Vets need more balanced and less critical view of pedigree dogs, says KC vet

VETS should get more involved with the world of showing and breeding by working more closely with breed clubs and directly with breeders.

  This is the view of Kennel Club veterinary advisor Nick Blayney who, speaking at the recent British Veterinary Association (BVA) congress in London, said that while criticism of pedigree dog breeding was commonplace it was often ‘inaccurate and sensationalist’.

  There were problems, he admitted, but it was the vet’s role to be a critical friend rather than a critic.

  It was important, he said, that the veterinary profession had a balanced and informed view of pedigree dogs with a scientific basis and it was not seen as another lobbying group.

  That was not to say there was not a problem, he said, but of 700,000 dogs acquired in the UK every year only 250,000 of these are KC registered. And of those only 12 per cent came from Assured Breeders, so the jurisdiction of the KC over new dogs in the UK was ‘quite low’.

  The KC’s greatest influence lay in judging and showing, Mr Blayney continued, as reported in this week’s Veterinary Record. Judges were being made accountable for their decisions and being given more training. But progress was slow, he admitted, and there had been a number of controversial decisions in recent years. He did not elaborate but said this caused problems as breeds tended to be judged on the performance of the worst which prompted resentment among ‘forward-thinking breeders’.

  Breed Standards ‘come in for a lot of stick’, he said, but that he believed it was how they were interpreted which caused the problems.

  He spoke about the KC’s Breed Watch system saying progress was being made on making category three breeds more healthy: the French Bulldog, Basset Hound, Clumber Spaniel and Chinese Crested had already come off the list.

  “Health testing has got to be the basis of any proper surveillance,” he said going on to discuss BVA/KC schemes including the one looking at mitral valve disease in Cavaliers.

  He discussed the Assured Breeder Scheme saying it had had positive results and suggesting that dogs from assured breeders were ‘23 per cent less likely to visit a vet’ and cost the owner 18 per cent less than dogs from other breeders.

  Although vets were already ‘heavily’ involved in the showing and breeding, Mr Blayney said, with many working with breed clubs and performing health checks at shows, they could do more such as working more with breed clubs and directly with breeders, holding ‘pre-puppy days’ and taking part in National Canine Health Testing Week. He urged vets to look further into the scope of the KC and support its initiatives.

  “The KC is the only forum where progress is going to be made that has an international reputation,” he said.

  Another speaker at the congress, Brenda Bonnett, chief executive of the International Partnership for Dogs, said different countries and kennel clubs should be working together and not in isolation.

  One hot topic among many countries’ kennel clubs was brachycephaly, she said, and work had been going on in this field for many years. It was a difficult topic because there were mixed views – the general consensus was that all brachycephalic breeds were ‘bad’ while at breeder meetings there might be a suggestion that all of them were fine.

  It was time that vets stopped thinking it was normal for brachycephalic breeds to snort and snore and to tell owners this, she said.

  “We shouldn’t be buying into the ‘funny’ side of these dogs,” she said.

  Above all, vets needed to proceed with compassion, Mrs Bonnett said. Breeders did not set out to create ill dogs; there was a fabulous diversity of dogs and it was not just a case of ‘are they good or bad?’. The key was to talk. There was a lot to learn from other kennel clubs, Mrs Bonnett said; the Swedish and Finnish Kennel Clubs had ‘fantastic’ pedigree databases, she went on, with links through many generations of dogs. Each breed had a specific strategy which described health issues and temperament, which problems should be monitored and which screening programmes were needed.

“This is all about attitudes and cultures,” she said.