Page 82 - ShowSight, March 2020
P. 82

                                disseminated for education because it’s complicated. I’m not a geneticist, but when you have these complex conditions that are not single gene mutations that lead to a spe- cific defect, most of what we’re up against now is probably polygenetic, multifactorial, epigenetics. (Other things in the environ- ment, etc. that are influencing the develop- ment of this disease.) And all of those have to be taken into account. So, what you’re saying is exactly right. You need to look at pedigrees, you need to look at where these different things might have been thrown, you need to look at the phenotype, you need to look at the genotype, all of it, the whole big piece of a bigger puzzle. I look at the top breeders who really focus on health that use that whole big picture.
You’ve mentioned tick-borne diseases, which seem to me the most insidious. What types of research programs are currently underway in this area?
In 2016, we launched our Tick-Borne Disease Initiative. What drove this is I was looking at our portfolio of research and felt like we were not addressing the bigger pic- ture problem that performance dogs, field trial dogs, etc. were especially interested in. [Though these dogs] are probably more highly exposed, I made the argument that so is the Chihuahua who is out for a walk in the grass. We are seeing the spread of ticks and learning more and more about how ticks carry more than one disease that can be harmful—and if you’re only testing for one disease you’re missing the other one. We keep learning more about that. So when we launched that initiative, I was thrilled. Not only did the Field Trial people and the Sporting dog people come in and really get behind this, our first small breed donors to that initiative were the Shih Tzu [fanciers].
Really? A little lap dog?
They could see the value of this initia- tive as well. You know, ticks can be in your home and they can be in the grass. It fits into what I would call these emerging and reemerging infectious diseases that we’re seeing. (The outbreak of influenza in dogs, the first one which in 2015 was tied back to importation of dogs from Korea.) This global transport of dogs without proper regulation is really adding to the challenge of these infectious diseases that we’re seeing on the rise. We are now seeing more heart- worm disease because dogs are transported around. We’re also seeing more tick-borne diseases because the climate is changing. We only used to think of Lyme Disease being in the Northeast, now it goes all the
The impact that AKC CHF has had toward advancing the health of all dogs can be measured in any number of ways.
way across the top of the country. The Gulf Coast tick and the diseases that it carries used to be isolated, now it’s coming up this [Eastern] side of the country. We are so closely con- nected that those diseases are on the rise in people just as they are in dogs.
That really speaks to the One Health approach, doesn’t it? I really appreciate that you brought up this movement of dogs from other countries. So much of the mindset among the general public is that lives are being saved. But what about the diseases that come with those dogs?
Yep, and public health concerns. Three months ago, dogs rescued from Egypt ended up in the U.S. where they were placed from a shelter into homes. Three of the dogs had rabies. Rabies is a uniformly fatal disease that is zoonotic—people and dogs can get it—and that’s terrifying. If people are not terrified by that...
A few years ago, I replied to a social media post in defense of dogs being brought into the U.K. from Eastern Europe with one word: rabies.
One word. Then you can start going down the list: distemper; leishmaniasis; drug- resistant heartworm; parvo; brucellosis. That [2015] influenza? That was a new strain when it came. So, this needs to be important to all of us from a standpoint of health. Everybody’s going to think about it when it’s a public health crisis.
That’s preventable, or at least...
Monitorable, regulatable, if that’s a word, and yes, preventable.
When responsible purebred dog breeders speak with people who support “rescue dogs” for emotional reasons, we need to have an opposing position that’s based in science and speaks to the risk of unregulated importations.
It is a risk. That is a whole picture that needs to be addressed, because we are already seeing some alarming diseases with those trends. And this brings us full circle back to look at the breeders who should not be so maligned for breeding healthy, purpose-bred dogs. That’s, I think, where we have to focus and understand that the people who are so dedi- cated to this level of quality are really being responsible. I think that sometimes they are not recognized. But I have the good fortune to be able to interact with a lot of those people who’ve dedicated their lives to healthy dogs. When I was in practice as a veterinarian, I had breeders in my practice and they were great clients. Were they knowledgeable? Yes. Were they demanding? Yes. Was it good that they were demanding? Yes.
How can the relationship between purebred dog breeders and their veterinarians be improved?
Part of what we do here [at AKC CHF] is to try to bring breeders and veterinarians together so that they can help one another. We are an independent affiliate of the AKC, so we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We have our own staff and manage our own finances, and we work very closely with the AKC which has a veterinary outreach program. They [AKC] get into the veterinary schools and meet with the students and have them talk to breeders and learn more about this. We’ve been able to partner with AKC so that every veterinary school that they go to, they can take along information [that features] the research we’re funding at their organization and the faculty doing the research to better the health of dogs. That really is a touchpoint for those students and those schools. I really commend AKC for what they’ve done. Veterinary students need to know that side of the story. They need to know what [the AKC] does and they need to know what our founda- tion does. We can educate students who take that [knowledge] forward with them as they go through school, with their faculty, and then once they’re out in practice. There’s also a business argument to be made for having some of your best clients be breeders that want to work with you.

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