Paris in the Spring! My April Best of Health article for Our Dogs

Best of HealthThe third International Dog Health Workshop takes place in Paris from 21st to 23rd April 2017. It is being organised by the International Partnership for Dogs, of which our Kennel Club is a founding and sponsoring member and Caroline Kisko is Vice-chair of its Board. I am honoured to have been invited to give one of the plenary presentations on the work we have done in the Dachshund Breed Council on our breed health strategy.

The IPFD’s mission is to facilitate collaboration and sharing of resources to enhance the health and wellbeing of pedigreed dogs and all dogs, worldwide. It has a website: dogwellnet.com, which is an information hub and provides a wealth of resources as well as blogs on current hot topics. This brings together breeders, vets, scientists and others in an online community of interest.

The first international workshop was held in Sweden in 2012 and the second one in Germany in 2015, where there were participants from around 20 countries. This year’s workshop looks like being equally well represented, with 137 participants from 24 countries.

The themes for this year’s workshop are:

  • Breed-Specific Health Strategies: Needs and opportunities; innovations, nationally and internationally.
  • Exaggerations And Extremes In Dog Conformation: Health, welfare and breeding considerations; national and international efforts.
  • Education and Communication: How can international collaboration improve education and communication within and across stakeholder groups (especially between veterinarians and breeders); using the example of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Behaviour and Welfare: How can we better integrate actions to address issues in welfare, behaviour and health in breeding and raising dogs?
  • IPFD Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs: An international, multi-stakeholder initiative to address selection, evaluation and application of genetic testing.
  • Show Me The Numbers: Integrating information from various sources for prevalence, risks and other population-level information; the latest national and international strategies to collect data and disseminate information.

These workshops are preceded by a series of short plenary presentations, designed to set the scene for the following practical sessions. I’ll be sharing the platform with three other speakers whose names will be familiar to most UK readers: Aimee Llewellyn (formerly with the KC and who now works with IPFD), Rowena Packer (from the Royal Veterinary College and well-known for her work on Brachycephalics and Dachshunds) and Paula Boyden (Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust).

While you might expect me to gravitate towards the “Show me the numbers” workshop, I’m actually participating in the Breed-specific health strategies one. The challenge for my presentation is how to condense the key points from over 20 years’ work on Dachshund health into less than 15 minutes!

Breed Health Strategy

Our Breed Health Improvement Strategy is much broader than simply focusing on health conditions that affect Dachshunds. It is based on a model developed by the Kennel Club in its guide for Breed Health Coordinators. It comprises our approach to:

  • Leadership
  • Planning
  • Engagement
  • Improvement

I’m using those four points to give people a flavour of the wide range of activities we cover in our strategy. Our Breed Council represents the interests of sixteen UK Dachshund Breed Clubs and has appointed a Health Sub-committee, chaired by a Vet plus 9 others, to develop policies and coordinate plans for breed health improvement. 3 of our members are Pet Advisors from outside the show community.

The Breed Council reviews and prioritises health and welfare issues which it considers to be of significance to the breed. Current priorities can be found on our health website (www.dachshundhealth.org.uk) and in our DachsFacts information leaflets. We currently have a Top 3 priorities, plus a Watch List of other conditions.

We collect breed health data regularly to help us plan and prioritise our work. DachsLife 2015 was our second major Breed Survey and its focus was on understanding the lifestyle factors that might influence the risk of back disease (IVDD). The response rate (over 2000 dogs) exceeded our expectations and enabled us to identify some useful and surprising insights into the health of the breed. This was also followed up with a peer-reviewed paper which was published in 2016 which I co-authored with researchers from the RVC, including Rowena. We also have an ongoing on-line Health Survey (since 2009) which continues to provide a source of useful data on Dachshund health issues from more than 500 dogs.

For many of the conditions that we need to address, we seek specialist advice from outside the Breed Council and Clubs. We, therefore, work in partnership with specialists from the Animal Health Trust, RVC, Kennel Club and others, as necessary.

We have three key groups of people with whom we must communicate and engage effectively:

  • Breed Club members (who have agreed to abide by our Code of Ethics)
  • Breeders who are not members of Breed Clubs (probably about 80% of the UK’s Dachshund breeders)
  • Owners and potential owners of Dachshunds (an important group for our Pet Advisors to reach)

We continue to develop our approach to communications, particularly the use of on-line groups and social media. Facebook is a major communication channel for us and our Pet Advisors spend a lot of their time helping potential owners and existing owners in the many regional Dachshund groups.

None of our efforts in Leadership, Planning and Communication matter if we don’t actually achieve real health improvements that benefit the breed. We measure the impacts of our efforts in each of our priority health conditions and others that are on our Watch List. We’ve made fantastic progress on reducing the risks of cord1 PRA in all three miniature varieties and Lafora Disease in Mini Wires. Our major challenge remains in reducing the incidence of back disease; hence the introduction of an X-ray screening programme last November which is well-proven in the Nordic countries.

Networking, sharing and learning

In addition to my presentation, I’ve created a large poster which is a montage of many of the things we’ve done in the four key strategy areas. My biggest challenge was what to leave out! Some of our information and resources have already been shared on the Dogwellnet website.

Given the diversity of participants, I expect one of the benefits for many attendees will be building new or enhanced relationships across the various groups of vets, researchers, breeders, Kennel Clubs and others.

The practical sessions on each of the workshop’s six themes aim to provide some focus and prioritisation of actions needed to support breeding, health and welfare. They are intended to stimulate and accelerate activities after the workshop, so it will be interesting to see what we come out with and who signs-up to take on leadership roles in these important areas.

