ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL BREED CLUBS
HEALTH REPORT 2009/10

*on behalf of:
The English Springer Spaniel Club
The English Springer Spaniel Club of Scotland
The English Springer Spaniel Club of Wales
The Lancs & Cheshire English Springer Spaniel Club
The Southern English Springer Spaniel Society
The Midland English Springer Spaniel Society
The Northern English Springer Spaniel Society
The South Western English Springer Spaniel Club

GENERAL SUMMARY

It has now been 10 years since the English Springer Spaniel Breed Clubs appointed Joint Health Co-ordinators for the Breed in order to ensure a proactive and unified approach on health and welfare issues. A great deal has now been achieved of which the Breed can be justly proud.

Overall, although English Springers are in a better position than many other breeds, and are not riddled with widespread underlying health problems, we can never allow ourselves to become complacent.   We need to continue to collect and share information to ensure that the Breed as a whole is healthy and fit for purpose.  Much has already been achieved (DNA tests for Fucosidosis, PRA Cord 1 Mutation, as well as ongoing research into Chronic Hepatitis & Mammary Tumours) through the co-operation and understanding of many ESS Breed Club members.  In the future, however, we will need to spread the net wider to obtain a more accurate picture than the one that is perhaps perceived by some of the media and general public.

Our excellent ESS Breed Club websites are one of several ways that we are trying to achieve this, as they enable us to reach a much wider audience than was possible in the past.

As Health Co-ordinators, through the Breed Clubs, we will be concentrating some of our future efforts on finding new ways to obtain reliable clinical evidence on existing or emerging health issues that might affect the Breed.

  • INQUIRIES INTO DOG BREEDING

If 2008 proved eventful, the prolonged fallout from the "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" TV programme ensured that 2009 continued in much the same vein.   The Kennel Club introduced a number of new practices and regulations, and two official inquiries into the health, welfare and breeding of dogs were ongoing throughout the year.

The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) Inquiry reported its findings in November 2009, and concluded that there are serious health and welfare problems affecting many pedigree dogs that need to be addressed urgently.  The Inquiry favoured self regulation rather than the introduction of new legislation, and recognised that there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution.  However, many feel that it did not go far enough in tackling the major part of the problem caused by puppy farmers and irresponsible or ill-informed "pet" breeders.

The Kennel Club/Dogs Trust Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding, headed by Professor Patrick Bateson, published its findings in January 2010, a summary of which has been compiled and issued to the ESS Breed Clubs and their members.   One of the key recommendations was the setting up of "a non statutory independent Advisory Council on dog breeding" to oversee the work that needs to be done.  Work on the development of this Council has now been instituted following a meeting in February 2010 chaired by Professor  Sheila Crispin and attended by the KC, veterinary bodies, Dogs Trust, Defra and other interested parties.  Agreement was reached that this group should be called" The Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding".   The main issues to be covered are:

  • Legislation and Regulation (mainly how to use existing law more effectively)
  • Education and publicity - focusing on how to buy a puppy
  • Breeding Strategies - as guided by the KC Dog Health Group
  • Data collection and surveillance - on health issues

Undoubtedly many of these initiatives will have a significant impact on anyone who owns, breeds, exhibits or works with our canine companions.

Click on the APGAW Inquiry and Bateson Report to read these reports in full.

Update on general health matters....

  • KENNEL CLUB NEW (Breeding) REGULATIONS & INTRODUCTORY PRACTICES

In 2009 The Kennel Club introduced several new projects and issued new regulations, aimed at publicly demonstrating its commitment to canine health and welfare issues.  As part of a ‘stakeholder' group that includes veterinary and animal welfare organisations, they have signed up to a set of welfare principles and issued guidelines for helping new owners in choosing the right puppy.

July 2009 saw the launch of a Canine Genetics Centre based at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket (the main developer of DNA tests in the UK), where it is hoped to develop up to 25 different DNA tests for inherited canine disease over the next five years.

There were changes introduced to Judges' Training, which now includes a new ruling for first time Judges awarding Challenge Certificates in the Gundog Group having to attend a Field Trial prior to a judging appointment at Championship level.

The KC has indicated that it will be issuing breed health plans for every breed, which will

include an assessment of each breed's genetic diversity.  Notwithstanding that, they no longer allow the registration of progeny from matings that have taken place on or after 1st March 2009 between any father/daughter, mother/son or brother/sister (unless convinced of a strong scientific welfare reason for doing so in exceptional cases).

