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2008 Breeders’ Symposium
Royal Veterinary College 30 November 2008
A Delegate’s Review - by Julia Carr


The 2008 Breeders’ Symposium was designed for all dog lovers and breeders covering topics which would be of considerable interest to breeders. The facilities at the College are excellent, modern and well appointed and the initial impression was of an extremely professional, well organised event.

Before starting we enjoyed the superb refreshments to give the little grey cells a boost while also perusing our attendance packs, containing a Synopsis of the presentations, notepad, pens and a Certificate of Attendance. In addition, the detailed KC publication ‘Dogs, Dog Breeding and the Control of Inherited Disease in the Dog’ was distributed. The presentations took place in a lecture theatre which, being purpose built was ideal and the three screens allowed everyone an excellent view of the slides.

Aims

The Kennel Club’s Genetics Consultant Dr Jeff Sampson BSc DPhil introduced the proceedings. The first topic covered was Eye Disease, presented by Sally Turner MA, VetMD DVOpthal MRCVS. Most attendees probably had some basic knowledge of canine eye conditions and the speaker covered this complex topic in a clear, concise manner. The conditions covered by the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye scheme were described in conjunction with clinical slides showing the abnormalities and the effect on the patient. Around 14,000 dogs are tested annually through the scheme but interestingly, the demand for testing has not increased over the last ten years. Comparisons were made between the normal and abnormal eyes and the point was made that the variations are often so subtle as not to be apparent to an untrained vet. The eye screening panellists keep a very high standard and constant quality checks are in place. The ultimate aim of the scheme is to produce dogs which are free from ocular pain and discomfort, with no threat of blindness and no conformational or inherited defect requiring surgery. Mention was made of the DNA tests now available for some conditions but these will not replace the eye tests as it is important not to focus on one aspect and possibly miss any emerging condition. Following the presentation there was an informed question and answer session which raised some additional points and covered some specific conditions in greater depth.

Mr Brian Turner BVSc Cert SAO MRCVS, Chief Scrutineer of the BVA/KC Hip and Elbow panels gave us an overview of the screening process and a detailed description of the arthritic abnormalities present in hip or elbow dysplasia. This again is a very detailed subject to cover in 45 minutes but it was extremely well presented. I was interested to learn that a dog may have severe dysplasia but show no clinical signs of lameness. Many people are concerned about the anaesthetic required for the x-rays and Mr Turner highlighted the importance of correct positioning for accurate scoring. He finished with the quote ‘Movement is Life: Life is Movement’ which I felt encapsulated the importance of the schemes in reducing the incidence of these conditions. A positive point is that there has been an improvement in the tested dogs hips over the forty years the scheme has been operating. Again a lively question and answer session ensued.

Symptoms

One point of note was both speakers mentioned that in practice it is not always possible to adhere strictly to the ideal when breeding animals. There is also an iceberg effect whereby the majority of the animals involved in the screening programmes are potential breeding stock and there is a much greater proportion of the overall population whose status is generally unknown as they have been sold as pets. Vets will only see these animals if clinical symptoms become apparent.

A welcome lunch break allowed us to digest the topics covered so far while consuming a delicious sandwich buffet and hots drinks. We resumed with Canine Anaesthesia in the 21st Century presented by Katy Evans BVSc Cert VA MRCVS of the Animal Heath Trust. This was a fascinating talk covering the history of anaesthetic and its current application particularly in relation to the hip and elbow scoring schemes. In the subsequent question and answer session, breed specific queries and concerns were raised. It was apparent that aside from the obvious risks pertaining to the brachycephalic breeds, many breeds have intolerances to certain types of anaesthetic and it is therefore important to be aware of these to minimise risk.

The final topic for the day. Epidemiology and Disease Surveillance, following the Purebred Dog Health Survey was presented by Dr Vicki Adams BSc DVM MSc PhD MRCVS, also of the AHT. She began with an explanation of Epidemiology which studies the health of a population and went on the describe in more detail how the Purebred Dog Health Survey was designed and implemented. Personally, I found some of the more advanced statistical concepts hard to grasp in the time available. However, it was interesting and useful to know the background of the survey, particularly the sampling issues which ought to be considered when the findings are interpreted. One remarkable fact mentioned was that only 25% of dogs in the UK are insured. As insurance claim statistics are often used to back up articles in the press, it is apparent that these should be read with caution! Dr Adams concluded by looking into possible future directions which may be explored, including more breed specific surveys. Questions were raised by delegates including whether the disappointingly low response rate of 24% was expected and was money well spent on the survey. I would have liked a greater focus on the general findings of the survey but it is crucial to understand how the survey was constructed in order to give real meaning to the results.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with the Symposium. It was very professionally staged and all the speakers were inherently knowledgeable on their subjects and engaged with the audience. It was refreshing not to be ‘talked down to’, topics were presented in such a way that even those with no expertise could understand and appreciate the complexities, which was apparent from the questions following each presentation. Dr Jeff Sampson must also be commended for his adept control of the question and answer sessions which gave all delegates the opportunity to raise queries and receive full answers yet kept beautifully to time.

On a final note, I was astounded that while well attended by people interested in a huge variety of different breeds, the symposium was not packed out. In the current climate I would have thought breeders would be fighting each other to be present at this event. I’m sure those who were present have, like myself, gained a great deal from attending such an interesting, useful and topical course.

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