The Kennel Club launches vital scheme to improve Dachshund health

The Kennel Club has announced it is launching a vital health screening scheme for Dachshunds, in partnership with Dachshund Health UK.

The Kennel Club Intervertebral Disc Disease Scheme will be available for all Dachshund varieties and has been developed based on the existing Dachshund Breed Council IVDD screening programme, in conjunction with The Kennel Club Neurology Development Group. The scheme aims to improve the health and welfare of these dogs for generations to come by providing breeders with the information they need to reduce the risk of breeding puppies with a progressive spinal disease known as intervertebral disc disease (IVDD).

As part of the launch, and to reward early adopters, The Kennel Club is offering a £100 subsidy for the owners of dogs that participate in the scheme during 2021. Other subsidies may also be available to owners from Dachshund Health UK.

IVDD is caused by a gradual deterioration of the shock-absorbing parts of the spine, known as intervertebral discs. These discs are filled with a jelly-like substance and sit between the bones in the spine. Intervertebral discs help hold the spine together, give the back its flexibility and also protect the spine by cushioning any impact. As dogs get older these discs can degenerate and harden (calcify). In Dachshunds this can happen at a much earlier age compared to other breeds. The calcification of these discs means they don’t absorb shock as well and can lead to a slipped disc (disc herniation) and spinal cord compression.

IVDD is a serious condition that is known to affect large numbers of Dachshunds, especially the increasingly popular Miniature Smooth Haired variety. It can cause severe pain, incoordination, incontinence, and in severe cases even a paralysis.  Some dogs affected with IVDD can be treated with medication and rest, while others may require invasive or life-changing surgery and long-term rehabilitation therapy – or sadly in the very worst cases, may need to be euthanised to prevent suffering.

An output from The Kennel Club Neurology Development Group, comprised of dog health experts, academics, breeders and specialist vets, the IVDD scheme is based on the Dachshund Breed Council IVDD Screening Programme and evidence from Scandinavia, which shows the risk of IVDD is correlated with the number of intervertebral disc calcifications (IDC) identified by X-rays in dogs.

The Kennel Club IVDD scheme is assisted by participating veterinary centres across the UK, who can X-ray Dachshunds as part of the scheme and submit the X-rays for subsequent scoring by an IVDD scheme scrutineer. The scheme’s scrutineers are all neurology experts who use a pre-defined protocol to grade the dog from zero to three, depending on the number of calcifications present in the spine. The higher the number of calcifications found, the more at risk a dog is of developing clinical signs and passing the disease on to offspring.

Following the launch of The Kennel Club IVDD Scheme for Dachshunds (all varieties), The Kennel Club health team will collate all screening results, which will be available for the Dachshund Breed Council for publication, breed records and public information. The results are also planned to be published via The Kennel Club Health Test Results Finder on the website and the Breed Record Supplement in 2022.

The IVDD scheme will be supported by guidelines for breeders, which enable them to understand the grade given to their dogs and the health risk of potential matings. The scheme will also support Kennel Club Assured Breeders of Dachshunds, with IVDD screening now a breed specific recommendation within the Assured Breeders scheme.

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club said: “The growing demand for Dachshunds from the everyday puppy buyer, combined with the already recognised health problems, means that the scheme is absolutely vital and we really urge breeders to make use of this tool and take advantage of the subsidies on offer when it launches. We applaud Dachshund Health UK for prioritising health within their breed and thank them for their support and partnership with The Kennel Club scheme.

“We are also pleased to announce that further funding from The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has been committed, with over £85,000 to support ongoing research into IVDD and neurology at the University of Cambridge. This scheme, alongside the research which will help us better understand IVDD, really does have the potential to improve Dachshund health for generations to come.

Roger Sainsbury BVM&S, MRCVS, chairman of Dachshund Health UK added: “Intervertebral Disc Disease has always been a serious issue for Dachshunds and we welcome the new The Kennel Club scheme which will screen Dachshunds for the risk of this condition. We believe this scheme will assist breeders by helping them to choose Dachshunds with a lower risk of developing disc disease, which should eventually lead to a reduction in the breed’s tendency towards back problems.”

Paul M Freeman MA, VetMB, Cert SAO, DipECVN, MRCVS, principal clinical neurologist at Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital at the University of Cambridge said: “This scheme crucially facilitates data collection and enables researchers to monitor the frequency of the condition and progress in the breed affected, which will inform ongoing research, for the overall improvement of Dachshund health. We look forward to working with The Kennel Club and other collaborative parties dedicated to improving Dachshund health and welfare across the board through promoting the scheme and through ongoing research, kindly funded by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust.”

More information about the scheme and its importance is available in a new webcast with health and breed experts here or via thekennelclub.org.uk/IVDD.