ObedienceUK News

NEW RESEARCH REVEALS PREVALENCE OF HEALTH CONDITIONS IN UK’S DOGS

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - by KC Press Release

Large scale study published on disorders in 192 Kennel Club recognised breeds will help to improve health of Britain’s much-loved pedigree dogs

  • Top three disorders in UK dogs are all skin conditions – lipoma, cysts and allergic skin problems
  • Boxers were found to have the highest number of reported conditions occurring at a higher prevalence than overall across all breeds, followed by the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Pug
  • Labrador was found to have the highest number of reported conditions occurring at a lower prevalence than overall across all breeds, followed by the Cocker Spaniel and Border Terrier
  • 90 disorders show a significantly different prevalence in at least one breed compared to overall prevalence across all breeds
  • Study is one of the largest of its kind ever carried out and used morbidity data on 43,005 living dogs registered with the Kennel Club, across 192 breeds
  • Findings substantially contribute to the current understanding of disorder occurrence in dogs in the UK and will help dog owners, breeders and vets to identify which breeds are most likely to suffer from which disorders

A study by researchers at the UK’s largest dog welfare organisation and registry body for pedigree dogs, the Kennel Club, has shed light on the prevalence of health conditions in pedigree dog breeds, which could help improve the health of the UK’s estimated 8.5 million dogs.

The study, published in the Canine Genetics and Epidemiology journal (15th September 2017), is one of the largest of its kind ever carried out and used owner-reported morbidity data on 43,005 living dogs registered with the Kennel Club, across 192 breeds, regardless of whether disorders received veterinary care.

The research aimed to determine the prevalence of health disorders of varying severity, influenced by both genetics and environment, among pedigree dogs overall and, where possible, determine any variation among breeds.  This will help dog owners, breeders and vets to be aware of any relevant health concerns and identify which breeds are most at risk of suffering from which disorders.

The study found that the most commonly reported health condition in dogs was fatty skin masses (lipoma), with around one in twenty-five dogs (4.3 per cent) affected these, meaning that over 365,000 dogs in the UK could currently be affected.  The second most commonly reported condition was skin cysts, which affected 3.1 per cent of the population. The third most common condition was allergic skin conditions, which the study found affected 2.7 per cent of dogs.  As in humans, conditions such as these in dogs vary in severity, from more trivial conditions that will have no impact on a dog’s quality of life to those more severe conditions that do.

Depending on their location and size, lipomata and skin cysts are often incidental findings of little significance to affected dogs or their owners.  Allergic skin conditions can be more troublesome, and almost certainly have inherited components.  However, there are a number of environmental factors that can cause skin irritations and allergies that can be avoided, such as human skincare products and toiletries, and cleaning and other household products, and it is important for dog owners to remember that products that are suitable for humans to use on or near their skin may not be appropriate for dogs.  The recent trend for dog clothing has also been implicated as a potential factor in the apparent increase in allergic skin conditions in dogs.

The study found that Boxers had the highest number of reported diseases or conditions at a higher prevalence than overall, with skin cancer or tumours being the most commonly reported condition in the breed.  The breed with a higher prevalence of the second highest number of reported conditions was the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with heart murmurs being the most commonly reported condition in this breed.  The breed with greater prevalence of the third highest number of reported conditions was the Pug, with corneal ulcers being reported as the top condition.  The study found that just under two thirds of living dogs had no reported health conditions.

Conversely, the study found that the Labrador has the highest number of reported conditions occurring at a lower prevalence than overall across all breeds, with the Cocker Spaniel having the second highest, and the Border Terrier with the third.

For the most common disorders in the most represented breeds, there were ninety with a significantly higher prevalence in at least one breed compared to the overall prevalence across all breeds.  The most striking of these differences were umbilical hernias in the Shih Tzu (12 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent overall) and lipoma in the Weimaraner (17.5 per cent compared to 4.3 per cent overall).  Conversely, for the most common disorders in the most represented breeds, two examples with a  significantly lower breed prevalence compared to the overall prevalence across all breeds were hypersensitivity in the Bearded Collie (0.4 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent overall) and skin cysts in the Rough Collie (0.5 per cent compared to 3.1 per cent overall).  Comparing the within breed prevalence to the prevalence over all breeds gives insight into which breeds could be at a higher or lower risk of being affected with certain heath conditions, which will be useful to owners, breeders, puppy buyers and vets.

Dr Katy Evans, Kennel Club Health Research Manager, one of the authors of the study, said:  “Dogs of any breed or crossbreed can suffer from conditions that affect their health, both those for which inheritance plays a part and those caused by external factors. The results of this study will substantially contribute to the current understanding of disorder occurrence in dogs in the UK and will be a massive help to dog owners as it gives them an idea of what to look out for, particularly if their breed has a higher than average incidence of a certain condition.

“The majority of the larger studies into disease prevalence rely on primary care veterinary data, which does not take into account dogs which may be affected by fairly harmless conditions that can be safely managed at home without veterinary treatment.  By gathering and analysing large amounts of owner reported data, we can get a clearer picture of the health of the whole dog population.

“Much of what the study found confirms what the Kennel Club and responsible dog breeders already know, which is reflected in the range of health schemes and other tools already in place to tackle various conditions, and it will certainly help us to prioritise health concerns in dogs and further develop plans to protect their health.”

The Kennel Club is using the findings as part of its Breed Health and Conservation Plans, which will ensure that all health concerns in dogs are identified through evidence-based criteria and that breeders are provided with appropriate information and resources to ensure they are supported in tackling health problems and achieving positive health goals for dogs, now and in the future.  The Breed Health and Conservation Plans take a holistic view of breed health with consideration given to known hereditary conditions, complex hereditary conditions, conformational concerns and population genetics.  

The full study has been published in the Canine Genetics and Epidemiology journal and can be viewed at https://cgejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40575-017-0047-3.

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