Nominations Sought For Leading Canine Health Awards

Prestigious veterinary research awards offer £61,000 to researchers and scientists pushing the boundaries in the field of dog health

The International Canine Health Awards are returning for the seventh year to celebrate some of the world’s finest researchers and scientists whose work has had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of dogs.

Nominations are currently being sought for the awards, which are run by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and include substantial cash prizes donated by Vernon and Shirley Hill, founders of Metro Bank, to go towards new or continued research.

This year, the awards are being held on the 30th May 2019 within the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) conference, which is being held at the De Vere Beaumont Estate Hotel in Windsor. The Kennel Club is one of the founding members of the IPFD, which is an international organization dedicated to dog health and well-being. More than 125 delegates are expected from 18 countries, representing national and international canine organisations, judges, breeders, veterinarians, geneticists and epidemiologists.

With a prize fund totalling £61,000, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust is urging people to nominate themselves or their peers by 30th January 2019.

The awards will be judged by an eminent panel drawn from the veterinary profession and the world of scientific research, including experts in each of the short-listed nominees' selected fields.

The four Canine Health Awards are:

  • International Prize in Canine Health - for outstanding contributions in the field of canine health and welfare, with a prize fund of £40,000 (approximately $55,000 or €48,000) for future projects. The award will be presented to one or more individuals who are currently involved in world class innovation but with much still to contribute.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - with a £10,000 prize fund, this award will go to a veterinarian or scientist working in a related discipline who has dedicated much of their career to advancing the health and welfare of dogs. The award will be presented to an individual who has made a significant impact on the world stage of canine health and welfare.
  • UK Student Inspiration Awards, which will be split into undergraduate and postgraduate awards, with a prize fund of £10,000 for the postgraduate and £5,000 for the undergraduate winner. These prizes will aid further education costs, the development of their careers, or to create or continue a project. The awards will be presented to extraordinary students studying at a British veterinary school, who demonstrate the potential to significantly advance the frontiers of veterinary medicine and research in the field of dogs.
  • Breed Health Coordinator Award - with a £1,000 prize fund, judges will be looking for individuals from breed clubs or councils who have demonstrated a dedication to supporting health and welfare within their breed over the previous year. Some of the aspects that will be considered include starting or coordinating a new project or resource for the breed, such as a health website or health survey, and good communication with the Kennel Club and other key stakeholders.

Steve Dean, chairman of trustees of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which runs the International Canine Health Awards, said: "The International Canine Health Awards is a great way to recognise and honour the people who go the extra mile and dedicate their lives to improving dog health.

“We are very grateful for the generous funding from Vernon and Shirley Hill, as well as support from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which enables us to celebrate those who work tirelessly for the health and welfare of man’s best friend.

“We would highly recommend that people nominate a peer or colleague, or even themselves, if you feel that they have made, or will make, a significant contribution to the health and welfare of dogs.“

Vernon Hill, founder and Chairman of Metro Bank, and whose major gift underwrites the International Canine Health Awards, said: "We are extremely proud to support the International Canine Health Awards again this year. As a dog owner and lover, it’s so important that we celebrate the people who transform and improve the lives of so many dogs across the world. It’s a subject extremely close to our hearts at Metro Bank, and it’s incredible to see how many people, from so many different countries, dedicate their whole lives to their work, and all for the good of the dogs.”

Last year’s winners included Professor Yasuko Rikihisa, recipient of the International Award, who was recognised for her ground breaking work into a number of tick-borne diseases that infect dogs, other companion animals and humans.

Ticks have been long known to be a source of infectious diseases in both animals and humans, and the results of her decades of research into this area have directly lead to the development of the diagnostic tests used in veterinary practices around the world to identify dogs infected with one particular Rickettsial disease called Ehrlichiosis (also known as canine typhus). This is a debilitating and often fatal condition caused by a parasite that infects and survives within the white blood cells of its host. Prof Rikihisa is a University Distinguished Professor in Department of Veterinary Biosciences at College of Veterinary Medicine, Ohio State University.

