Do your bit for dog health by recommending pre-mating health testing

Promoting dog health schemes is one of my goals this year. As vets, we regularly see cases of debilitating and distressing inherited conditions in day to day practice, but we know that many people may wrongly believe these tests are only relevant for Kennel Club-registered pedigrees. 

I often saw Labrador and Poodle crossbreeds with hip dysplasia, and German Shepherd Dog crosses with elbow dysplasia, but crossbreed owners are often especially unaware of their pets’ risk of inherited diseases.

A recent survey of almost 1,500 breeders conducted by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) showed that the Canine Health Schemes (CHS) are seen by dog breeders as an important tool to improve dog health and the health of the breed as a whole. 

Breed Health Clubs stressed the need for education to reach those breeders who do not health test currently and the importance of raising awareness amongst puppy buyers. Many respondents also cited vets as important sources of information in explaining the results of hip and elbow dysplasia or eye scheme health tests.

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. 

But we cannot just rely on breeders to seek out the tests they need- vets and the wider 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.

So if you don’t already, why not add offering and promoting dog health checks at your practice as part of your New Year’s resolution list? At BVA, following on from the success of our inaugural CHS Month last year, we will be back with a second edition in February to raise more 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 ‘designer crossbreed’ dog. The key message we want to put out to pet owners is that these health tests are not just for pedigree dogs or for breeding dogs. 

You can also show support for CHS Month on social media by sharing our blogs, videos and infographics with clients.

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 at that time. 

The introduction of digital applications has 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. 

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

Daniella Dos Santos

BVA president

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