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.
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.
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.
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
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:
The stellar group of participants at the IPFD 3rd International Dog Health Workshop (3rd IDHW) came to collaborate and we really put them to work. The attendees, who certainly engaged and challenged and stimulated each other, accomplished a lot and it seems they are going home extremely satisfied with the experience. More importantly, the majority have committed to participate in specific actions, with clear objectives, goals, timelines and deliverables. There is a clear potential for real momentum to carry us forward towards the 4th IDHW in the UK. Our diligent efforts were assisted by candy bars courtesy Mars Veterinary ... between those and lots of strong French coffee, we pulled it off!
A huge shout out to the French Kennel Club (SCC) for putting on a well-organized event at a great venue. The food was fantastic - thanks to Agria for sponsoring the breaks and lunches. The boat cruise on the Seine was extraordinary - thanks to Royal Canin ... more good food and wine with a panoramic view of the sites of Paris, including the amazing icon of the Eiffel Tour, complete with its delightful, hourly light-show.
More information soon on the topics, challenges and future plans in the days to come. We will be posting material from speakers, posters, and break out sessions, and photographs as well as the detailed plans addressing breed-specific health strategies, behaviour and welfare implications of early socialization, exaggerations of conformation, the harmonization of genetic testing, education/ communication on appropriate use of antibiotics, and the need for numbers/ quantitative information. There will be lots of outreach to stakeholders who weren't at the meeting; hopefully to further engage the wider dog community in this important work.
Thanks to all those who contributed... from individual dog owners, breeders, breed club reps, kennel club advisors and executives, many veterinarians, researchers, corporate and industry people, welfare organisations ... I feel like I am at the Academy Awards and will surely miss someone!
This was a diverse community united by a commitment to enhance the health, well-being and welfare of dogs and to promote the best in human-dog interactions. It is an honour and privilege to be part of this devoted and passionate community. The future looks bright for innovative and sustained international collaboration.
People are starting to arrive in Paris for the 3rd IDHW !
Paris in the spring is living up to its reputation with sunshine and flowering trees. Too bad we will keep our delegate inside working hard for the dogs for 2 days!
We are expecting about 135 delegates from 24 countries. We have vets and breeders, researchers and judges, experts in welfare and behaviour, genetic advisors, various non-profits, industry representatives, dog owners... and more... so a wide array of stakeholders.
As is common in the dog world, many people wear more than one hat.
We have representatives from 18 National kennel clubs and the FCI; including the current or former Presidents of at least 4 KCs.
There are scientists from at least 13 Universities and research institutes, from at least 6 different countries. There are over 15 companies from the pet industry attending, including many genetic testing labs.
There are numerous veterinary organizations and welfare organizations represented.
As well as, breed clubs, breeders and dog owners.
This is a real working meeting... we hope to engage all present in discussions with the result being definite action plans to be underway immediately following the workshop; leading to results ready to present at the 4th International Dog Health Workshop to be held in the UK in 2019, hosted by The KC.
Stay tuned for more information. Check us out on Facebook and our new Twitter feed @IPFDogs and #IDHWParis ...
Health and welfare issues continue to be in media, with a comment in the latest issue of The Veterinary Record entitled "Brachycephalic tipping point: time to push the button?" and a report: "It's now time to curb advertising using flat-faced dogs, say vets". The latter has comments from industry representatives, researchers, vets and others. Many in the UK are alarmed at the burgeoning popularity of these dogs. As Caroline Kisko, of The Kennel Club states, for all breeds, less than a third of these dogs are registered/ come under the umbrella of The KC. Which means the vast majority are bred by those who do not participate in health programs of the registering body; the same is true in many countries. And although most attention (and blame) is directed towards breeders of pedigree dogs, it may be that, globally, the major source of these dogs is commercial breeders. Regardless, it seems that unless we can influence those acquiring these dogs (consumers) it is unlikely that the numbers can be markedly reduced. Why do so many people want these dogs in spite of many attempts over numerous years to educate them to the potential problems?
