- Little Jo Wheek
Some breeders in other species deem themselves to adhere to a code of ethics and standards while attempting to be responsible with the health and welfare of the animals they have a direct hand in helping produce. Cavy breeders have long been one of the groups lacking in that department. With advancement in veterinary care, medical and DNA/genetic research, and overall potentially improved quality of life for our pets and breeding animals, I was heartened to see some cavy fanciers in European countries beginning to take responsibility for perpetuating potentially very ill animals intentionally due to the Satin gene. This gene has been intentionally bred into all of the normal coated breeds, since its discovery in the late 1970s. While it produces stunningly beautiful-to-look-at cavies, with their glittery coats, the longevity and overall quality of life for the animals is much diminished with diseases such as osteodystrophy. This disease is known to largely afflict animals that have the Satin gene mutation. Also, any other diseases having to do with calcium metabolism are highly suspect in animals with the gene.
Below is information cross-posted with permission by the Cavy Savvy Guinea Pig Community online on Facebook.
They are reporting both Finland and Sweden cavy fanciers (breeders) have banned intentionally breeding Satin cavies.
"THE ETHICS OF SATIN BREEDING
Cavy Savvy GPC is focussed on guinea pig welfare. As part of our duty to care we post information on ethical issues and invite respectful conversation.
The ‘satin disease’ is an issue which regularly appears on this page. Some followers are perplexed as to why satin cavies continue to be bred, despite research studies and significant anecdotal evidence that links osteodystrophy (OD) with satins. In Australia, there is no code of practice for the breeding of cavies with heritable defects that cause disease (unlike that for dogs & cats) so breeders are, for the time being, able to continue with their satin breeding programs. It is a different situation in Finland and Sweden though. Satin breeding is banned in both countries. This came about when the cavy club of Finland paid for autopsies on all deceased satin cavies from their club. The results so overwhelming demonstrated the horrendous effects of OD on these cavies that the club banned satin breeding. And Sweden followed shortly after by banning the breeding and exhibiting of pedigree satins.
For those interested in a little genetics, here is an exact from an article on the British Cavy Council website which explains the side-effect/ linkage of OD in satins. It was originally written in 1999, but has been recently updated and revised, with input by Simon Neesam – who was one of the international judges at the Australian National Cavy Show this year.
“Generally, it can be assumed that genes are inherited independently of each other: for example a gene for one colour feature is passed on independently from one for another colour feature or for coat. However, each chromosome passed to an offspring by a parent is made up of strands of genes made up from parts of each of the two chromosomes that it in turn possesses – in effect the two parent chromosomes ‘break’ and recombine’ to form single chromosomes that can be passed onto each offspring.
Accordingly, genes that occur close together on a parental chromosome are usually passed on together to any offspring. This is termed ‘linkage’. When two characteristics appear to be passed on together, e.g. predisposition to OD with satinisation, it is important to know whether this is due to the action of a single gene or whether two ‘linked’ genes are working together. In the second case, with enough matings and a little luck, the link can be broken. In the first case it never will, and the best you will be able to do is to select stock and employ management techniques that mitigate the undesirable side-effect.”
“The frequently-reported incidence of OD in Satins is due either to a potential side-effect of the satin gene (most likely) or to ‘linkage’ with a gene occurring close by on the same chromosome.”
Satinisation is an ethical dilemma that is not going to go away. Additional cavy breeds are being ‘satinised’ in Australia and the number of satins is growing. And there may be another hidden danger. The Finns are suggesting that satin carriers can also develop OD. This raises further concerns about the ramifications that this could present for cavy health and wellbeing.
Each cavy breeder makes their own personal decision on whether to breed satins. Cavy Savvy admin must object strongly though when satin pigs are sold to unsuspecting people – both in the pet and cavy fancy market. We have supported many people going through the horrors of OD with their beloved pet or pedigree. In our opinion - breeders, rescuers, RSPCA, whoever - should not sell or rehome a satin pig to anyone without discussing, at length, the ‘dangers’ of the breed."
- Little Jo Wheek