Thanks to our friend and collaborator Dr. Jerold Bell, veterinary practitioner, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Genetics at Tufts University, and Chair of the World Small Animal Veterinary Medical Association Hereditary Disease Committee, for sharing this link and video:
I-Team: Are doggy DNA tests reliable, worth your money?
Several journalists are taking this approach of testing one or a few dogs by sending material to several companies and on the basis of that determining relative quality of the genetic test provides GTPs). Wouldn't it be lovely if life were that simple! Raising awareness is a great first step, and this presentation, e.g. is simple and clear and worth watching, however, there is the need for further education of consumers. The message from the experts (Dr. Bell and another veterinarian) are also worth heeding. I will add my spin on their cautions, which include:
Breed identification tests should be taken 'with a grain of salt'
There is variation across companies. IPFD with our Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs and associated resources is working to help provide transparency and improve best practices in the industry.
Breed testing is only one type of DNA test. Others include testing for existing or potential diseases, use in clinical diagnosis or for breeding decisions and more... so consumers should know what they are testing for and why before selecting tests and keep this in mind in selecting the GTP and interpreting the results. IPFD is working to provide tools to help consumers.
Veterinarians - although challenged like all of us to keep up with this burgeoning field of genetic testing, are important to consult... they are especially good at putting DNA testing into the perspective of the big picture of health and wellness for pets.
Genetic Testing is a key theme are the upcoming 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) being held in Old Windsor, England at the end of May 2019. Many stakeholders in dog health - kennel and breed clubs, owners, breeders, researchers, veterinarians, welfare groups are all represented at the IDHWs and focused on address of these challenges.
See below for links to other resources on DogWellNet.com.
Getting Started with Genetic Testing
Choosing a Genetic Test Provider
Our colleagues at Human Behaviour Change for Animals posted this on their Facebook page:
"Fantastic work exploring the demand for rhino horn with the aim of creating campaigns with messaging that is more likely to work than current messaging. At HBCA we believe that it is vital that we don't make assumptions about why people do or don't do things and that we find out for ourselves so we enjoyed reading this article and the papers it links to."
And directed us to: We asked people in Vietnam why they use rhino horn. Here’s what they said.
(Image: Malaysia’s wildlife department seized 50
African rhino horns destined for Vietnam
last year. EPA-EFE/FAZRY ISMAIL)
As I read it I noticed parallels to challenges with human behaviour change in dogs. Words like:
deeply held beliefs... status...
and focus on personal wants and needs and not what consumers consider 'remote' issues.
From the article: "Our findings shed light on why current campaigns against rhino horn purchases aren’t working. For example, they tend to highlight the plight of rhinos, suggest that rhino horn doesn’t have medicinal properties or emphasize the legal consequences of purchasing it.
... From our research it’s clear that people who buy rhino horn won’t be won over by any of these arguments."
As the authors suggest... in order for education efforts to make a difference - actually change outcomes -
"[campaigns] must be "better informed about the values associated with the use of rhino horn and that target the most prevalent types of uses."
I would suggest that we can cross out rhino horn and write in any number of current controversial issues in the dog world and take this as good advice.
To become 'better informed' we must listen to each other and not impose our perception of the important issues or compelling arguments onto others if we want to be effective.
Many of us are thinking about these issues as we approach the 4th IDHW in Windsor, UK, later this month.
See, e.g. Ian Seath's latest blog: We need to stop trying to change people’s minds!
Love is Blind is a joint initiative of the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA:
"We’re raising public awareness about the animal welfare problems caused by exaggerated physical features such as brachycephaly, short limbs and excessive skin wrinkling, and how these problems can be prevented."
This campaign stresses many of the issues in international work being presented on DogWellNet.com and the work - building on previous Workshops - that will happen at the imminent 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW), in Windsor, UK, 30 May - 01 June, 2019. Including:
The challenges of the brachycephalic breeds need to be understood by current AND future owners, breeders, veterinarians, kennel and breed clubs and other stakeholders,
All these groups need to work together for the benefit of individual dogs and the breeds.
The material suggests actions needed to be taken by each of these groups, including attention to sourcing of dogs, breeding, showing and more.
Resources: See the Australian Love is Blind homepage for links to material, including several videos explaining the increased susceptibility of these dogs to heat and providing practical advice for owners.
We have recently posted on Facebook a video entitled 'The Purebred Crisis' that describes this campaign, interviews veterinarians, owners and a breeder-judge. This video highlights the very different attitudes and perceptions for various individuals. It is this variation in opinion and approach to these dogs that complicates efforts to improve health and welfare in these breeds. I have discussed this in previous blogs. There is no question that people are attracted and deeply attached to these dogs that have, as the Aussies say, "squishy faces", and that they have delightful personalities. However, it is also clear that some owners do not realize the health and welfare challenges in these breeds. One of the themes at the 4th IDHW is effective communication, and we need to use all available tools and knowledge from experts in order to change human behaviour - to not only educate people but also to encourage collaboration.
See more in Brenda's blogs, including:
French Bulldog Health Seminar October 2018
Breeding: A Moral Choice?
4th International Dog Health Workshop Pre-Meeting Resources, for example: 4th IDHW Theme #5: Exaggerations and Extremes in Dog Conformation
And this previous post on DogWellnet.com: Love is Blind - Dr Philip Moses
Thanks to Kevin Colwill for his thoughtful piece entitled "Breeding: Is it a moral choice" in the Our Dogs Newspaper and thanks to both for permission to reproduce here.
In this concise yet thought-provoking article Kevin discusses his thoughts on the question:
When it comes to breeding pedigree dogs, how much is too much and how far is going too far?
Some points worth considering:
Issues in extreme breeds reflect on all breeders. Certainly, negative attention in the media moves quickly from one particular issue or breed and soon expands to include all pedigreed dogs; Beyond that, legislation meant to address specific problems/breeds may result in broad restrictions on breeding - and often undesirable and unfortunate (even for the dogs) consequences.