We have focused on health and welfare issues for brachycephalic breeds in various articles on DogWellNet.com. And as discussed in a recent research article, acquisition of dogs may not be driven as much by prospective health or welfare, as by owner preferences. I have highlighted the factors influencing choice of breeds in many talks over the years and other blogs, and it is obvious that consumers are heavily influenced by the popularity of breeds in the media, movies, popular culture, etc. It seems there is, in general, an underlying need for many people to 'stand out' by owning the most popular, most extreme, biggest, fastest - whatever - and those attitudes may lead to them wanting extreme dogs. Can it be that consumers still don't know these dogs are at risk? Might it even be, in some cases, that people want to take on a potentially compromised dog and see themselves in the role of "extreme" care-giver?
As for the Veterinary Record decision, most of us are, in general, not fond of across-the-board breed bans that tend to impact all dogs or owners, not just the 'worst'. However, The Vet Record comment makes a good case for their decision. Although not specifically mentioned, this decision moves on from recommendations about the use of compromised dogs/ breeds in the media brought to the forefront by CRUFFA (The Campaign for the Responsible Use of Flat-Faced Animals, on Facebook) over the past several years. Jemima Harrison (Pedigree Dogs Exposed - The Blog) has been a tireless, if controversial campaigner on this issue and is the creator of the CRUFFA page.
And there are some pretty scary images out there online... obviously chosen because they are thought to be particularly cute or funny, but which may actually represent anatomical issues of great concern. Like this one (left) on a pet business website. And one (right) I found years ago on a site called FunnyDogSite.com. Not funny, actually ... the dog is in that position so that it can sleep without passing out. This dog on the right is also challenged by its obesity.
What perhaps needs to be done, beyond restricting advertising, is to try to address the considerable influence of celebrities on consumer choice of breeds. It is likely that concerted, evidence-based education programs warning consumers about problems in certain breeds, go unnoticed or at least pale in the face of, e.g. one instagram post of a desirable celeb with a French Bulldog.
As we try to move from simply informing the public to actually changing behaviours around health and welfare of dogs, we must all search for creative and effective ways to communicate. To do so, we must know what are the most important influencers of human behaviour and how to 'tip' the situation to the better.
At the IPFD 3rd International Dog Health Workshop to be held in Paris, 21-23 April 2017 we have a Theme devoted to Health and Welfare Issues of Extreme Conformation. Experts, breeders, veterinarians ... decision-makers from various stakeholder groups will come together to discuss the work being done nationally and internationally to address these problems and to identify collaborative international actions that will help advance the health and welfare of these beloved dog breeds.
Approaching fast – but there are still places available at the IPFD 3rd International Dog Health Workshop hosted by the French Kennel Club in Paris 21-23 April 2017 - Register here!
Why not join us in Paris for a truly interactive working meeting of international decision-leaders in dog health and welfare. We already have people registered from over 20 countries, including breeders, kennel club health advisors, communication experts, Directors and Presidents; veterinarians; researchers; veterinary organizations; welfare organizations; judges; geneticists; industry representatives; and more.
Share your information, expertise and experience and be part of global actions to improve the health, well-being and welfare of dogs.
There are short plenary talks early on Saturday. From 10:45 on Saturday until 2 pm on Sunday the focus is on interactive breakout sessions designed to identify priorities, needs and actions need to advance within six Themes. Each attendee participates in one theme; as well as plenary sharing sessions to share goals and convergence across themes and a final summary to identify key actions moving forward toward the 4th IDHW (in the UK in 2019).
Please see the Workshop website to register and for more information on the venue and program; including the listing of internationally recognized speakers who will deliver our short but powerful plenary talks.
Here are the Themes:
Breed-Specific Health Strategies: By breed, nationally and internationally.
Exaggerations And Extremes In Dog Conformation: Health, welfare and breeding considerations; latest national and international efforts.
IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs Initiative: Selection, evaluation and application of genetic testing
Behaviour and Welfare: How can we better integrate concepts of welfare, behaviour and health in breeding and raising dogs?
Education and Communication - Antimicrobial Resistance/ Prudent Use of Antibiotics: How can international collaboration support education and communication within and across stakeholder groups (esp. between veterinarians and breeders).
