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The KC Health Standard

Issue: 05/07/2024

Developments following Breed Health Coordinators’ feedback

Following a considerable amount of feedback from Breed Health Coordinators on the Kennel Club’s Health Standard, which was first previewed with the group two weeks ago, the KC has now said that it would like to thank them for their “insightful feedback and engagement”. 

As part of this engagement, the Club has invited those Breed Health Coordinators with questions or concerns to arrange a meeting, and by the beginning of this week, eleven Breed Health Coordinators had arranged further sessions, to discuss: “specific impacts and further potential considerations within their particular breed”. Feedback has also been received by the Kennel Club via email.

The KC confirms that this feedback has been and will continue to be collated – with important outputs already in development - and Breed Health Coordinators are now being invited to contact the Kennel Club to further understand and discuss the following issues as listed by the KC: 

How and why the Health Standard has been developed

The rationale for the development of the Health Standard has been outlined in the webinar that has been provided to all Breed Health Coordinators and further information is available in the FAQs online. Breed Health Coordinators who would like to understand more can arrange a meeting to discuss this further. 

The meaning of the Health Standard categories

Further discussion will be had around the names/titles given to the three categories of health test – ‘Essential’, ‘Advisable’ and ‘Other’ - following feedback from Breed Clubs, but the Kennel Club would like to make it clear that whilst none of the tests will be a condition of registration, all breeders are strongly encouraged to take ALL tests listed for their breed. The Health Standard is designed to support this and provide a clear statement about the importance of carrying out health testing on all breeding dogs. But it is also a pragmatic guide to prioritisation of health tests, where - in some instances - no testing or selective testing is being used.

The health tests have been categorised in a consistent way across breeds – using data about a condition’s relevance, prevalence and as well as a breed’s overall genetic diversity - rather than via qualitative feedback and case-by-case decisions. This scientific evidence has been collated over many years, using the inputs provided by valued Breed Clubs, the collation of millions of health test results in the Kennel Club’s database, and the review of over 4000 scientific papers.

How, on an ongoing basis, gaps in data or new and emerging data and trends can influence categorisation (e.g. ‘Essential’, ‘Advisable’ or ‘Other’)

The very nature of the Health Standard is that health tests can change category, according to the data and trends that emerge over time and to reflect the changes that each population will go through. We will continue to use the results that we collate (or that are collated by other relevant databases) and scientific literature, to make sure that the evidence used in the test categorisation is up to date. 

If breeds believe there is a relevant peer-reviewed publication that would result in a test being categorised differently, we welcome this evidence for consideration. The Kennel Club will collate any submissions over time, so that relevant adjustments can be made, and carry out a comprehensive five yearly review. 

Furthermore, the Kennel Club’s list of recognised DNA tests will continue to evolve to include tests identified through the Breed Health and Conservation Plans, which are relevant for the breed and not currently recorded by the KC. Breed Clubs are reminded that they can submit a request for recognition of new DNA tests via the “application for a new DNA test” form on the BHC portal - and the Kennel Club will incorporate this into the pre-existing consideration list.

If any viable, evidence-based, adaptations to the process for categorising tests can be applied in consistent way, across breeds. 

Breed Clubs who have concerns regarding the evidence-based rationale behind how tests are categorised, are welcomed to raise these with the Kennel Club Health Team. 

For example, after initial meetings with Labrador Health Representatives, the Kennel Club is looking at how it may be able to incorporate hips and elbows as one test, so that they both have the same level of categorisation. The combining of the two tests is being considered in this instance, due to the genetic correlation between the two conditions, and on the proviso that all affected breeds are supportive of this change, so that a consistent methodology is applied across all breeds. 

Discussions are also being held with breeds where there are inter-variety matings (and therefore different breed ‘types’) – to consider how tests should be prioritised and whether consistency can or should be achieved between varieties of breeds, in the face of differing evidence about the prevalence of conditions within each.


The KC goes on to say that alongside the valuable feedback it has received, there are additional areas that it will continue to consider as follows:

• The importance of Breed Club health tests / schemes – The Health Standard only incorporates tests currently recognised by the Kennel Club, as it has peer reviewed protocols for how these tests are conducted and the results collated. However, it understands the importance and value of Breed Club Health Schemes that are not on the list and this is an area it is discussing in terms of how it also reflects the importance of these schemes to breeders and buyers in the future. 

• Which controls or protections could be introduced where there are conditions that are rare in the UK, but more prevalent abroad and could be bought in with imported stock

• The severity of conditions on quality of life and how this could in the future impact categorisation - To allocate severity to a condition in a given breed will need an evidence-based approach and this evidence is currently lacking for many breeds and conditions. However, the Kennel Club says that it recognises the vital importance of this and it is an area that it hopes to explore in the future. 


 Bill Lambert, the Kennel Club’s Health and Breeder Services Executive, has said: “Now that the Health Standard has been previewed, we are benefiting from discussions with and feedback from Breed Health Coordinators about its rationale and development, and the impact on breeds. 

“There are some themes of concern, which we are exploring potential evidence-based solutions to, ahead of the launch at the end of the year, and some areas where further clarity and understanding has been sought. We have provided a webinar and Frequently Asked Questions and any further questions, suggestions and discussions continue to be warmly welcomed.

“It is the beauty of the Health Standard is that with its consistent methodology, we will be able to adapt to new evidence and over time, evolve how tests are categorised in a fluid way to the maximum benefit of the breed.

“It is as a result of a great amount of hard work and dedication to breed health – both within the Kennel Club and amongst our breed communities – that we have the volume of data needed to implement a more scientifically robust and consistent way of prioritising health testing. This will represent a huge step forward, as we need a clear guide for breeders and buyers of all levels of experience, which shows how important health testing is, whilst also providing a pragmatic guide to what tests should be seen as non-negotiable, if we want to improve breed health. This is a hugely important area and we will continue to engage with Breed Clubs who are central to shaping how we improve breed health now, and in the future.”

OUR DOGS COMMENTS: In our Opinion Column last week we said that some BHCs had expressed concern that certain of the proposed categorisations did not reflect their interpretation of the seriousness of the conditions or effectiveness of the tests concerned. We added that it was to be hoped that these concerns could and would be addressed and resolved, before the final version of the Health Standard is released later this year. We added that without such eventual acceptance of the plan by Breed Health Coordinators and Breed Clubs, the scheme would fall flat on its face and would not achieve the responsible breeder uptake that it needs if it is to be judged a success. 

We hope that the announcements made this week are the start of the KC’s recognition that achieving buy-in by its responsible breeder community, is essential if the new Health Standard is to have any long term influence and effectiveness.