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Theme attended at 3rd IDHW in Paris

  1. The continued review of breed-specific tests for assigning relevance ratings, and ongoing discussions with genetic experts has led to a refinement of the breed relevance ratings (please see: BRR) . To better accommodate the spectrum of genetic test validation, we’ve added a new orange BRR. The orange BRR indicates where all current available evidence has been reviewed, but the relevance is inconclusive. It could be that a mutation is detectable in a specific breed, but that there is no evidence that this correlates with clinical development of the disease/phene. It could also be that there is evidence that testing for the mutation does not correlate with the clinical development of the disease. One example is the wire-fox terrier and degenerative myelopathy. Despite research indicating a 94% mutation frequency (Zeng et. al, 2014) - meaning that practically every dog the researchers tested for SOD 1 mutation for degenerative myelopathy had 2 copies of the mutation - the development of the clinical signs of DM for the breed hasn't yet been reported. In practical terms, this means that while you may still wish to test for the mutation in your breed, or it may be included on any testing panels, there isn’t currently a good reason to prioritize test results in any breeding or other health decisions. Unnecessarily excluding a dog from breeding based on irrelevant or inconclusive test results can be, on balance, very damaging to the genetic diversity of the breed. Thinking back to DM and the wire-fox terrier, this would mean that if breeding decisions were made on DM test results alone, you'd be excluding the vast majority of the dog population where the test does not for this breed seem to predict clinical disease. For any orange BRR, it would be worth looking at the test’s breed-specific information in more detail (search for test information HERE) to help put any potential test results into perspective. Wherever possible, the phenes database includes comments directly from the researchers and original test developers. As always, talk to your genetic test provider and/or veterinary scientist if you are concerned about genetic test results. And, if you missed it the first time around, you may want to check out the previous blog including updated breed relevance ratings, and breed-specific publications, HERE. References: Zeng R., Coates J.R., Johnson G.C., Hansen L., Awano T., Kolicheski A., Ivansson E., Perloski M., Lindblad-Toh K., O'Brien D.P., Guo J., Katz M.L., Johnson G.S. (2014) Breed Distribution of SOD1 Alleles Previously Associated with Canine Degenerative Myelopathy. J Vet Intern Med 28: 515-521 Photo thanks to: Engin Akyurt, via Pexels
  2. Posted originally 26 July 2018; UPDATED 30 July 2018 Congratulations to the authors (Lisa Moses, Steve Niemi and Elinor Karlsson) for their commentary in Nature (and pdf, below). In “Pet genomics medicine runs wild” these authors have done a great job describing the myriad challenges related to genetic testing in pets. In fact, their concerns reflect those underpinning the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) initiative - the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD). The IPFD, together with an impressive team of Partners and Collaborators (national kennel clubs, animal industries, veterinary, academic, welfare and other organizations) and our Leadership Sponsor Genetic Test Providers (GTPs), is providing a practical and effective tool to support consumers, veterinarians and researchers. However, as we face these challenges, it is important to not lose sight of the phenomenal potential for genetic testing to support health, well-being and welfare in dogs, as well as aspects of human-dog interactions. Although the authors of the commentary justifiably call for this segment to have some controls, at the moment, there is no regulatory body that has the authority to impose standards on this burgeoning and unregulated industry - especially not on an international basis or in a timely fashion. Rather than waiting for consensus on controls, the IPFD (an independent, non-profit, registered in Sweden), together with our Partners, Collaborators and experts, as well as concerned GTPs, has created a platform that will provide the foundation to address many of the concerns raised in the Nature article.
