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Brenda Bonnett

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About Brenda Bonnett

  • Rank
    Administrator

Profile Information

  • Region
    North America
  • Location
    Georgian Bluffs, Ontario, Canada
  • Country
    Canada
  • Current Affiliation
    International Partnership for Dogs, CEO
  • Position / Title
    CEO
  • Interests
    Dog Breeding
    Dog Health
    Education
    Research
    Legal/Regulatory Issues
    Kennel Clubs
    Human-Dog Interactions
  • Academic Credentials
    PhD
    Bachelors degree
    Veterinary degree (e.g. DVM)
  • Expertise/Proficiencies
    Dog Health/Veterinary Medicine
    Dog Breeding
    Welfare
    Education
    Research
    Human-Animal Interactions
    Statistics/Epidemiology
    Writing/Communication
  • Specific Breed(s) of Interest
    Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Breed Club Rep; Board Member or Breeding/ Health Committee member
    No
  • Attended an International Dog Health Workshop
    Yes
  • Theme attended at 3rd IDHW in Paris
    IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs

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  1. After watching to play the video again use the controls and select "Replay" ⟲... or select from other displayed IPFD videos. It seems that every day - in the world of dogs and the world beyond - we see decisions made that may work for part of a problem, but because they do not take into account the complex reality of the bigger picture, they are unlikely to be fully effective. Every step we take at IPFD reminds me of this interconnectedness - and of the need for IPFD's international, multi-stakeholder approach. And about how grateful we are for the Partners, Sponsors and collaborators who make our work possible. We have created a short, 'lite' video to highlight these issues and then expand on examples below. IPFD's International Dog Health Workshops have helped to pull the vision of and methods by which the goal of better health and welfare for dogs is achieved. Breed Health Strategies are the foundation of planning for health and welfare improvement in dogs. A strategy for a breed may include any, or all, of the following: disease, longevity, genetic diversity, conformation, temperament, working ability. See Breed-specific Breeding Strategies - 3rd IDHW follow-up and a subsequent document which provide specifics for establishing a sound, workable strategy. These documents define projects and processes that focus on the objectives to safeguard and improve the future of a breed. (Breed Strategies IDHW content is attributed to Ian Seath, dog breeder, chair of the Dachshund Breed Council in the UK, and leader of the Breed-Specific Health Strategies theme at the IPFD International Dog Health Workshops (IDHW).) Also see IPFD CEO Brenda Bonnett's plenary talk at the 4th IDHW: Get a GRIHP on Breed Health, which addresses the complexities of big picture health concerns that must be addressed by collective information and actions. From the Genetics theme-based topics discussed at the 4th International Dog Health Workshop, a pressing need for genetic counseling experts emerged - experts to provide meaningful evaluation of and advice on breed-relevant use of the growing number of DNA and health screening tests available to dog owners/breeders. A key action/project at the workshop was interrogating the concept of “validation” – which pulled together many specific genetic test issues. It was decided that creating a model for addressing Validation for genetic tests would be the best use of time for the workshop. This was effective in guiding discussion to identify specific actions/projects moving forward. The questions from the breed community: How do we know what tests to use? How can we trust the test results? See the Report from the Genetic Testing Theme, from the 4th International Dog Health Workshop. Tools are needed! Why? Direct-to-consumer genetic tests have provided greater access to many different breed-specific and general genetic tests for dogs. This has raised concerns from owners and breeders who need more guidance and direction in making informed testing decisions. To help with this, the HGTD in December of 2019 added relevance ratings to the interface. Currently, the relevance rating is determined based on a wide-variety of evidence sources. This includes peer-reviewed research papers, recommendations from the original researchers/test developers, input from additional experts including veterinary specialists, and breed experts. It is important when considering the ratings to understand that this effectively indicates how much we currently know or do not know about a specific test for a specific breed. This does not necessarily indicate how “good”, or “bad” a test is. It also does not indicate the clinical importance of a test. So who is doing what in the big picture - of course management of dog's well-being includes and goes beyond DNA tests - health screenings matter, temperament matters, conformation matters... The Health Strategies Database for Dogs is in the works to augment health information available on DogWellNet... stay tuned. The ongoing creation of tools and educational content to improve the health and welfare of dogs by kennel and breed clubs, and work done by groups of breed enthusiasts drives the big picture forward. In the Blog post, Breed Health... What is your vision?, the take-away message is, undertake actions and make decisions that can impact the dog world in beneficial ways. We continue to promote international efforts on the challenges for dogs; we work to bring together stakeholder groups and organizations.