Although he says "Each breed is its own unique little, or not so little, community" and implies that trying to make blanket decisions for the massive diversity of breeds presents challenges. However, he is also saying that many issues, especially ethical ones, should apply across all breeds and breeding and cannot be left to e.g. individual breed clubs. The International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) is founded on the principal that although individuals may operate within a limited community - local or national - dogs and dog breeding are a global phenomenon and many challenges must be considered and addressed with an international - and multi-disciplinary - perspective.
"Breed clubs aren’t defending the time-honoured look of the breed. They’re defending a relatively modem interpretation of how their breed should look." Here he is debunking the claims of some that extreme dogs must look the way they do to preserve the history and traditional of the breed, when, in fact, many/most breeds were originally both more moderate and more diverse in appearance.
His suggestion that "the KC must be much more hard¬nosed in confronting breed clubs and insisting on change." Many KCs and breed clubs, especially throughout Europe are confronting the issues head-on. However, there seems to be resistance from breeders, judges and others. Support from the broader community of breeders to implement change is needed.
For many years, lecturing about breed-specific issues in dogs, even before the existence of IPFD, in discussions with the breeding community, veterinarians and others, it was becoming self-evident that if concerns were not addressed by the dog community, society would likely impose 'solutions' on them. This is coming to fruition in many areas, and society and the media wants to move at a much faster pace than many in the pedigreed dog world. I think Kevin Colwill's call to action by KCs, and all ethical breeders - not limited to those in specifically affected breeds - is timely and important to consider.
PDF version - Breeding-is it a moral choice - PDF.pdf
Why do people choose the dogs they do and how does that influence the health and welfare of dogs?
How can what we know – and don’t know – about these complexities inform our efforts to educate people and safeguard the well-being of our canine companions?
A new open access article is an excellent, comprehensive review of published evidence about factors influence dog acquisition:
Acquiring a Pet Dog: A Review of Factors Affecting the Decision-Making of Prospective Dog Owners
By Katrina E. Holland, Dogs Trust. Animals 2019, 9(4), 124
See Attached (internal): Acquiring a Pet Dog - A Review of Factors Affecting the Decision-Making of Prospective Dog Owners
The ‘Simple Summary’:
“Each year, many people around the world get a pet dog. With so many different types and breeds of dogs available, and a variety of sources from which to obtain a dog, the process of getting a dog can be complex. The decisions involved in this process are likely influenced by a variety of human- and dog-related factors and this review explores the factors that appear to be the most important.”
The paper contains a wealth of information and extensive review of research on the topic.
“Across the stages of dog acquisition there is potential for practices that may promote or compromise canine welfare.”
“those working in the canine welfare sector, [must] refine their ability to identify and respond to trends in the behavior of potential dog owners.”
“The most widely reported factors associated with acquisition behavior include: the dog’s physical appearance, behavior and health; social influences, such as trends in the popularity of certain breeds; demographic and socioeconomic factors; and the owner’s previous ownership experience.”
“Overall, the research discussed in this paper highlights that complex interactions likely underpin the various factors that might influence prospective owners’ motivators and behaviors.”
COMPLEX! That is the real take home message.
Many in the dog world have been trying to get the message out to people about the risks for poor health and compromised welfare for certain breeds and similar concerns based on the sources of dogs. However, for those from welfare and veterinary backgrounds especially, it seems obvious that getting a healthy pet should be the number one priority. Much of the cited research makes it clear that – although the motivations are complex – health is not at the top of the list for many who are making the decision to get a dog. Even if people do ‘research’ or seek advice, it may not sway them from a deep-seated preference for a specific breed. This may be most marked for those with an affinity for brachycephalic breeds which may be based on their ‘infantile” appearance, the dogs’ strong human attachment.
I have said in presentations and articles that if a consumer's strongest desire is for, e.g. a dog with a specific appearance, with specific behavior traits, maybe even related to the need for intense care-giving ... then stressing the importance of health may not be effective. I liken it to, e.g, telling a young person who is intent on acquiring a fast, loud, trendy car that they should, first and foremost, be looking for a vehicle that has low fuel consumption. The information being provided may be about a factor not even on their radar.
These challenges and issues all underlie our focus at the 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) we are combining attention to addressing issues related to Extremes and Exaggerations (of conformation) with identifying communication strategies to promote human behavior change.
At the 4th IDHW we also have a theme on Supply and Demand, which is integrally involved with/influenced by these same issues. Even if people do adequate research on ideal sources of acquisition for dogs (e.g. approved breeders) they may not actually access the better sources due to, if not impulse buying, at least a desire for a timely purchase. An additional concern is that consumers may be oblivious as to the actual source of their dog. Is the ‘breeder’ - selling online or kindly offering to meet you somewhere to save you trouble finding their kennel - a good, health-conscious breeder or a representative of a puppy mill? Have the dogs at shelters/rescues been purchased from auctions or puppy farms – with good intention, perhaps – but with what ramifications.? How do you determine a community-based, good quality rescue from what is essentially a commercial re-homing business? And again, source might not be high on that decision-making list for many consumers, perhaps more a matter of convenience.
We know that the best-qualified and highest quality breeders cannot come close to supplying demand. In some countries, e.g. Sweden, rules and societal pressure for responsible dog ownership exist and are enforced, and welfare is very high. In general, people do not acquire pets if they cannot fulfill the criteria. Elsewhere? As there has been an increased acknowledgement of dogs being a ‘member of the family’ and ‘good for human health and welfare’, in many countries the pet industry, veterinarians, and even welfare groups have pushed for increased dog ownership. This may have been with good intentions, but an increase in demand, without a consideration of supply, has supported the increase in commercial breeding, questionable online marketing, illegal or uncontrolled trade/importation and even proliferation of sources which are seemingly impossible to regulate.
