Breeding can rid dogs of hereditary diseases – University of Copenhagen

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12 April 2016

Breeding can rid dogs of hereditary diseases

Dog Breeding

Pedigree dogs may suffer hereditary diseases that either shorten their lives or reduces their life quality. However, new Danish research reveals that a planned breeding programme can drastically reduce hereditary diseases.

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen are the bearers of good news for all dog owners. 

In collaboration with the Danish Kennel Club, researchers and veterinarians have succeeded in reducing the occurrence of the deadly and hereditary heart valve disease, primal mitral valve prolapse, with 73% in the popular family dog Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. 

It has taken them 8-10 years of screening and omitting dogs from breeding when they revealed early signs of this heart valve disease, which is the most common cause of death in this particular breed of dogs. 

“These days, many people value their dogs greatly. The breeding programme can ensure that owners can keep their dog for many years,” says Professor and Veterinarian Lisbeth Høier Olsen from the Department of Veterinarian Disease Biology at the University of Copenhagen. She is one of the main researchers behind the new research article recently published in the renowned American Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

“Our research reveals that you can circumvent hereditary diseases in a relatively short space of time by way of a breeding programme where dogs are screened for early clinical signs of disease and then included or excluded from a breeding programme accordingly,” Lisbeth Høier Olsen elaborates. She also explains that they have just had a visit from the English Kennel Club, as they are interested in implementing the breeding programme. 

Other dogs may benefit from the research

Even though the research has been carried out on one specific breed and focused on one disease in particular, the breeding programme will most likely be adaptable to other breeds and other hereditary diseases, according to Lisbeth Høier Olsen.

“Our breeding programme and our assessment of its effect is most like applicable to other breeds with hereditary diseases that both reduce their life quality and life expectancy. We hope that our research will inspire dog kennels both inside and outside Denmark to implement similar breeding programmes to combat hereditary diseases,” says Lisbeth Høier Olsen.

“In order to obtain good results quickly, it’s important to focus on highly hereditary diseases, it is important that you’re able to diagnose the disease at an early stage and that both dog owners and kennel clubs support the breeding programme,” Lisbeth Høier Olsen explains. Currently, there are several breeding programmes to combat hereditary diseases in pedigree dogs. However, very few programmes have been evaluated in terms of effect. 

Successful collaborations are vital to breeding programmes 

In order to ensure that a large number of dogs were included in the breeding programme, the Danish Kennel Club made participation a condition for its members, and their dogs were routinely observed. 

The results of the heart valve examinations were concurrently published on the club’s website, which enabled dog breeders to consider the dog’s heart status when choosing dogs for breeding. 

The pedigree dog Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the 11th most common dog in Denmark. 

Professor Lisbeth Høier Olsen from the Department of Veterinarian Disease Biology
Phone: +45 3533 3175