  2. This blog is going to be a little different. Still about health and well-being... but this time about veterinarians and the veterinary community. Many of you may not realize that every veterinary conference now has a major stream on the well-being of veterinarians, themselves. On self-care, and caretaker fatigue, and mental health. And on suicide prevention. You may not have seen this Time article: Veterinarians Face Unique Issues That Make Suicide One of the Profession's Big Worries, but these challenges are an increasing priority for veterinary associations over recent years. Issues like depression, anxiety and burnout build on crippling debt for many graduates. Unfortunately, there are many more articles on this topic. When I graduated - many years ago - vets were at the top of the lists of most respected and trusted professions. That status has diminished. I don't want to go into all the reasons, but I will say this. Years ago when someone would ask what I did and I would say I was a vet, I heard nothing but accolades, and heartfelt thanks, and people telling me they had wanted to be a vet. It was humbling and gratifying. These days when it comes up, the first thing I hear is 'Do you know how much I had to pay for my last vet bill?' or worse. There are a lot of changes in the veterinary practice world, and I can say I am not sorry to be off the front lines. There are lots of frustrations for consumers as well. The majority of vets are devoted to being in the profession and to the animals and people they serve. Unfortunately, the stresses that go beyond the care of animals are simply insurmountable to some. A former graduate student recently contacted me; she is a practice owner and committed to supporting her colleagues, especially the newer ones. She was shocked at a recent support meeting to hear that the majority of veterinarians in that group had, at some point, considered suicide. All health professions struggle with such issues because our work is intense. But the rise in concerns in veterinary medicine are beyond troubling. As is the fact that there is a need for this site: 'Not One More Vet'. I wanted to let you know that the veterinary community has recognized this as a major priority. The VMX meeting (formerly NAVC) is a massive conference at which I have spoken on numerous occasions. Today another former student shared this link on my personal facebook page... and it prompted me to pass it along with these personal comments. A Poem for the Veterinary Community - performed by Andrea Gibson, an American Poet at VMX 2020. Please have a listen to this powerful and heartfelt message. I know many of you will identify with it. What is important to understand is just how desperately many veterinarians in practice need to hear that they are appreciated. If any of you are motivated to reach out to a veterinarian who has helped you and your beloved animals, to acknowledge anyone on the clinic team ... please do so; don't hesitate. In spite of all the challenges for clients of veterinarians these days... we might all agree that the world is better place with veterinarians than without them. For any vets reading this, always ask your colleagues how they are doing and if they need help. And if you are a vet who needs support, your veterinary community has resources - please reach out.
  3. Once again our IPFD friend and collaborator Ian Seath has come out with a thought provoking but practical article. In BREED HEALTH AT THE START OF A NEW DECADE – WHAT’S YOUR VISION FOR 2030? on the DOG-ED: SOCIAL ENTERPRISE site, Ian does several things: Makes it personal - by sharing what he himself is doing - as a breeder, as chair of the Dachshund Breed Council in the UK, as the leader of the Breed-Specific Health Strategies theme at the IPFD International Dog Health Workshops (IDHW). In the description of his efforts, he provides great information on the process and structure of building health strategies for any breed, and he shows himself and the Dachshund groups in the UK as role models for other breed clubs. And he credits others who are doing good work. He 'walks the walk' (definition: 'to show that something is true by your actions rather than your words'). I know Ian well, and he is not doing this for personal acclaim. He passionately cares about the health and well-being of dogs - all breeds - and he does everything he can to say to all of us - "C'mon... we can do this!!" Ian challenges everyone to look ahead to 2030 and to seriously consider how what they are doing will impact the breed over that period. And he says: "It’s that time of year when New Year Resolutions have either already been forgotten or are well on the way to become good habits." I would encourage everyone to do as he says and to look ahead - not just breed club health committees but individual breeders, judges, veterinarians, researchers, owners... all stakeholders in the dog world. Too often we look to others to take responsibility... too often we give up because we don't see the potential for change (or just think it is too much work). And I would also like to stress the mention of good habits. It isn't just about knowing, it is about doing. Saying one thing and doing another is a very bad habit. I will risk offending you by suggesting some examples, all in the spirit of improving the health, well-being and welfare of dogs over the next 10 years. Health committees, breeders, individuals say: 'We want healthy, long-lived dogs!'. But do their health programs, recommendations and ACTIONS! truly reflect that goal? If the tendency is to select for the physical characteristics that are being rewarded in the show ring... you are not going to just accidentally get health and longevity... in fact, it's more likely you will get the opposite. Every individual breeder's decisions impact the whole breed! In another blog I described an interactive session at the Canadian Kennel Club genetics symposium, where a breeder, after listening to Dr. Kari Ekenstedt and I talk about many issues, including inbreeding, wanted us to specify 'what level of inbreeding was ok?'. In other words, sure, father X daughter was out... but what was okay? I challenged her to consider why she wanted to do inbreeding? Was it because she thought this would improve health and longevity in the breed? Almost undoubtedly it was not - it was to as quickly as possible achieve 'a look'. We all need to think about the big picture. Veterinarians - what are you doing within your practice, one on one to stop the normalization of health issues - genetic and otherwise? Do you make clear to your devoted owners of brachycephalic dogs that snorting and snuffling and bug eyes are not 'cute' or 'funny' but serious concerns? Do you work hard to counteract the rampant obesity problem in pets? No, your clients may not want to hear the messages... but what is your personal responsibility? Pet industry - are you focusing your marketing to profile healthy dogs... or still using challenged but popular breeds? So, at IPFD we continue to promote international efforts on the challenges for dogs; we work to bring together stakeholder groups and organizations that can undertake actions and make decisions that can impact the dog world in beneficial ways. But I urge people to read and hear the messages in Ian's article - at both a group and individual level. As he says, echoing the wide focus of the 4th IDHW in Windsor, "The final element in making progress is engagement with breeders, owners and buyers. They are the primary groups whose behaviour needs to be influenced if the plans are to be implemented. There are others to engage with (e.g. vets, KC, researchers, judges) but taking action on both the supply and demand side of the dog population is essential." I am an impatient person... 10 years is too long to wait for an improvement! But I know how fast it goes. Get going on those good habits for dog health so that when Ian writes another article you can say, with great honesty: 'Yes sir! I am doing my bit!'
