legs and it was quite obvious that she was in pain. I took her
to the vet, who put her on pain medication and scheduled her for x-rays and a consult with
the orthopedic specialist associated with the clinic. The suspected diagnosis was HOD. The
x-ray didnt show anything abnormal, but it was recommended that we send it to the U
of I Veterinary School and Research Hospital for a second evaluation. There was also blood
work done and samples were sent off for several tests in order to rule out any other
possible issue. Everything came back normal, but, Maggie couldnt use her back legs,
except when medicated. I noticed a rather warm spot near her hips and along her spine and
several times a day, would gently massage the area trying to increase circulation and
bring her some relief. The veterinarians still suspected HOD, but nothing supported that
diagnosis or any other. They wanted me to keep her on pain Meds and bring her back in 30
days to repeat the x-rays and blood work. Now, Id just spent more than $500 for
tests that were negative and they wanted me to wait and do it again. I kept up the massage
and increased the amount of Oxy Drops and Nzymes that I was giving her and added Vitamins
C and E, gradually decreasing the pain medication. Three days later, she was off the pain
medication and moving completely normal. What was wrong? I can guess that there was a
pinched nerve or something with her vertebrae, but thats only guess. Somewhere while
all this was going on, I called my breeder. I was looking for support and reassurance for
the most part, but I also wanted her to know about the problem. I didnt know if this
was something that happened with this giant breed and whether she might have information
that would be helpful. What I got from my breeder was not what I needed or expected. She
became very defensive. My impression was that she thought I wanted to return the puppy and
I assured her that was not the case. After that first call, she never called back to see
how the puppy was doing or anything. I was very disappointed and felt quite alone. Other
breeders I talked to were nice, sympathetic, and supportive but its not the same. No
one could offer any enlightening information. Fortunately, Maggie never had another
incident and was fine.
Things went really well with Maggie over the next several months. She did exceptionally
well in show handling classes, her movement was gorgeous. Two weeks after I got her, she
took a Puppy Working Group Three at a fun match, beating out puppies 5 months old to a
year. She was everything that Id wanted in a bitch. I showed her at some UKC shows
and she did very well for herself, almost beating my Bear one day for Best of Breed.
With the opening of the ASDCA Studbook, Maggie was registered with AKC in time for the
National Specialty in Atlanta, September 2004. This would be her first AKC show. At the
Specialty, Maggie took Winners Bitch and on Sunday also took Best of Winners Two
majors in one weekend - I was thrilled, and had great expectations for her future. The
agent for Maggies breeder called the breeder and informed her of Maggies wins,
however, I never heard anything.
In October 2004, Gypsy Anatolians moved from Southern Illinois to New Mexico. Finding a
new vet in a new area is interesting at best. Our new home was in the Southwestern
mountains and is at least an hour away although he wasnt familiar with Anatolians,
he was familiar with the giant breeds an particularly livestock guardians. I knew he was a
country vet that preferred large animals, but he was the closest to us at 62 miles.
In March 2005, Maggie turned two years old and it was time to get her OFA. The vet
didnt have her positioned correctly for the x-ray and I couldnt submit the
film. He did his best, but it was obvious this wasnt his area of expertise. So, I
then started looking for another vet that was more familiar with the OFA x-rays.