The author of the attached paper has done a good job covering all the possible stages of decision-making involved with acquiring a dog, but admits that even the extensive literature has limitations. There are so many factors – attitudes, social, physical – about the people – about the dogs, etc. – that no studies have been able to truly address the complete picture. Given the complexity, it seems clear that effective education and communication will never be easy, straightforward or ‘one-size fits all’. To effect human behavior change the messages must be targeted based on specific breeds (e.g. brachycephalic breed acquisition seems different than for other breeds), consumer characteristics (e.g. age, attitudes and other factors), and perhaps region, country and more.
It is obvious that this will need collective and collaborative actions across many stakeholder groups and there will no doubt be specific actions identified at the 4th IDHW as we work together to enhance the health and welfare of dogs.
Thanks to Katarina Holland and Dogs Trust for this contribution to the literature on this complex topic.
Article | Video
Don't know or don't care? Presentation at Human Behaviour Change for Animals Conference 2016.
Don’t Know or Don’t Care_Bonnett_Sandoe_2016 HumanBehaviourChangeConference
Following on from my blog on the Seminar for the FBDCA we are thrilled to find that the French Bulldog Club of England has shared their Breed Health and Conservation Plan (BHCP). Link here; PDF attached, below.
These plans are being assembled by the health team at The Kennel Club, until recently spearheaded by Katy Evans (now the Jane H. Booker Chair in Canine Genetics at The Seeing Eye in the USA). Similar to coverage in my talk (video link here), the focus is very broad in the BHCP and makes clear the challenges ahead for this breed, internationally.
The BHCP incorporates statistics from Sweden and Britain, from our IPFD Partners Agria Pet Insurance/Agria Djurförsäkring and VetCompass.
Work like the BHCPs in the UK, Breed-specific Breeding Strategies from Sweden (RAS) and Finland (JTO) and others will be incorporated into our new development, the IPFD Health Strategy Database for Dogs (HSDD) coming soon. Then we will be able to provide an interactive resource where 'all' health information can be accessed to inform the great efforts being made by groups throughout the world.
Congrats and thanks to The KC and the French Bulldog Club of England.
2019 Lewis TW, Mellersh CS. Changes in mutation frequency of eight Mendelian inherited disorders in eight pedigree dog populations following introduction of a commercial DNA test. Plos One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209864
DNA Testing - General
Subject: DNA Testing
Journal/Source: peer-reviewed research publication
Authors/Researchers: University, Kennel Club (IPFD Partners); HGTD Participants
Recommended For: Veterinarians, Owners/Breeders
This study is one of the very few to investigate the impact of DNA testing on changing a dog population's disease risk. The research looked at determining changes in frequency of disease causing mutations (how common a mutant gene is in a population) as a result of breeding-pair selection based on DNA test results. The results indicated that there has been an overall decline in disease causing mutations in the 8 diseases in 8 breeds investigated. While the paper recognises that there can be variations in how quickly a disease is reduced or eliminated (such as breed population size), it concluded that where dog breeders appear to incorporate DNA test results as part of breeding plans, there is success in decreasing the frequency of mutation. The study looked at: prcd-PRA in Labrador Retriever and Cocker Spaniel, HC in Staffordshire Bull Terriers, EIC in Labrador Retriever, PLL in Mini-Bull Terrier, EF and DE/CC in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, PRA rcd-4 in Gordon, and Irish Setter, and spinocerebellar ataxia in Parson Russell Terrier. Within the UK at least, this represents a spectrum of large and small breeds, and generally "known" diseases within the breeds.
2019 Lewis TW, Mellersh CS. Changes in mutation frequency of eight Mendelian inherited disorders in eight pedigree dog populations following introduction of a commercial DNA test. Plos One, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209864
Nearly 20 Years of DNA Testing – What Can We Learn? : IPFD CEO's blog post with discussion of wider implications of the study's approach and findings; based on Ian Seath's commentary (Dog-ED: Social Enterprise) with a breeder/health council perspective on the article above.
IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing (HGTD) and search on the mentioned diseases for more information on the the condition, phenes, tests and more.
Ian Seath, a great friend and collaborator of IPFD has provided a clearly and thoughtfully profiled an article from our Partners at The Kennel Club in the UK in his post:
NEARLY 20 YEARS OF DNA TESTING – WHAT CAN WE LEARN?
Ian does a great job of summarizing and highlighting the material in this important paper and I will let you read his coverage, and, as he suggests, the original paper:
"I don’t want to dwell on the detail of the research; you can read that for yourself, here: https://goo.gl/PiQmMF – I want to discuss how and why this paper might be important. The study covers the results of 8 DNA tests in 8 breeds for the period 2000 to 2017. 2 of the DNA tests applied to 2 breeds, resulting in 10 test+breed combinations. The key metric used to measure progress was the Mutation Frequency ...".
In essence, for these tests in these breeds, the authors, Tom Lewis and Cathryn Mellersh, respected geneticists, go beyond the findings in specific dogs to calculate a broader impact on inheritance. The paper shows the tremendous potential for validated tests, used appropriately to positively impact the health of breeds. Ian's suggestions on how The KC could take these findings further by considering how to incorporate in registration and breeding strategies are on point.
In his section on "Wider Implications?" Ian also highlights some of the cautions that must also be taken into consideration, and further, says:
"There are over 700 inherited disorders and traits in dogs, of which around 300 have a genetically simple mode of inheritance and around 150 available DNA tests. This tells us that we should not rely on DNA testing to solve the “problem” of diseases in pedigree dogs."
