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Prioritising health in Dachshunds - introducing the IVDD scheme supported by the Kennel Club

The following article appears in the January 2021 edition of the Kennel Gazette.

Dachshunds in their six varieties are enduringly popular and iconic breeds. In fact, the Miniature Smooth variety features in the top five most registered breeds with The Kennel Club in 2020, in what appears to be a surge in the breed’s popularity over the last five years.

But Dachshunds are also predisposed to Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) – it’s the most common health problem in breed’s UK population according to Dachshund Health UK, with up to one in four being affected at some stage in life.

IVDD is caused by a progressive degeneration of the discs in the spine. Intervertebral discs sit between the vertebrae in the spine, acting as shock absorbers and allowing flexibility in the back. As dogs age, these discs degenerate and calcify; however, in Dachshunds, research shows that this can appear at a much earlier age compared to other breeds.

Dogs affected with IVDD may at best require rest and medication, but can also require invasive surgery and long-term rehabilitation therapy, or in severe cases it can lead to euthanasia.

The growing demand for these dogs from the everyday puppy buyer, coupled with the already recognised health problems in some Dachshunds, has led The Kennel Club Neurology Development Group - comprised of dog health experts, academics, specialist vets and breeders - to develop The Kennel Club IVDD Scheme, in partnership with Dachshund Health UK.

The Kennel Club IVDD Scheme will be available for all Dachshund varieties and is based on the already existing Dachshund Breed Council Screening Programme and evidence from Scandinavia, which shows the risk of IVDD is correlated with the number of intervertebral disc calcifications.

From early 2021, participating veterinary practices located across the UK will offer x-ray screening and subsequent back scoring by a scrutineer. Scrutineers, who are all neurology experts, use a pre-defined protocol to grade the dog from zero to three, depending on the number of calcifications present in the spine. The higher the number of calcifications found, the more at risk a dog is for developing clinical signs, and passing the disease on to offspring.

The IVDD Scheme, which ultimately aims to reduce the prevalence of the disease to help protect the breed’s future, will be supported by guidelines for breeders, which enable them to understand the grade for their dogs in terms of risk when considering potential matings. For Kennel Club registered dogs, grades will be recorded on The Kennel Club’s database, and published in the Breed Records Supplement and on the Health Test Results Finder.

As part of the scheme’s launch and to encourage screening, the first 200 owners to have their dog/s screened will be subsidised - £100 by The Kennel Club and £100 by Dachshund Health UK.

“This scheme is a huge step in the right direction to improve Dachshund health and protect the future of these much-loved breeds,” explains Bill Lambert, who heads up The Kennel Club health team and sits on the Neurology Development Group. “It will enable better identification of dogs at risk of IVDD, provide breeders and owners with the best available information and advice to make informed decisions, and provide data for ongoing research. We’d really urge all those within Dachshunds to make use of this tool and to take advantage of the subsidies on offer when it launches.”

Alongside the scheme, research continues. The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has committed over £85,000 funding for ongoing neurology research at the University of Cambridge by Principal Clinical Neurologist and leading IVDD researcher, Dr Paul Freeman.

“This scheme, alongside the research which will help us better understand IVDD, really does have the potential to improve Dachshund health for generations to come,” concluded Bill.


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