New breeding resource enables hip and elbow dysplasia to be tackled in Leonbergers

The Leonberger is the latest breed to be provided with Estimated Breeding Values, an online resource that helps breeders breed away from hip and elbow dysplasia.  

Following consultation with breed clubs, the Kennel Club has developed Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for elbow grades in the Leonberger, making it the seventh breed to have EBVs for both hip scores and elbow grades.

This valuable resource is supported by complex calculations that assess the risk that a dog may have inherited or may pass on genes associated with these conditions. EBVs utilise Kennel Club pedigree data to link hip and elbow scores for an individual dog, recorded through the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club health schemes, with the available scores of all its relatives. This delivers a more accuchrate way of measuring genetic risk than by using an individual’s hip scores or elbow grades alone.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are two separate conditions that prevent an affected dog’s hip and elbow joints from developing properly. As the dog gets older, the joint undergoes wear and tear and begins to deteriorate, stopping it from working properly. This can cause varying degrees of pain, discomfort, stiffness and lameness. The risk of a dog developing these conditions is influenced by both their genes and their environment, such as the amount of exercise they get.

EBVs form part of the Kennel Club’s Mate Select online service that helps breeders to make informed, health conscious breeding choices based on robust data. Mate Select also allows breeders and puppy buyers to see the health test results for every Kennel Club registered dog and the degree of inbreeding (or the Coefficient of Inbreeding) – and so potential health risk - for a hypothetical mating.

EBVs were originally developed with scientists at the Animal Health Trust, the Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Currently, EBVs are available for twenty nine breeds. As more breeders continue to hip and elbow score their dogs using the BVA/KC schemes, it is hoped that more breeds will be added in the near future.

Dr Tom Lewis, Quantitative Geneticist for the Kennel Club, said “The latest EBVs for the Leonberger will be available as part of the Kennel Club’s online Mate Select resource from early Feb, which helps breeders to make the best breeding choices.

“Despite being a numerically small breed, the Leonberger demonstrated high scoring rates, which helped to make the EBVs viable for both traits.

“We hope that anyone breeding pedigree dogs will use Mate Select, and that the veterinary community will also encourage breeders to use this resource. Mate Select helps dog breeders make decisions based on robust data that estimates genetic risk, which will undoubtedly help to protect the future of our pedigree dogs.

“EBVs make use of data collected through the British Veterinary Association and Kennel Club hip and elbow dysplasia schemes. By continuing to hip score and elbow grade breeders are effectively securing the future for countless other dogs. The more data we collect, the more accurate our EBV resource becomes.

“The inclusion of a growing number of EBVs on Mate Select is an example of how breed clubs, the veterinary profession, researchers, and the Kennel Club are working together to improve canine health.”

The latest EBVs were developed for the Leonberger because of the good rate of participation in the relevant health scoring scheme and followed an initial request from Breed Health Representative for the Leonberger, Sharon Springel, for the development of an EBV for elbow grade.

Sharon Springel, Chair of the LCGB health committee, said: “We welcome the new EBV scheme for elbows in our breed. As with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is an incredibly difficult issue, with many factors involved in the development of a healthy elbow joint, from complex heritability, through to early nutrition, environment, exercise and the risk of early injury to the vulnerable joint.

“EBVs provide us with a much more useful way of assessing the actual genetic risk of breeding from an individual, because it factors in the genetic risk of developing a condition throughout the whole line, rather than fixating on one individual alone. With this knowledge we can make more informed breeding decisions, and prevent the risk of needlessly removing valuable contributions for a wide range of traits from an already declining gene pool.”

EBVs currently exist for 29 breeds – Airedale Terrier, Akita, Alaskan Malamute,  Bearded Collie, Bernese Mountain Dog, Border Collie, Clumber Spaniel, Dogue de Bordeaux, English Setter, Flat Coated Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Hungarian Puli, Hungarian Vizsla, Irish Setter, Italian Spinone, Labrador Retriever, Large Munsterlander, Leonberger, Newfoundland, Old English Sheepdog, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Tibetan Terrier, Weimaraner and Welsh Springer Spaniel. Leonbergers become the seventh breed to have EBVs for both hip score and elbow grade (along with Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Newfoundlands).

Read more information regarding Estimated Breeding Values.

Please visit our health section for more information on the BVA/KC Health Screening Schemes, Breed Health and Conservation Plans and other Kennel Club health initiatives and resources.