  3. HGTD, and IPFD, were thrilled to be able to send our very best wishes and acknowledgements to Prof Frank Nicholas, on the 25th Anniversary of the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA) resource. (see Brenda's Blog) Collaboration with, and integration of OMIA's information is vital for a lot of what HGTD is able to do - and fundamental to animal genetics researchers the world over. OMIA is a catalogue/compendium of inherited disorders, other (single-locus) traits, and genes in 251 animal species. OMIA is a great example of collaboration in action - authored by Professor Frank Nicholas of the University of Sydney, Australia, but with expert input and help from many people over the years. For HGTD, it has provided a standardized, unique identifier number for the hundreds of phenes we list on the database, as well as additional information curated by Prof Nicholas and his contributors over the years. The OMIA number is something that can be recognized by genetic researchers across all countries, as a universal reference. It is a resource used by so many HGTD stakeholders, and accepted as something that just... feels like it has always existed. While it is hard to imagine creating HGTD and other resources without OMIA in place, it is easy to take fundamental resources like OMIA for granted that they will exist forever, always expanding, and up to date, without thinking about the challenges required to create them, and the perseverance to keep them going through the years. This concept was in my mind this week as I tackled adding in dozens of new breed-specific research publications and references, as well as updating OMIA references to phenes in the HGTD database. As an integral part of HGTD's principle of transparency in reporting, providing up to date breed-specific and breed-relevant publications from peer-reviewed journals, as well as additional input from geneticists and researchers is a critical, but also a challenging and time-consuming aspect of maintaining the HGTD databases. It requires regular review of OMIA, as new OMIA numbers are generated for new canine single-locus traits, collaboration with researchers who can provide important journal references, and the time and expertise to write and reference technically/clinically accurate phene descriptions, with language and wording that is accessible and clear to a wide audience. This is part of why it was so important from the beginning of the Phenes database development, that we worked to include gene and mutation information for each phene, at a breed-specific as well as testing level. And, why we offer 2 descriptions for as many phenes as possible: a more technical/clinical description for our veterinary and research users, as well as a more real-life experience summary for dog owners and breeders. It might be us who are putting this information in place, but it is only with the collaboration, and expert input from researchers and experts that we are able to have such a robust and responsive resource. Thinking back to our friends at OMIA, I wonder (hope), that IPFD and the HGTD databases will in time be seen as a standard resource and reference for our diverse community, and be celebrating such an auspicious anniversary as OMIA, in the future. With continued thanks, and appreciation to: (puppy photo thanks to Mateja Lemic via Pexels)
  4. And not all dams and sires with 'clear' test results will be good choices for breeding. Oh, would that life and breeding decisions could be made easy! But every experienced breeder knows that nothing is simple. Breeding and inheritance and health and temperament are very complex issues - each on their own - and combined they constitute a puzzle with no guaranteed solutions. With the increased availability of genetic testing, with its media-inspired aura of high-tech infallibility and direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns, there has been a rush to embrace it as THE most important pre-breeding test. It is probably underpinned by the vague hope of breeders that IF they spend their money and do all the possible genetic tests, they will have fulfilled their 'due diligence''. Many of my colleagues and I have repeatedly reminded the breeding community that, in spite of genetic testing being an extremely important decision-making tool, it is crucial that attention be paid to conditions that are considered important for a breed - regardless of whether there is a 'DNA test' for the condition, or even any test at all The Big Picture is crucial. I described in another blog a genetics symposium in Canada in November 2019. During discussions with committed breeders, at we came to some very important questions. For example, everyone says they want healthy animals with good longevity. But think about these items before you nod your head: How many breeders could say that those are the primary criteria they use when selecting mating pairs? Is there good evidence in your breed that the main focus of breeding has been on producing healthy, long-lived offspring? When breeders choose inbreeding or line-breeding is it to improve health and longevity, or, more likely, aimed at fixing specific traits, often to do with appearance? These questions are not meant as any judgement but to provoke critical, rational, logical thinking about breeding decisions which are, for better or worse often influenced by something else. Primarily, people need to look honestly at the history and culture of breeding and admit that, as for anything in life, a) saying and wishing and hoping is not doing; and b) you cannot achieve a theoretical or even heartfelt goal if your actions are in direct opposition to its achievement. I say I am committed to being slender and fit and then spend all my time in front of the computer and maintain a deep and satisfying relationship with potato chips. But at least I am not shocked when the slender-fit thing just doesn't happen. Our IPFD friend and collaborator Ian Seath posted another recently called 'Health-tested does not mean healthy'. And rightly highlights that health and longevity (or 'healthgevity') is a function of many factors beyond breeding or genetics. Owners must do their part to maintain health and not push all blame for ill-health to breeders. E.g. the well-loved, but morbidly obese Pug in this shot, had, by nature and breeding, specific health risks, all, no doubt aggravated by its body condition. All stakeholders in the health and welfare of individual dogs and breeds need to contemplate their roles and take responsibility. More coming on the topic of health testing and health, soon.
  5. Congratulations to the University of Sydney and OMIA - the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals database. 25 years old 25 May 2020. Check out the celebration webpage here. This amazing resource underpins research and education on genetics in many species and has been a key support for advancement in the world of dog genetics and genomics. The development and maintenance of this fantastic database is due to the input and support of many academics, researchers, and others, many of whom volunteer their expertise and time. But it would not have existed or been maintained without the commitment and passion of Frank Nicholas. We gratefully congratulate him on this milestone. OMIA is a collaborating partner of the IPFD, and we have been coordinating and linking with them to maintain the quality of the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs database and resources. The OMIA numbering system is vital for international collaboration and critical to harmonizing genetic phenes across research and industry. IPFD is very proud of and grateful for this association and will help celebrate this event with a donation via the OMIA site. Why not join us in recognizing this important and necessary achievement?
