Background (Workshop 2012)

Health problems in pedigree dogs have recently been highlighted in the media worldwide and verified internationally by cynological organizations. Because breeding dogs are exchanged between countries, collaborative actions are now needed to deal with both existing and future issues concerning the health and welfare of dogs.

Enhancement of canine genetic health

Genetic variation
Many of the major challenges in dog breeding are related to breeding in small populations, combined with a focus on morphological characteristics. Currently several hundred breeds are recognised by cynological organisations worldwide and new breeds and varieties of breeds, often with a small genetic pool, are frequently recognised. Strategies to achieve a balance between preserving homogenous and specific breed types and the need for strong selection for health, longevity and performance of dogs need to be developed.

Breeding programmes
For sustainable breeding of healthy dogs an overall breeding programme should be developed for each breed. These breeding programmes should consider the level of inbreeding, the genetic variation and all traits of importance (e.g., health, behaviour and appearance). These programmes need to be based on accurate information about the prospective breeding animal itself, as well as its relatives. The information about the health of individual dogs should be obtained from well validated screening programmes, based on phenotypes (i.e., hips, elbows, eyes, heart) or molecular genetic tests. Also records of dog conformation and results from dog behaviour assessment tests need to be used in the genetic evaluation to improve the function and welfare of dogs.

International collaboration
Increasing attention to and awareness of health problems in pedigree dogs has now to be followed by collaborative actions to evaluate and strategically counteract them.

Outcome of the 1st Dog Health Workshop
The first Dog Health Workshop attracted a wide range of stakeholders, such as geneticists, veterinarians, and representatives from cynological and animal welfare organizations. Seven key issues were addressed and proposals for its further handling were suggested by the 140 participants, representing 24 countries in different parts of the world.

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