Show Me The Numbers: Integrating information from various sources for prevalence, risks and other population-level information
Participate and make a difference for dogs!
Need more information? Contact:
Brenda Bonnett, CEO IPFD firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Mary Chimion, SCC email@example.com
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is to be commended on its attention to the complex and quickly evolving world of genetic testing and dog breeding!
Their article on: Genetic panel testing for breeds and hereditary disorders promises insights for dog owners, breeders, and veterinarians: Unlocking the genetic secrets of your dog in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)
AVMA's new policy encourages research, continuing education, and outreach on inherited disorders in companion animals:
AVMA passes policy on responsible pet breeding
The International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) is a multi-stakeholder, non-profit organization whose mission is to bring the global dog world together to share information and resources and to take actions to enhance the health, well-being and welfare of dogs. As the JAVMA article mentions, a major initiative is the IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs. Project sponsors include the IPFD Partners, including various national kennel clubs, Agria Animal Insurance (Sweden and UK), the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, American Kennel Club-Canine Health Foundation, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and their Hereditary Disease Committee, as well as various commercial test providers including, two mentioned in the JAVMA article, e.g. Mars Veterinary and Genoscoper. The full list of current sponsors and an overview of the Harmonization initiative are available (elsewhere) on DogWellNet.com, the web platform of the IPFD.
Genetic testing is one of the most complex issues facing dog owners, breeders and veterinarians. Owners of individual dogs may, as described in the article, access ‘DNA testing’ to look at a dog’s parentage, breed ancestry; to determine a general list of health risks; or to find out information on a specific clinical issue. This may be done for interest or diagnostic information.
However, for breeders of dogs there are added layers of complexity that may be amplified by the burgeoning availability of panel tests. It’s easy to say breeders should do all available tests. But is that practical or even the best approach? A breeder may spend several hundreds of dollars on genetic testing, but their breed or kennel club may be telling them they must also screen for important diseases not covered by genetic tests, e.g. hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye conditions. And they must try to breed a dog with good behaviour and appropriate breed characteristics, while, hopefully also paying attention to genetic diversity and other measures of ‘wellness’ of the breed, as a whole. The prospect is daunting. The reality is that the number of genetic tests available for dogs is increasing at an exponential rate; many tests coming out of research on important human diseases, and often the actual risk indicated by a test result and/ or the relevance for the overall health of the dog is unclear.
In some countries, it is recommended against or even illegal to breed an animal that has a known abnormality or risk for disease. Positive results from a huge panel of genetic tests, even if some of those tests have not been validated for that breed, may unnecessarily preclude that animal from breeding. In some countries, there are an increasing frequency of litigation against breeders, sometimes unrealistically holding them accountable for any and every problem a dog may experience. But we are talking about biological organisms – and no animal – human or dog or other – can be bred to eliminate any possibility of disease.
Some opponents of purebred dogs will have little sympathy for the conscientious breeder saying it is impossible to test for everything. But purebred and pedigreed dogs are worth sustaining. And more importantly, what is the alternative? We know that in most countries, a vast proportion of the demand for dogs is supplied by commercial breeders, many of whom may not have the health and welfare of their breeding animals or puppies as a first priority. There are increasing numbers of designer/ crossbreed dogs and a tendency to believe that any and all mixed breed dogs are healthier than any and all pedigreed dogs. Both of these categories of breeders tend to operate outside the oversight of authorities, breed clubs or kennel clubs who try to have a holistic view of health, behaviour and welfare. The AVMA statement on breeding reflects some similar concerns. Suffice it to say the complexity of the world of dog health and breeding can be almost overwhelming.
As for genetic testing, the optimism about the great potential offered by panel tests, e.g., must be tempered by the reality that some tests within a panel may not be validated or meaningful for a given breed or condition. In the JAVMA article, both Dr. Giger and Dr. Bell express a need for judicious use of tests. Many commercial test providers offer information on the interpretation and application of test results, at least for the individual owner or dog, if not for use in breeding decisions. But we must understand that there is a strong profit-based drive behind many of these offerings, reflected by increasing numbers of commercial entities offering tests. The widespread and sophisticated marketing, e.g. online, makes this world even more challenging for consumers to navigate.
The IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (Harmonization) initiative grew out of international collaborative efforts to address tough issues like:
How can a consumer recognize a good quality from poorer quality labs or commercial test providers?
How does an owner or breeder make an informed decision about the best product for their dog/ situation?
How can this be done keeping a holistic view on all issues of health and welfare?
How can veterinarians possibly keep up with all these new developments?
Where can consumers and veterinarians get expert opinions truly independent from commercial interests?
How can we ensure that the terrific potential for genetic testing to improve health in dogs is not negatively impacted by all these challenges?
The Harmonization initiative will be one Theme at the IPFD 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, hosted by the French Kennel Club in Paris, France, 21-23 April 2017. This meeting involves decision-leaders in the dog world, from many stakeholder groups, who come together to identify priorities and actions that need international collaboration. In addition to genetic testing, themes include Breed-Specific Health Programs; Behaviour and Welfare; Education and Communication (focus on antimicrobial resistance/ prudent use of antimicrobials); Numbers/ Quantitative Data on dogs and health; and Health Issues of Extreme Conformation. Further information on the background, program, themes and goals, including registration information is available on the Workshop website and elsewhere on DogWellNet.com. Our most recent Collaborating Partner, is the Canine Genetics and Epidemiology journal and they will be on hand at the workshop and will help support dissemination of information from the workshop.
The IPFD, their partners and collaborators, together with sponsors of the Harmonization initiative – including commercial test providers who have stepped forward to take a leadership role - are, in the first phase, creating a prototype of a database of quality for commercial test providers. We recognize the leadership of the WSAVA. We hope to engage other veterinary organizations as their input will be key, especially as we develop the Expert Panels who will provide collective, valid and balanced advice on tests, testing and application as we move into the next phases of the Harmonization initiative.
The Harmonization of Genetic Testing in Dogs will succeed through collaborative, multi-stakeholder, international participation to address the complex issues of genetic testing for dogs with an aim to capitalize on the great potential of technological developments to improve dog health and to support consumers.
For further information please contact :
Brenda Bonnett, CEO IPFD; firstname.lastname@example.org
Aimee Llewellyn-Zaidi, Project Director; Aimee.Llewellyn-Zaidi@ipfdogs.com
Why is it so hard to engage breeders in breed club health initiatives?
In September I had the pleasure of making a presentation to the Breath Health Coordinators of The Kennel Club, in the UK: I asked them to share with me their biggest challenge relative to their work on the health of their breeds and with breed clubs. Many said their greatest difficulty was getting members of breed clubs to engage actively in health-related efforts, specifically in sharing accurate data on the occurrence of health problems. This problem has been raised by many breed clubs, in various countries.
Why is this such a challenge? Here’s a partial list that comes to my mind:
- Denial – if we don’t talk about ‘it’ and don’t count ‘it’ maybe we can pretend the problem isn’t that bad.
- Protecting my line, my brand – not wanting to admit that there are any problems in my dogs.
- Afraid of the fall-out that might come with honesty; worse now with social media.
- A feeling that others won’t be transparent, so why should I?
- Wanting to celebrate the good aspects of the breed, of the dogs… to have fun with shows and breeding and not focus on the ‘negative’.
- Perhaps not understanding enough about health issues or recognising problems.
- Frustrated with results of previous attempts?
- Maybe it all just too overwhelming.
I can really understand the desire to go to shows, have fun looking at beautiful dogs; to have puppies and enjoy them and that whole process. But dog breeding should be seen as a great responsibility, not simply a right – not something to do just because you can. And we should all think that beauty is not just skin deep – a truly beautiful dog / breed must be healthy and have good temperament, be free of issues compromising welfare and quality of life – and maybe even have a good chance at a long life.
With this attitude, there would be commitment to the tough stuff, not just the fun. And understanding that the responsibility includes collaborative work with others to improve and maintain the health of the breed – health in its most holistic sense. Collaborative is an important term here… none of this can be done by an individual – it has to be a collective group effort. But then, data sharing, for example, must occur in a respectful, supportive – even compassionate – environment.