  4. Congratulations to our Partners and Collaborators at Société Centrale Canine (SCC)- The French Kennel Club. Having had the privilege to visit their offices and their amazing library, many times, I am happy today to share links to their wonderful online library of images. (Note: the images here are screen captures... the actual images online of even higher quality.) See La Photothéque Old and new.... dog shows, events, military history, cultural treasures, dog breeds... and more. The catalogs include thousands of images which can be purchased. Just browsing through them will remind you of the diversity of ways in which we interact with dogs... ways in which they enrich our lives. In the face of criticism of purebred dogs a collection like this can serve to educate others and remind us that the world of purebred dogs involves so much more than conformation dog shows. These still images enforce the the link between form and function - especially in categories like "Contest of Use" which includes e.g. water rescue, tracking, utility search, and more. Thank you to the SCC for sharing this wonderful resource! Championnat de France de chiens de sauvetage en mer 2012
  5. New in 2020: Genetic tests listed by breed include a 'relevance rating'. Here is what that is and why it is important. A work in progress... this will be a dynamic index that may change as new information becomes available. Essentially, it is a visual expression of the level of evidence we have for the use of a given test in a specific breed. The red, yellow, green ('traffic-light') layout is shown in paw prints beside the test listing returned in a breed search (see below), or as coloured badges on the Generic Phene page.
  6. Another interesting post from our IPFD friend and collaborator and Dachshund Breed Health Council Coordinator Ian Seath. Following his insightful discussion about puppy socialization that was prompted by reports of increased numbers of mini-dachs [(see here)] he has provided a classification of breeders to help define sources of puppies (see: Breeders, the good, the bad and the future). I think it is important emphasize his message and to add a few further comments. As was discussed in our Supply and Demand theme at the 2019 International Dog Health Workshop - the issues surrounding why, how and from where consumers acquire puppies is a complex issue. Although Ian's categories are very helpful to educate those buying pets, the further complication is that there are better and worse sources within each category of breeder, and there are no guarantees of overall quality, welfare, socialization or short or long term health based simply on the type of breeder. We can likely assume a higher probability of a good 'product' from some categories, but it is not a 'given'. And unfortunately, depending on country, region, licensing requirements and, most importantly, enforcement of any regulations there are few sources of information on specific breeders for prospective buyers. I am reminded here of our challenges in deciding what is the most important health issue in a breed, i.e., the most common? the most severe? the one that is most topical on social media? the one that seems to be affecting MY dogs? And how we have tried to use ranking systems. e.g. GSID, but challenges remain. We need to consider breeders from several angles; not only on volume of puppies produced, but also on, e.g.: Quality of the whelping and puppy-rearing environment. I have seen some commercial breeders with phenomenal facilities and puppies in 'the home' in deplorable conditions. Socialization - same thing; producing just one litter at a time does not guarantee that puppies will be well-adjusted to other dogs or people. Attention to good breeding practices - e.g. health testing, genetic testing, consideration of impact on the breed (e.g. use of Coefficients of Inbreeding). And these are just a few examples but they underline that it is the actual circumstances for each puppy that are important... which may not be reflected in a description of the breeder, per se or their operation. I have to also point out the probability of a safe and successful acquisition is also variable when getting a dog from a 'shelter' or 'rescue' organization. As discussed previously, [see DHW Supply & Demand resources] unfortunately, among the groups sourcing re-homed pets are both bonafide and questionable/ unknown or downright dodgy suppliers. There are many doubtful groups that have jumped in to supply the internet-fueled demand for rescues over primary-sourced dogs - even though it has been shown that there are groups buying dogs from large commercial breeders and puppy farms and re-selling them as 'rescues'. It is very difficult to distinguish the well-meaning from those out for commercial gain. And, sadly, just as for breeders, being 'well-meaning' is not enough to ensure health and welfare of the dogs on offer. So for now, we can try to educate with articles like Ian's, and perhaps lobby for better oversight, but the phenomenal demand that is driving the problem is unlikely to change soon. In fact, consumers also may be 'well-meaning' in terms of intending to carefully research what pet suits their situation and to carefully screen the source...but then succumb to their desire for the trending pet of the moment and wanting what they want right now. Kennel clubs may also have shied away from regulations, as, there being such a difficulty in defining a 'good breeder', most proposed regulations may be seen as a threat to their members. The most important thing is to keep this topic front-and-center in all discussions of dog health, well-being and welfare. And - work across stakeholder groups and internationally for solutions. We look to many of our working groups identified at the 4th IDHW to help us advance... Thanks Ian! See additional information: Detailed Discussion of Dog Auctions and Retail Rescue
  7. In our final installment of the Digest for 2019, we are putting the spotlight on 2019 milestones, and looking forward to 2020 – which promises to be a pivotal year for IPFD and DogWellNet.com. In 2019, our fifth full year of operation, we focused our efforts on several key initiatives, including: the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD); the 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW); the continued growth of DogWellNet.com and our online community. We provided an independent voice in addressing complex and often controversial challenges, including "Hot Topics" such as canine genetics; and shared resources e.g. on health and welfare issues in brachycephalic breeds. See other interviews and news reports featuring IPFD here. As a start up non-profit five years ago, we represented a good idea, with an admirable mission. Many were enthusiastic about the concept, but perhaps unclear about the details of what could be accomplished. IPFD developed based on a strategy of 'if we build it, they will come'. The progress has been gratifying, but never fast enough for me, personally. The acknowledgement of the need for multi-stakeholder, international collaboration