Changes have been made to 78 Breed Standards in order to discourage or reverse exaggerations, and a clause has been added to every Breed Standard to underline the importance attached to health and welfare.   Currently no points of concern specific to English Springer Spaniels have been identified for special attention by judges, other than those covered routinely by the Kennel Club Breed Standard.

The English Springer Spaniel Breed Standard now includes the following addition (underlined below) under its Fault Clause: "Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog, and on the dog's ability to perform its traditional work.

  • KC BREED HEALTH WATCH

The KC Breed Watch is an area of the Kennel Club's website that will serve as a constantly updated alert to any undesirable traits or exaggerations that may be emerging in individual breeds, which may adversely affect their health, welfare or fitness for function.  The idea behind this initiative is that such trends can be recognised at an early stage, and breeders can breed them out before they become accepted as the correct "norm" within a breed.

This tool is aimed mainly at judges, exhibitors and breeders, and will allow users to explore each breed to see if there are any particular points of concern highlighted for that breed.  Whilst the idea in itself is not a bad one, reservations have been raised by the ESS Breed Clubs about the importance of ensuring that there is proper vetting and investigation by the KC before such alerts are posted onto this section of their website.  Concern has also been raised that, as the Breed Watch initiative is designed only to identify undesirable trends, it will only add yet more fuel to the fire of negative publicity that has already been targeted at the breeding and showing of pedigree dogs.  Instead, it has been suggested that Breed Watch should perhaps also be used as an opportunity to highlight where positive improvements have been noted in breed characteristics.  We are currently awaiting the KC's response to these comments.

  • KC/BVA/ISDS OFFICIAL HEALTH TESTING SCHEMES

With effect from 1st January 2010, any dog being submitted for testing under the official BVA/KC Health Schemes (i.e. Eye Scheme, Hip Scheme, Elbow Scheme) must be permanently identified by either microchip or tattoo.   This means that permanent identification and registration documents will BOTH be required for Health Scheme certification.

Update on ESS health matters....

A full-scale research project continues at Queen's Veterinary School, University of Cambridge, into the cause of Chronic Hepatitis (CH) in English Springer Spaniels. The researchers suspect that some ESS may have an inherited susceptibility to an unrecognised virus, and their initial results support this possibility.   Genetic studies are a very important part of their research, as these would help determine any genetic reason for the increased susceptibility of ESS to CH, and would also provide information needed to develop a genetic test for it in the future.

Scientific advances mean that powerful technologies have recently become available that make it feasible to conduct high quality DNA studies in dogs at a relatively affordable cost.  One of these involves the ability to identify any differences in the genetic code between "control" samples from healthy dogs, and samples from diseased dogs.  The material needed to perform this analysis is obtained from blood samples from both healthy and affected dogs.   An appeal was therefore launched in spring 2009 for blood samples to be donated from healthy English Springers aged 7 years or older, that have never suffered from hepatitis.   As ours is a numerically large breed, and only around fifty "control" samples are needed, in theory this should not be a difficult target to achieve.   Sadly however, we have to report that the response from owners has been extremely disappointing and, nine months after the appeal was launched, that target has still not been reached.   It should be recognised by everyone that this is a devastating disease for both dog and owner, and finding answers is in all our interests.  Donating a sample costs nothing more than the time to take a dog to the Vet, and we are once again appealing for your help. Full details on how to donate can be found on the SESSS website (www.sesss.org) or the ESSC website (www.englishspringer.org), or by contacting the Health Co-ordinators.

On a positive note, in August 2009 the CH research project was awarded major funding from The Wellcome Trust, which means that it is secure for a further three years.  Obtaining this very prestigious grant, in a very competitive field, is a great achievement on the part of the Principal Researchers, Nick Bexfield and Penny Watson.   A separate ring-fenced fund is being held within the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for anyone wishing to make additional voluntary donations, and this money is being earmarked for use in the planned genetic studies outlined above.

In the meantime, a reminder to anyone unfortunate enough to own an ESS diagnosed with Hepatitis, please would you ask your Vet to contact either of the researchers (Nick Bexfield or Penny Watson), ideally before any liver biopsy is performed, so that they can discuss the ideal techniques of taking and storing biopsies beforehand.   Clinical and pedigree information and (ideally) blood samples from dogs previously diagnosed with Hepatitis are also very useful to the researchers; please contact either of them for further information if you have an affected ESS.  (Tel: 01223 337621 Email: Nick Bexfield or Penny Watson.

