On February 15th and 16th, 2021 we witnessed Embark’s inaugural canine health event. Until now, there has been no other major dog health conference focused on bringing dog breeders of all experience levels together with veterinarians and the research community. Through conversation between all these groups, researchers and veterinarians can get the insights only breeders can offer about their breeds’ needs and arising issues. Breeders can learn how they can bring the latest advances from the lab and clinic into their breeding programs. To recap this inaugural event, below are 5 tips expert veterinarians, scientists, and breeders shared regarding canine health:
1. Find the Genius in Your Dog. Duke University’s Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology, Dr. Brian Hare gave the keynote presentation. He presented research about how in some situations, canines can better understand human behavior than our closest relatives, chimpanzees. He shared data on dog emotion and cognition, showing that dogs have multiple types of intelligence and are unique in the way they engage with humans. It is important to keep developing the dog’s mind so they can continue to learn and participate in programs for assistance and detection. Check out his citizen science dognition project.
2. Contribute to Canine Health Research. Embark’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Adam Boyko, and other speakers throughout the day, highlighted how dog breeders and owners alike can contribute to advancing new health research, spanning new genetic test development as well as the importance of dogs as a model for other species, including humans! Take a look at some genomic discoveries so far. Join the effort by completing health surveys, share your dog’s genetic data with breed clubs and researchers (downloadable from your embark profile), and ensure every dog in your program is DNA tested.
3. Collaborate and share knowledge to advance canine health. Day 1’s featured panel, hosted by the Westminster Kennel Club discussed recommendations for how breeders and veterinarians can work together to support breeding programs and educate puppy buyers. The panel also highlighted the importance of mentoring new breeders, understanding breed differences, and leveraging genetic coefficient of inbreeding as an ideal means of managing line breeding and inbreeding. Check out this blog post to learn about Embark and Westminster Kennel Club’s partnership.
4. Use genetic tests to avoid unnecessary inbreeding in litters. Embark’s Senior Scientist, Dr. Aaron J. Sams focused his presentation on research based projects to better understand the distribution and impact of inbreeding in dogs using the genetic coefficient of inbreeding (COI). He recommended breeders test for mutations known to associate with health risk and avoid pairings that would lead to unnecessary risk in litters (e.g. breeding carriers to carriers for recessive mutations). Embark’s genetic COI can detect inbreeding in past generations, as well as better inform on strategic breeding crosses than typically expected from pedigree based calculations. Watch this video to measure how the genetic coefficient of inbreeding can impact your breeding program.
5. Stop pedigree dogs from having health problems. Day 2’s first panel focused on a breeder’s perspective on canine health. The panel discussed breeding to care for the health and longevity of dogs rather than for specific desired traits. Breeders were challenged to think about the big picture and how they want their dogs to live. Panelists considered that some of the health problems purebred dogs are experiencing could be perpetuated based on improper breeding practices. Responsible breeders often knowingly breed carriers to clear dogs in order to preserve overall diversity and other good health traits that make excellent puppies that live great lives.
Canine health is an ongoing issue that many are committed to improving shown by the number of speakers, panelists, registrants and attendees of Embark’s 2021 Canine Health Summit. We appreciate your commitment to improving canine genetic health, and we look forward to seeing you at the next Canine Health Summit. Meanwhile, if you would like to be notified when you can register for the next canine health summit, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in learning more about the canine health summit, watch the videos of the presentations.