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Eradication of hereditary diseases closer

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust strengthened its campaign to eliminate inherited diseases in dogs last week, as it signed its formal agreement with the Animal Health Trust (AHT), to jointly create the Kennel Club Genetics Centre and revealed some of the exciting findings so far.

Representatives from both the Kennel Club and the AHT held their first meeting at the AHT’s site in Newmarket, Suffolk. At the meeting, those in attendance received an update of the work undertaken since the project was launched at this year’s Crufts in March. This update included research on estimated breeding values that will eventually enable entire dog populations to be evaluated for inherited disease, even if individual dogs haven’t been scanned or DNA tested.
The meeting also revealed news of Hereditary Cataract (HC) research currently underway in a host of different breeds. Investigation into the genetic basis of HC in Golden Retrievers and American Cocker Spaniels has been in progress for several years but the Kennel Club Genetics Centre has recently started work with other breeds including the Siberian Husky, German Pinschers and Large Munsterlander. It is hoped that in time the research performed by AHT scientists within the Kennel Club Genetics Centre will lead to the development and launch of DNA tests to identify dogs of all these breeds that carry mutations associated with HC.

Welfare issues

While there are no reliable statistics for crossbred dogs and some hereditary diseases are present in all dogs – those particular inherited diseases resulting from single gene mutations are more likely to occur in purebred dogs than in crossbreeds and can lead to welfare issues.
The Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT will undertake research into approximately 25 inherited diseases over the next five years, facilitating the creation of further diagnostic tests which will improve the health and welfare of generations of dogs.

There are probably more than five million purebred dogs in the UK alone and the research at the Genetics Centre aims to ensure that the future of dogs is a healthy, happy one. Mark Vaudin, Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Research at the AHT, said: “We’re excited about the prospect of what we can achieve together in the next five years. With the support of breeders we hope, in time, that our work will help to eradicate many adverse inherited conditions making life better for generations of dogs.”

Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust said: “The KC Genetics Centre at the AHT is a very important development – we are hopeful that it will produce concepts and tests which will help dog breeders improve the health and wellbeing of their beloved breeds.”

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