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International Dog Health Meeting #5 - Theme: Breeding for Health – Supporting “Whole Dog” Health from Planning to Pregnancy


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    In this article:

    • Recording of Webinar and Summary of Q&As
    • Session Overview
    • Presenter Bios
    • About IPFD and Embark




    Recording of Webinar and Summary of Q&As:

    Click below to view a recording of the webinar.


    Summary of Questions & Answers from the session - please check back, more to come!

    Questions Answered During Meeting:

    Genetics/Health Testing:

    Beyond the breed club, is there a good resource for reporting potential emerging conditions in a breed? Sometimes people don’t connect the dots because they don’t realize it’s happening to other dogs in the same breed...

    Really excellent question. In most places, the Breed Club is the primary resource for this, especially if they have annual health reports or monitoring. You could have local/regional clubs and national (and international) clubs that also collect this information. In many countries the Kennel Clubs also have annual or regular health reports. It can be very difficult to identify emerging heritable conditions in a breed, but if you suspect an inherited condition, there may be researchers already investigating the condition in your, or similar breeds. You can certainly email me at IPFD and I can check our network of collaborators. There are also disease registries in some countries, particularly in Scandinavia. 


    Which % COI (coefficient of inbreeding) do you consider healthy/safe, either using genomic or pedigree data?

    There is no magic number, but the general advice for either pedigree or genomic COI would be to consider the number relative to the breed as a whole. The goal is to reduce the rate (how quickly the inbreeding is increasing) of inbreeding both relative to the breed as a whole and within your own breeding plans. Breeds that are rarer to starting from a point of currently higher inbreeding will have a different goal than those that are more genetically diverse. A good guideline is to aim to breed below the breed average. Breed averages can be found via many kennel clubs, and some genomic test providers also indicate the breed average within the tested population. Otherwise, the lower you can go without compromising other very important considerations like general health, behaviour, genetic test results, conformation, etc. Taking a small step is better than no step at all! It is just one parameter. 


    Is there a genetic test for hip dysplasia prevalence?
    Hip and elbow dysplasia is a complex, multivariate genetic condition. At this time, there are no genetic tests considered to be as or more robust than a clinical examination. For breeding or for your own dog’s health, a clinical examination is recommended and best practice. However, estimated breeding values (EBVs) are a great resource to help add precision to breeding decisions by providing a better estimation of genetic risk versus the phenotype (individual dog’s score). You can find more information here:



    Are there any good ways to prevent Pyometra?
    The only way to definitively prevent pyometra is to spay the dog. Other than that, only pregnancy reduces the risk in a given cycle (if a dog is pregnant, she is unlikely to also suffer from pyometra during that cycle). In breeding bitches, the best prevention is to spay after she is no longer going to be breeding. 


    Can Brucellosis be found in frozen semen?
    Yes, sometimes brucellosis can survive the freezing process. Some owners will sacrifice a straw to test just in case if there is concern. 


    Is tube feeding healthy newborn puppies for the first week a good way to avoid aspiration?
    Generally, nature knows best. The bitch’s first milk contains colostrum full of antibodies that will help protect puppies from disease. No formula can replicate that colostrum. You’re also much more likely to accidentally cause an aspiration rather than help in a healthy puppy. 


    Are there good flea/tick remedies for pregnant bitches?
    There are several products that have been tested for use in pregnant or nursing dogs. The label will indicate if they’ve been tested in pregnancy or nursing, so please read the label and/or talk with your veterinary advisor. 


    Do you recommend any supplements or prophylactic drugs during pregnancy? (e.g. folic acid, antibiotics…)
    Antibiotics are not currently recommended prophylactically in healthy bitches with no history of infertility or pregnancy loss – allowing the natural biome to work is best practice. Supplements: the most important consideration is the calcium to phosphorus ratio, which should be between 1:1 to 1.2:1 during pregnancy. After whelping you may want to supplement calcium as lactation needs are very high, but too much during gestation can predispose a bitch to deficiencies (sometimes known as milk fever) when the bitch goes to whelp, so what is key is keeping an eye on that critical ratio. Folic acid is reasonable to give, as this supplement has been shown to reduce the incidence of cleft palates in certain breeds. Avoid phytoestrogens (found in soy/vegetarian diets) as this can affect reproduction. 


    Are puppies different ages if the bitch is mated at different times in one cycle?
    The eggs are released within the same timeframe, so even if a bitch stands to be mated several times, it is unlikely that the eggs will be fertilized at different times, and even if there is a small time difference there are biological mechanisms that mean the foetuses catch up. If we see disparately-sized foetuses in the litter, it is not because they are different ages.


    Are there any risks associated with multiple ultrasounds of a bitch at the 28-32 timeframe?
    Ultrasounds to monitor pregnancy is considered safe – you’d have to use excessive levels beyond reasonable usage for it to be considered unsafe. 