  6. We get questions about how we ensure the quality of the information available on HGTD. It can actually be very challenging, and we rely on having good processes, and collaboration when developing content. To meet the IPFD principle of transparency, we are starting a series of blogs to describe how we manage this resource. We hope to then provide a regular news feed on HGTD developments and changes, to give you all an insight into this work. To get started, here is a little insight into running and maintaining HGTD. How do new genetic test providers (GTPs) join? GTPs reach HGTD as part of the wider IPFD network, research conference outreach, and direct contact. Leadership Sponsors, Sponsors and Participants include commercial providers, non-profits, and large and smaller research groups. Donations from our participants and sponsors to help off-set some of the running costs and development of HGTD. All data received is checked for accuracy, and legitimacy. GTPs who offer ISAG, or other accreditation are checked. All testing information is reviewed to standardize nomenclature and catch any errors or mis-translations. Regular reviews of all databases (GTP, Tests, and Phenes) ensure changes in the industry or emerging research is captured, and disseminated. Quick, and accurate publication is our goal. We aim to have new GTP information, and updates added within 48 hours, but this is often much faster. Publication allows for peer-review, and is key to an open and transparent system. What does the general running work look like? As our GTPs are international, we harmonize across different languages, nomenclature, and national/regional accreditations. We also collaborate with groups such as OMIA and ISAG to improve consistency and harmonization across the industry. At any given time, we are the caretakers of information on dozens of GTPs, hundreds of phenes, and thousands of lines of associated data. All of which have to be checked against independent sources, and regularly reviewed to reflect the fast-paced changes in the genetic testing world. What if I want to help? Use HGTD. The most important way to help is to use HGTD, and tell your friends about how helpful you find it. If we can improve it, let us know. Recommend, Donate! If you have a favorite GTP and they aren’t participating, get in contact with us to help us encourage them to become a part of HGTD. If you have the ability to donate, even a small amount, you can choose to direct it towards IPFD, or directly to HGTD. Either way, you will be supporting us in building resources to improve dog health and welfare. Be part of our Collaboration Community. You can send questions about tests, research papers, experience that your breed club has had, or other feedback to us. We work hard to respond quickly, and while we can’t include everything, we always aim to integrate robust new information. Further information/References: Sponsors, Participant, and databases can be viewed in the Genetic Testing section of IPFD: https://dogwellnet.com/ctp/
  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. 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.
  9. The HGTD arose from discussions at the IPFD International Dog Health Workshops (IDHWs); it is a proud achievement, exemplifying the IDHW tagline: Information – Collaboration – Action! In 2019, the HGTD project could be summarized in one word: Growing. We’ve consistently grown our list of genetic test providers (GTPs). Participating GTPs have provided information on their accreditation, expertise, and practices – all of which helps individuals find a GTP that has the quality measures most important to them. The generic phenes database provided a centralized resource for researchers, vets, and owner/breeders, spurring unexpected benefits. We’ve seen more consistency in test naming among international providers, benefiting owners seeking testing information. It also allowed international researchers to spot industry-wide challenges, and have them addressed through a centralized platform. To better support dog owners, the veterinary community, and dog health advisors, we introduced Breed Relevancy Ratings across genetic tests. The HGTD database relevance rating indicates the amount of available evidence supporting the relevance of a specific genetic test for a specific breed/type. Currently, the relevance rating is 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 hoped that, by being more informative about what we currently know or do not know about a specific test for a specific breed, that dog health advisors and owners can make more informed decisions. The collaboration across the dog world, and the participation of those in the testing industry, dog owners, and experts around the globe, has helped to shape our achievements for 2019 and develop exciting plans for 2020.
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Several IPFD collaborators are speaking at the AVMA conference this weekend! Thanks to IPFD collaborator, Dr. Jason Stull, there are sessions focusing on Canine Genetics in the Dr. James H. Steele One Health stream, including: Angela Hughes DVM, PhD from Wisdom Health is presenting Utilizing Genetic Panel Testing in Dogs for Breed and Disease and IPFD CEO Brenda Bonnett, DVM, PhD who is talking about Genetic Testing to Improve Canine Health: The Big Picture and why this truly needs to be considered from the One Health approach. Hint: We care about the dogs, but it is people who complicate everything!! In addition, Theme Leader at the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop in Paris, Jason Stull VMD, MPVM, PhD, DACVPM, is giving a series of talks on infectious disease concerns in veterinary practices, including, e.g. The Dummies' Guide to Preventing Hospital-Associated Infections. Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD) collaborator, Kari Ekenstedt DVM, PhD, is delivering a whole afternoon of talks on clinical genetics, including Practical Applications of Genetic Testing in Dogs and Cats. Hope to see vets and vet techs that are keen to expand their practical knowledge about dogs and genetics... See a follow-up:
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