The survey took longer to materialise than we originally hoped and it was launched in October. Letters were sent out by The Kennel Club to the owners or breeders of all Irish Setters born between 2000 and 2012. Owners were asked to take certain measurements of their dog and give information about whether or not their dog bloated. The opportunity was taken to widen the scope of questions asked about other health conditions and because of this the Joint Breed Clubs Health Committee decided to leave its proposed health survey until later. The survey closed at the end of November and we received the following from AHT:
We have surveys for 1956 dogs from 1098 owners. 1703 dogs are currently alive and 251 are dead: 886 males and 1068 females. This represents a response rate of roughly 15%. The prevalence of bloat among the survey respondents is approximately 13%. This includes bloating without GDV i.e. resolved without surgery or death). It is hopeful this amount of data should be sufficient to detect heritability. We hopefully expect to have some more news halfway through 2014.
During 2012 Ben Harris, who was at The Queen's Veterinary School Hospital, Cambridge University, collected DNA samples from dams and their puppies for research into a technique, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) that can be used to detect Canine Herpes Virus. This technique has been used on tissue samples and, in theory, could be applied to nasal swabs from live dogs. Ben's study is investigating this possibility. Breeders responded positively to his request for swabs and we await his paper with interest. Unfortunately the data has not yet been published.
The DNA test became available in October 2011 and each month the KC publishes the results of all KC registered dogs, whether clear, carrier or affected. This enables breeeders to use combinations of parents that cannot produce genetically affected puppies which may go blind in later life. By the end of 2013 about 600 dogs had been tested as clear, with about 400 carriers and 84 affecteds. At the end of 2012, the first full year of the test, the numbers were about 400, 300 and 75 respectively. As expected the number of dogs being tested each month has dropped considerably as many dogs are tested and in many cases the hereditary status is known. Unfortunately there are still breeders who are using untested stock but it appears that those who are connected with showing or who are members of breed clubs are not in this group. The advice still remains to test all stock before mating or know the RCD4 status and the principle is that no dog should be produced that may develop RCD4 and go blind. The Joint Breed Clubs Health Committee will continue to monitor results and litters.
SEISC and ISBC (Irish Setters Breeders'Club), with the support of the Joint Breed Clubs Health Committee, are actively supporting the collection of DNA for research into epilepsy in Irish Setters being carried out by Professor Hannes Lohi and his team at Helsinki University. As blood cannot be taken in UK for research purposes without a licence, the team at Helsinki have offered to accept DNA collected by buccal swabs. The swabs are being supplied by Helsinki and we are distributing packs which include detailed questionnaires required by Professor Lohi's team. To date we have supplied just under 100 packs, not just to epileptics but to close family members or over 7s who have not fitted.