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As the Breed Health Coordinator for the Irish Water Spaniels I recently attended a Breed Health Symposium hosted by the Kennel Club.  Below is a brief report which I thought would be of interest to IWS owners.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh & Dr Louise Burmeister gave an update on the Give a Dog a Genome project. Like us another 15 breeds have elected to have dogs with epilepsy swabbed. Of the swabs from IWS we sent in a dog has been selected the swab has been anaylysed the data downloaded and its now a matter of whether the GDG project will be successful in getting anything useful as to how we can test dogs in the future to rule out this disease.  The fact that 16 breeds are involved in this research hopefully gives us more chance of identifying a genome that might be responsible.

Epilepsy by Professor Holger Volk (Royal Veterinary College)
A very interesting talk on Epilepsy was given by Professor Holger Volk.  Unfortunately he was only given a 30 minute slot which was not long enough and even though many BHC’s had questions the KC said there was not enough time.
Below is useful link to his research:
         https://www.facebook.com/rvccanineepilepsyresearch (from Professor Holger Volk’s talk)

Breed Health Conservation Plans (BHCP)
A talk was given by Katy Evans (Health research Manager at The Kennel Club) regarding the Breed Health Conservation Plan recently launched by the Kennel Club.
The BHCP aims to enable the identification of the most significant issues in each breed where further research and support is required and the allocation of resources to these. The initial 17 breeds are in the process of being completed and they are looking to identify a further 50 breeds.  I am very pleased to confirm that the Irish Water Spaniel will be part of the next phase due to start next year.

At the end of the symposium I managed to speak to Dr Tom Lewis, Quantitative Geneticist at the Kennel Club regarding our breed.

Firstly I pointed out to him that the KC ‘Breed-Specific requirements and recommendations including health screening (dated July 2017)  only show Hip scoring as a requirement for our breed with no recommendations for any other tests. I said the both the SIWSC and IWSA were advising owners to do both Hip and Elbow scoring and we felt that eye testing should also be done.
All hip and elbow scores are registered with KC and published on KC mate select website but because eye testing is not required or recommended no record of results is published. 

I also queried, as did some other minor breed coordinators, how accurate the coi% published by the KC was as quite a few litters have had sires from other countries which probably means that dog is not registered with the KC.  Tom agreed with this and has now sent me a rolling 5 year mean (i.e. average COI of dogs born over successive five year periods)

yob period                         mean COI
2006-10                              8.91%
2007-11                              9.18%
2008-12                              8.07%
2009-13                              7.81%
2010-14                              7.90%
2011-15                              7.23%
2012-16                              6.98%

I think these results are very interesting but overall I find it encouraging that overall our breed hip scores and coi% are reducing.

An ongoing group study of Irish Water Spaniels is being set up look into the health of the breed.   For the foreseeable future the study will be a rolling study open to all Irish Water Spaniels, regardless of their breeding and country of origin.  The study aims to follow the life of an IWS, without anonymity, from the age of 8 weeks.  If you have an IWS puppy aged 12 months or under and would be interested in taking part please contact Susan Kewan (collator) email:  susie_k@talktalk.net   Participants will be emailed a questionnaire for completion after their dog's first birthday.  For those who join the study an annual questionnaire will be sent out electronically in the month of the dog's birth.  The form is also be available to download (CLICK HERE).  Completed questionnaires should be returned to the collator Susan Kewan. 

An annual report will be issued at the Irish Water Spaniel Association's AGM.  Please be aware that this is a long term project and it may be a few years before any meaningful information comes to light. 

May we take this opportunity to thank you for your participation and look forward to a healthy future for the Irish Water Spaniel. 

Elizabeth Cooper & Susan Kewan
The Irish Water Spaniel Association is currently taking part in the 'Give a Dog a Genome' project. We are one of fifty breeds taking part. It is being run by the Animal Health Trust. We have funded half of this project with half of the legacy left in the Will of the Late Ank ter Kuile. In doing this the money put forward has been doubled with a grant of 1000 from the Kennel club. (click image below for more details)