Flat­coat Re­sponse

The Field - - LETTERS -

I write in re­sponse to David Tomlinson’s ar­ti­cle, The Flat­coat’s

fa­tal flaw (Sport­ing dog, May is­sue). I am the Ken­nel Club breed health co­or­di­na­tor for the flat­coated re­triever and find it dis­ap­point­ing that Mr Tomlinson did not con­tact me re­gard­ing health in­for­ma­tion for his ar­ti­cle. Sadly, the health sta­tus of the breed has been mis­rep­re­sented and there are a num­ber of points I feel war­rant fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, most breeds will be pre­dis­posed to cer­tain in­her­ited con­di­tions, the

flat­coated re­triever is not alone in this. How­ever, in re­cent years we have seen ev­i­dence that the health and longevity of the breed has im­proved. The health study re­ferred to in the ar­ti­cle has been mis­quoted and to sug­gest that “half of all flat­coated retriev­ers will have con­tracted can­cer by the age of eight” is in­cor­rect; the study by Dr Dob­son in­volved a co­hort of 174 dogs and was con­ducted over 12 years; less than half (42%) died from con­firmed tu­mours, at an av­er­age age of nine years; 35% of dogs died of non-tu­mour causes at an av­er­age age of 12 years. In ad­di­tion, the 2014 Ken­nel Club Pedi­gree Breed Health Sur­vey demon­strated an in­creased me­dian longevity at 10 years.

Much work has been car­ried out by Dr Jane Dob­son at Cam­bridge Vet­eri­nary School with re­gard to in­ves­ti­gat­ing his­ti­o­cytic sar­coma (lo­calised and dis­sem­i­nated), which is a type of tu­mour more fre­quently seen in the flat­coated re­triever (ma­lig­nant his­ti­o­cy­to­sis is now not the cur­rently used ter­mi­nol­ogy). Re­ports of this re­search can be viewed on the health pages of the Flat­coated Re­triever So­ci­ety web­site, in­clud­ing links to the Cam­bridge Cause of Death Reg­is­ter.

The ar­ti­cle cites glau­coma and epilepsy as con­di­tions that af­fect the flat­coated re­triever. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, these con­di­tions are rarely re­ported in this breed. Pri­mary closed-an­gle glau­coma is as­so­ci­ated with an ab­nor­mal­ity within the eye called go­niodys­ge­n­e­sis, which is thought to be an in­her­ited con­di­tion and, as such, the flat­coated re­triever is cur­rently cer­ti­fied for go­niodys­ge­n­e­sis un­der the BVA/KC Eye Scheme

(it is im­por­tant to note that not all dogs af­fected for go­niodys­ge­n­e­sis will go on to de­velop glau­coma). Care­ful screen­ing of dogs used in breed­ing pro­grammes has re­sulted in ex­cel­lent eye re­sults for the breed. Eye con­di­tions such as hered­i­tary cataract and pro­gres­sive reti­nal at­ro­phy are not of­ten di­ag­nosed. In the past 15 years, 3,385 flat­coated retriev­ers were screened for go­niodys­ge­n­e­sis and only 169 were found to be af­fected.

The flat­coated re­triever has unique qual­i­ties and many own­ers and breed­ers are com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing the breed’s health and dual-pur­pose at­tributes. The sug­ges­tion that out­cross­ing to the labrador will “erad­i­cate can­cer genes” is, in my opin­ion, mis­guided.

Not only would the breed­spe­cific qual­i­ties be lost, there are un­likely to be any lines in other breeds that are free from in­her­ited dis­ease.

For more about flat­coated re­triever breed health ini­tia­tives visit the Flat­coated Re­triever So­ci­ety web­site (www.flat­coat­e­dretriever-so­ci­ety.org/health). Liz Branscombe DIPAVN (Sur­gi­cal) RVN, Ken­nel Club Breed Health Co­or­di­na­tor for the Flat­coated Re­triever, by email

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