The eradication of inherited disease in dogs is one step closer following the launch of a new canine genetics centre: The Kennel Club Genetics Centre at The Animal Health Trust (AHT).

The centre was officially launched on The Dog Health Stand at Crufts yesterday (March 5). It has been founded to accelerate research into inherited canine disease and will aim to create further diagnostic tests which – together with breeding advice – will improve the health and welfare of generations of dogs.

AHT genetics experts Cathryn Mellersh and Sarah Blottwill lead the centre – both of whom have been fundamental in identifyingdefective genes and developing screening tests which identify a dog’sgenetic status and minimise the risk of producing affected puppies.

Over the next five years, the centre aims to investigate 25 inherited diseases and will develop, where possible, screening tests to determine affected and carrier dogs that can be performed with simple mouth swabs.

In deciding which diseases to investigate, the joint Kennel Club and AHT team will look at their impact on the health and welfare of dogs, but also on the support of breeders and access to data and samples.

AHT chief executive Peter Webbon said: “We’re delighted to work in partnership with the Kennel Club on this important welfare issue. Our level of skill and expertise within this field is unparalleled and the new centre enables us to extend our current range of DNA tests.

“We hope, in time, this will equip breeders with essential information so they can plan successful breeding strategies to avoid the birth of affected dogs, and ultimately, to eliminate disease from breeds at risk.”

The centre will also introduce new approaches in dog breeding. One major advance will be estimated breeding values (EBVs). These will enable whole dog populations to be evaluated for inherited disease – even if individuals haven’t been scanned or DNA tested themselves.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson, said: “It is a very real possibility that through this centre we will be able to eradicate certain inherited diseases in some dogs.”

BSAVA president Ed Hall said: “Inherited disease is one part of a complex issue involved with breeding pedigree dogs. I personally welcome any efforts to improve our current understanding of the area and trust that the Kennel Club Genetics Centre will make massive progress in the next five years in order to enable owners to make informed breeding decisions and, in time, to reduce the effect of inherited disease.”

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