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    THE KENNEL CLUB HEALTH STANDARD

     

    We’re pleased to share with you first-hand an exciting development at The Kennel Club, our new evidence-based approach to health testing, the Health Standard.

    What is the Health Standard?

    The Health Standard promotes breed-specific health testing and is a clear evidence-based guide for breeders, of all levels of experience, about health testing priorities within their breed. It represents a crucial step towards The Kennel Club’s strategic aim to safeguard the future health and well-being of pedigree dogs.

    The Health Standard uses a consistent and rigorous process to prioritise and categorise health tests based on scientific evidence collated from The Kennel Club’s Breed Health & Conservation Plans (BHCPs). The standard takes into account published literature, prevalence data and – in a first - genetic diversity, in order to categorise and prioritise health tests within every Kennel Club registered breed.

    Within the Health Standard, whilst we strongly encourage breeders to undertake all the health tests listed for their breed, each test has been categorised into ‘essential’, ‘advisable’, or ‘other’. This breed-centric categorisation reflects the priority of the tests for the entire breed. These categories highlight which are the most important tests puppy buyers should be looking for and to advise breeders how to prioritise tests when making breeding decisions. 

    Here’s a brief overview of each category:

    • Essential tests: These are tests that breeders are strongly encouraged to undertake prior to breeding, as there is strong evidence that the condition being tested for is a significant concern in the breed, for example, it may be increasing in prevalence. Essential tests are not mandatory for registration but have been termed as such to strongly signal the importance of these tests.  
    • Advisable tests: These tests are that breeders should consider to be of importance and are advisable to use prior to breeding – being for conditions which are still known and relevant in a breed. However, they have been categorised as advisable either due to having a lower prevalence than those in the essential category, or due to other considerations within the breed, including the need to balance health test results against genetic diversity. 
    • Other tests: We don’t yet have sufficient data to assess the importance of these tests, however breeders/ puppy buyers should be aware of them and check their lines before breeding or purchasing a puppy. 

     

    How has the Health Standard been developed?

    A rigorous process has been undertaken on a breed-by-breed basis, to establish where each test should sit for each breed. The criteria to determine this includes: 

    • Trends in a condition over time (i.e. prevalence, breed averages, frequency of genetic mutations etc.).
    • Published evidence in scientific journals to support the accuracy of a test.
    • Population of a breed and whether the breed has limited genetic diversity.

    The Kennel Club will collect and publish health results from all three categories.

    It’s important to note that the Health Standard includes all testable health conditions, including both genetic (DNA tests) and screening tests such as hip scoring or eye testing. This list is not exhaustive and, at present, only health tests that have been officially recognised by The Kennel Club have been incorporated into the Health Standard. However, the Health Standard will be regularly reviewed and is subject to change as new tests, further data, and published evidence becomes available.

    Something we have not done before is incorporate the prioritisation of genetic diversity alongside health testing, and the Health Standard has been built alongside our newly revised population analyses, which have been undertaken for every registered breed.

    Inbreeding concerns have been listed as a priority for several breeds, which may be due to historical breeding practices or due to small population numbers. Breeders of these breeds must follow best breeding practices and prioritise genetic diversity, in order to maintain genetic diversity within the breed. More information about the population analysis will be provided to BHCs over the next couple of months.

    Below is a link to a pre-recorded presentation, which looks at the rationale behind the Health Standard and criteria which have been taken into account in its development. Please watch this video as it goes further into the methodology and meaning behind the project. We hope you have found this useful, and are sharing this with you as BHC first hand before any other Kennel Club stakeholders. We hope that you will support us with this project, by sharing this presentation with breed representatives for your breed. This webinar will also be uploaded to the BHC portal, which can be accessed here: KC Health Team - Breed Health Co-ordinators - Home (sharepoint.com)

    At present the only formal guidance we give on breed specific health testing is via our Assured Breeders Scheme’s recommendations and requirements. This process has been reviewed during the development of the Health Standard, which will replace this existing Assured Breeders Scheme guidance. The Health Standard will give clear direction to all breeders registering puppies with The Kennel Club, at all levels of experience, and is a crucial step in The Kennel Club achieving the strategic aim to safeguard the future of pedigree dogs by addressing breed-associated health issues.  

    There will be a transition over to the Health Standard, to ensure that we have one clear set of advice for breeders relating to health testing prior to breeding, however the timeframes for when this transition will take place for Assured Breeders is still to be decided. We will ensure we share an update at the earliest opportunity.

    What this means for your breed

    Currently, your breed is listed under the Assured Breeders Scheme for the following tests:

    Requirements

    • Elbow grading
    • Hip scoring

    Recommendations

    • Breed Club – epilepsy/ fitting

    The Health Standard will have a shift for your breed with respect to health testing, and under this your breed's health tests will be as follows:

    Essential

    • Using best breeding practices to minimise inbreeding (due to a small population size).

    Advisable

    • Elbow grading
    • Hip scoring

    Other

    • DNA test – GT

    The prioritisation and justification for these changes are covered by the rationale provided in the above webinar, which I would encourage you to review.

    An important point to consider, throughout this process we have looked closely at the genetic diversity of each breed, in tandem with the reviewed population analyses we have been undertaking this year, and due to the findings from your breed's population analysis have determined genetic diversity as a key priority for your breed. As you can see this is reflected above under the categorisation, and due to this we would recommend breeders prioritise the importance of maintaining and improving genetic diversity in the breed. We will be circulating the population analysis reports with every breed over the Summer and will be giving BHCs opportunities to meet with us to learn more about the process and what this means for your breed.

    Evolution of the Health Standard

    Finally, it is important to note that the prioritisation of health tests is fluid and will adapt depending on new tests/ schemes available and the changes a breed population goes through time. Therefore, in the future we may introduce new relevant tests for your breed and will review new schemes/ tests on an annual basis, and will further be conducting a full re-analysis every 5 years.

    As we’re sure you can appreciate, this complex project requires extensive digital development and is therefore not expected to launch until the end of 2024. However, we wanted to make you aware of the planned changes, provide as much notice as possible, and give you a chance as BHC to digest this information and discuss this with your breed communities. Your feedback will be hugely useful in this process, and we want to make sure we are bringing the breeds with us on this exciting next step.

    We thank you again for your time and dedication to your breed and appreciate you taking the time here to understand this project. We hope that this will encourage a clearer view of the health testing needed prior to breeding a litter of puppies and provide information for breeders at all levels of experience.

    As a final note, Assured Breeders are also due to receive communications today to make them aware of the changes outlined in this email.

    Should you have any further comments or queries I would be happy to address these.   


     

    Hannah James

    Breed Health Liaison Manager  (+44 20 3540 2577)

    The Kennel Club

    www.thekennelclub.org.uk

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