and action is widespread; but the realities of the dog world and the demands of local, regional, and national responsibilities of our volunteers and collaborators continues to pose challenges. As we move into a phase of enhancing stability and sustainability, we have a lot to celebrate and great potential on which to capitalize. The word cloud created from participants' comments from the 4th International Dog Health Workshop exemplifies many of our issues, goals, and efforts We have a substantial focus on science and evidence, but we never forget that the human element underpins everything we do. Our Spotlight video in December's Digest shows a softer side, reminding us that it is our love and appreciation for dogs that motivates us. People are always the strength of an organization, and now is a good time to acknowledge and thank the small but committed team of consultants who do the lion's share of work at IPFD. Please check out their profiles and read more about their efforts, below and in the Digest. The IPFD Board has gone through a transformation in 2019, with three members transitioning off the Board and five enthusiastic new Board members joining. The Board now comprises both old friends and new faces with renewed energy and purpose to help launch IPFD into the new decade, capitalizing on existing strengths and addressing ongoing challenges. Bios for the Board are here; we can all look forward to learning more about them in our 2019 Annual Report, and hearing from them in articles and blogs. In the spirit of the season, below are some highlights from 2019 – these could make for some great holiday reading! Thanks to everyone who has supported IPFD and participated in our work in 2019. And here's to a stellar 2020... as we leap ahead with great aspirations. New IPFD Contributors We welcomed two new Contributing Partners in 2019: The Canadian Kennel Club (January) Raad van Beheer (The Dutch Kennel Club) the official kennel club of The Netherlands (February). A new two-year Sponsor, the Morris Animal Foundation (July). And several Non-Breed Specific Collaborators, which are organizations serving health and welfare interests for all breeds: European School for Advanced Veterinary Studies (ESAVS) (June) Global Pet Obesity Initiative (August) And going into 2020, we have renewed and ongoing contracts with all existing Contributing Partners! Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD) The HGTD Project has seen significant growth in 2019, and currently lists 76 Genetic Test Providers (GTPs) across 22 countries, worldwide with 42 currently participating or starting their participation. Thanks to Project Director Aimee Llewellyn-Zaidi! We have made several improvements to the information we record for both genetic test providers and test information. This includes clearer information on what laboratories are used for outsourced testing and when information has been updated by GTPs. Thanks to our App developer Michael Edwards (Coding Jungle), we continue to further automate the updating process and add on new functions. See further details on HGTD in the Digest. In 2020, in addition to expanding engagement with GTPs, we will integrate various projects (Expert Panel, Health Strategies Database (HSDD), the Get a GRIHP Program) to enhance breed-specific information and outputs. Read about these initiatives in Brenda's presentation under Breed-Specific Health Strategies at the 2019 4th IDHW, here. 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) The IDHWs bring together a wide range of stakeholders in dog health, science, and welfare to improve international sharing of information and resources, provide a forum for ongoing collaboration, and identify specific needs and actions to improve health, well-being, and welfare in dogs. IPFD is responsible for the International Dog Health Workshops and partners with other organizations who manage meeting logistics. Access the amazing resources from the four IDHWs here. The 4th IDHW, co-hosted by the Kennel Club in Windsor, UK, in May/June 2019, included more than 130 decision leaders from 17 countries, who joined us to share their experiences and expertise across five Themes addressing some of the most pressing issues in the dog world. We’ve compiled pre- and post-meeting resources here, both for the benefit of workshop participants and for those who were unable to attend. We continue to see the dividends of the important work done at the first three IDHWs (read more in our publication from the Paris 3rd IDHW and look for a new publication in the Journal of Canine Epidemiology and Genetics in 2020), and Working Groups have begun work on issues addressed at the 4th IDHW earlier this year. The 5th IDHW takes place in 2021, with the date and location to be confirmed soon! DogWellNet.com Our internet platform, DogWellNet.com, is an open access, ever-expanding information hub, providing links, documents, and additional resources to breeders and others in the dog world. For an overview of the site, including an explanation of key content areas and features, please visit DogWellNet.com: At A Glance. Although almost all DogWellNet content is available to guests, we encourage readers to sign up as members on the site. As of the publishing date for this issue, more than 1,200 people have signed up on DogWellNet.com, including more than 500 Members and 700+ Advanced Members. One of the popular resources on the site is the Breeds Database, ably overseen by our Content Manager Ann Milligan. A former breeder, and current judge, Ann is always thrilled to get information from breed clubs and breeders, as we continue to expand this resource. In 2020, there will be further integration of material from the breeds database with our other initiatives (HGTD; HSDD, etc.). DogWellNet Digest This is our eighth 2019 issue of DogWellNet Digest – a collection of the latest news from IPFD and DogWellNet.com. A link to each new issue is emailed to all IPFD Members and posted to our social media accounts, and all previous issues are archived on DogWellNet.com. See also IPFD in the Media for excerpts or links to published articles, etc. that reference IPFD or DogWellNet. IPFD Social Media In 2019, our social media presence expanded further into the dog world with several targeted campaigns and a growing following of our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Thanks to Dave St. Louis, our Communications Specialist, for keeping us in touch with our Partners, Members, and the dog world, in general. Another key online tool is our video resources. See our latest, a feel-good offering for the season, and tantalizing, early glimpse of our 2019 Annual Report. Enough looking back, let's talk about... Moving Forward in 2020 With additions to HGTD and other genetic counseling resources, implementation of the Expert Panel, creation of the HSDD, planning for the 5th IDHW; enhanced activities with our revitalized Board, ongoing outreach with our Partners and Sponsors...the possibilities are exciting! All the best for the holiday season and Happy New Year from IPFD...where every year is the Year of the Dog.