But let’s face it… this is a somewhat idealistic picture. Everyone is busy, could use some support and we all want to see results. Is all this work paying off?
What if you could find those working in other countries on the same issues? What if you could share the load and have fun making a difference with other like-minded individuals? What if you could help prevent someone from making the same frustrating mistakes you made? And what if you could learn from others' successes and challenges?
So… here’s what we are doing on DogWellNet.com. Welcome breeders, health committee representatives and breed clubs to share information with us - e.g. on their breed, on health surveys and data collection efforts and to help pass it on to others who are interested. We are also looking to share experiences and expertise - stories about successes and failures, what has worked and what has not. We also will endeavour to connect those who share a breed, or interests or challenges from around the world. Strength in numbers!
At DogWellNet.com we can also provide restricted-access or open forums for discussions - by breed, by project, etc. We can help you get talking internationally. Collaborating and sharing with an underlying goal to support actions to enhance health and well-being.
If you have material to share let us know! If you have comments, we would love to hear them.
In the Spotlight section of our latest Digest, see what breeds’ reps have joined us lately and also some of the great work being done.
DogWellNet.com Digest: Issue #4 - 15 November 2016
The Finnish Kennel Club continues to inspire us!
Finland is a country of about five and half million people and with the highest ratio of dogs to people. They are fiercely proud of their historical association with dogs - and so they should be. It is a country where a high percentage of dogs are still used for their original purpose. The dog continues to be integrated closely with Finnish culture.
And that wonderful, deep, and long history is now celebrated online with the Finnish Canine Museum.
... but I'm not giving you the link yet... once you go you may not come back!
This has to be a brilliant accomplishment – for dogs and for the new age of museums.
The amount of information is impressive.
Tons of history… including videos
Amazing reproductions of art ... including this sculpture credited as:
1979, Pekka Ketonen
which most of us can't pronounce... but we can appreciate its artistry!
And their special exhibition is on the Finnish Spitz focused on history, breeding and more.
This is a wonderful resource to inform and entertain.
Congratulations to our Founding Partner The Finnish Kennel Club.
Amazing! The Finnish Canine Museum Online. Thank you!
Any other kennel clubs – send us links to great work you are doing … please contact us!
I am in Paris working on arrangements for the IPFD 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, hosted by the French Kennel Club (SCC).
The format will be similar to previous workshops:
from Friday evening until Sunday at noon
125-150 stakeholders representing all aspects of the global dog world - including decision-influencers from major kennel clubs, cynological organizations, breeders, judges, veterinarians, researchers, welfare groups and more - will build collaborations, share information and outline actions to support dog health, well-being and welfare.
The venue is the Novotel Centre Tour Eiffel which is across the street from the Seine and beside a modern new shopping centre, Beaugrenelle. The latter will be mainly for accompanying persons… delegates will be fully engaged ... or … maybe we should all plan to stay a few extra days to enjoy Paris in the Spring, 2017 !
More information on the program and registration coming soon.
I recently participated in the educational and thought-provoking conference on brachycephalic breeds presented by the Swedish Kennel Club, 27 February 2016. More on that later …
Something that arises in all discussions of problems in dogs – especially those with exaggerated physical characteristics – is the fascinating issue of personal preference and people’s attraction, devotion, and attachment to certain breeds. For example, although there have been concerted efforts at educating consumers about brachycephalic breeds and their higher risk for health and welfare issues, especially in the UK, we heard that the numbers of Pugs and French Bulldogs being bought as pets continues to increase – by as much as 30% in recent years.
The Washington Post has recently published an interesting article that is very timely for our consideration of these complex issues – including thoughts and information from two friends of DogWellNet.com Hal Herzog and James Serpell, These experts help keep us thinking about tough issues (and we profile some of their work elsewhere on DogWellNetl.com).
Why We Love Dogs and Cats but not Bats and Rats
I suppose I could have included another P-word in my title – psychology (but of course it wouldn’t have supported the alliteration).
These animals at the other end of the leash from our beloved doggies – they are really fascinating!