Eventually, I found a clinic just over three hours from home. After making an appointment,
I packed up Bear and Maggie and we made the trip - leaving home at 4:30 AM in order to
have her there between 7:30 and 8:00 AM. When I picked Maggie up, the vet showed me the
x-ray and told me that Maggie was extremely dysplastic and that I shouldnt waste my
money sending the x-ray into OFA and that I should have her spayed. We talked at length
about the submission to OFA and this vet held firm that if it was her decision, she
wouldnt send the x-ray in - she emphasized to me that OFA wouldnt even rank
her. I knew that many people chose not to send dysplastic x-rays in to OFA. Most often the
dog gets neutered and occasionally a bitch will still be bred. This is when the issue of
ethics can play a very important role. Is it ethical to withhold that information? Is it
ethical to go ahead and breed a dog you know has a dysplasia problem or might pass one
While I was pondering what to do, I asked several breeders what they thought of the x-ray
and the whole situation. I got back varying opinions. I did put Maggie on Glucosamine,
Chrondroitin & MSM. With no outward symptoms, its hard to tell if it helped. The
former agent for Maggies breeder offered to call the breeder and let her know the
situation. When I brought up the issue of returning Maggie, I was informed that the
breeder was financially unable to buy her back from me and that since she no longer had
any breeding stock, couldnt offer me a puppy. This breeder didnt bother
contacting me. I didnt call her at the time because I was still undecided as to what
to do. I knew the breeder had gone through some bad times, but it didnt excuse the
I spent many hours researching and reading everything I could find on hip dysplasia. I
bugged a few friends endlessly, as well. One thing I did discover was that even when there
are NO symptoms and the dogs movement is fluid and agile as it should be, there can
still be a problem. This was surprising to me. Over the years, Ive heard many people
claim that they can watch a dog move and tell you if the hips are proper or not. This just
shows that you cant trust what you see all the time. However good a persons
eye is, the x-ray is the proof. I also discovered that the altered amount of Estrogen in
the system at the time of the dogs heat can cause a change that appears to be
dysplastic. Now, Maggie had her first heat when she was 12 months old. At this point, she
was 25 months old and still hadnt had her second heat, although Bear had been
telling us for two months that she was coming in heat. So, I waited on a decision to spay
and as suspected, less than 30 days from the x-ray, she came in heat. I decided to wait
and have her evaluated again - just to be sure. If there was a chance that the hormones
were causing what appeared to be a dysplasia problem, it was worth waiting and checking
again; this dog had so many good points going for her in every other way.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, Gypsy Anatolians has recently moved to North Carolina and
that search for a vet began again. Fortunately, I was able to contact a local kennel club
and one vet in particular was recommended. So, I called and made an appointment. This vet
turns out to have a brother and sister that went to school with my daughters back in
Illinois. Talk about small worlds. He shows German Shepherds and hes familiar with
our breed; it just couldnt have been any better. It was such a relief knowing that
Maggie would be seeing someone that would consider all aspects of the situation.
We did a physical evaluation last week and reviewed the old x-rays. Based on everything,
it was decided that we would do another x-ray to be certain. However, we really were
expecting that the diagnosis would just be confirmed, and it was. Maggie was spayed
The dysplasia is treatable with surgery and I suppose I could have considered having the
surgery and just not telling anyone . . . I know that type of thing has been done before.
But, why would I want to promote a dog that really wasnt sound? I know there has
been discussion on the chat List recently about breeding a dog with a similar situation as
Maggie. And, its possible that her offspring could be OFA good or excellent. She
does have excellent overall conformation and other than being a bit on the small side, is
a very nice dog. What about future generations and the overall good of the breed?
Personally, I dont like those options.
Continuing to research, read and question, I have learned that at least one other puppy
from Maggies litter has severe problems with her back legs and that indicates the
probability of a hip problem as well. Then, there were at least two pups from a previous
litter of the same breeding that have joint problems. This is where a health data base
would have been invaluable. With the appropriate information, would that particular
breeding ever been done? An ethical breeder most likely would have passed, if there was
anything in the line to indicate the possibility of problems. The lack of information
creates a totally different scenario.
Since this last and final evaluation, I learned that the breeder and her agent have a new
litter, from different parents and no relation to Maggie. I was offered a replacement
puppy from this litter. However, with the research Ive done, I dont feel this
would be my best option. Is it a line that I want to breed with the line(s) I already
have? Im not certain. If we had a health database in place, it might provide the
information to make the difference. But, as much as I hate even talking about it, Gypsy
Anatolians is moving again. There are circumstances with our new place that are not
conducive to our needs and we are looking for another place in this same area. It is
definitely not the time to seriously consider a puppy.
Now, Ive spent a lot of money on this dog from initial cost, special supplements,
multiple x-rays, and finally the cost to have her spayed. Then, we have all the classes,
the shows, equipment and travel. It really adds up. I can understand why some people would
try to hide the problem and recoup their expenses at least. But, is that ethical? I
dont feel it is. Maybe ethics goes to a level that wouldnt have to be
involved, but, at the minimum - is it responsible to the breed? My only answer is no.
Breeders need to subscribe to a strong Code of Ethics and we need a health data base.
I am not pointing any blame at anyone here. Any breeding can produce a pup with problems
and we should learn from that. What I would like for you to take away is the concept that
there is a very real need for health information in our breed. A good health data base
coupled with strong ethical guidelines will only serve to improve our wonderful breed.
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