Pet OwnersVeterinary

BVA urges owners and breeders to use pre-mating health testing

Vets are urging owners and breeders to “do their bit” for dog health by ensuring they use pre-mating health tests if they intend to breed from their pedigree or ‘designer’ crossbreed dog.

The appeal comes as new statistics reveal that 70 percent 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 percent of vets reporting few or none of their clients with such breeds are even aware of the tests.

The results from the Voice of the Veterinary Profession Survey Autumn 2018 also revealed that 90 percent 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.

British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) 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.

“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.”

She added: “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. Your local vet and the veterinary team are perfectly placed to have conversations about pre-mating tests such as the Canine Health Schemes. Prospective puppy buyers can also do their bit for dog health by using the Puppy Contract to ensure they’re buying from a responsible breeder.”

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 for vets to submit x-rays to the Hip and Elbow Dysplasia Schemes and over 30 percent of submissions are now online.

For more information on all of the Canine Health Schemes run by BVA/Kennel Club, visit https://www.bva.co.uk/Canine-Health-Schemes/

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