February 12th 2018
This week has been quiet on the show front, but health has been a major focus in German Wirehaired Pointers this week, with the launch of the GWP Club’s Health Initiative and a HPR Health Seminar at the weekend.
Generally the GWP is a fit and healthy breed, mainly due to the focus most breeders have on maintaining its role as a dual purpose gundog, following the motto of the homeland’s Verein Deutsch Drahthaar (the German Breed Club for our breed) ‘Durch Leistung zum Typ’, which translates as ‘through performance to the standard’, by which the Germans mean performance in hunting, health and conformation standards all of which are tested.
HPR Health Seminar
Rob Geary (GWP Club Secretary) and Maxine McCullough (GWP Club Health Co-ordinator) attended an HPR Health Seminar on Saturday run by Dick White Referrals, a well known specialist veterinary referral centre near Cambridge.
Maxine reports that there were about 15 people present in total and the seminar focussed on 3 main conditions, Epilepsy, Heart Disorders (in particular DCM – Dilated Cardiomyopathy) and LP (Laryngeal Paralysis).
The first two of these conditions are of particular interest to GWP Owners and Breeders, as although both are extremely rare in the breed, Epilepsy in particular is one of the most common of these rare disorders and both are life limiting conditions for affected dogs.
The seminar was very interesting and the facilities and of the Dick White Referral Centre (DWR) was outstanding. The highlight of the day was a new surgical procedure that DWR are pioneering on LP treatment.
Laryngeal Paralysis is a progressive condition that has been seen in some Weimeraner’s but more commonly seen Labradors and Golden Retrievers (though DWR did not know of any cases in GWP’s). It is a failure of the larynx (voice box) where the failure of the vocal cords to open causes difficulty in breathing in for the dog and is extremely distressing.
The new procedure is an improvement on the tying back both vocal cords usually performed. The current procedure has many issues as it involves tying back both vocal cords and therefore can have issues such as food and water entering the lungs causing infection and pneumonia. DWR’s procedure involves leaving one of the vocal cords in place lessening the chances of such issue and claim leads to better outcomes.
In terms of GWP’s specifically, the other 2 conditions, largely confirmed what we most of us working with GWP health already know;
• Epilepsy – There is no test of screening for Epilepsy, the only veterinary advice offered to breeders was ‘to be sensible’ ie. avoid breeding directly from affected dogs. There is a lot of research, but progress is very slow and difficult.
• DCM – This is a condition that usually affects dogs very late in life but in rare cases can be terminal for young dogs. Again breeders can only screen for the disorder through regular (annual) heart checks by echocardiogram (costing £200-300). There are no guarantees that a tested health dog may not develop the condition later in life, but at least this does allow the breeder avoid breeding from an affected dog.
For both these conditions the rarity of the conditions, combined with the lack of information about the few cases that exist conspire to make the whole situation even more difficult for researchers.
GWP Club Health Initiative
The GWP Club donated to the Animal Health Trust’s ‘Give a Dog a Genome’, which is part funded by the Kennel Club and we been working with the Animal Health Trust on Epilepsy research, providing sample DNA from affected dogs and also arranging control dog DNA.
However, this is a long term project and progress will be very slow. Meanwhile, in a breed like the GWP where only around 400 dogs are bred every year, the incidence of such rare conditions (often well below 1%) means there are only a handful of affected dogs, sometimes only one or two known cases. That means that finding information for researchers is really difficult.
The GWP Club has launched the ‘GWPC Health Initiative’ this week. This is an on-line facility that allows any owner or breeder of a GWP to report actual cases of dogs with a health condition. It is as simple and easy as sending a message without any complex ‘survey’.
This differs from previous ‘anonymous’ surveys which failed because there was no way to examine the bloodlines of the cases and look for similarities. This initiative asks that only owners or breeders of the dogs submit details and collects the provide the registered name of the dog so that information on age, sex, health tests and parentage can be collated.
In addition, whilst researching conditions, the GWP Club will be able to contact the breeders and owners who reported the cases if they require any further information.
We hope that all owners will take this opportunity to report key disorders that have been seen in the breed so we can collate a much more complete picture of the Breed’s health and assist researchers by providing more information on the incidence and history of some of these rare but distressing conditions.
The GWP Club Health Initiative can be found at https://gwpcuk.club/health
Peter F McCullough
m: 07515 964424