Thursday, 10 February 2011

Cavaliers - more denial and dissent

    © Catherine Southwell
How did this sweet, gorgeous, health-beleaguered little breed end up in the hands of some of the most poisonous, self-serving people in dogdom?

The latest news on the Cavalier front is that some influential breeders apparently find it unacceptable that the results of dogs scanned under the new official syringomyelia (SM) screening programme should be made public.  Worse, it seems that the Kennel Club has given in to them.

This is the behind-the-scenes story of a Dog World report this week about a recent meeting to discuss Cavalier health, attended by national and regional Cavalier club reps, the Kennel Club and the Animal Health Trust.

The KC/AHT have a problem. It is that the much-heralded Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for Cavaliers, designed to help improve breed health, are not ready for launch (after two years hard graft) because not enough MRI scans have been submitted to ensure the scheme is robust (ie predictive).

There isn't a shortage of cavaliers - despite the fact that registration figures have dropped considerably since PDE (down from over 11,000 in 2008 to just over 8,000 last year). The issue is that many breeders are still reluctant to a) scan and b) submit the results - hence the "proposal".

"The need for a proposal arose because it was clear that there was a need to encourage participation in the new scheme and aid speedy data collection,” a spokesperson for the KC told Dog World. “Simply following the way in which other BVA/KC scheme data is recorded and published is unlikely to achieve this at this time.”

In other words, breeders threatened to vote down the scheme - an embarrassment for the Kennel Club and a disaster for the breed. But, believe me, the answer does not lie in giving in to the Cavalier Coven that continually stirs the cauldron of denial. Not if you want to convince the world that you care about the dogs.

So let me say this loud and clear.  Keeping hidden the results of the new screening scheme would set a dangerous and completely unacceptable precedent. The results of every other BVA/KC health scheme are rightly and freely available via the KC's online Health Test Finder. We need more transparency, not less. The KC needs to man-up, here.

No doubt the Cavalier naysayers are arguing that the results of MRI scans for syringomyelia are not totally clearcut - that clear dogs can throw pups with SM and vice versa. This is true. There are few absolutes when it comes to living things. But there is now good evidence that the chances of having an unaffected pup is considerably increased if the dam and sire have been screened clear or only marginally affected by this horrendous condition. [Details included in this presentation by Dr Clare Rusbridge]


This applies equally to the BVA/KC Hip and Elbow Schemes. Dogs with great hip scores can occasionally throw severely-affected pups, and the other way round. But you don't hear Labrador breeders whinging that it's unfair to publish their dogs' hip scores because they know that the more information at their disposable, the better breeding decisions they can make.

If this rotten core of Cavalier breeders gets its way, only the fact that the dog has been MRI-scanned will be made public. So what's to stop them just-plain lying to puppy-buyers about what those scans reveal? Er, nothing. It is incredibly hard for most puppy buyers to ask to see health certificates and way too easy for breeders to field plausible excuses.

I sincerely hope the BVA won't accede to what is a totally unreasonable demand by a handful of Cavalier breeders who continue to play fast and loose with the Cavalier's future. With SM and mitral-valve near-fixed in the breed, the only hope is for an end to the dreadful infighting and for those who campaign for better health through transparency and honesty to stop being seen as the bloody enemy.

This now seems to include the national Club's health rep, Maggie Ford who, unbelievably, wasn't allowed to attend the recent meeting at the KC's Stoneleigh Building to discuss the new scheme and whose future on the Committee is apparently now in doubt. Her crime? She's gone over to the dark side.  The dark side being the side where you recognise that the breed is in big trouble and want more to be done to save it.

The heart-breaking picture at the top of this blog, so full of suffering, is of Poppy, just one of the thousands of cavaliers diagnosed with syringomyelia. Her sad story is told on the syringomyelia awareness site Two Little Cavaliers.

More information re the new "proposal" (as the Cavalier Club and Kennel Club are euphemistically calling this shameful compromise) is available on the Cavalier Club website.

If you have a KC registered cavalier, there are several ways you can really help the research - see the Cavalier Campaign website for details.


[Edited 13/2/11 to clarify re Dog World report and add Cavalier Campaign link]

20 comments:

  1. I find this very confusing as I don't feel what is stated in dog world, supports what you state in your Blog.

    Many breeders that I know have spent thousands scanning their Cavaliers.