  8. What a great weekend of education - with the Canadian Kennel Club and about 170 participants, including breeders with a range of experience from over 40 years to novices. Speakers Dr. Kari Ekenstedt, a geneticist from Purdue University in Indiana and IPFD CEO Dr. Brenda Bonnett covered 'everything you need to know to understand genetic testing' in a clear, concise and entertaining series of talks. Interactive discussions with the many knowledgeable, committed attendees were interesting and thought-provoking. Read more here. Download the schedule here: CKC Seminar Schedule Final.pdf My talks covered the Harmonization of Genetic Testing and the many initiatives IPFD is pursuing to support breeders, as well as a talk together with Kari on Ethics and Welfare. In addition, both speakers addressed issues about genetic diversity, selection and inbreeding. Dr. Ekestedt's presentation was a primarily science-based coverage, including description of various tools, including calculation of Coefficients of Inbreeding (COIs). My talk on Population Health and Diversity presented a more conceptual coverage of diversity (see below), including examples from other species. Both talks included practical suggestions for including these aspects in breeding decisions, but this was also meant to promote discussion and consideration by breeders as they examine their own role, as well as the roles of breed and kennel clubs in promoting and conserving health and longevity in their breeds. It is clear that many breeders are struggling with definitions and implications of genetic diversity, inbreeding and line breeding, and with resolving new information from the fast-advancing world of genetics and genomics with long-held attitudes and practices that are firmly embedded in dog breeding culture. Below are some key points and challenging issues raised in these talks and in the interesting and frank discussions with participants. Thanks to the Canadian Kennel Club and all the participants for a stimulating and enjoyable weekend of continuing education! Congrats to the CKC team who put on a great event. Stay tuned as we will post on DogWellNet.com the video of my talk and links to the rest of the program - hopefully in early January 2020. Additional reading on Genetic Diversity Understanding Breeds as Populations - J. Bell What we can learn from each other: Show Greyhounds Is Crossbreeding a Part of the Plan for Bulldogs -- Genetic Considerations (references Pederson Study) Small Population Breeds and Issues of Genetic Diversity - J. Bell
  9. Following discussions at the August 2019 AKC Canine Health Foundation National Parent Club Canine Health Conference, DogWellNet.com's collaborators at AKC-CHF hosted a webinar available for viewing at VetVine, Canine Degenerative Myelopathy: From Gene Mutation Discovery to Clinical Trials (free VetVine registration required). Dr. Joan Coates' presentation (free VetVine registration required) gave a detailed overview of the disease and current research, including veterinary and human applications. In this excellent overview, parts of the presentation were somewhat technical – digestible to a veterinarian or researcher level audience – but nonetheless also of interest to breeders. The application side of this test, i.e. what results mean and how the test should be used to support breeding decisions, is particularly complex, and the situation is very different in various breeds. This complicates the situation for owners and breeders in terms of deciding whether this highly-marketed test is needed, and in interpretation of the results. Dr. Coates mentioned that, in the paper by Jonas Donner and colleagues: Frequency and distribution of 152 genetic disease variants in over 100,000 mixed breed and purebred dogs, Degenerative Myelopathy is the most common 'disease'. [See statistics: Rank 1: Allelle frequency]. BUT, it is really the most commonly tested for disease – for various reasons. We do not have great evidence on the actual prevalence of the condition across or within breeds. Challenges - Confusion over interpretation and application of DNA tests within the breed and veterinary communities is not unique to DM. Working groups coming out of the genetic theme at the 4th IDHW are underway to address validation issues in genetic testing. Stay tuned to DogWellNet.com, as we will be providing more information in the near future. The DNA testing topic is being addressed by IPFD's partners, collaborators and team through development and implementation of tools such as the HGTD as well as covered in Themes work done at the IPFD's International Dog Health Workshops, the IPFD CEO's outreach presentations, articles and blogs* - work done in collaboration with individuals and groups of multidisciplinary stakeholders, all of whom share the aim to improve the health and welfare of dogs. Additional information... Talks & Blogs - Genetic Testing Recently, Brenda Bonnett blogged about challenges faced by breed clubs related to applying results of this particular DNA test (DM) to breed management in Concern about genetic testing Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) in French Bulldogs. The blog includes a link to a letter, Degenerative Myelopathy Does NOT Occur in French Bulldogs that IPFD collaborator Dr. Jerold Bell circulated to add to the discussion/understanding of DM testing in the French Bulldog breed. The current state of affairs for canine genetic testing development and distribution, along with comments on appropriate interpretation and application of DNA tests to improve health of dogs, are discussed In Brenda Bonnett's talk to AVMA in August 2019: Genetic Testing to Improve Canine Health: The Big Picture & the Blog covering the AVMA conference. A presentation Harmonization of Genetic Testing and Breed-Specific Resources was given at the AKC-CHF Parent Club Health Symposium. Brenda’s Blog offers further discussion. RELATED: Video: Canine Degenerative Myelopathy - Stages of Disease "Veterinary neurology expert Dr. Joan Coates, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Neurology) discusses the progressive nature of canine degenerative myelopathy and provides examples of affected dogs in the various stages of progression. Learn more on this topic and view the entire presentation On Demand.