Building on this, and without detracting in any way from the research, its impact or Ian's excellent discussion, I want to stress further caution. Accepting that this is strong evidence that "DNA testing works!" we must be clear that this has been shown for these tests in these breeds and our enthusiasm must not expand to include all genetic testing, across the board, as being proven as impactful by this study. These are primarily simply inherited, very specific, well-characterized, but relatively rare conditions with well-validated tests. Certainly we are optimistic that there are now, and will be more, test-by-breed-by-condition combinations that will also support health strategies and breeding decisions. But it is extremely important to remember that only a small proportion of the conditions affecting dogs will fall into this category, even a small proportion of those for which genetic tests are or will be available. In terms of perspective, the IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing in Dogs (HGTD) database lists over 250 genetic tests marketed to over 400 breeds/varieties.
So I echo Ian's recommendations that even as we take this as good news, we:
look to researchers and breed advisors to continue their work to not only identify potentially useful tests but also to monitor them as they are used to determine their impact
we continue to educate consumers and breeders on the complexities of genetic testing, as well as, the realistic benefits and limitations of genetic tests and testing
and we promote and support balanced, 'Big Picture' development of breed-health strategies that consider not only genetic testing but all other available tools to help define the health and disease picture within breeds as well.
The IPFD HGTD is in place to support genetic counselling; and the Expert Panel development to provide informed advice and the Health Strategies Database for Dogs including an interactive resource supporting that Big Picture view are coming soon to help all stakeholders do their best for dogs and their owners as we navigate the complexities of dog health and welfare.
Kudos again to Drs. Lewis and Mellersh, and The KC for stellar work and to Ian Seath for his insightful commentary. This is progress – over 20 years. One can be optimistic that there will be many more advances in the next 20 years if we focus on both the details and the broad perspective.
See also: New Research blog on the same article.
Consequences and Management of Canine Brachycephaly in Veterinary Practice: Perspectives from Australian Veterinarians and Veterinary Specialists
Fawcett, et al., including Paul McGreevy, University of Sydney, Australia
Animals 2019, 9, 3; doi:10.3390/ani9010003
For: Veterinarians, health care professionals, all stakeholders
Review: Brenda Bonnett, DVM, PhD
This comprehensive review covers the health problems and welfare issues in brachycephalic dogs highlighting a veterinary perspective. The text of the paper comprises 19 pages and includes a wide-range of topics. This paper is an excellent resource for veterinary health care professionals and clinicians. However, topics in this paper are also important for all stakeholders involved with the brachycephalic issue in dogs. At the end of the paper, there is an important discussion of the ethical challenges for veterinarians, both as individuals and the profession as a whole. Concerned that readers, especially those who are not clinicians, may not persevere through the clinical information to reach this important section, I will highlight the importance of that discussion below. First, a general overview:
“Simple Summary: Canine and human co-evolution have disclosed remarkable morphological plasticity in dogs. Brachycephalic dog breeds are increasing in popularity, despite them suffering from well-documented conformation-related health problems. This has implications for the veterinary caseloads of the future. Whether the recent selection of dogs with progressively shorter and wider skulls has reached physiological limits is controversial. The health problems and short life expectancies of dogs with extremely short skulls suggests that we may have even exceeded these limits. Veterinarians have a professional and moral obligation to prevent and minimise the negative health and welfare impacts of extreme morphology and inherited disorders, and they must address brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) not only at the level of the patient, but also as a systemic welfare problem.”
The broad range of topics include:
· Concern that “Despite well-documented conformation-related health problems, brachycephalic dog breeds are increasing in popularity.”;
· Detailed enumeration and description of associated health problems;
· Behavioural impacts of brachycephaly, as well as
· “substantial evidence that brachycephaly compromises the welfare of affected dogs”, highlighting insurance data and research findings;
· Problems for individual dogs and their owners as well as for breed populations;
· Immediate concerns as well as future perspectives;
· Clinical diagnosis and management of BOAS and other problems in brachys, and
· A thought provoking discussion of “Ethical Challenges Associated with Brachycephalic Breeds” and the role of veterinarians.
Understanding the Complexity – the veterinary perspective
Past all the discussion of clinical findings and approaches, the section on ethical challenges has excellent coverage of the concerns and conflicting interests for veterinarians. For example, the best resolution for competing issues is not always clear, e.g.:
· the best interests of an individual dog, in general, and in relation to a specific health event;
· its owner’s attachment, attitudes, wishes, needs, and ability to provide care; and
· concerns for the breed overall, as well as
· the practical reality of the veterinarian as both a caregiver and a business person.
Two of the authors have also provided this summary: “Vets can do more to reduce the suffering of flat-faced dog breeds”:
February 12, 2019 2.16pm EST
It is important for all stakeholders to be aware of the challenges facing others as the dog world moves toward doing is what is best for dogs.
DWN's Extremes of Conformation Category
Latest on brachycephalics from Sweden
Approaches to Breed-specific Extremes
IPFD has an ongoing role to report on international activities for health and welfare for dogs and to serve as an information hub.
Issues with brachycephalic dogs continue to be at the forefront of health efforts by many stakeholders.
Our partners at the Swedish Kennel Club have recently posted information on two initiatives involving 'Trubbnosar' (short nosed) breeds.
1. We previously posted information on the activities of the SKK in brachycephalic health , as well as, a new, collaborative research study on an inventory of dogs of several brachycephalic breeds and their health status.
"The purpose of the inventory is to create a better picture of the respective breed's situation, genetic width and exterior variation. The hope is to find sufficient variation both exterior and genetic to ensure a healthy development of these breeds with the reduction of BOAS-related health problems."
There is a notice on the SKK site of events where individuals are being invited to bring their dogs to participate.
Great to see that this effort involves research, grass-root support, gives individual owners an evaluation of their dog and
brings awareness to health and welfare issues in these breeds.