Understanding their complexities is needed to help us to move forward on enhancing dog health, well-being and welfare.
HABRI - The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative has published new research detailing the beneficial effects of pet ownership - for their owners and for the health care industry.
Here is their press release:
PET OWNERSHIP SAVES $11.7 BILLION IN HEALTH CARE COSTS
HUMAN ANIMAL BOND RESEARCH INITIATIVE RELEASES NEW ECONOMIC STUDY
"The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation is a non-profit research and education organization that is gathering, funding and sharing the scientific research to demonstrate the positive health impacts of companion animals on people.
Founded by the American Pet Products Association, Zoetis, and Petco, and supported by a growing number of organizations and individuals, the HABRI Foundation is fast becoming the go-to spot for research and information on the human-animal bond."
We will soon post another article looking more critically at the research. As dog lovers we are likely predisposed to accept the findings. But as we know, health and health care are complex. If, for example, this finding prompts physicians to start prescribing 'pets' - well that might bring up a lot of other issues.
In the meantime, we have to do all we can to ensure that these 'healthier owners' have healthier dogs!
The Press Office of The Royal Veterinary College has reported that:
"Veterinary neurology experts collaborate for first ever global consensus on pets with epilepsy"
"Made up of 26 veterinary practitioner, neuropharmacology, neuropathology and neurology experts from around the world, the International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force (IVETF) has produced seven ‘consensus statements’ that outline a number of recommendations and classifications on all aspects of the condition. It is the first time this many veterinary neurology clinicians and neuroscientists have formally agreed on the key aspects of canine and feline epilepsy. "
Here at IPFD we are, of course, very happy to see international approaches to understanding and managing disease in companion animals. We hope to see a similar approach taken with other diseases and including an even wider range of discipline experts. The eight consensus statements of the epilepsy group cover a wide breadth of information on the clinical aspects of epilepsy - including definition and classification, diagnosis, treatment and more. This is a leap forward in our communication on this widespread condition and the participants are to be commended.
I was particularly interested in the breed-specific aspects and this is addressed in one of the papers: International Veterinary Epilepsy Task Force’s current understanding of idiopathic epilepsy of genetic or suspected genetic origin in purebred dogs. This article contains a review of current information on various breeds - lots of good information.
Unfortunately, and now I am wearing my 'epidemiologist hat', there is a rather liberal use of the word prevalence - more or less used across the board to describe the occurrence of epilepsy from many different study designs, e.g. whether estimates were population or hospital-based or describing the proportion of epilepsy cases among diseased dogs. Not all these estimates accurately reflect the real risk of the condition in a given breed. To make sense of the range of numbers, one needs a critical appraisal of the study details - the sort of discussion that makes most peoples' brains ache. Nonetheless, without clarifying the sources of information we are left confused as to the meaning. And wondering how to compare information from various studies, across breeds, countries, etc.
It seems that quantifying disease occurrence remains a challenge in the companion animal world - as we have so few good population-based studies. Elsewhere on DogWellNet.com we are struggling with the same issue relative to problems in brachycephalic breeds. In the meantime, if you are puzzled by the range in estimates from different studies, know that sometimes it is due at least partly to issues of the study design, the study population, the method of analysis and the interpretation and not entirely reflective of the actual situation in the dogs or breed or population.
Confused? Well, you are not alone. Good estimates of the occurrence of disease in national populations of dogs are rather few and far between. We mostly have proportions from among dogs seen at veterinary teaching hospitals. A consensus from the 2nd International Dog Health Workshop is that there is a great need for better information on the occurrence of many diseases. Hopefully, ongoing international collaborations will focus on this need. The paper from the Vet Compass group (elsewhere on DogWellNet.com): Prevalence and risk factors for canine epilepsy of unknown origin in the UK is a relevant population-based study, as is a Swedish study: A cohort study of epilepsy among 665,000 insured dogs: incidence, mortality and survival after diagnosis, referenced in the consensus statement.
We hope to be able to incorporate pertinent findings into the breed database for some of the breeds discussed... and to provide new information from the Swedish Insurance Data - Agria Dog Breed Updates. So, keep tuned!
