Recently the Paw Print Genetics team attended the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s 2013 National Parent Club Canine Health Conference in St. Louis. The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency and consisted of three days of presentations, studies and the future of canine health across many topics.
Presentations and speakers included: “Inherited Cardiomyopathies” by Kathryn Meurs, DVM, PhD of North Carolina State University; “Regenerative Medicine for Soft Tissue Injuries in the Canine” by Sherman O. Canapp Jr., DVM, MS, CCRT of Veterinary Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Group; “Application of Physical Therapy Techniques to Our Canine Patients: The Current Science and Research Opportunities” by Janet B. Van Dyke, DVM, DACVSMR of the Canine Rehabilitation Institute; as well as breakout sessions covering cancer, nutrition/GI/bloat and, of course, genetic testing.
This is a chance for AKC Canine Health Foundation grantees to show how the monies from the organization are being used, to update parent breed clubs on their findings and what they still need to investigate, as well as to receive feedback from the clubs themselves.
While taking a quick break, I ran into Susan LaCroix Hamil, who is on the Board of Directors for both the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. We had met her the night before at the cocktail reception and spoke to her about Paw Print Genetics’ history, goals and internal standards. When our paths crossed the next day in the hallway, we began chatting more informally, sharing our ideas about breeds, training, placement of dogs and puppies, breeding in general and, of course, health.
Our exchange made me stop and think about canine health in relation to breeding. In our discussion, we both related stories about owners desiring to breed their dog, but when questioned about health clearances they don’t always comprehend the importance of the situation. A default, “they’re healthy” is often their answer.
This brings up a good point: what’s the difference between a healthy dog and one with sound health?
For me, a healthy dog is one that is showing no signs of disease, has normal baseline readings when it comes to things like heart rate, temperature, etc., as well as structurally complete.
A dog with sound health however, is a healthy dog that is also clear of genetic defects. That doesn’t mean that they’re not carriers of genetic mutations, but that they’re not affected animals displaying symptoms of disease.
If you stop and think about the difference, a healthy dog (at the moment) can be an unsound dog genetically that will eventually display signs of disease (i.e., late onset). If someone breeds the affected dog without regard to the soundness of his genetic health, it could be bred with a carrier, or even an affected dog, that will result in the perpetuation of the disease.
When attempting to better a breed (which should be everyone’s goal), a simply “healthy” dog doesn’t cut it – you need to know that your dog has sound genetic health, too. Screening prospective parents and puppies can give breeders and would-be owners (who are possible future breeders), the information they need to understand the soundness of their dog’s health.