Having a website dedicated to the health of the breed allows:
- promotion and demonstration of how healthy the breed is
- publication of information and advice on health conditions
- publicity of what is being done to prevent any conditions from persisting
- recruitment of people within the breed to help and assist, whether it be through financial donations, genetic material for research, or data from completed surveys
In this toolkit, the information that follows is a general guide on the various types of content that could be included on your website.
Know your audience
Your audience may include:
- Breeders – looking for guidance on how to breed away from certain conditions
- Dog owners – looking for information on a condition that may affect their pet
- Potential puppy buyers – wanting to know how to choose a puppy
- Judges – looking for information on conditions to watch out for in the ring
- Breed club members
- Dog health campaigners
- General public
- Veterinarians and veterinary nurses
Where possible, have designated individuals responsible for certain tasks, e.g. general enquiries, problems with the website, enquiries concerning particular conditions etc. By doing this, it will be clear to users who to direct their questions to, and it will help to split the workload too. If individuals do not want to put their personal e-mail address on the website, then an additional e-mail address could be created for this purpose alone.
If your health group or health committee has a presence on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, then you can provide these details also.
Make it clear why the survey is being carried out, who can complete the questionnaire and what the deadline for submission is. If the questionnaire is available as a download, then make sure to include an e-mail address or postal address for respondents to return it to.
Once a survey has ended, publicise the results in a report, which can be made available in the health survey section of the website. If respondents to the questionnaire have provided an e-mail address, then contact them to let them know the report is available.
Use the data from the questionnaire throughout the website for giving evidence of how healthy the breed is overall, the prevalence of certain conditions and for prioritising conditions.
If multiple surveys have been carried out over the years, then it is helpful to describe the changes that have been reported. Are there any conditions that seem to be improving or becoming more common? If the latter is happening, what is being done to improve this?
If a health survey has not yet been carried out, you can still direct people to The Kennel Club's 2004 and 2014 surveys, as well as information on your breed found in our Breeds A to Z.
For each condition a short section could be written on each of the following points:
- What the condition is
- Information, if known, or the morbidity and mortality rates
- How prevalent the condition is or what percentage of dogs are affected
- What clinical effects does the condition cause and at what age signs start to present
- Whether the condition is inherited, and if so, how
- How the condition is diagnosed - e.g. is there a DNA test for it or a health testing scheme?
- Which laboratories provide DNA tests for the condition (a list is available from The Kennel Club website)?
- Advice on what to do if your dog is affected
- Information on current treatments that are commonly used
- If known, any breeding advice on how individuals can breed away from this condition
Breed conservation and inbreeding
To achieve this, information could be provided on your website which illustrates the downsides of inbreeding, close matings and popular sires, and also information on why maintaining genetic diversity amongst the breed is important.
The benefits of inbreeding co-efficient calculators could be explained and visitors to the website could be directed toward inbreeding co-efficient calculators for use when considering potential mates. You may consider publishing your breed average CoI, but ensure that this figure is updated regularly, as The Kennel Club updates this figure annually.
If the breed is numerically and genetically small, then consider illustrating what is being done to encourage diversity.
If there are regular health events, then a calendar could be published of which events are on each month. A list of possible seminars that may be relevant to each breed can be found on our website.
These may include (amongst other things):
The particular ‘points of concern’ (available from Breed Watch) could be provided and used to illustrate how your breed is tackling these issues in order to meet the removal criteria.
For those interested in dog showing, information could be provided regarding veterinary health checks and what this procedure involves. If there are any breed-specific health schemes, illustrate what these are and how owners and breeders can participate. If there is a list available of specialists who can provide health tests for any particular part of a health scheme, then this could be provided.
Advice to puppy buyers
Breed-specific requirements for puppy buyers might include:
- Breed group
- How much exercise they require
- Length of coat
- How much grooming is needed
- Ideal type of home
- Diet and lifestyle
- Details of any recommended or required health screening tests
Frequently asked questions
Keeping your website up to date
Another way to keep the site current is to include a blog, which visitors can subscribe to and be notified whenever new information is published.