Speaking about the award Yasuko said: “It was a great honour to receive this award. We are currently working hard to develop a vaccine for canine Ehrlichiosis and the award money will really help towards this.”

Dr Danny Scott won the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of dogs and other animals through both his original research on skin diseases and his teaching of successive generations of young veterinarians.

During his 45 year career working on all species, with a particular focus on dogs, cats and horses, Dr Scott developed new methods for analysing skin lesions which have revolutionised the diagnosis of many different diseases by making the results of skin biopsies easier to interpret.

Speaking about his work, Danny said: “When I was a veterinary student and I started doing lectures in dermatology there were only 35 recognised diseases in all species. Now there are approximately 4000. As an early graduate most diseases had no names but I knew they had to be something more than that. Over the years I described about 50 or so diseases which previously had never been recognised before in canine skin, also around 20 pathological conditions that had never been documented. So my dream has come true, I’ve helped push the frontier forward in disease recognition and skin pathology.

“Next to my own children, my residents are as close to children as I have – I’m not actively involved in the profession anymore, but I love picking up a journal, seeing their name on it and going wow I remember when they were a young resident, look at them now. It makes me think that maybe I did make a difference, that’s the one time you stop to think about your own achievements. Not for the things you’ve written or the talks you’ve given, but when one of your residents does something great – you go wow, there’s a little piece of me in there.”

Last year’s other winners were Alice Denyer, who won the Postgraduate Student Inspiration Award to help further her research into the genetic differences between individual dog breeds that are susceptible to pancreatic diseases such as diabetes.

Speaking about winning the award, Alice commented: “It was very nerve-wracking receiving the award, but it was a great privilege to be up there accepting it. I’m in the early stages of my PhD at the moment but I’m really excited about the potential it has and am really enjoying it. The next step will be to analyse the genetic data, which will take a little bit of time, then depending on what we find we will be looking at some functional studies of those genes. It might be more lab work or collaborating with others, but it will depend on what we find.

“The funding from this award will allow us to include other breeds in the project, the genome sequencing which is involved in the project is quite expensive, so we have been quite limited in the number of dogs that can be involved in the study. Having the extra funding will enable more dog breeds to be included which is great.”

Jennifer Palfreyman won the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award for her research into the oriental eye worm Thelazia callipaeda, a parasitic infection in dogs, cats and humans which will cause blindness if left untreated.

Speaking about her win, Harriet said: "It was fantastic to be awarded the Undergraduate Student Inspiration Award, it came out of the blue really. I was contacted by the university asking for me to apply and I thought why not?

“I really enjoy parasitology, and when this project came up to study the fruit fly and eye worm, as a dog lover it made sense to pursue it.”

Tina Watkins, from Cross Keys, Gwent won the Breed Health Coordinator of the Year Award for her hard work educating breeders and owners about the health of the Basset Hound, after 27 years dedicated to the breed.

Since getting involved in the breed, Tina has become an ambassador for the health and welfare for Basset Hounds. She used talents and skills gain in her old career to help organise and run health screenings as well as training for fellow breeders.

Tina is one of the first points of contact for Basset breeders and owners when it comes to the health of the breed and she has gained a lot of respect for the time and effort she puts into her work. Not only does she run the health group meetings, she coordinates the eight separate clubs serving the breed in the UK as well as travelling around the country educating both new and old Basset Hound owners.

As a health coordinator for the Basset Hound club, her particular skill has been in encouraging others in the breed clubs to have their dogs tested for cherry eye, glaucoma and other eye diseases commonly inherited by Bassets.

Tina commented: “I was so pleased to have won. It was not just for me, it was for all the Breed Health Coordinators out there who can see exactly what can be done when we work together.

“The funds went into the Basset Hound health group, although I’m the Breed Health Coordinator, the group is made up of two representatives of each of the eight clubs. Although I was the recipient of this award, I couldn’t do what I do without the other members. It’s my job to facilitate, to organise and synchronise and above all harmonise.”

All nominations should be made via the online application form on the Kennel Club website before 30th January 2019. If you have any queries regarding the application process, please email Andrea Harris at the Kennel Club.