    As far as I understand it, the new KC/BVA system as it stands will place on the records of puppies of dogs that have been tested, with excellent results, the words 'NO RESULTS RECORDED', this doesn't present the correct and true picture of a breeders breeding practices.

    Might I suggest that it is more likely this that they find unacceptable rather than, the results of dogs scanned under the new official syringomyelia (SM) screening programme being made public.

    Sincerely
    Nessie Logan

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  2. Margaret Carter12 February 2011 15:43

    So if the Kennel Club put 'NO RESULTS RECORDED UNDER THIS CURRENT SCHEME' all objections would end?

    Easily sorted then.

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  3. That is not what I stated!

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  4. Margaret Carter12 February 2011 22:32

    Hello Nessie,

    If I have misunderstood the point of your post then I apologise.

    Please tell me what I have misunderstood?

    I merely sought to address your statement:-

    "As far as I understand it, the new KC/BVA system as it stands will place on the records of puppies of dogs that have been tested, with excellent results, the words 'NO RESULTS RECORDED', this doesn't present the correct and true picture of a breeders breeding practices.

    Might I suggest that it is more likely this that they find unacceptable rather than, the results of dogs scanned under the new official syringomyelia (SM) screening programme being made public."

    I made a suggestion that I thought could answer the concerns you voiced about the words 'NO RESULTS RECORDED' showing when the dog had in fact been scanned, even if it was under a less stringent criteria than the one now being put into place.

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  5. I feel that something other than 'NO RESULTS RECORDED' needs to be recorded for earlier scans otherwise it looks like the dog had not been scanned.
    NO RESULTS RECORDED UNDER THIS CURRENT SCHEME would be pointless. If the scheme is going to work then the facts need to be recorded from the onset of scanning. They also need to get it right and fixed and stop moving the goal posts before going mandatory.

    I felt Jemima Harrison's report biased and does not reflect a true picture.

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  6. Nothing is mandatory. It has been proposed by the KC that results are not posted. This does not follow all the other BVA/KC health schemes. Not posting results will undrmine the validity of the scheme when compared to the BVA/KC precedent of posting reults in the breed records. There is no transparency now. Remember this breeding scheme will only be used by those breeders that choose to use it. Shame that all those involved appear to have swept aside the health and well being of the dogs to appease breeders who may or may not particpate in a breeding scheme.

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  7. What is the cost of an MR scan if the puppy buyer has it done and how many sites in the UK are capable of doing them?
    If a breeder scans one or several of her/his breeding stock, is there a price cut ( i e, does the KC, breed club or AHT subsidize)?

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  8. http://www.thecavalierclub.co.uk/health/syringo/mriscan.html

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  9. Margaret Carter14 February 2011 16:56

    Nessie said.......

    "I feel that something other than 'NO RESULTS RECORDED' needs to be recorded for earlier scans otherwise it looks like the dog had not been scanned.
    NO RESULTS RECORDED UNDER THIS CURRENT SCHEME would be pointless."

    I am sure the KC would consider some other wording, but if the idea is to show that there has actually been an earlier scan that does not fit the new criteria, then I would presume the old certificate would have to be submitted to the KC as proof?


    Nessie said......

    "They also need to get it right and fixed and stop moving the goal posts before going mandatory."

    A scheme where all tests are done to the same criteria and read by a trained and expert panel would usually be thought to be 'right and fixed'
    It is how other schemes work.

    I do not understand why you think this scheme is going to be mandatory?
    Like all other official schemes there is no compulsion to use it. Those that have objections can choose to go their own way, but they should not be allowed to block this scheme for the breeders that do want to use it.

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  10. OK, Anonymous, thanks. Just looked it up. And what price do breeders ask for Cav puppies?

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  11. Sorry, forgot the point. A breeder I know in this country had a few of the puppies in her latest litter born with small umbilical hernias - quite often a no-treatment-required condition, harmless for the individual dog and in fact one that in the adult dog you wouldn´t discover unless you knew it was there and looked for it. Well, this breeder sold those puppies with a hefty redyctuion in the price she asked. Just in case the puppies might require surgery to close up the little hernia, she put the price down 25% to cover the better part of the cost for this small, uncomplicated operation.
    If Cav breeders won´t have the MR results published, would they ask full price for the puppies from parents whose MR results are not known? Or, since the buyer definitely would want to scan the puppy, do they lower the price they ask to cover the cost for the MR?