I look forward with interest to see how the discussions and collaborations develop on this important issue. Brachycephalic – flat-faced dogs – are a hot topic.
As has been said elsewhere, there are intense emotions and strongly-held opinions on all sides. There continue to be opposing views expressed on the internet and social media - not always in a respectful manner; some rather confrontational. In my experience, people at opposing poles (of this and other issues) often share some similarities - they are passionate in their beliefs; have confidence in their own evidence; may dismiss the evidence put forward by others (or interpret it very differently); both may accuse the other side of ignoring the evidence. All feel they are fighting a good cause; most, I would say, have ‘good’ intentions.
As an epidemiologist I generally try to see the 'Big Picture'. As a representative of IPFD and the one who is ultimately responsible for DogWellNet.com, I am committed to providing a balance, highlighting the issues in the broadest sense, providing evidence, and trying to promote information sharing and collaboration. I am optimistic that all sides will find this helpful. However, there is certainly some risk that the efforts of a ‘moderate' (or a moderator) may actually serve to frustrate those at the poles of an issue.
And, interestingly, I came across a perfect example of this, just this week, relative to the controversy surrounding the outlawing of horse slaughter for meat in the USA. Without going into the details, the consequences of eliminating humane slaughter, while reducing the production of horse meat for human consumption, have almost certainly included increased suffering and welfare issues for many horses. I do not want to start a debate here! I do want to tell you about a conversation I had with Prof. Hal Herzog. He invited another researcher to post to his blog (on Psychology Today) her - balanced - assessment of the impacts and issues on both sides of the question. To their angst and surprise, rather than an inflow of comments thanking them for a reasoned and unbiased presentation of the issues, the authors were attacked. And attacked almost equally by those at either end of the issue. One can only hope that many who read the information – but who declined to comment – were thoughtfully inspired by the material; that they would consider the ramifications of 'best intentions', both in this specific case and, in general; and that they might be moved to ponder the potential for unforeseen or unintended consequences in all acts and actions.
We will always get more comments from those with strong opinions than those in the middle, even if the latter represent the majority. This assumption must sustain those of us trying to provide exposure to the complex and challenging issues of people and pets.
Let us have respect and compassion for each other; let us believe that each of us – even if we don’t agree on the exact definitions - wants health, well-being and welfare for dogs and to support all that is good in human-animal interactions. Let us find common ground and work collaboratively towards those goals
A friend/ colleague, commenting on a draft of this blog said, “Compassion and empathy saves us all from becoming completely blinded by our own entrenched views.”
Posting a plea to avoid conflict on Remembrance Day, here in Canada, seems somehow appropriate.
You might be interested in Prof. Herzog's book: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.
And I will mention another very recently published book: Companion Animal Ethics, by Sandoe, Corr and Palmer.
Thanks to Jen St. Louis Photography for the chameleon image.
While searching out information relative to The Brachycephalic Issue I came across this conference:
The First International Conference on Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare
As they state on the conference info page:
"The root cause of much animal suffering is human behaviour. However, traditional approaches to improving animal welfare have focussed on providing a service, such as accessible veterinary treatment, or campaigning for people to change their consumer habits. The understanding of why people do what they do, don’t do what you’d like them to, and more often than not do not change their behaviour, is the holy grail of anyone with something to sell, a campaign to promote or a desire to improve the world. For this reason human behaviour change has been studied by experts in marketing, psychology, development, and health and education programmes – understanding human behaviour is important for anyone with an interest in helping the world to be a better place for humans or animals."
My bolding in the preceeding highlights the nature of common questions underlying many dog health and welfare issues - i.e. the animal problems/ issues stem from human attitudes, psychology, societal and cultural differences, etc.
It is exciting to see this initiative and we will keep an eye on their developments.