    What are the causes, and is there any prevention for absorption of puppies?
    It depends on what is causing the absorption… if one or two puppies in an otherwise healthy litter are being reabsorbed, this could be due to the foetus having a genetic problem and therefore you wouldn’t necessarily want to prevent this from occurring. If a whole litter is being absorbed, then there could be infection or inflammation. Raw diets during pregnancy are not recommended for this reason, and diagnostics from your vet would be recommended to determine the cause of the reabsorption. 


    Can you shorten the anestrus phase without compromising fertility?
    Shortening anestrus too much is not generally recommended, as that can interfere with fertility. While there are a few techniques to try to bring a bitch into season, none of the available options in North America work particularly well, as the cycle is so unique. If it has been at least 6 months since her last cycle, there are certain medications you can obtain through your veterinarian that can be used to try to induce a cycle.


    Can vaccination have harmful impacts when given at beginning of pregnancy?
    Veterinarians like to avoid vaccinating pregnant bitches when possible, as they don’t know how vaccines will impact pregnancy. Ideally, the bitch should be vaccinated prior to pregnancy to ensure she has good immunity to pathogens she or her puppies may encounter. 


    Any recommendations to optimize sperm counts in stud dogs?
    Fish oil has been shown to have a beneficial effect. Any treatment needs to be for at least 2 months, to see any benefits in a spermiogram. This is because the sperm cells we see today were actually created about two months ago.




    Session Overview:

    Target Audience: Responsible dog breeders at all stages of experience. For those new to dog breeding, this is an introduction to creating a health and welfare supporting breeding plan. For more experienced breeders, it will highlight new resources, offer updates on new developments, and reinforce good practices. This session is tailored to North American breeders, but all are welcome to participate.

    Aim: This free online session aims to help dog breeders consider options for supporting reproductive health and breeding healthy puppies for the future. Talks will include information on pre-breeding testing, breeding/mate selection considerations, and reproduction for purpose-bred dogs of all types.

    Presenters: Dr. Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT,Veterinary Geneticist, Embark Veterinary; and Aimée Llewellyn-Zaidi, IPFD HGTD Project Director (bios below).

    Format: The webinar will be approximately 90 minutes in length (start times for key time zones listed below). It will consist of brief opening remarks, followed by two 30-minute presentations and an opportunity for questions and answers. Your facilitator will be Aimée Llewellyn-Zaidi (IPFD).




    Presenter Bios:


    Dr. Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT
    Veterinary Geneticist, Embark Veterinary, USA


    Dr. Dockweiler graduated from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine with honors in 2014 and completed her small animal rotating internship at Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital in 2015.

    She then completed her comparative theriogenology residency at Cornell University in 2017 and became a diplomate of the American College of Theriogenologists that year. She practiced small animal theriogenology and general practice for four years prior to becoming a veterinary geneticist with Embark Veterinary.

    In her spare time, Dr. Dockweiler enjoys photography, hiking, and competing in performance events and conformation with her Welsh Springer Spaniels.








    Aimée Llewellyn-Zaidi
    IPFD HGTD Project Director, USA

    ALZ.PNGAimée is responsible for the ongoing development of the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD) database. This includes updating the generic phenes (test) information. Working with our global collaborating experts and leaders in the canine health, welfare, and veterinary world, Aimée maintains all HGTD resources. 

    In addition, Aimée fields queries from our members and breeders on issues related to genetics and genetic counselling. Aimée provides bespoke advice to IPFD participants and develops evidence-based canine health resources and engagement programmes for the public and professionals.

    As the former Head of Health and Research at The Kennel Club (UK), Aimée's experience includes: development of the Health Team, active engagement and involvement with committees of the Kennel Club and British Veterinary Association (Canine Health Schemes); direct collaboration with international universities, and the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust, and engagement with exciting external projects such as Vet Compass (RVC), and as a speaker at BSAVA Congress, as well as numerous publications and media engagements.

    Aimée was also involved in the initial development of the journal “Canine Genetics and Epidemiology,” and remains active as an editorial board member.

    When not working on the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs, Aimée spends her time walking her Pembroke Welsh Corgis, McDuff and Poppy.




    About IPFD and Embark:



    ipfdmasterlogo-5-1-2020 crop.jpgThe International Partnership for Dogs is a non-profit organization leading a global, multi-stakeholder effort to enhance dog health, well-being, and welfare. IPFD is about fostering information sharing and collaboration, for the best of all dogs worldwide. IPFD owns, powers, and manages the website.





    embark logo 1.pngEmbark can help you optimize and refine your breeding program through our unique suite of tools and services available exclusively to breeders. With the most accurate DNA testing on the market, we have the best genetic data and insights to help you achieve your goals.







    Registration is now closed. Thank you to all who participated!


    Please contact Aimée Llewellyn-Zaidi if you have any questions about the workshop.





    Visit IPFD's Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD)
    to use our free searchable Quality Testing Database and Genetic Counselling resources.






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