An investigation into possible genetic causes of Mammary Tumours in English Springers is currently being carried out by the Oncology Research Group at The Animal Health Trust in Newmarket.  The researchers need to collect DNA samples (either from blood or cheek swabs) from as many affected English Springers as possible, as well as biopsies from suspected mammary tumours.

As with the Chronic Hepatitis project, the researchers also need to compare DNA samples from affected dogs with those from healthy dogs, and they are therefore appealing for "control" samples from healthy female English Springers aged 7 years or older, that have never suffered from any type of cancer.

Further information about Mammary Cancer can be found on the SESSS website (www.sesss.org) or the ESSC website (www.englishspringer.org), together with full details on how to donate a blood or cheek swab "control" sample.  If you are unfortunate enough to own a female ESS of any age that is diagnosed with a suspected mammary tumour, please contact the researchers Mike Starkey or Lisa Jeffery direct (Tel:  01638 751000, ext. 1214;  Email: Lisa Jeffery or Mike Starkey.

** Please note that "control" blood samples donated from healthy female English Springers aged 7 or older will be used to help both the Chronic Hepatitis and Mammary Tumour research projects.

Goniodysgenesis/Primary Glaucoma in ESS was moved to Schedule A of the official BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme on 1st January 2009.  Since that date, all gonioscopy test results have been recorded as either "Affected" or "Unaffected", with the results automatically added to Kennel Club registration certificates and published in the Breed Records Supplement and on the KC website.

Prior to January 2009, under Schedule B of the Eye Scheme, gonioscopy test results were not required to be recorded as "Affected" or "Unaffected", and they were not published by the KC.  Consequently, there were some inconsistencies between the examining Ophthalmologists in how they recorded Schedule B results on test certificates, which made it difficult to use them for publication, for example on an official Breed Club website database.

In November 2009, the BVA Eye Panel Working Party agreed to a request made on behalf of the ESS Breed Clubs to review Schedule B certificates so that the results could be confirmed as either "Affected" or "Unaffected", making them easier to understand and consistent with the format used for recording Schedule A results.  Although these can't be treated as "retrospective" Schedule A results under the Eye Scheme (i.e. they will not be added to registration certificates, or published by the KC), they will be eligible for inclusion on an official published ESS Breed Club website database.

Owners wishing to submit Schedule B gonioscopy test certificates for review (free of charge), were invited to do so by mid December 2009, and it is expected that the results will be confirmed by the BVA early in the New Year.  They can then be forwarded to either of the Health Co-ordinators for inclusion on a Breed Club database.

  • PRA (CORD1 MUTATION)

An increasing number of ESS owners and breeders are now making use of the DNA test for PRA (Cord1 mutation) that has been available since April 2007.  An official KC/ESS Breed Scheme means that the results are automatically added to registrations and published by the KC.  Cord1 remains the only genetic mutation that has so far been identified as a major risk factor for PRA in ESS, and periodic clinical eye tests are still required to diagnose PRA caused by other mutations that may also exist in the Breed.

Research is continuing both in the UK and overseas to try to explain the wide variation in the age of onset and rate of progression of PRA caused by the Cord1 mutation, to the extent that some genetically affected dogs never actually develop PRA within their lifetimes (although they can produce offspring that develop the disease earlier).  Electroretinography (ERG) tests, which measure the electrical response of rods and cones (the visual cells in the retina at the back of the eye) when exposed to light have, however, detected changes in the retinas of genetically affected dogs, even when they appear normal under conventional clinical eye examination.

More research is therefore needed before we have all the answers, and owners of dogs found to be genetically affected for the PRA Cord1 mutation, but which are clinically normal, are urged to contact the Health Co-ordinators.  We would also very much like to hear from owners of dogs clinically diagnosed with PRA that have been DNA tested and found not to be genetically affected for the Cord1 mutation.

The Southern ESS Society again provided eye testing facilities at their annual Championship Show in February 2010, with Professor Peter Bedford in attendance.

Nicola Calvert (Calvdale) again hosted an annual Eye Testing session at her home in the North East in October 2009.   ESS owners/breeders are also encouraged to use the various eye testing facilities available throughout the year around the country.

Mr Ian Mason has been appointed as the new BVA Chief Panellist with effect from January 2010.

