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New Zealand veterinary journal
Volume 62 | Issue 5 (September 2014)

An exploration of attitudes towards pedigree dogs and their disorders as expressed by a sample of companion animal veterinarians in New Zealand.

N Z Vet J. September 2014;62(5):267-73.
T Farrow1, A J Keown, M J Farnworth
1 a Animal Welfare and Biodiversity Research Group, Department of Natural Sciences , Unitec Institute of Technology , Auckland , New Zealand.


AIMS:To explore veterinary perceptions of inherited disorders in pedigree dogs within New Zealand and how these affect animal health and welfare.
METHODS:An online questionnaire was distributed to the 647 members of the Companion Animal Society of the New Zealand Veterinary Association using an online survey system. The questionnaire collected details of practitioners, pedigree dog breeds and disorders most often encountered in practice, and responses to questions and statements regarding inherited disorders and pedigree dogs.
RESULTS:Of the 216 respondents, 194 (89.8%) believed inherited disorders in dogs were a significant issue. The most commonly identified breeds presenting with inherited disorders were Boxer, Bulldog and German Shepherd dog. The most commonly reported inherited disorders were hip dysplasia, brachycephalic syndromes and elbow dysplasia. Of 207 respondents, 100 (48.3%) had advised clients against purchasing a pedigree dog due to common inherited disorders and 183 (85.6%) considered the health and welfare of some breeds to be too compromised to continue breeding. Of 199 respondents, 132 (66.3%) reported seeing no change in prevalence of inherited conditions, 103/204 (50.5%) reported seeing a positive change in attitudes towards inherited disorders among dog owners, and 81/207 (39.1%) thought legislative support would help decrease inherited disorders in pedigree dogs. Attitudes were not associated with time since graduation or ownership of a New Zealand Kennel Club registered breed of dog. The most common suggestions to decrease prevalence of inherited disorders were to alter breed standards, educate public or buyers and compulsory genetic testing.
CONCLUSIONS:Among respondents, veterinarians considered inherited disorders as significant issues in a number of pedigree breeds. Veterinarians were concerned about inherited disorders in pedigree dogs, felt they had an obligation to treat such animals and were supportive of measures to make genetic testing for inheritable disorders a requirement for registration of pedigree breeds.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE:Prevalence and perceived importance of inherited disorders influences how clinicians advise their clients. Respondents to this survey provided a number of mechanisms by which inherited disorders may be managed and these could form the basis of future discussions within the profession.

Companion Notes

Questionnaire on New Zealand veterinarians' attitudes towards pedigree dogs and their disorders


Study design

- introduction on pedigree dogs and their disorders

- there are currently 400 classified dog breeds

- inherited disorders in pedigree dogs typically placed in 2 groups

- related to breed standards

- that is, related to selection for exaggerated characteristics

- such as brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome

- unrelated to breed standards (possibly indirectly related)

- such as von Willebrand's disease

- in 1 report on the top 50 breeds of dog in the UK

- 396 inherited disorders found related to breed standards

- 300 disorders not related to breed standards

- studies show pedigree dog owners often overlook dog's health problems

- they assume it's "normal" for the breed and may not consult veterinarian

- such as with brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome

- study population:

- members of Companion Animal Society of New Zealand Veterinary Association

- 216 veterinarians of which 63% were women and 99.1% were in practice

- largest group (32.2%) graduated from 83-92

- 57.9% were in small animal practice; 37.1% in mixed

- 56.4% owned a New Zealand Kennel Club recognized breed of dog

- procedure: anonymous online questionnaire distributed to the 647 members in '13


Results (216 members responded)

- 89.8% believed inherited disorders in dogs were a significant issue

- 28 breeds identified presenting with inherited disorders including the following:

(top 3 disorders associated with breed listed)

- boxer with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and cardiac disease

- bulldog with brachycephalic syndromes, hip dysplasia and skin problems

- German shepherd with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and skin problems

- Cavalier King Charles spaniel with heart disease and brachycephalic syndromes

- West Highland white terrier (WHWT) with skin and atopy

- 29 inherited disorders reported included the following:

- hip dysplasia

- brachycephalic syndromes

- elbow dysplasia

- 48.3% of 207 respondents had advised clients against purchasing a pedigree dog

- due to common inherited disorders in 19 breeds including the following:

- bulldog due to brachycephalic syndromes, whelping issues and skin

- Shar Pei due to skin, entropion and aggression

- boxer due to hip dysplasia, neoplasia and heart disease

- WHWT due to skin

- German Shepherd dog due to hip dysplasia

- 85.6% felt the health/welfare of some breeds was too severe to continue breeding

- bulldog

- Shar Pei

- pug

- German Shepherd dog

- French bulldog

- boxer

- Neapolitan mastiff

- Cavalier King Charles spaniel

- Shih Tzu

- chihuahua

- dachshund

- Newfoundland


- other

- 66.3% of 199 reported seeing no change in prevalence of inherited conditions

- 50.5% saw an improved attitude towards inherited disorders among dog owners

- 39.1% felt legislation would help decrease inherited disorders in pedigree dogs

- attitudes were not associated with the following:

- time since graduation

- ownership of a New Zealand Kennel Club registered breed of dog

- suggestions to decrease prevalence of inherited disorders included the following:

- change breed standards

- educate public or buyers

- compulsory genetic testing

- 60.3% routinely offered screening tests (respondents could list 3 tests)

- tests offered by more than 10

- hip score, 73 respondents

- elbow score, 57

- eye tests (entropion, Schirmer , PRA, collie eye anomaly), 41

- clotting test, 13

- buccal mucosal bleeding time

- von Willebrand's factor

- DNA test, 11


"Well over half of respondents reported having prematurely eutha­nised a pedigree dog due to an inherited disorder, and this pro­portion was significantly higher in respondents that believed inherited disorders were a major issue compared with those that did not."



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