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  12. As you appear to have a grudge against the show breeders, I would be interested what you intend doing about the back street breeders, not only of Cavaliers but other breeds. Out of interest I look at our local free ads, as you stated that 8,000 had still been bred, I presume you mean dogs not litters. On the local site there were 37 litters and 4 stud dogs, as I am researching over something else, I phoned all of these people. Not one was an exhibitor, they were just breeding from the pet bitch or to make some money. Not one of them had parents that were scanned, several had not even heard of syringomyelia. As regards to other health problems most said well mine is healthy enough, one stud dog owner who advertised dog has sired over 100 pups said the vet listens to his heart from time to time, I suppose that is something

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  13. Margaret Carter17 February 2011 16:13

    Bodil asks,
    what price do breeders ask for puppies?

    It depends on the area, but a small hobby breeder would expect to get between £550 to £800.
    Top breeders may charge a lot more and can sell puppies for thousands of pounds abroad.

    Average litter size is about four.

    There is now another article in the new edition of Dog World, where the BVA President asks for cavalier breeders to send in their views on the BVA/KC scanning scheme.

    I would suggest that the opinion of pet owners with SM affected dogs or anyone that owns another 'at risk' breed would be valuable.

    Contact details that may be helpful are: diana.brooks-ward@thekennelclub.org.uk

    For the BVA, Sandra Webber (BVA Health Schemes) SandraW@bva.co.uk..... it may be worth adding FAO Harvey Locke (President)

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  14. Anonymous, how do you expect "back street breeders" to be knowledgeable and forthcoming with the buyers, if the breed club/KC - organized ones are not???

    For as long as well-known breeders, who see themselves as respectable and successful and certainly want to be seen as such by others, do get away with not scanning and not acknowledging the need to scan and publish results, of course backstrett breeders will do the same. Or even less.
    The whole point with pedigree breeding and breed club membership is the difference in practice between the good breeders and the backstrett breeders.
    If in fact there is no difference...why should I buy from one rather than the other?

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  15. Such a shame that this is still going on. Complete transparency is the way forward. Perhaps its just too late for this wonderful little breed. The Breed custodians have caused this! Poor little dogs!

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  16. The problem with Syringomyelia is that the disease can manifest itself in dogs who have been tested clear, and are older than 7 to 8 years old. This means that testing once for the disease at say 3 to 4 years of age is not sufficient, particularly as the heredity of the disease is still unclear (two unaffected dogs can produce affected puppies). Furthermore, the costs of an IRM are very steep for the breeders. In adition to Syringomyelia, the breed is affected by another nasty problem: mitral valve disease (MVD), which further reduces the available breeding stock having neither of these afflictions. In view of the difficulties mentioned above, and in order to save a thoroughly beleagered but lovely breed, why doesn't the UK Cavalier Club set up a sperm bank, get all the best MVD-free males "collected", and just wait to use the sperm until the stud dog has reached an acceptable age without any major health problems or has passed away from other causes at a normal age? I realise that this wouldn't be a 100% solution unless it were technically possible to store ova or even embryos, but at least it might ensure that one of the two parents of a litter is as sound as possible. If the sperm bank were managed centrally and fuelled by voluntary donations, it would probably also be much cheaper than multiple IRMs...

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  17. Margaret Carter23 April 2011 22:06

    For a Breed Club to tackle a health issue they and their members must truly believe that it is a problem.

    The influential cavalier breeders that run the clubs have not yet accepted the seriousness of the position.

    There is so much that could be done including storing the semen of dogs confirmed free of SM and/or MVD before they die, but I'm afraid it won't happen.

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  18. Is there any KC rule preventing the creation of another Cavalier Club in the UK (you could call it "CARE" for Cavalier Rescue!) grouping those breeders who do feel concerned by the problem: I'm sure that there are more around than you think, and you've got to start somewhere, and soon if the breed is to survive...

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  19. I never heard that someone do MRI scan for dogs..

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