2. As of next year, the Swedish Kennel Club is expanding the rules concerning show dogs with health issues, especially breathing problems. "Dogs have been disqualified due to ill health since 1998 but now SKK will tighten up the penalties." In an effort to make sure affected dogs are not used in breeding programs, dogs disqualified from the show ring because of ill health may be excluded from "all forms of exhibition, exams, competitions and breeding". It seems the program will incorporates 'due process' that may involve additional review, veterinary examinations and the possibility of appeals.
The hope is surely that breeders/owners will (eventually) be discouraged from bringing affected dogs into the ring and that, therefore, the dogs seen by the public and used in breeding will tend towards less extreme, healthy individuals. See: https://www.skk.se/sv/nyheter/2019/2/osunda-hundar-kan-stangas-av/ Note: my translator unfortunately gives me "Unhealthy dogs can be turned off" as the (literal) title of this article... but clearly meaning they can be 'eliminated' in some sense.
We are working on an inventory of all of our brachycephalic resources... and we will continue to highlight efforts by all of our Partners.
I was honored to address the French Bulldog Club of America at their National Specialty in Louisville, KY on October 31st, 2018.
The invitation came from the Health & Genetics Committee of the French Bull Dog Club of America (FBDCA). This invitation was prompted by my presentation on the IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing initiative at the AKC-CHF Health Conference in St. Louis in August 2017. Jan Grebe, Calvin Dykes and the others on the Committee stressed that the "club is dedicated to Frenchie health, and the harmonization project will be an invaluable resource for breeders".
The final presentation, following discussions with the committee, reflected various issues impacting the breed - and I complement the FBDCA on their interest in health and welfare of their breed and in both a national and international perspective. French Bulldogs are challenged by issues including alarming increase in numbers, health concerns related to the brachycephalic condition and scrutiny by veterinary and regulatory groups throughout the world.
The FBDCA video-taped the presentation and we have made this available here.
It was quite an experience to be in a hotel with about 300 French Bulldogs. The incredible commitment and attachment that Frenchie owners have for these dogs was very evident. I was excited to see information and videos on the increased interest in performance activities for this breed. What a great way to identify and highlight those dogs who are healthy and active.
See other relevant resources on brachycephalic issues internationally and coverage of these issues from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) in our discussion paper. More international actions for health and welfare will undoubtedly be forthcoming following the 4th IDHW in May, in the UK.
Pilot study of head conformation changes over time in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed
Breed Specific: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Conformation Traits/SM|CM
Knowler, SP., Gillstedt, L., Mitchell, TJ., Jovanovik, J., Volk, HA., Rusbridge, C. (2019) Pilot study of head conformation changes over time in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel breed Veterinary Record 184, 122.
Modern interpretation of head conformation in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) has favoured a smaller, more exaggerated, brachycephalic type than originally described in the 1929 breed standard. Recent research studies identified brachycephaly and reduced hind cranium as two conformational (dysmorphic) features that increase risk for symptomatic Chiari-like malformation and secondary syringomyelia (SM). A prospective pilot study investigated the hypothesis that dysmorphic head features could be assessed visually and correlated with risk of SM. Thirteen CKCS, selected from anonymised photographic evidence, were physically appraised by authorised Kennel Club judges using a head shape checklist. These subjective evaluations were then matched with objective measurements of the cranium (cephalic index and rostrocaudal doming) and their subsequent MRI. A positive correlation (P=0.039) between the judges’ checklist score and rostrocaudal doming (hindskull ratio) and a positive correlation between the cephalic index and hindskull ratio (P=0.042) were identified. Five CKCS had no SM and their status tallied with 62 per cent of the judges’ evaluation. Although the ability of adjudicators to identify differences in head conformation varied, there was sufficient association between the dysmorphic parameters and the risk of SM to cause concern and propose a larger study in CKCS breed.
This research paper is a readily understandable PILOT study that covers how head shapes relate to scientific information on SM/CM in Cavaliers. Which skull shapes represent identifiable extremes and can/should anything be done to curtail the drift towards hypertype over the past few decades? Which direction do the breed enthusiasts want to go? In the Discussion section, "breeders have acknowledged that there has been a more brachycephalic interpretation of the breed standard over the last few decades." Further, " The concept that increased exaggeration of head shape in the CKCS can be recognised visually and supported by the proven association of brachycephaly with resulting rostrocaudal doming5 suggests the possibility for selection against the extreme head shape in the CKCS to enable a reduction in CM/SM incidence."
Take a look at this study for photos that represent different shapes and measurements of CKCS head type/backskulls. Maybe it's worth considering the information offered when choosing dogs for showing and breeding. Yes, it's a small study - and yes, there is some variation in interpretation of the degree to which dogs viewed are visibly extreme, and, there are Limitations to the study that are outlined by the researchers. But given the possible relationship between squished backskulls and their potential association with SM/CM and its impact on the quality of life for dogs - maybe this research is worth a glance for breeders and for judges. Lots of illustrations and pictures were helpful.
Breed Advisor viewpoint:
Veterinary Epidemiologist viewpoint:
I have frequently heard people say that what they are doing is 'for the dogs'' when it might seem it is mainly for their own goals.- but the Swedish Kennel Club has posted an informative video about the Breed Specific Instructions that makes it clear that the only goal with this program is to promote the health and welfare of dogs. Renowned judges explain why they think their role in promoting health and welfare is so important. We have lots of information on the BSI and the Swedish Breed-Specific Breeding Strategies, in general (as well as, lists of breeds with breed specific strategies from several countries on DogWellNet.com and this video really puts it all in perspective.
