Dog Magazine

Canine Health Screening Works (So Why isn’t it Compulsory?)

Health testing designed to support responsible dog breeding by screening for hereditary conditions is helping to improve the health of breeds across the UK, according to new statistics from the Canine Health Schemes.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club jointly run the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes to screen dogs for certain inherited conditions. Owners and breeders can use the results from the schemes to make informed breeding decisions to help produce healthier puppies and work towards eliminating debilitating inherited conditions.

The latest data from the Hip and Elbow Schemes show a clear and sustained reduction in the incidence and severity of these conditions. BVA President Sean Wensley said:

“The latest statistics from Canine Health Schemes clearly demonstrate that responsible breeding, supported by testing, can make a difference to the health and welfare of dogs.

“Health considerations are particularly important when it comes to mating, and it is vital that the risk of passing on inherited conditions is continually reduced. The hip and elbow dysplasia tests are extremely useful tools for breeders and vets, both of whom want to ensure the health and welfare of future generations of dogs.

“Vets have a vital role to play both in encouraging clients to screen for inherited conditions before dogs are used for mating, and, for the Hip and Elbow Schemes, in submitting all diagnostic x-rays taken so that an accurate picture of what is happening in the different breeds is obtained. Anyone thinking of breeding from their dog or considering buying a puppy should ask their vet about relevant health screening.”

Results from the Hip Dysplasia Scheme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, showed improvements in the median scores of 20 of the 21 most-scored breeds over the last 15 years, indicating a reduction in the incidence and severity of hip dysplasia in scored dogs. The remaining breed, Tibetan Terrier, has maintained a low median score for the entire period.

Results from the Elbow Dysplasia Scheme give the numbers and percentage of the different grades (0-3) for all breeds combined for each year since 1998. This also shows a clear reduction in the incidence and severity of the condition in the dogs which have been assessed under the scheme, with a higher percentage dogs from all breeds achieving grade 0 (normal elbows) and fewer dogs grading 1, 2 and 3 (affected).

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “This data goes to show just how much of a positive effect health testing is having on the health and welfare of dogs.

“The BVA/KC Canine Health Schemes are useful tools to support responsible breeding and, as evidence from the data from the hip and elbow schemes, they are going a long way in protecting the future health of the UK’s dogs.”

“Breeders who health test their dogs should be tremendously proud that they are having such a sustained positive impact on dog health, and we would encourage any breeder who does not currently use the schemes to do so, to enable the positive results to continue.”

The Canine Health Schemes cover hip and elbow dysplasia as well as hereditary eye disease and Chiari-malformation/Syringomyelia. Breeders interested in using Canine Health Schemes testing should contact their vet for further information.

The statistics and additional information about the Canine Health Schemes are available at www.bva.co.uk/Canine-Health-Schemes/

At present, there is no obligation for breeders to health screen their dogs when registering them with the Kennel Club, it is purely optional.

Good breeders should always subject their dogs to health screening prior to making the decision to breed.

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