The English Springer Spaniel (amongst many other breeds) continues to be suspected of having a predisposition to autoimmune endocrine disorders.  The Health Co-ordinators have highlighted these conditions as being amongst the top five health issues currently of most concern to the Breed, and they have appealed for anyone whose dog has been clinically diagnosed as suffering from any of the above, to contact them.

Epilepsy is one of the health issues about which we have, over the years, received a significant number of reports, and it has therefore been highlighted as one of the top five health issues currently of concern to the Breed (see 2008 SESSS Yearbook Health Report).   Once again however, it is important to stress that, although the problem is known to exist, it would be a mistake to assume that it is rife throughout the Breed.   Nevertheless, it was felt that more information needed to be made available to ESS owners, and both the SESSS (www.sesss.org) and ESSC (www.englishspringer.org) websites now include an extensive section on this complex subject, including the following Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What is Epilepsy?
  • How will I know if my dog is having a seizure?
  • How is Epilepsy diagnosed?
  • How is Epilepsy treated?
  • Is there any evidence to indicate that Epilepsy is inherited?
  • What help or support is available?

Owners of affected dogs know only too well that Epilepsy is a very distressing condition which needs to be carefully monitored and controlled.  If anyone needs further information or help, please contact the Health Co-ordinators, or follow the website links to the recommended support groups.

There is to date no notified programme of genetic study of HD in the English Springer Spaniel in the UK.  The ESS Breed Clubs will be advised by the Health Co-ordinators should there be any changes to the status of HD in the Breed in the future. The Breed Mean Score (BMS) remains at 14.  BVA guidance states that "breeders wishing to reduce the risk of HD should choose stock with scores WELL BELOW the Breed Mean Score".

The ESS Breed Clubs continue to support all ESS owners/breeders who wish to make use of the KC/BVA Scheme for HD testing.

The Kennel Club is currently concentrating its efforts on seeking accreditation for its ABS through the independent United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).  This is in order to ensure that the Scheme meets suitable standards and is considered appropriate should any future Government introduce statutory requirements for dog breeding or the compulsory identification of dogs.   It is hoped that the ABS will gain accreditation within approximately the next 15 months.

As part of its programme of development, the KC states that the ABS is designed to be tailored to best suit the needs of individual breeds.  Breed Clubs and interested individuals are invited on an ongoing basis to communicate with the Kennel Club and suggest refinements and changes to the Scheme.

As a result of this ongoing communication, changes relating to the health and suitability of breeding stock of the breeds have been, and can continue to be made to the ABS Specific Requirements (including health screening) and Recommendations.

As of March 2010, there were 5,000 registered Accredited Breeders across all breeds.

Further information can be obtained from the KC website or from their Health and Information Department - or telephone 0870 606 6750.

Looking ahead.....

Whether we like it or not, the world of pedigree dogs is changing.  To protect its future, we have to find ever more practical and effective ways of getting through the mass of new rules and regulations, keeping up with scientific developments, and overcoming the problems caused by irresponsible breeders and adverse media publicity.  Only by working together, however difficult that may be at times, can we hope to deal with the challenges that face us all.

And finally.....

A reminder that you can now search for the health test results of individual dogs by using the "Health Test Results Finder" on the KC website. All results received and recorded by the KC under official BVA/KC Health Schemes (Eye/Hip/Elbow) or official KC/ESS DNA Testing Schemes (Fucosidosis/PRA Cord1) will be shown.

Lists of DNA test results for both Fucosidosis and PRA Cord1 can also be found on the KC website at by scrolling down to Spaniel (English Springer) and selecting the desired list.

The Kennel Club is currently working on a number of major IT initiatives which it hopes will vastly increase the amount of health data available to breeders and puppy buyers and is looking to develop and set up a trial version of its Mate Select database.  This will allow breeders to input the names of potential mates to find the dog which is most likely to produce the healthiest offspring on the basis of its recorded health data, whilst also optimising the genetic diversity of the Breed.   Time will tell how useful a tool this will prove.

Please continue to follow the information provided on the Health pages of either the SESSS or ESSC websites, which have both recently been re-vamped and updated, and now include comprehensive information about a whole variety of breed specific and general canine health and welfare issues.

As always, we would encourage anyone needing information, help or support to contact us, and we welcome any positive and practical suggestions that may improve the health and welfare of the Breed.

UK English Springer Spaniel Clubs* Health Co-ordinators

Lesley Bloomfield

Tel: 01923 823579   Email

Louise Scott

Tel: 020 8427 3396   Email



© English Springer Spaniel Club