Centre to pioneer dog disease research

A NEW centre which vets claim will be at the forefront of eradicating disease in dogs has been opened in Suffolk.

Laurence Cawley

A NEW centre which vets claim will be at the forefront of eradicating disease in dogs has been opened in Suffolk.

The Kennel Club Genetics Centre will be based at the Animal Health Trust, just outside Newmarket, and will be carrying out research into inherited diseases amongst dogs.

Because of the small gene pool in purebred dogs, inherited diseases resulting from single gene mutations are more likely to occur than in their cross-bred cousins.

Over the next five years the centre hopes to investigate 25 inherited diseases and develop screening tests to determine affected and carrier dogs that can be performed with simple mouth swabs.

In deciding which diseases to investigate, the joint Kennel Club and health trust team will look at their impact on the health and welfare of dogs, but also on the support of breeders and access to data and samples.

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Dr Peter Webbon, health trust chief executive, said: “We're delighted to work in partnership with the Kennel Club on this important welfare issue.

“Our level of skill and expertise within this field is unparalleled and the new centre enables us to extend our current range of DNA tests.

“We hope, in time, this will equip breeders with essential information so they can plan successful breeding strategies to avoid the birth of affected dogs, and ultimately, to eliminate disease from breeds at risk.”

Dr Cathryn Mellersh and Dr Sarah Blott, two genetics experts at the health trust, will lead the centre.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club spokesperson, said: “The Kennel Club is pleased to support research which improves the health and happiness of dogs. Working in partnership with the Animal Health Trust means we can start to tackle the problem of inherited disease much quicker.

“We have already made significant investment in this area, and are now delighted to step up the scope of this research. It is a very real possibility that through this centre we will be able to eradicate certain inherited diseases in some dogs.”

Dr Ed Hall, president of the British Small Animals Veterinary Association, said: “Inherited disease is one part of a complex issue involved with breeding pedigree dogs.

“I personally welcome any efforts to improve our current understanding of the area and trust that the Kennel Club Genetics Centre will make massive progress in the next five years in order to enable owners to make informed breeding decisions and, in time, to reduce the effect of inherited disease.”

There are more than five million purebred dogs in the UK alone.