We all know that health and welfare of dogs is the responsibility of all stakeholders in the dog world and judges are no exception. The impact of dog shows and the awarding of wins to specific dogs has a big impact on the public perception of pedigree dogs, in general, and also of specific breeds. It is crucial that dogs that achieve success in these increasingly 'prime time', public displays epitomize the best of the best - not just in looks, but also in health. All organizations licensing dog judges insist on 'judges education' but the BSI program takes it a step further, insisting that judges take responsibility in only promoting dogs without physical manifestations of conditions/ conformations that may limit health and welfare. The BSI process is followed in all Scandinavian countries, as well as several other European countries. A key part of the BSI process is the completion of reports by the judges (discussed in the video); and here is a link to an example of a report required for German Shepherd Dogs by Rad van Beheer in The Netherlands. The Canadian Kennel Club instituted an observer program in 2017, but I haven't found full details on the goals of the program. The AKC has a Field Rep program and, although at the moment I do not think these North American programs have breed-specific requirements similar to the BSI, clearly there are structures in place that could facilitate such an approach.
A striking comment in the video was that judges must be on the lookout for negative trends and help ensure that these do not progress. I am not a judge; I briefly showed dogs in the distant past; and I am often concerned by what I see at show events.
I was recently at the National Specialty of the French Bulldog Club of America in Louisville, KY, USA, at the end of October 2018. It was an honor to talk to the club members who are concerned about health issues in this breed. However, I was confused by seeing many dogs being shown that clearly had no actual tails (maybe 2 coccyx vertebrae), clearly so in the eyes of this veterinarian, and described as such by the competitors as a recent trend. And yet, I was repeatedly assured that 'the standard specifies that a French Bulldog must have a tail'.
Such a contradiction, such an extreme, would presumably not be allowed, under the BSI, especially when this is not a cosmetic change, but a structural one. It is particularly concerning given that we know that French Bulldogs have an increased risk for spinal abnormalities and a new paper suggests that selection for screw tails may have led to a syndrome of abnormalities in both English and French Bulldogs. Every one who has bred dogs knows that focus on one characteristic, especially going for extremes, can lead to occurrence of unforeseen consequences. Nothing happens in isolation with breeding and selection.
Congrats to the Swedes for this video and I hope it will encourage more judges to take an approach like this - regardless of whether or not they are under a requirement to do so. Because our activities really should be 'for the dogs' sake'.
Health before looks -- Collaborative action is urgently needed to stop the practice of extreme breeding in dogs and cats
This message was delivered to the European Parliament at an event organized by our Collaborating Partner the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) together with the EU Dog and Cat Alliance and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe(FVE). (Download PDF below.)
This event was "aimed at ending the unnecessary suffering of dogs and cats bred with exaggerated features such as flat faces, narrowed nostrils,
skin folds and protruding eyes" and is part of the ongoing work, especially throughout Europe, to address health and welfare in brachycephalic breeds. The speakers represented the veterinary, welfare and breed organization perspectives on the issue. It was great to see this international, multi-stakeholder approach, similar to that we have promoted through the IPFD International Dog Health Workshops (IDHWs) and reflected in the many resources on the brachycephalic isssue on DogWellNet.com.
Kristin Prestrud (a veterinarian from another of our Partners, the Norwegian Kennel Club) put into perspective that although there are wide variations across dog breeds in form and function, there should be defined limits for extremes, so that selective breeding does not compromise health or welfare. The challenge, raised at our IDHWs is that those limits are not clear nor consistent across regions and cultures; we need research and collaborative work to define those limits. As Prestrud, explained, for pedigree dogs breeding happens according to written breed standards - however those are often open to interpretation and may vary widely across countries. "“We love that dogs look cute, that they have some particular look that we love. And so, short legs have got shorter, heavy bodies got heavier, long coats got longer, loose skin got looser, long ears got longer and wrinkles more extended. Not in all cases, not in all breeds, but in several breeds.” And when breeders select really strongly for some traits and restrict genetic input from outside, there is always the risk of reducing genetic variation."
The British Veterinary Association’s encouragement of data reporting of conformation altering surgery (and caesareans) - by veterinarians with the consent of owners - was described. Similar registers are underway in, e.g. Scandinavian countries. However, there are challenges to compliance with these programs and only time will tell whether they achieve the goal of determining the prevalence of dogs that need such surgery. Speakers also highlighted the role of veterinarians in this issue, saying, “we must be aware that there are a lot of vets who earn their money by doing this very expensive surgery."
I was encouraged to see that the discussion by the politicians did not focus simply on legislation of breeding as being the best solution. They discussed the need to control the marketing of unregistered puppies and kittens, “the majority of which are on the internet and are totally without control” . It was estimated that over half of puppies In the Netherlands come from unsupervised sources and it may be as high as 90% for some breeds, e.g. the French Bulldog. One of the members of parliament suggested that "efforts would be better focused on reducing demand by making extreme breed animals unfashionable. “We have to make unhealthy bad conformation unfashionable, it has to stop.”"
And, so, as has been discussed in much of our work, we come back to this fact: the challenges are about the people, more than the dogs, and successfully improving health and welfare of dogs needs an approach that addresses human-animal interactions, human attitudes and actions, and using techniques of education that are likely to result in human behaviour change. Addressing sourcing of dogs and communication for change will be two themes at the upcoming 4th IPFD IDHW in Old Windsor, UK, May 30-June 1 2019.
Congratulations to FECAVA and their co-organizers for an important event and to the European Parliament for taking an interest in the health and welfare of dogs.
Health before looks Collaborative action is urgently needed to stop the practice of extreme breeding in dogs and cats
Download: European Parliament Event article by Parliament Magazine - 7-2018
National Kennel Clubs are major stakeholders in the governance and regulation of dog breeding. As such, they have been the targets of major criticism related to dog health issues. It is therefore interesting to investigate to what extent health and welfare is a priority for kennel clubs (KCs), and what are the capacities and actions implemented to deal with those issues.
A survey was sent in 2017 to 40 KCs with 15 answers received from 11 European (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK) and 4 non-European countries (Australia, Mexico, Uruguay, and the USA) aimed at describing and comparing information across countries in dog breed health management (Wang et al. 2018).