  10. I just listened to The role of client communication and euthanasia for the veterinarian | VETgirl Veterinary Continuing Education Podcasts with Professor Jane Shaw from Colorado State University. What a great explanation of aspects of best practices in communication on sensitive issues like euthanasia and of the gaps there can be across pet owner and veterinarian perceptions. This is worth listening to for both vets AND for anyone who has had, or will have, the experience of humanely letting go of a dear pet. Dr. Jane explains, with examples, some of the complex human issues in these kinds of visits and gives practical pointers on how communication can be improved. Her message is to vets, but I think owners can learn from this as well. Not every veterinarian has had the benefit of 20-plus hours of communication training from someone like Jane. Some veterinarians can struggle with euthanasia discussions. So, a knowledgeable client can be proactive in bringing up their concerns, and should not feel that their personal and emotional issues about their pet, or issues in their life, are irrelevant to the situation. Feel free to ask questions and share with your veterinarian. We know that everything to do with pets is built on human-animal interactions. It can be challenging, but the complicated, complex human side is often as (or more) important than the medical facts. Only good can come from improved veterinary-client communication*. It was my honour to work with the authors of the paper on which this interview was based (see below). And to have personally known Smokey the dog who was the canine patient in the study. Not every dog would say how thrilled he was to go to lots and lots of vet visits in the last months of his life, but Smokey seemed delighted with the outings! The contributions of the animals, their owners, and the innovative approach of the researchers combined to bring this important work to fruition. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2019 May 1;254(9):1073-1085. doi: 10.2460/javma.254.9.1073. Comparison of veterinarian and standardized client perceptions of communication during euthanasia discussions. Nogueira Borden LJ, Adams CL, Bonnett BN, Ribble CS, Shaw JR. Impacts of the process and decision-making around companion animal euthanasia on veterinary wellbeing Matte, AR., Khosa, DK., Coe, JB., Meehan, MP. (2019) Impacts of the process and decision-making around companion animal euthanasia on veterinary wellbeing Veterinary Record 185, 480. A qualitative study using group and individual interviews involving 10 veterinary hospitals in Wellington County, Ontario, explored how the practices involved in euthanasia-related care impacts the wellbeing of veterinary professionals. *Also see DogWellNet.com's articles: How Can We Improve End-of-Life Care? One Welfare: The Intersection of Veterinary Education and Animal Welfare and Ethics
  11. An article in The Canine Chronicle October, 2019, by Caroline Coile, is entitled: When 23 and Me Has Gone to the Dogs. PDF-Reprint version It is a summary of some of the discussions and presentations at the 2019 AKC CHF National Parent Club Canine Health Conference. I have already written a blog on my experiences speaking and participating at that meeting: AKC-CHF SYMPOSIUM: Harmonization of Genetic Testing and Breed-Specific Resources, where I cover some of the same ground at Ms. Coile. In that blog, I described the challenges voiced by breed club health committee reps, reflected in the questions they asked during the panel discussions. I said, for example: "It is not surprising that you are confused and frustrated...the world of genetic testing IS confusing and frustrating!" The worst challenges in communication and understanding have arisen, at least to some extent, by a combination of these factors: A very fast progression from hesitancy to mass acceptance of genetic testing as the ultimate measure of health and disease to inform breeding decisions. Driven by, e.g.: The 'Social Phenomena' and marketing of tests Direct-to-Consumer (see my talk at the American Veterinary Association). The underlying desire for absolute, straight-forward, black-and-white, simple answers to complex situations. And hampered by, e.g.: Lack of the full, key information for properly integrating genetic testing into best breeding practices. This lack due to, e.g.: Overemphasis of research on discovery of new genetic associations compared to study of clinical validity and ultimate utility of genetic tests relative to actual disease occurrence in the populations to which they will be applied. Rapid commercialization and offering of tests without anywhere near the level of validation and assessment of quality that is demanded for genetic tests in the human sphere and for virtually all other sorts of tests used in veterinary medicine. Inadequate availability of informed genetic counseling - with the genetic counselors challenged by the situations described above. Many genetic test providers providing full results on the plethora of tests and trusting consumers to be able to access counseling and/or figure it out themselves. An important aspect of this emphasis on genetic testing, mentioned in the Coile article is that, with this rush to genetic testing, there is a tendency to ignore or reduce the emphasis on the big picture of health in a breed, and to sometimes abandon or neglect health strategies and breeding decisions based on them. This I discuss in basically all my talks, e.g., in a presentation to the French Bull Dog Club of America in 2018. So - challenges, challenges, challenges - for genetic testing from research to application and from validity and quality issues to understanding and communication of best practices for all stakeholders and consumers. However, let's not 'throw the baby out with the bathwater'. Genetic testing has already supported health and breeding decisions, especially for simple recessive, fully-penetrant conditions. Unfortunately, these are the 'low-hanging fruit' for scientific discovery, and much attention has been paid to them. They are often rare conditions, and although detection and health strategies for them are very important to the limited number of dogs/lines affected, they may not be the most important conditions for the breed. The most common and important conditions, as also stated in the Coile article, are much more complex. Great things are possible with genetic testing. Whole genome analysis will offer even more potential to help animals and people. However, it looks like genomic testing will also be implemented in spite of great gaps in our understanding of what it means and how to apply it. This video from the human side offers some startling information that should increase our concern (see Strategic Planning Workshop: Genomics in Medicine). It is important to also focus on the good work being done to support stakeholders in dog health. Coile mentions the OFA and AKC-CHF is busy with many endeavours (including supporting IPFD). A great example is the Webinar by Joan Coates tomorrow (Thursday 16 October) on the topic of the hour - DM. Dr. Coates' comments at the Parent Club Symposium were important and it is great that they are being expanded to a