Not just for posh pooches and pedigrees: ‘Do your bit’ for dog health by recommending pre-mating health testing whenever relevant, urges BVA

01 January 2019

Vets are being asked to ‘do their bit’ for dog health by ensuring they recommend pre-mating health tests to owners and breeders who may be unaware their dogs need them.

The appeal comes as new statistics reveal that 70% of small animal vets very often or always see puppies without the relevant pre-mating screening tests. The Canine Health Schemes enable breeders to screen for inherited diseases, including hip and elbow dysplasia, inherited eye diseases and chiari-malformation/syringomyelia.

Awareness of the tests is particularly low among owners of ‘designer crossbreeds’, such as labradoodles and cockapoos, with 77% of the vets reporting that few or none of their clients with such breeds are even aware of the tests.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“We’re celebrating Canine Health Schemes Month this January, hoping to raise awareness of the vital role these schemes can play in improving dog health. We hope that our members who treat dogs will do their bit by talking about the schemes with any owner who may intend to breed from their pedigree or at-risk crossbreed dog.

“Vets in practice regularly see cases of debilitating and distressing inherited conditions but we know that many people may wrongly believe these tests are only relevant for Kennel Club-registered pedigrees and that crossbreed owners may be especially unaware of the dangers.

"Pre-mating screening helps breeders make the best possible choices as part of a responsible breeding programme. If we want to reduce the suffering caused by painful inherited diseases, then these tests are key. We cannot just rely on breeders to seek out the tests they need, vets and the veterinary team are perfectly placed to encourage conversations about the need for pre-mating tests and to raise awareness of the Canine Health Schemes and The Puppy Contract among buyers and breeders.”

The results from the Voice of the Veterinary Profession Survey Autumn 2018 also revealed that 90% of vets working with companion animals see cases of lameness or joint pain related to hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia every month. The survey, carried out in October 2018, revealed vets treat an average of 90 cases of lameness each year relating to hip dysplasia and 64 cases each year relating to elbow dysplasia. The most commonly seen breeds with both conditions were Labradors, with popular Labrador crossbreeds also identified as frequently affected by many vets.

One in three of the vets also reported seeing cases of hereditary eye disease on at least a monthly basis, with an average of 11 cases being treated per year, most commonly involving Spaniels and Collies.

The Hereditary Eye Disease Scheme and the Hip Dysplasia Scheme have each been working to improve dog welfare for over 50 years, with thousands of dogs being screened in that time. The introduction of digital applications last year made it easier than ever for vets to submit x-rays to the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes and over 30% of submissions are now online. 

Related BVA policy

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