First, in order to determine the population of dogs under the responsibility of KC, the percentages of all dogs being registered as ‘pedigree’ dogs were estimated considering the 15 surveyed KCs, as well 35 other countries, using sources such as the FCI online statistics. Across countries, the average and median percentage of the entire dog population that were registered pedigree dogs, respectively was 20% and 14%. However, there was a large variation across countries, with European Nordic countries showing, in general, a larger proportion of pedigree dogs (see Figure 1). This aspect is of importance, since it is expected that the responsibility toward general dog health, as well as the capacity to improve the situation, relates to the proportion of dogs that are at least to some extent under the influence of the KCs.
When asked about the current challenges, KCs ranked exaggerated morphological features and inherited disorders as the most important issues, showing those two problems are now clearly identified as priorities (Figure 2). By contrast, issues such as economic constraints to breeding were rarely viewed as problematic for dog breeding. Kennel clubs also commented on challenges related to the difficulty to find balance between increased regulation and the risk of losing members; to achieve consensus and compliance of breeders and clubs toward breed health strategies; as well as lack of capacity regarding information provision and education.
Surveyed countries showed great diversity in terms of information management, implementation of breeding strategies, recommendations, requirement, restriction and tools. Most KCs indicated that information on genealogies, breed standards and dog shows were recorded in their data base for most, if not all breeds; however, health information (e.g. screening examinations, genetic tests) was more sparsely recorded and provided to the public, both for breeds within countries and across countries (Figure 3). For instance, KCs from Austria, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the USA provided health information status on pedigrees and in online data bases, but in general, not all breeds were covered. When considering implementation of breeding strategies, six countries indicated that there were no breeding strategies implemented by any breed clubs, while in three countries (Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands) it was reported that each breed club had its breeding strategy.
Several countries indicated that they were planning to develop breeding tools and provide health information to users, and for instance, France and Belgium reported having ongoing work to develop tools to provide online pedigree with health information or estimate breeding values for complex disorders such as hip dysplasia.
Although limited by the relatively low number of countries considered, this survey showed that despite large differences in their approach to breeding policies and management, the awareness to improve breeding and health of pedigree dogs was strong among the surveyed Kennel Clubs. The dog breeding world is increasingly global in scope. The understanding of both the diversity of health initiatives and the potential for coordinated actions internationally is key to further efforts to promote dog health and welfare.
There is probably still a lot of progress to be made in term of information provision and collection, as well as planning breeding strategies considering dog health. In particular, finding a consensus in terms of constraints and priorities for breeding, is expected to be particularly challenging for Kennel Clubs and breed clubs in order to implement those strategies. Although the situations differ across countries, exchanges of experiences may surely help to find the most adequate solutions toward improvement of health and welfare.
Wang, S., Laloë, D., Missant, F. M., Malm, S., Lewis, T., Verrier, E., ... & Leroy, G. (2018). Breeding policies and management of pedigree dogs in 15 national kennel clubs. The Veterinary Journal. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.02.018
Brenda’s blog gave a great overview of the American Kennel Club National Parent Club Canine Health Conference we attended earlier this month in St. Louis, Missouri. I am grateful for the sponsorship from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals provided to myself and the 31 other veterinary students in attendance.
This conference, like the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, was an opportunity to learn more about cutting edge research that is improving dog health. Topics were varied and included tick borne disease, epilepsy, lymphoma, and reproductive health. It was exciting to see my Colorado State University (CSU) Immunology professor, Dr. Anne Avery, present on her lymphoma research.
Right: View from the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch
After completing a CSU clinical orthopedics rotation a few weeks prior to the conference, it was especially interesting to hear what I had learned about Omega-3 fatty acids in my rotation be reiterated by presenter Dr. Wendy Baltzer from Massey University. Her Purina funded study described that a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids post-surgical correction of cranial cruciate ligament disease is helpful and results in less progression of arthritis and lameness.
I’m am looking forward to graduation in 9 months and continued involvement in dog health. The opportunities I have received since first starting my IPFD project have been endless and I am very thankful for the DogWellNet.com community!
Left: Veterinary Student Attendees at the AKC National Parent Club Health Conference
Last weekend I was honored to participate in the 2017 National Parent Club Canine Health Conference presented by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and Nestlé Purina PetCare, in St. Louis, Missouri. It is always great to interact with breeders and club reps that are so committed to the health and welfare of their dogs and their breeds.
This meeting is a mix of breeders (106 parent clubs represented!), vets, and researchers and includes Board members from some of the collaborating organizations who sponsor research, including IPFD Partners and Sponsors: the AKC, the AKC-CHF and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). The OFA sponsored 32 veterinary students to attend the meeting. Our IPFD 2016 Student Kelly Arthur was among the participants!
The research covered a wide array of key topics - from ticks and infectious disease - epilepsy - latest developments in cancer - to issues of reproduction (see list of speakers and topics, below). What an impressive panel of speakers and internationally renowned researchers. It was great to see two of our speakers from the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, Jason Stull and Rowena Packer, as well as numerous others who participated in that meeting. It certainly feels like the international community of those committed to dog health, well-being and welfare is going strong!
Thanks to the many people who stopped by the IPFD table to talk to us about our organization, DogWellNet.com and especially the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs initiative (and to grab some chocolate to keep their energy up!). Special thanks to CA Sharpe, from our IPFD Collaborating Partner Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute (ASHGI) for helping me out at the table. It was very gratifying for me to hear someone else talking so enthusiastically about our efforts.
Congrats to AKC-CHF for their continued strength and leadership; for promoting multi-disciplinary interaction; and for an exciting conference.
Attached is the PDF of the slides of my talk (slightly altered, of course) and the abstract.
