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.
We are receiving data from our Partners on registration statistics and screening tests. For example, Astrid Indrebö has provided a wonderful spreadsheet of Norwegian data (will be available soon in Downloads). Ann Milligan (IPFD staff) is busy integrating material from various sources into the breed pages. She is also working closely with Eddie Dzuik from OFA on getting more links to their statistics.
Hopefully, as we follow developments it will give us more and creative ideas on how best to share and use available data. Comments and suggestions are welcome!
How exciting to meet with over 120 dog colleagues from about 20 countries. From as far away as Ecuador, we assembled in Dortmund, Germany with the shared goal of developing collaborations to tackle the most important issues in dog health. Such a great demonstration of the international nature of dog interest and confirmation that issues of dog health are truly global.
The VDH (German Kennel Club) did a fantastic job with organization and everyone was impressed with the venue, the food...everything. The singing of the soccer enthusiasts coming from Signal Iduna Park, Friday night couldn't be controlled, but that just added to the local colour.
It was clear that the participants embraced the concept of the IDHWs...i.e. short plenary talks and then, to work, in collaborative workshops. Exciting for us at DogWellNet was that the delegates were really excited about the potential for the IPFD and this platform to support ongoing international efforts. In fact, the list of suggested topics and actions is pretty long! Over the next weeks the talks and results will be posted both on the VDH website and here on DogWellNet. We will be prioritizing the actions, based on our resources and volunteers. It is exciting for us to facilitate the sharing of information and the work of all these accomplished and committed persons who want to take an active role in enhancing dog health, well-being and welfare.
Thanks so much to our German colleagues for doing such a great job hosting this event. Thanks to the IPFD Board who were there in full force. Thanks to all the participants for all their interest, enthusiasm, expertise, creative ideas and energy. Now, we must all work together to keep up the momentum as we move towards the 3rd IDHW in France in early 2017.
It seems appropriate that I should start a blog to share ideas and news from IPFD and DogWellNet.
I am working these days at the Swedish KC offices, where, on any given day there are easily 40 to 60 (and I am told up to 100) dogs in attendance with their owners. Incredibly, it is rare that you hear any barking or noise - from the dogs, at least. Puppy Idon, pictured here, captured my heart instantly, last week. Her brother Grim is here today and it is interesting the personality differences, even at 12 weeks of age.
Hmmm, perhaps I should say something to convince you that I am doing something other than cuddling puppies...
How about if I ask for a comment from my readers? My husband asked if the SKK had the largest number of employees per capita of any national KC. Those of you from KCs (Sweden and otherwise) do you have any data?