New under Hot Topics:
This week we have launched a new section on the challenges and controversies surrounding issues in brachycephalic dogs. I have been told that even relatively knowledgeable people may not be acquainted with that term. I have been offered suggestions from 'flat-faced' to 'snub-nosed' and even 'schmoosh-faced' as terms they have seen describing these breeds on the internet. Regardless what they are called, Issues of health and welfare in these breeds are a hot topic. There are challenges and controversies in many countries, but there are also a lot of sincere and concerted efforts to address the problem underway, e.g. by many of our IPFD Partners. We will continue to develop a broad base of information resources and to promote and support international efforts. This topic - the Brachycephalic Issue -is typical of many in the dog world - challenges that need a collaborative effort across countries and stakeholders, embracing scientific and medical, as well as, human and human-animal interaction concerns and resources.
New, in general:
We have upgraded our Invisionzone software to version 4, and launched a new look. We continue to strive to make the site easier to use.
Wading in to a challenge...photo: K. Drost
I am issuing invitations to join the community to numerous experts in the behaviour field. Hoping to get some participation before the Canine Behaviour and Genetics meeting in London 26-29 June. At least I hope to spark a little interest.
The greatest challenge is that everyone is too busy. It is easy to say that we can collaborate and share on DogWellNet.com - and I do believe there is a great potential for success and efficiency and reducing redundancy of efforts - but it has to start with people putting in time. And that is a very precious commodity.
Terminology - lack of consistency in use of terms, etc. is always a hot topic in this field. It starts with the challenge of 'behaviour' vs. 'behavior'. We decided from the start that we would use 'International English' (the standard used by the U.N.); but we have also said that the first rule of getting along internationally is flexibility and tolerance. So - you will see it spelled both ways across various articles - maybe even within an article. But hopefully that will not distract from the bigger issues!
Here's hoping that the behaviour crowd will behave in a supportive way!
We are so excited to welcome the Irish Kennel Club as our latest Partner.
Their pride in their national breeds and long history is wonderful to see. When visiting them earlier this spring, President Sean Delmar shared with me some stories about their founder. It seems that the development of the IKC to some extent mirrored the challenges that were being faced by the country as a whole. Here is an excerpt from the History section of the IKC website.
"The freedom fighters who drove the club’s foundation reached across the political divide once again, electing independence opponent and dog lover Justice Henry Hanna as the Chairman."
Justice Hanna and the other founders included this in the new club's constitution:
Justice Hanna and his Kerry Blue Terriers :
And that statement is so like the charge to the Board in our IPFD statutes. It is meant to embody our intent that all outside politics, historical issues or grievances are left at the door and in here (IPFD) we are focused solely on our mission, vision and goals. Here it is all for the dogs.
Personally, I have not been that much of a history buff. However, as I travel around to our Partners and collaborators it is evident that the dog world not only is a reflection of society but it also highlights the nature of people and cultures.
A headline for a recent article on bbc.com caught my eye: Why do people love pets? Can't really recommend the article, although it raised some interesting points. For example, the diversity in attitudes across countries; the controversies about the anthrozoological basis for our relationship with animals; etc. Most of us in the dog world do not spend a lot of time thinking about why we love animals... just as we don't think about why we love our family or why we get hungry. But as we address issues in health, well-being and welfare of dogs on an international level, we must remember the context for our animals is related to country, culture, and so much more.
Phew...a lot of philosophy. That too might be the Irish influence! Welcome!
We have been working to make the site more welcoming by adding our 'Hot Topics' navigation aids to the home page.
These should help orient first-time users or anyone looking to see just what might be available on DogWellNet.
We continue to encourage our Partners and Sponsors to contribute news and information to the site. As a new development, it will take time for everyone to get used to the resource, but we are confident things are heading in the right direction. They are working with each other on exciting collaborations for dog health and we look forward to hearing about them soon.
Our latest partner The Irish Kennel Club is on board...and we are looking forward to exciting contributions from them, especially concerning their national breeds. See my next blog entry for a little more about them.
We are inviting on to the site more Members and Advanced Members from the 2nd International Dog Health Workshop - even as we are working towards the 3rd IPFD International Dog Health Workshop.
And I am soon off to the The 8th International Conference on Advances in Canine and Feline Genomics and Inherited Disease and the
Canine Behaviour and Genetics Conference where we will have posters on IPFD and DogWellNet and hope to meet with many colleagues.