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Responsible Breeding: Is Screening the Answer?

18 November 2014

UK - Could screening be the answer for combating inherited diseases in our dogs? Maybe so according to new research from the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

New figures released at the start of National Canine Health Testing week (17-21 November) by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal that 91 per cent of companion animal vets believe more screening for inherited conditions, such as hip dysplasia and eye problems, will positively impact canine health and welfare.

BVA is highlighting that health testing and screening is not just for purebred pedigree dogs. Screening is also important for crossbreed dogs, such as Labradoodles and Cockerpoos, which are becoming increasingly popular.

BVA and the Kennel Cub (KC) run the Canine Health Schemes to screen dogs for certain inherited conditions before they mate.

Owners and breeders can use the results from the Schemes to help make more informed breeding decisions to produce happy, healthy puppies and work towards eliminating debilitating inherited conditions.

The BVA/KC Canine Health Schemes cover hip and elbow dysplasia, hereditary eye disease, and Chiari-malformation/Syringomyelia.

National Canine Health Testing week promotes the message of screening before breeding to both breeders and pet owners, so breeders can select dogs that will produce healthy pups and pet owners know the questions they should ask a breeder about the puppy’s and parents’ health.

In addition to the BVA/KC Schemes there are a wide range of DNA tests available to test for inherited diseases. The results of tests and screening schemes are made available on the Kennel Club’s online health resource ‘Mate Select’.

Whether a potential owner is opting for a pedigree or crossbred puppy, BVA supports the use of the Animal Welfare Foundation/RSPCA Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack, which contains a section for the breeder to fill out about any health screening or DNA tests and results to give added reassurance to owners. In addition, for Kennel Club registered breeds, the Assured Breeder Scheme requires certain breed-specific health tests as part of registering puppies from Assured Breeders.

BVA President and veterinary surgeon John Blackwell said: “Vets in practice see cases of inherited conditions that are debilitating and distressing for dogs, however well-loved they are. That is why the vast majority of vets see the benefit of screening for inherited conditions.

“The good news is that we have schemes and tests in place that help breeders and owners make sound judgements about responsible breeding. Anyone thinking of breeding from their dog or thinking about buying a puppy should ask their vet about available health schemes and how they can be used to inform their decisions.

“For National Canine Health Testing Week we’re also reminding people that it’s not just pedigree dogs that can inherit these disorders. There is a misconception that crossbred dogs are protected from hereditary problems but that’s not the case.

“Health matters to all dogs, particularly when it comes to mating, and it is vital that potential mates are not at risk of passing on inherited conditions. The BVA/KC Canine Health Schemes and Kennel Club DNA testing services are critical tools for breeders. My message at the start of National Canine Health Testing week is make sure the match is a good one and apply the relevant tests to both parents before they are mated.”

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