I’ll be on the lookout for tools and ideas being used elsewhere in the world which we can pick up and adapt to benefit our breed. I’m really looking forward to learning lots of new things to be able to share with my Dachshund colleagues and other Breed Health Coordinator friends (and anyone else who is interested).

No doubt I’ll be reporting back in a future “Best of Health” article. I’ll probably also be tweeting updates during the workshop, so please follow me @sunsongian.

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UK Dachshund IVDD Screening Programme – 2017 seminar presentation video

My presentation on the UK IVDD Screening Programme is available on YouTube (48 minutes).


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Watch the amazing Dachtastic Obreedience team at Crufts 2017

Watch from 3 minutes:

Almonds, genes and discs – a Dachshund education day!

Dach Seminar 020417 (1)Dach Seminar 020417 (2)

Around 70 people attended a seminar run by Eastern Counties Dachshund Association and the Miniature Dachshund Club at Roade on 2nd April. The three topics covered were the Dachshund Breed Standard (Mandy Dance), screening for back disease (Ian Seath) and the genetics of coat and colour (Helen Geeson).

Mandy Dance was the first speaker and she kept everyone interested with a good mix of humour and practical experience, using a selection of her Mini Wires. She demonstrated the correct Dachshund proportions (2:1) with her measuring stick and emphasised the importance of adequate ground clearance (which is not the same as “low to ground” that actually relates to height at the withers). Everyone received an almond, which will surely remind them of the correct shape of a Dachshund’s eye!

Ian Seath spoke about the Breed Council’s recently launched X-ray screening programme for Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) which is the key health issue in the breed. Dachshunds’ discs degenerate and calcify at a younger age than in dogs with longer legs. There is a body of research evidence that shows how calcifications identified by X-ray in dogs between 24 and 48 months are a good predictor of IVDD risk. The aim of the screening programme is to enable breeders to avoid using dogs with high numbers of calcifications as this will reduce the risk of their puppies also having many calcifications and a higher risk of IVDD. The Breed Council is subsidising the cost of the screening programme which is available via CVS Veterinary Group and has also applied to the KC Charitable Trust for a grant to support further research.

Helen Geeson took on the challenging task of explaining the genetics of coat and colour in Dachshunds. The inheritance of coat is easy to understand: Wire is dominant to Smooth which is dominant to Long. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that, prior to 1977, cross-coat matings were allowed and we have the legacy of this in the gene pool. It results in litters with “Recessive Coated” puppies: typically, Smooths crop up in Wire litters and Longs crop up in Smooth Litters. This is why the Breed Council asked the KC to insist on DNA testing for health conditions such as Lafora should be done before a recessive puppy is registered.

Colour genetics in Dachshunds is very complicated due to the huge variety of colours/ patterns that exist and the large number of genes responsible for them. We have dominant and recessive colours and dominant and recessive patterns in the breed. Understanding how these colours/patterns interact can help to predict the colour of puppies and also can help to avoid certain health problems that are linked to particular colours and patterns.

In the afternoon there was a practical, hands-on, session with opportunities to go over a selection of dogs from each of the six Dachshund varieties under the guidance of experienced judges. Demonstrations of gait were carried out on the playing field in the sunshine at the end of the afternoon. Helen and Ian’s presentations will be available on the Breed Council’s website: www.dachshundbreedcouncil.org.uk

Many thanks to the organisers and all the helpers who provided the catering and the dogs for the practical session.

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Radical revision of Dachshund judge training and CC appointment process announced

We have just received the following Press Release, dated April 1st.

Begins:

Radical revision of judge training and CC appointment process

In 2016, Dachshunds were identified as one of 8 so-called “failing breeds” by the Kennel Club, who claimed there was an over-allocation of Challenge Certificates, given the level of show entries. The Breed Council responded to this by setting up a joint working party which has now reached agreement with the KC on actions to address two key issues: judges’ training and approvals of judges for CC appointments.

Judges’ Training:

With effect from April 1st, all aspiring Dachshund CC judges will be required to lead a breed seminar where they will present the breed standard and demonstrate how to go over a dog. The underlying principle is “if you can teach it, you can judge it”. The audience must comprise at least 25 people who do not own Dachshunds and they will vote (anonymously) at the end of the seminar on whether or not they believe the judge is competent. The KC will be developing a new online tool to enable the voting to take place. The tool: “Judging Official Knowledge Evaluation” has already been piloted and uses a simple 5-star voting system, similar to Amazon’s customer feedback approach. Those who achieve an audience rating of at least 4.5 will be deemed competent to award CCs.

First-time CC judging appointments:

The working party felt that a radical approach was required to ensure judges awarding CCs for the first time did so in a way where they could focus solely on the dogs. Therefore, all Breed Specialists will be given a first CC appointment in a breed other than their own. It has been agreed that this should be piloted in the 8 failing breeds. Dachshund breed specialists will be given their first CC appointment in Poodles. (Poodle judges will have their first appointment in Staffordshire Bull Terriers; i.e. each of the 8 failing breeds will be rotated alphabetically).

Annual appointment of judges to award CCs:

In order to ensure fairness in the appointment of CC judges, a new lottery-based system will be introduced. All approved judges will be allocated appointments randomly at championship shows. This will be done by a further new IT system that the KC is developing. There will, therefore, be no need for show societies to select judges, nor for judges to send their CVs to societies, asking for appointments. It is believed this will result in huge time savings for societies as they will no longer need judging sub-committees, nor will they need to collate judging lists. It is expected that the new IT system, “Fair Online Opportunity Listing System” will be available from 1st April 2018.

Comments and suggestions from stakeholders will be welcomed, prior to the Breed Council’s AGM. They should be emailed to april1st@dachsbc.org.uk

Ends.

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