Saturday, 1 January 2011

Breed health: KC whitewash v iPhone honesty

Last year, and with no small fanfare, the Kennel Club launched its Veterinary Practice Guide to Dog Health, hailing it as "a resource to assist veterinary surgeons and all practice staff gain a greater familiarity with more detailed information on the two hundred or more breeds of dog recognised by the Kennel Club, and the health and welfare issues that you may encounter with each one."

In truth, it is laughable -  a PR exercise containing almost no health information at all. (To check it out for yourself, have a look at the 20 breeds here.) Also, with the exception of DNA tests for progressive retinal atrophy available from Optigen,  the manual only lists  DNA tests available from the Animal Health Trust, despite many other useful tests being available through other reputable centres worldwide.

The KC then further insulted the vets by insisting that ownership of one of these esteemed manuals, available from the KC's Marketing Department, was dependent on a visit from a KC representative. Bet they couldn't wait.

I know of one curious vet who asked for a copy of the manual way back in September and still hasn't received it, so maybe the KC is hastily revising it to make it less derisible.  In the meantime, vets (indeed anyone interested in finding out more about breed-specific health problems) could do worse than download US vet Craig Dixon's new iPhone app Breed Health for Dogs

Let's compare the two offerings.

Here's what the KC has to say about the Pug.

Apparently, the pug doesn't suffer from any health issues at all! And there was me thinking the breed was riddled with problems!

The new iPhone app is much more helpful. For a start, it covers 40 breeds compared to the KC's 20. And for the pug it lists no fewer than 15 health problems:

Demodectic Mange
Fold Dermatitis
Upper Airway Syndrome
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
Pug Encephalitis
Eyelid Entropion
Eye Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome
Periodontal Disease
Degeneratvie Myelopathy
Sick Sinus Syndrome
Keratoconjunctivisitis Sicca (Dry Eye)

It then goes on to make the following recommendations:

4-12 months of age
• Gene test for Degenerative Myelopathy
• X-rays of head, neck & spine for Upper Airway Syndrome and Hemi-Vertebra
• Surgical repair - for Upper Airway Suyndrome and Fold Dermatitis (if needed)

1 year of age
• Eye exam for Distichiasis, Entropion, Cataracts & Exposure Eye Keratopathy - repeat yearly
• Skin exam for Demodectic Mange

2 years of age
• Teeth Cleaning - repeat every 2-3 years
• Skin exam for skin allergy evaluation for Atopy and Demodectic Mange
• Eye exam for Distichiasis, Entropion, Cataracts & Exposure Eye Keratopathy

...and so on. The app also gives simple descriptions of all the conditions. Now it is not without some glaring errors and omissions - it doesn't list syringomyelia for cavaliers, for instance, and doesn't suggest checking for heart murmurs until a cavalier is 7 years old, which is way too late. It would also be helpful to know the prevalence data for particular conditions where known (even if just listed as "rare", "occasional" or "common").  But it's a useful start.

The Breed Health for Dogs App for iPhone and iPad costs £1.79/$2.99 - cheap enough to buy and send feedback to its authors via They promise support for other smart phones soon.


  1. Although I don't know how this could possibly be true for people who actually know about their breed (such as professional breeders, fanciers, and even regular dog-people who care enough to do their research), it could just be that, because the dog has never "gotten sick" in it's life, therefore it must be healthy.

    Their dogs have never caught a cold, never had diarrhea, are lucky enough to not have any joint or organ diseases. There are no skin disorders, no eye problems, the teeth are in the right place, and no parasites (internal or external) are present.

    Because, you know, that must mean that their dog is "healthy" and deserves to pass on questionable genes to it's progeny.

    That might have passed as a good reason to breed the dog over a hundred years ago. Today, it's just an excuse.

  2. The opening line on the Kennel Clubs website home page;

    "The Kennel Club is the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to the health and welfare of dogs. The Kennel Club was founded in 1873 and is able to offer dog owners an unparalleled source of information, experience and advice on dog welfare, dog health, dog training and dog breeding."

    Forgive me if I am wrong but there is NO information about pug health conditions for people thinking of getting a pug.

    So I go to their health survey results;

    quote "Warning: The results of this survey and particularly the breed-specific analyses
    should be interpreted with caution. The overall response rate was
    only 24% with breed-specific response rates from 4.5% to 64.7%."

    Come on kennel club, it's not difficult is it to actually write a little piece on breed health problems is it?

  3. Its called "Guide" not a text book for Vets just a GUIDE

  4. Well it doesn't guide anyone in the right direction when it comes to health.

  5. The whole thing is ridiculous. The fact that they have the bare fact cheek to offer a guide to the vets is bad enough - to then no include anything that could constitute said guide. The Pug is not the only one - each breed has a fluffy description and then notes at the bottom to contact others for more information.

    Their data is questionable when it comes to the health guides through the main site. There is such a small percentage of breeders that actually responded - why is this, what have they got to hide. Does it show that so many simply join the Kennel Club so they can use their name to sell puppies!

    They should live up to their tag line and the BVA should tell them where the shove it (after they publish some stats of their own and in the major media not just via themselves).


  6. Well the 'guide' lists the hereditary health problems associated with my breed...

  7. its just a GUIDE not a teaching manual it gives basic information and where to seek more, you wouldnt choose to emigrate just reading a guide bookon a country would you?(but perhaps you are daft enough to) but a good guide would tell you the basic and where to seek help and further information, most vets could not i.d. more than 40 breeds so this is a good tool for them to have. Yes many other labs do some health test but not all are reliable and this is proved quite often but perhaps your dont know enought about them. Odd how you promised a website after PDE on just health issues for breed but again you failed to deliver, except for this self glory blog (dont worry I know this wont be published)

  8. The App doesn't mention my breed at all !! Probably because the App is American !

    Common Jemima where is your all singing all dancing Pedigree Dog Health Issue website.

    Still waiting for a follow up program supporting the healthy mongrels & crossbreeds(especially those imported from Ireland)with factual evidence that they are so much healthier than all pedigree breeds

  9. All the recommendations which are given by the age groups can be beneficial such that we can apply that very easily. Their dogs have never caught a cold, never had diarrhea, and are lucky enough to not have any joint or organ diseases.

  10. This kind of information is very limited on internet.. Thanks for sharing this to us.

  11. I am not planning on getting a dog any time in the near future, but i have suffered the heartbreak of purchasing a purebred dog that had numerous health problems. So after i read about this app, I went to check it out and discovered that, three yrars down the line, it still only covered 40 breeds.

    Then I got to thinking, couldn't someone come up with a tracking sort of app. Because while breeders might not be forthcoming about the ills their dogs carry in their genes, then the buyers who have watched their beloved pets suffer would surely be willing to share that information. One could probably harvest the data off of Twitter. Just a thought...