Kennel Club Hosts Breed Health Symposium 2017

Canine epilepsy, genetics, breed health and conservation, and how to find and interpret good quality information about dog health, were the subjects discussed at the Kennel Club Breed Health Symposium 2017.

The event, held at the Kennel Club Building at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, brought together experts in dog health, breed health co-ordinators and other delegates with an interest in canine health, and aimed to improve people’s knowledge of issues in dog health, offer updates on current research, provide an opportunity to discuss future plans and answer questions within the group and on a one-to-one basis.

In previous years the attendance of this annual event has been restricted to breed health co-ordinators. However, due to increased interest, this year’s symposium was opened up to anyone with an interest in canine health and 200 people attended on the day.

Dr Katy Evans, Health Research Manager at the Kennel Club, presented on the Kennel Club’s Breed Health and Conservation Plans, a project currently being undertaken which aims to enable the identification of the most significant issues in each breed, where further research and support is required and the allocation of resources to these. Decisions will be made in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including breed clubs, researchers and breed health coordinators to create bespoke plans for each breed. A further 50 breeds are currently being identified to have plans developed with them once the initial 17 are complete, and in time all breeds will have their own plan which will continue to be reviewed in the future.

Speaking after the symposium, Dr Evans said: “It was great to be given the opportunity to discuss the current work the Kennel Club is doing for dog health, and to talk with the breed health co-ordinators of many of the breeds we are currently working with for the Breed Health and Conservation Plans project. It was also encouraging to meet other co-ordinators we are yet to work with, who showed great enthusiasm for the project and requested to join on behalf of their breeds.

“The day was very well attended, with many breeds represented, and I was very pleased with how the symposium went. I enjoyed listening to the other speakers’ presentations and now have new ideas and information to follow up on from them.”

Professor Holger Volk, Head of Clinical Science and Services and Professor of Veterinary Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Royal Veterinary College, presented on epilepsy, explaining how it is the most common chronic neurological condition in dogs. Epilepsy is not a pure seizure disorder but also causes comorbidities such as behaviour changes. The cause of epilepsy can vary, but more and more genetic factors have been identified in recent years. Recent research has also highlighted that drugs are not the only answer for regaining control when managing a patient with epilepsy. A comprehensive approach is essential to improve quality of life and the management of epilepsy.

Dr Zoe Belshaw, from the Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine at the University of Nottingham, presented on how to interpret information about dog health at a time when there is an ever-growing amount of information available about dog health, particularly online.  Working out which sources of information can be trusted and which research is relevant can be difficult. The seminar covered the  principles  to help find and interpret good quality information about dog health.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of the Kennel Club Genetics Centre and Dr Louise Burmeister, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, both of the Animal Health Trust (AHT), gave an update on the Give a Dog a Genome project, the initiative launched by the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT. Attendees learned that the project is now two thirds of the way through sequencing the 75 samples and that the results are already making a difference for participating breeds including the Swedish Vallhund and Lhasa Apso.

An update was also given on the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) by its CEO Dr Brenda Bonnett, who talked about the IPFD’s new Harmonisation of Genetic Testing for Dogs initiative which will be both a quality testing database and a genetic counselling resource, and will catalogue information provided voluntarily by genetic test providers. Dr Bonnett also briefly touched on the 4th International Dog Health Workshop which will be held in the UK in 2019.

The symposium ended with a question and answer session where attendees could visit each speaker in dedicated booths to find out more about their work and ask questions around various dog health issues.  Additional guests also had booths to answer questions, including Dr Dan O’Neill of VetCompass at the Royal Veterinary College, a selection of breed health co-ordinator mentors and the Kennel Club’s Health team who answered queries regarding the Breed Health and Conservation Plans, Breed Watch initiative and genetics enquiries.