BONNETT - AKC-CHF Presentation - Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs
BONNETT Abstract - CHF June 2017
The 2017 AKC-CHF Conference Program included presentations on the following topics...
Lymphoma & Epigenetics - Jeffrey Bryan, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-Oncology
Lymphoma & Flow Cytometry - Anne Avery, VMD, PhD
Chemotherapy & FortiFlora® - Korinn Saker DVM, PhD, DACVN
Genetics of Cancer/Lymphoma - Matthew Breen, PhD
Diet & Rehabilitation - Wendy Baltzer DVM, PhD, DACVS
Genetic Predisposition to Infections - Urs Giger, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, DECVCP
Lyme Disease - Jason Stull, VMD, PhD, DACVPM
Tick-Borne Disease - Ed Breitschwerdt, DVM, DACVIM (*Keynote)
Ehrlichia & Lymphocytosis - Anne Avery, VMD, PhD
Canine Cognition - Bill Milgram, PhD
Genetics of Epilepsy - Gary Johnson, DVM, PhD
Epilepsy & the Microbiome - Karen Munana, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-Neurology
Epilepsy & Nutrition - Rowena Packer, PhD
IPFD: Harmonization of Laboratory Genetic Testing for Dogs - Brenda Bonnett, DVM, PhD
Semen Evaluation, Quality, and Effects of Aging - Stuart Meyers, DVM, PhD, DACT
Brucella Update - Angela Arenas, DVM, PhD, DACVP
Pyometra - Marco Coutinho da Silva, DVM, PhD, DACT
New for 2017! Panel discussions with our speakers on:
Well, it's been 10 weeks... and I've learned quite a lot. I hope you have, too! As my project comes to an end, Nina and I wanted to give our viewers a big thank you. I hope you enjoyed this blog series and feel more confident about what your role is in solving antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We would also like to extend a huge thank you to the Skippy Frank Fund who sponsored this entire project, and a thank you to Dr. Jason Stull and Dr. Brenda Bonnett for being wonderful mentors every step of the way.
It is important to keep in mind that science is an ever-changing field that is constantly updated with new material. For example there's a new study that just came out suggesting that not finishing a course of antibiotics may not cause resistance, which is contrary to the current belief. Here is the link to this article if you would like to read more about it. Even though this blog is over, I hope that you continue your AMR education as new scientific data arises.
To complete my summer project, I have constructed a poster that I will be presenting at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Day.
Take a look!
Here is the downloadable PDF version:
Be sure to keep checking www.DogWellNet.com for more information on dog health and wellness!
Something we all share in common is the environment, and green is the new black! With movements towards protecting our environment, it is important to know about the role antibiotics play.
Proper kennel waste disposal instructions can be found here:
Instructions on how to properly dispose of unused medications:
For more info on antibiotic stewardship, please visit some of my previous blogs and articles.
Here are a couple...
Antibiotic Use in Pets Could Give Rise to Superbugs
The Basics of Antimicrobial Resistance
This 'One Health' buzzword... what is it? Who is implementing it, and who actually is following through?
The idea of ‘one health’ dates all the way back to the 19th century when Rudolf Virchow, MD studied links between human and veterinary medicine. He came up with the term ‘zoonosis’ in regards to a pathogen that can be transmitted from animals to humans. This sparked the idea that medicine is not segregated into different categories, but it is rather interconnected. Throughout the past century, scientists have become aware that other sectors such as environmental science and agriculture are involved as well. Today, ‘one health’ is being seemingly adopted by many nations, but who is following through with the idea?
Various countries and organizations have embraced the 'one health' concept, but there is quite a bit of variation in how far and to what extent it has really been implemented. Sometimes there are a few obvious developments beyond yearly interdisciplinary conferences. This is a great starting point, but unfortunately the ideas generated may not result in sustainable collaboration or initiatives.
The United Kingdom has a good example of following through with the ‘one health’ initiative. Below you will find a downloadable link on a document from the UK titled “Implementing a One Health Approach: The Example of Antimicrobial Resistance- the UK Perspective.”
Implementing a One Health Approach- The UK perspective.pdf
In this document, actual data sets are shown along with monitoring of the country’s progress in different ‘one health’ fields. In the UK, there is a system in place for monitoring antibiotic prescription, so they are able to check if their ‘one health’ approach to prudent use of antibiotics is working. Having this monitoring system is important for accountability and to ensure that ‘one health’ plans made are carried out, and do not stop at the drawing board.
In the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has created the Task Force on Antimicrobial Stewardship in Companion Animal Practice (TFASCAP). They have also been working internationally with a 'one health' focus to solve the problem of AMR. Here are some links to their work so far:
Antimicrobial Use in Companion Animal Practice
The table below extracted from an article in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents exhibits the different organizations with a surveillance system of resistant bacteria. The table also show's who is following the ‘one health’ initiative by including both humans, agriculture, and animals.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) created this video on the idea of 'One Health.' The video talks about implementing the idea of 'one health'. The main points listed in this video were as follows:
Foster collaborative relationships between human health, animal health, and environmental health partners.
Improve communication between sectors.
Coordinate disease surveillance activities.
Develop uniform messaging to the public.
This blog post is part of the IPFD Student Project 2017 by Ariel Minardi.
For an overview of her project and links to other material on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Prudent Use of Antibiotics see:
IPFD Student Project 'B.A.R.K. | Bacterial Antimicrobial Resistance Knowledge' - Overview
Harvey, Felicity. "Implementing a One Health Approach: The Example of Antimicrobial Resistance – the UK Perspective." Public and International Health Directorate Department of Health. 30 Jun. 2015. Web.
"One Health." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 25 Oct. 2016. Web.
Queenan, Kevin, Barbara HÃ¤sler, and Jonathan Rushton. "A One Health Approach to Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance: Is There a Business Case for It?" International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents 48.4 (2016): 422-27. Web.