Webinar. It is expected that she will clarify the DM-testing benefits and challenges, but we cannot kid ourselves that it can rectify the already-entrenched attitudes about DM in specific and genetic testing in general among the public. Hope is also offered by the existing and continuing developments by IPFD, on DogWellNet.com, and produced in collaboration of a wide network of international collaborators, although dependent on funding and further support. These include (and see my CHF talk): The Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD) - catalog on genetic test providers (GTPs) and tests (see the HGTD on DogWellNet.com). Initiative to clarify which tests are being offered specifically as targeted, relevant for a breed; collating information on benefits and challenges of panel testing vs. a breed-specific approach. Working Groups from the 4th International Dog Health Workshop (see article on post workshop genetics theme) on: A comprehensive matrix of the test discovery-commercialization-application pathway . Details on criteria need to provide validation at each step. Aspects of laboratory quality and best practices for GTPs. The potential for enhanced Proficiency Testing. Development of an Expert Panel application to assess and provide collective opinion on key issues about tests and testing. The Big Picture: developing the Heath Strategies Database for Dogs (HSDD), that will provide an interactive resource by breed and condition for all diseases/conditions considered important in health strategies from international and local kennel clubs and breed organizations, to include but not be limited those for which a genetic test is available. A structure for an Globally Relevant International Health Profile to summarize the state of health for breeds. Working together, we can improve our ability to make the best decisions for dogs and capitalize on the potential tools and strategies available.
  12. Thanks Clement. We will check it out. Please feel free to send any information you think should be included in the Breed Database to Ann Milligan, our content manager
  13. Th Kennel Club in the UK has posted information on a "New Dog Breeding Regulation". This relates to regulations from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for breeding operations and related to members of The KC Assured Breeders Scheme. "Changes to breeding regulations in England New regulations on dog breeding in England will be live from 1st October. There are no changes to breeding regulations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A number of significant changes are being made," which include requirements for a dog breeding licence. In addition, there is a defining of minimum welfare standards. "Risk rating Alongside welfare, the breeder’s compliance history will also be assessed, to determine whether the breeder is either a low risk or high risk operator, i.e. whether it should be expected the breeder will maintain their standards for the duration of their licence period." And DEFRA has a matrix to assess risk. And you can also download the notice by the Kennel Club. UK dog breeding regulation.pdf Information on the Assured Breeder Scheme requirements and recommendations here.
  14. Our colleagues at Human Behaviour Change for Animals (HBC) posted an interesting article today. The original paper is: The Responsible Dog Owner: The Construction of Responsibility from Carri Westgarth and others at the University of Liverpool, UK. The research article is published here. Their key message is: While “responsible dog ownership” has considerable appeal as a concept, how it is perceived and interpreted varies so extensively that simply telling owners that they should “be responsible” is of limited use as a message to promote behavior change. In other words, many owners consider the dog a member of the family and themselves as caretakers. Based on their feelings, they think they are giving great care to their beloved pet. Of course, veterinarians, other dog owners and breeders are aware of many examples of irresponsible or at least inappropriate care provided by well-meaning owners. One of the most obvious examples is obesity. I took this photo of a pug in a park in Chicago, with the owner's permission. In conversation it was obvious that she was extremely attached to this dog, thought she was wonderful, told me the dog was so important in her life, and she no doubt thought I wanted a photo because the dog was so cute. I am sure my readers will know that was not my first impression. This dog's obesity was startling. When I touched the dog, my hands literally sank into depths of fat. Even worse, this was a brachycephalic dog and she grunted and snuffled, and I have no doubt her breathing was compromised and I could only imagine her inability to cope on hot days. Here was a clear example of an owner felt she was giving loving - responsible - care, and I was hard pressed not to tell her that this dog's condition could be viewed as quite the opposite, in fact, tantamount to animal abuse. I also know that this woman would have been devastated to hear that. In these situations I always ponder whether our first responsibility is to the owner or to the dog... Behaviour problems also are often examples of inadequate or inappropriate care. It is very common to hear owners say 'my dog has separation anxiety' as if it was an inherited condition - so sad, but there it is. When in fact, the owner - if they have had the dog since it was a pup - carries the primary responsibility for creating or not preventing that behaviour in the dog. The HBC post linked us to a short review of the research article here The problem with promoting 'responsible dog ownership. Their key summary points: Dog welfare campaigns that tell people to be 'responsible owners' don't help to promote behaviour change, a new report suggests. Dog owners interviewed for a study all considered themselves to be responsible owners, despite there being great variation in key aspects of their dog-owning behavior. We have had discussions at the 4th International Dog Health Workshop (IDHW) by our colleagues at HBC and since. It is clear that many issues related to dog health and welfare, supply and demand, and even genetic testing and its use in best breeding practices are affected by communication, education and understanding, as much as science and evidence. You can read more about this in Tamzin Furtado's presentation at the 4th IDHW: Canine Welfare - The Human Element - Human Behaviour Change for Animals. Other talks in the Supply and Demand theme at the 4th IDHW also addressed owner issues and understanding about sources of dogs and, really, responsible dog acquisition. Several of the proposed actions from this theme also relate to communication. I addressed some of the challenges of communication about genetic testing in my blog: AKC-CHF SYMPOSIUM: Harmonization of Genetic Testing and Breed-Specific Resources. We all understand that human-dog interactions are at the core of everything that happens with the animals we love. Focus on the impacts, barriers and effective promoters from the human side must be considered in all recommendations and decisions about their health, well-being and welfare.
