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Success for Dachshund Council first conference


More than 80 people attended the Dachshund Breed Council's first Breed Conference at the Kennel Club Building, Stoneleigh on Sunday 29th November.

The day's aims were to explain the changes that had been made to the Breed Standard and their implications for breeders and judges. Additionally, it aimed to explain the Breed Council's Health Plans and the current priorities for the six varieties of the breed.

Ian Seath, Chairman of the Breed Council, welcomed everyone and introduced the day and its focus on health and welfare in Dachshunds.

The first presentation was made by Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club, who spoke about why the KC had initiated changes in Breed Standards and their relationship with improvements in health and welfare. She explained the context of the changes, including the proposals made in the European Convention for the protection of Pet Animals.

Jeff Horswell, Chairman of the Dachshund Club, presented the changes to the Breed Standard. He showed how the breed had changed over the years, from the famous Ch. Jackdaw born in 1886, through to current-day winners. Each of the changes to the Breed Standard was illustrated with photographs of dogs to demonstrate what is and is not required. He emphasised the importance of “stepping back” and seeing the whole dog. Jeff also explained the latest KC regulations and guidance for judges which empowers them to deal with any concerns over health and welfare that they may discover when judging.

Virtues

Following a coffee break, Lesley Patton, Chairman of the Wirehaired Dachshund Club, organised a hands-on session when everyone had the opportunity to go over a selection of dogs with the aim of identifying their virtues and any features that might need to change to meet the requirements of the revised Breed Standard. Eight teams spent an hour going over their four dogs, watching their movement and preparing a brief presentation on their findings. Lesley asked everyone to focus on describing strengths and not to fall into the trap of “fault judging”. They were also asked to identify one feature of each dog that would make it closer to the revised Breed Standard.

The afternoon sessions were introduced by Ian who spoke about the Breed Council's approach to Health and Welfare and current Health Plans. He used data from the Kennel Club's 2004 Health Survey to show how Dachshunds were generally a long-lived breed, with few significant health issues. The average age of death reported in the survey was over eleven years, but worryingly a number of dogs die between four and seven, primarily due to the effects of Inter-vertebral Disc Disease (IVDD).

Retinal Degeneration in MLHD and MSHD due to the cord1 mutation is one of the conditions for which a DNA screening test is available. Two other priority conditions were reported on by Ian Seath: Lafora's Disease in MWHDs and Heart Disease in WHDs. Lafora's is a form of late-onset Epilepsy which is believed to affect around 5% of MWHDs and for which a DNA test is available. The Wire Club is currently in discussions with the Canadians who developed the test, plus UK experts, to set up a UK DNA screening programme.

The Wire Club has recently received a Cardiologist's report following heart testing conducted over four years and this, reassuringly, recommended no need to set up a formal scheme. The low level of defects found did not warrant any more extensive screening.

Ian explained that the Breed Council Health and Welfare Sub-committee was currently developing ideas for a breed-specific health survey, which would include an online health reporting tool. Delegates were asked to complete a “quick and dirty” survey, based on the KC's 2004 one, so that the results could be used to help formulate the proposed new survey.

The presentation on IVDD was made by Bill Oxley, a veterinary surgeon at the Willows Referral Practice in Solihull. Bill explained the causes of IVDD (related to the “dwarf” nature of Dachshunds) and the fact that back problems have been found to have a strongly inherited component. He described the early warning signs and symptoms. He also explained the state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment available at Willows, which includes MRI and CT Scanners.

Early stages

The Dachshund Breed Council programme is in its early stages, but allows breeders to select carefully away from dogs with a high likelihood of IVDD.

Conference delegates were very interested in these findings and it was agreed that the Breed Council should investigate, with Bill's practice, the options for a similar programme in the UK.
The final health presentations were made by Dr. Cathryn Mellersh of the Animal Health Trust who has been instrumental in the development of the DNA test for cord1 PRA, and Keiko Miyadera, a PhD student who has been investigating the reasons for variation in age of onset of PRA.
Cathryn reminded us about DNA – what it is, what it does, and how mutations in DNA cause inherited disease. She explained how a mutation progresses through a pedigree and how it can be tracked down. The number of MLHDs being tested has levelled out to around 200 per year (2007-2009) and MSHDs has remained at a level of around 270 per year over the same period.
Keiko Miyadera's presentation described her search for a genetic modifier and she has now identified an extra single locus that determines early onset PRA in cord1 “Affected” dogs.

Ian Seath closed the Conference with an announcement from the Breed Council's Education Sub-committee that a Mentoring Scheme was being launched to provide one-to-one support for aspiring judges and others interested in the breed. Further details will be published later, or anyone interested can contact the Scheme's Co-ordinator: Lovaine Coxon.

The event was filmed.
For more on the day go to www.dachshundbreedcouncil.org.uk

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