A news article in Veterinary Times has been welcomed for highlighting the hereditary health crisis affecting cavalier King Charles spaniels and other breeds, as well as the need for more stringent health testing.
The Dog Breeding Reform Group (DBRG) said campaigners have worked hard over many years to draw attention to the issues affecting cavalier King Charles spaniels.
Although much research has been carried out, the incidence of mitral valve disease (MVD), chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia (CM/SM) – plus other conditions including pancreatitis – remains unacceptably high, all of which cause major welfare concerns, it added.
DBRG founder Carol Fowler said: “As the majority of cavalier King Charles spaniel breeders boycott the official CM/SM health scheme, and a heart scheme promised in 2008 has yet to materialise, there is little hope of estimated breeding values (EBVs) for cavalier King Charles spaniels getting off the ground.
“Many people believe the breed is now so genetically compromised, outcrossing to a related breed may be the only way of tackling these problems.
“The Kennel Club [KC] is a prestigious and wealthy organisation with the power to do what is right for the welfare of dogs. If it sets an example, breeders, including non-KC breeders, will follow.
“The KC does not lack the knowhow or influence to introduce an official heart scheme. We understand discussions are underway with cardiologists, but there have been several stops and starts in recent years.”
More action required
The DBRG believes estimated breeding values are an important tool and could have a positive impact on canine health. However, it believes a great deal more effort and action is required to make this a reality.
The DBRG said it was pleased to read vet Emma Milne Goodman’s strong stance in Veterinary Times (right) and agreed with her that voluntary testing is not working.
It said it understands the KC’s tradition of leaving the choice to breed clubs and individual breeders. However, the welfare implications are so great in some breeds, such as cavalier King Charles spaniels, that a much stronger approach is needed.
“The official CM/SM scheme presented many challenges,” said Ms Fowler. “It might never have got off the ground, had it not been for the determination and passion of key individuals motivated to truly make a difference to canine health and to improve our understanding of this distressing and complex condition.”
Like Emma Milne, the DBRG would welcome pressure from the BVA and other professional veterinary bodies regarding health testing, including finalising and implementing an official heart scheme.
The DBRG said it would support the rapid introduction of breed-specific schemes, rather than a “one size fits all” approach, and it would include a compulsory scheme.
To read the article in full, see the 29 August issue of Veterinary Times (VT46.34) or read it online.