The problem: Breeding dogs and new regulations
“I have a really good black Labrador that I would like to have a litter from and keep back a puppy. Any others from the litter I will sell and use the profit and have the puppy professionally trained. However, a friend has told me that there is some new l
Your friend is right. On 1 October the Animal Welfare Regulations 2018 came into force and there are specific sections relating to the breeding of dogs. There are some boxes that need to be ticked: • Has your bitch proved herself in the field? Too many dogs that have inherent faults are bred from each year. She should be quiet when sitting at a peg or picking-up, she should have a soft mouth and be a natural retriever. • Have you had any health tests done? You should have the dog’s hips and elbows X-rayed and scored and her eyes tested. If these come back with acceptable results, you can be satisfied that you will be breeding from physically sound stock.
The most “fashionable” stud dogs may not necessarily be the most suitable match for your bitch. So do some homework and, if possible, go to see the dog before your bitch comes into season. Obviously, the dog should also be health tested.
EXPERT ADVICE: from SG’S gundog guru Graham Watkins
If you have gone through the process of health testing and found a suitable sire for your bitch, you should familiarise yourself with the new regulations. They relate to the breeding of dogs as relevant to your
recently. Where I am in west Scotland we never bothered about the disease, but we have had a rude awakening with, for example, a boxer who bled significantly after routine surgery. He and his housemate turned out to be positive for lungworm.
Lungworm (sometimes more correctly referred to as French heartworm) is caused by a parasite called Angiostrongylus vasorum. The adult worms live cosily in the blood vessels close to the heart, occasionally producing substances that can prevent the blood clotting, especially if there are large numbers of them. They lay eggs that hatch into larvae and then burrow through the walls of the blood vessels into the lungs. The dog then coughs these up and swallows them and they pass unharmed through the intestines and out in faeces. When faeces are not properly scooped, along comes a slug or snail who ingest the larvae and then crawl into food bowls or onto toys, hide in the grass
to be eaten and generally make themselves available to infect your unsuspecting dog. Back in the dog, the larvae migrate to the blood vessels and mature into adults so the whole lifecycle begins again.
Once confined to southern England, lungworm has been spreading inexorably northwards, abetted by increased movement of dogs, the spread of slugs and snails in soil and plants, climate change and your trusty fox, which has been urbanised, bringing him into greater contact with dogs. The overall incidence of lungworm in foxes has increased from 7% in 2006 to 18% in 2014 and Mark Fox (I am not making this up), Professor of Veterinary Parasitology at the Royal Veterinary College, found that 74% of foxes in the Greater London area were infected. A recent study by Glasgow University Vet School, in which slugs and snails in local public parks were collected and analysed, showed that around 10% were infected.
Many infected dogs remain symptomless but the most common clinical sign is coughing. This may be productive or non-productive and can be associated with mild to moderate breathing difficulties. Less common (but more severe) consequences of lungworm infection are abnormalities of coagulation. These manifest as anaemia, haematomas (blood blisters) neuropathies and/or an increased risk of post-operative and posttraumatic bleeding. The latter two are clearly an issue for working dogs and hence the reason for your vet offering the test. Perhaps he has seen a spate of recent cases and, quite rightly, is screening for positive cases before he uses his scalpel. Certainly, should the situation get worse, we may consider doing the same. The test can be done quickly in-house and is very accurate.
Angiostrongylus vasorum can be prevented and treated by the use of specific spoton preparations containing moxidectin and imidacloprid given monthly and by milbemycin oxime tablets given orally (weekly for four weeks for treatment and monthly for prevention). Fenbendazole (Panacur) is also effective at 50mg/kg daily for up to 21 days but it is unlicensed for this.
You pays your money and you takes your choice. Lungworm is a real threat to dogs and is increasing in endemic areas and emerging in others. If you are comfortable with your prevention strategy, you could avoid the blood test. As I said, ask your vet what he or she would do if it was their dog. Or just cough up for the test.
“Lungworm has been spreading due to the proliferation of slugs and snails and your trusty fox”