  15. The parallels between human and dog testing are many, especially in terms of the challenges (and potential) arising from the market move to Direct-to-Consumer testing in both species. I talked about these issues in my presentation to the AVMA conference. In the slide here, I make the point that in recent years there have been rapid changes, not only in the fantastic and ongoing developments in science and technology, but also in terms of how and why genetic testing is accessed by consumers. And not just in the dog world. For humans as well, genetic testing is very much trending in social media and popular, not simply in medical applications. An article in Scientific American caught my eye, as it highlights some similar issues that were discussed September 7, 2019, when I addressed the Canadian Kennel Club Board. This article is about sperm banks and how they are admitting they cannot 'guarantee' donor anonymity in the face of services like 23 and Me and Ancestry.com. The basic point, similar in dogs and humans, is that once a sample is submitted for DNA testing, the lab has the material to compare and contrast to other samples they have tested, and to identify related individuals. The labs have the information, or the potential to have it, regardless whether the sample was originally submitted for ancestry testing or a panel of disease tests or one specific test. There is a degree of confidentiality, in that, presumably humans at least can elect not to accept identifying information if the company tells them a relative has been found. Perhaps you can opt out of receiving any information, but in reality many people either are looking for this information, and others do not fully realize what the options mean when they submit a sample. In the field of human testing, numerous initiatives are looking at ethical concerns in research and for application. One obvious example is where an individual agrees to participate in genetic disease testing, either in a research setting or by consumer choice. Depending on the condition and the results, the tested individual may now know or suspect information about their relatives - relatives who did not sign an informed consent or make the choice to 'know'. It is a complex and challenging situation. How does this relate to the world of dogs? We have had discussions recently at the 2nd International Meeting of Kennel Clubs in Stockholm, at the 4th International Dog Health Workshop and at the various talks I have given lately. Some kennel clubs, who are expanding or developing health and pedigree linked databases, are suggesting that 'all' registered dogs should have forensic identification and parental verification. Registries have always recognized that dog identification by, e.g. tattoo, and even microchips, are subject to error - accidental or otherwise. When information is going to be part of the permanent record of the dog, accuracy is of extreme importance. However, even if almost all registries demand 'permanent' dog identification, this varies in type (e.g. tattoo, microchip, DNA), potential for errors and, let's face it, the ability of many registries to be absolutely sure that the results are from the specified dog. The Dutch Kennel Club has a phenomenal program for identification of all registered puppies, made possible partly by the limited size of the country. We will try to provide more information on this in another blog or article. The complexities of dog identification have additional ramifications and impacts on health strategies... A recent paper by Tom Lewis (The impact of incorrectly recorded parentage on inferred genotypes over multiple generations, attached below), geneticist at The KC in the UK, has shown the dangers of designation of 'clear by parentage' when there may be error in the identity of the dog and its ancestors. His work underpins the decision by The KC to limit the clear by parentage to two generations. Presumably, dogs beyond this limited time frame must then be re-tested. Of course, with DNA identification (of all tested dogs) theoretically a much lower error rate could be achieved. (Parentage verification is highly accurate, and there are standards and proficiency testing in place for this type of testing.) Tying this back to the concept of confidentiality, the KCs at the International meeting also discussed data privacy concerns around genetic testing and data banks. I won't go into the handling of owner data, de-identification of samples, and numerous other issues, but I will mention one point of discussion that relates to the sperm bank example above. The genetic testing laboratory or researcher or commercial test provider will have the ability - or potential - to detect related individuals by their genetic profiles, whether or not they have owner identification. Not that this means it will be used in a way that should cause concern, but as in the human example, it is perhaps something of which to be aware. Have we been paying enough attention? It seems there is great concern on the human side. This is all complex and confusing; stayed tuned for a coming blog explaining forensic, identification, parentage testing and more. All of this raises tough issues that will have to be considered by the dog world, as some registries and kennel clubs move towards mandatory DNA identification / parentage testing and others do not. This is another angle where the evolving technology of genetic testing is creating both benefits and challenges. Resources: Tom Lewis Impact of Incorrectly Recorded Parentage.pdf
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