Why match making matters for Max: Over 90% of pet vets believe screening for inherited conditions would positively impact dogs’ health and welfare

17 November 2014

New figures released at the start of National Canine Health Testing week (17-21 November) by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) reveal that 91% of companion animal vets believe more screening for inherited conditions, such as hip dysplasia and eye problems, will positively impact canine health and welfare.

BVA is highlighting that health testing and screening is not just for purebred pedigree dogs. Screening is also important for crossbreed dogs, such as Labradoodles and Cockerpoos, which are becoming increasingly popular.

BVA and the Kennel Cub (KC) run the Canine Health Schemes to screen dogs for certain inherited conditions before they mate. Owners and breeders can use the results from the Schemes to help make more informed breeding decisions to produce happy, healthy puppies and work towards eliminating debilitating inherited conditions. The BVA/KC Canine Health Schemes cover hip and elbow dysplasia, hereditary eye disease, and Chiari-malformation/Syringomyelia.

National Canine Health Testing week promotes the message of screening before breeding to both breeders and pet owners, so breeders can select dogs that will produce healthy pups and pet owners know the questions they should ask a breeder about the puppy’s and parents’ health. In addition to the BVA/KC Schemes there are a wide range of DNA tests available to test for inherited diseases. The results of tests and screening schemes are made available on the Kennel Club’s online health resource ‘Mate Select’.

Whether a potential owner is opting for a pedigree or crossbred puppy, BVA supports the use of the Animal Welfare Foundation/RSPCA Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack, which contains a section for the breeder to fill out about any health screening or DNA tests and results to give added reassurance to owners. In addition, for Kennel Club registered breeds, the Assured Breeder Scheme requires certain breed-specific health tests as part of registering puppies from Assured Breeders.
BVA President and veterinary surgeon John Blackwell said:

“Vets in practice see cases of inherited conditions that are debilitating and distressing for dogs, however well-loved they are. That is why the vast majority of vets see the benefit of screening for inherited conditions. 
“The good news is that we have schemes and tests in place that help breeders and owners make sound judgements about responsible breeding. Anyone thinking of breeding from their dog or thinking about buying a puppy should ask their vet about available health schemes and how they can be used to inform their decisions.
“For National Canine Health Testing Week we’re also reminding people that it’s not just pedigree dogs that can inherit these disorders. There is a misconception that crossbred dogs are protected from hereditary problems but that’s not the case.

“Health matters to all dogs, particularly when it comes to mating, and it is vital that potential mates are not at risk of passing on inherited conditions. The BVA/KC Canine Health Schemes and Kennel Club DNA testing services are critical tools for breeders. My message at the start of National Canine Health Testing week is make sure the match is a good one and apply the relevant tests to both parents before they are mated.”

Further information

1. National Canine Health Testing week runs from 8-14 November 2014. The National Canine Health Testing Week is an opportunity for both breeders and puppy buyers to understand why health testing their dogs is so important, highlighting that both purebred and crossbred dogs should be health tested. It will provide breeders with reasons to health test, tools to assist making health related breeding decisions, and also aims to encourage puppy buyers to ask breeders the right questions regarding their puppy's health before buying.

2. The BVA and the Kennel Club (KC) work in partnership to provide a number of health screening programmes - the Canine Health Schemes. The Canine Health Schemes enable breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases so they can make informed decisions as to whether those dogs should be included in breeding programmes. You can order Scheme literature using the order form or by contacting the CHS team using the details below. For further information contact the Canine Health Schemes Department on 020 7908 6380 or chs@bva.co.uk 

3. Information about the Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack

4. Information about the Assured Breeders Scheme  

5. BVA’s second Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey ran from 17 September to 9 October 2014. 752 vets completed the survey.

Small animal and mixed practice vets were asked “Thinking about the dogs that you see and treat, what impact would the following have on their health and welfare?” 

  • 91% felt that more screening for inherited conditions such as hip dysplasia and eye problems would have an impact on canine health and welfare
  • 95% felt better weight control would have a significant impact on canine health and welfare
  • 88% felt that providing more exercise would have a significant impact on canine health and welfare
  • 82% felt that better early socialisation would have a significant impact on canine health and welfare
  • 75% felt better selective breeding for improved conformation would have a significant impact on canine health and welfare
  • 64% felt a change of diet would significantly impact on canine health and welfare
  • Other factors mentioned which vets felt could have an impact on canine health and welfare include:
    - Better owner understanding of canine behaviour, handling and training
    - Better owner education prior to obtaining a per regarding the time and cost of keeping a pet and lifestyle considerations
    - Better dental care
    - More regular antiparasitic treatments

BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey draws together a panel of over 1,000 BVA members broadly representative of the wider BVA membership who are surveyed on a semi-regular basis. The Voice of the Veterinary Profession captures the profession’s views and experiences by asking questions about animal health and welfare, public health and trends in the veterinary profession. The surveys are carried out by the independent research company, Alpha Research www.alpharesearch.co.uk. 

BVA Media Office