31th of December 2020

Juggling with statistics

The 1st study by Rowena Packer et al 2015 – on which the CFR is based from the Dutch Enforcement Criteria for brachycephalic breeds – was based on dogs that have already been referred to the Royal Veterinary College. A clinic -Small Animal Referall Hospital (RVC ARH) with the best surgeons to solve problems. The question is whether one can find a percentage of the number of dogs that have clinical BOAS out of the total population of the breed. After all, healthy dogs do not end up here anyway.

In the 2nd study, dogs that had not been referred were recruited by breeders, or after an initial assessment by the veterinary practice and rescue centres.

However, if Packer tests 4 dogs of a single breed and it turns out that 3 are clinically affected by BOAS, can we say that 75% of the breed is affected? This is not a lie, however it has little to do with the actual incidence of BOAS as was later confirmed by Jane Ladlow and Liu in the Liu et al study in 2017.

In addition to juggling statistics, action groups also play a major part in the perception of the importance of diseases. As a result of the BBC program ‘pedigree dogs exposed’, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel became the face of Syringomyelia, a rare disorder in the spinal cord. Everywhere we see the media talking repeating the other ones about bulging brains.

However, Brenda Bonnet PhD has compiled 12 years of mortality figures from the CKCS Agria insurance database and has found that 21 dogs died of Syringomyelia and 1479 of heart problems in Sweden during that period. Also visits to veterinarians Syringomyelia was only on rank 11 while heart problems were on rank 3. It has to be said that heart problems in CKCS were almost 8 times more common than in the average dog while in SM (neurological) was only twice as common. The question arises is which disease would be better to tackle?

Mediagenic

The problem is often that certain conditions are ‘mediagenic’. Dogs that gasp for air, dogs that are said to have too small heads for the brain and dogs suffering from epilepsy are simply more ‘mediagenic’ than cancer or heart problems, even though the latter problems are many times more extensive. Action groups specialise in using and playing with the media, turning a problem they raise into a ‘social’ problem in society.

Lack of pro-activity

Due to a lack of knowledge and responsiveness and the total lack of pro-activity in the pedigree world, the pedigree dog is put in a much worse position than would be necessary on the basis of the facts.

In short, something is wrong here.

It cannot be denied that these ‘mediagenic’ disorders exist, it is not a lie, but the impact caused by the action groups is many times greater than would be necessary on the basis of the facts. For example, the impact that has resulted in 30 short-muzzled breeds making breeding impossible.

And Utrecht continues with the stillborn baby

Also the database, to be filled by the veterinarians, that the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht wants to start up for (only) 32 of the roughly 350 breeds still seems to become a stillborn child. After all, they still have no view on the incidence data because they only have affected dogs in the picture. They also have no view on the distinction between pedigree dogs and look-a-likes and dogs bred in the Netherlands or abroad.

International cooperation is necessary

Intensive cooperation with other countries is the only way out of this. This is not a problem that can be solved in the Netherlands separately. The gene pool in the Netherlands is far too small and even completely absent within certain smaller breeds. The end of pedigree breeding is therefore the result of closing of the borders for pedigree dogs by requiring foreign dogs to be tested in the Dutch way. It is precisely the absence of incidence data in the Netherlands and the small gene pool that makes cooperation with other countries necessary.

One of the first actions in this regard should be the study of the Swedish Agria insurance data. The short-muzzled breeders have picked up the glove and have boosted self-confidence with the election of new board members of the Dutch Kennel club. However, the reactive attitude needs to be transformed into a proactive one. If only to be able to have an answer ready in advance at the next ‘attack’ of the activists of ‘Dier en Recht’.

The Agria database

The Agria data has a very stable basis in Sweden to obtain incidence data on the different pedigree dogs. In Sweden the dogs insurance has a long history . 80% Of the dogs are insured. Also 80% of the dogs are pedigree dogs in Sweden. As market leader Agria has insured 52% of the dogs or 370.000 insured dogs of which 80% are pedigree dogs or 296.000 pedigree dogs. Based on 350 breeds, this is an average of about 850 dogs per breed. These numbers are not absolute and are of course different every year, but they should give a picture of the great importance of the Agria data base. In a previous publications we already indicated that on the basis of the FCI data in Sweden a number of smaller breeds are considerably more popular here than in the Netherlands and that Sweden has more pedigree dogs in absolute numbers than the Netherlands. In short, these data could seriously contribute to a correct picture of our pedigree dogs.

What is a breed characteristic that is harmful according to the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine?

After all, in 2016, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Utrecht published:

A breed trait is harmful if the animal in question is presented to a veterinarian to eliminate (the consequences of) the trait in whole or in part in order to prevent or remedy clinical problems. If a breed characteristic becomes harmful, this will therefore lead to consultation with the veterinarian’. In short, the Agria data base fits this definition perfectly.

And what about the short-legged Dachshund? Wait and see or be pro-active?

If we want to prevent, for example, the Dachshund with its short legs from becoming the next ‘victim’ of the activists we could anticipate this with the data known about the Dachshund. At Agria the Dachshund data are placed next to the data of the average of the dogs -including the 20% crossbreeds that are insured- so a good comparison is possible.

The first thing we see from the ‘mortality’ data is that the Dachshund has a total mortality rate (within 10 years) that is only 80% of the rest of the insured dogs. We see that 0.4% of the average of all dogs dies of locomotor problems – the major complaint in the long back and short legs – while in the Dachshund this is 0.49%. We do see that Dachshunds die twice as often (0.48%) from accidents but this is difficult to put away as a hereditary disorder. We also see that 0.48% of the average dog dies of cancer while only 0,18% the Dachshund dies of it. Dachshunds also have about 65% fewer dogs suffering from neurological problems than the average dog (0.17%). We see the same picture with kidney problems.

However, experts often do not consider the cause of death or the age at which dogs die to be important for the well-being of the dog. In order to be able to say a little more about the welfare of the Dachshund, we should therefore, according to the experts, look at the ‘morbidity’ data, and the number of vet visits to this pedigree dog. Fully in line with the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

This also remains at 92% of the average dog (including 20% crossbreeds). Of the 24 main disease groups registered by the insurance company, only 3 groups turned out to be slightly worse for the Dachshund. These are cardiac, reproductive and respatory lower problems. However, in the 7 most common larger disease groups the Dachshund scores better – sometimes considerably – than the average dog. Especially with the problems with muscles, joints and bones (Locomotor) it is remarkable to see that the Dachshund gets off better than the average dog.

In short, if one wants to stigmatise the short-legged Dachshund as an unhealthy dog, then it is time that the relevant breed association and the Dutch Kennel Club are pro-active and show that the breed is in general a healthy breed.

It is better to proactively anticipate this in order to get and/or keep the Dachshund out of the danger zone. And this is just one example to use up the courage to boost the self-confidence of pedigree breeders and their associations as well as the new board of the Raad van Beheer and start the year 2021 with considerably more self-confidence and a pro-active attitude.

That is why the foundation Justice for pedigree dogs wishes all breeders and their associations a prosperous and pro-active 2021.

Foundation Justice for the pedigree dog

Edwin Meyer Viol

For a pro-active attitude in 2021

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