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  Promoting the Health of the Field Spaniel
Monitoring, Testing, Education and Research

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Field Spaniel Health
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Health Testing Schemes

We aim to run a Heath Testing day every other year (open to all breeds)

For more information or details on our Testing Days or any of the items below, please contact our Secretary :Shula Shipton
(use the email link at the left-hand margin of this web page)


Heart Testing
There have been a small number of
Field Spaniels
which have had heart problems.

In order to keep abreast of this situation,
we aim to organise Heart Testing sessions
every other year at our Testing Days.


  • To identify dogs free from any cardiac abnormality.
  • To ascertain the prevalence of heart murmurs, abnormal rhythms or specific heart defects in Field Spaniels.
  • To confirm the cause of heart murmurs or abnormal rhythms by further investigation of affected animals
  • To collate data for investigation of a possible genetic basis to a specific heart problem in a given breed by a breed club nominated person, geneticist or veterinary surgeon
  • To advise the owner, breeder and dog's veterinary surgeon when an abnormality has been identified and recommendations about any further investigation, if indicated
  • We use the Auscultation (examination with a stethoscope) method of heart testing. This is an essential part of examining the animals' heart and circulation. Any heart murmurs are identified, timed, localised and graded (grade 0 - 6).

    David Fisher is a specialist in this area and has special multi-copy forms which he completes and gives one for the owner; one for the breed club and one for your veterinary surgeon. Heart testing is recommended to be carried out annually for Field Spaniels.

    For a List of Veterinary Surgeons recommended for Auscultation, click on the link below:-

    Veterinary Cardiovascular Society - List of Veterinary Surgeons recommended for Auscultation


    Heart Testing
    Hip Dysplasia (HD)

    is a term which encompasses
    a number of specific developmental
    other abnormalities involving the hip joint.

    Developmental changes come first and being related mainly to growth are known as primary changes. Others come later; these are related to wear and tear from usage and are termed secondary changes. The end result is that one or a pair of joints becomes mechanically unsound and therefore does not function properly. An unsound joint is usually a painful one and lameness will result. In extreme cases the dog may find movement very difficult and much suffering will be involved.

    It was in the light of these findings that the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club (KC) developed a scheme some 30 years ago to assess the degree of hip malformation of dogs through radiography. Over this time almost 100,000 radiographs (X-rays) have been examined to provide a standardised pinion on HD status, principally for the use of breeders.

    The BVA/KC HD Scheme
    All radiographs submitted to the BVA/KC Hip Dysplasia Scheme are assessed by means of scoring. The hip score is the sum of the points awarded for each of nine radiographic features of both hip joints. The lower the hips score the less the degree of hip dysplasia present. The minimum (best) score for each hip is zero and the maximum (worst) is 53, giving a range for the total of 0 to 106 The average score of the breed, or the 'breed mean score', is calculated from all the scores recorded for a given breed and is shown alongside its range thereby giving a representation of the overall hip status of the breed. All breeders wishing to try to control HD should breed only from animals with hip scores well below the breed mean score.

    For the hip scoring scheme to be meaningful and successful in the attempt to control this serious disease it is important that all radiographs taken under the scheme are submitted for scoring, whatever the apparent state of the hips, in order that the information gathered is as relevant as possible. It is only by this means that proper conclusions may be drawn by the scheme's statisticians, geneticists and veterinary advisers. Currently some hips predicted to have a higher hip score are being held back from scoring. This and the fact that there have been few dogs scored since the scheme began means that the mean breed score may be distorted.

    There are some specialist vets that do hip x-rays for the BVA / KC scheme that breeders like to go to. Some of these can do this with sedation rather than a full anaesthetic. If your vet is to use sedation, please remember to avoid Acepromazine (ACP) as this may have negative side effects.

    The current mean hip score for Field Spaniels is 15 based on 110 dogs being scored.


    Eye Testing
    The BVA / KC / ISDS Eye Scheme

    offers breeders the possibility of
    Eye Testing to screen
    for inherited eye disease
    in certain breeds.

    The main purpose of the scheme is to ensure that there is no evidence of hereditary eye disease in dogs used for breeding. Breeders are often advised to submit dogs for annual eye tests, since some diseases have late onset of clinical signs. However, it is also possible for litters to be tested for congenital hereditary conditions such as Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia when they are between six and twelve weeks of age. By screening breeding stock for these diseases, breeders can use the information to eliminate or reduce the frequency of eye disease being passed on to puppies.
    Although any breed can be examined for eye disease, currently only the results of those breeds that appear on Schedule A of the Eye Scheme are sent to the Kennel Club for inclusion on computer records and printing in the Breed Records Supplement (BRS).

    Currently the Field Spaniel is on Schedule B (under Investigation) for Heredity Cataract and Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia. All Fields tested will be issued with a Clear Result but with annotations of any eye disease. This also means that the results do not get published in the BRS. We keep a register of all dogs who have been eye tested and their results. Anyone who has had their dog’s eyes done can send a copy of the form to the Acting Secretary to have it included in our register.
    The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme recommends that eyes are tested annually.

    We hold Eye Testing sessions at our Testing Day. This is done by a BVA/KC panelist.

    The three eye conditions that are under investigation in Field Spaniels are:-

    Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia
    The normal retina lines the back of the eye. The retinal cells receive light stimuli from the external environment and transmit the information to the brain where it is interpreted to become vision. In retinal dysplasia, there is abnormal development of the retina, present at birth. The disorder can be inherited, or it can be acquired as a result of a viral infection or some other event before the pups were born.
    Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia is the folding of 1 or more area(s) of the retina. This is the mildest form of Retinal Dysplasia, and the significance to the dog's vision is unknown.

    Heredity Cataract
    A cataract is a clouding of the crystalline lens. The crystalline lens is a clear tissue located behind the pupil - the dark circular opening in the middle of the iris seen as the coloured part of the eye. The lens works with the transparent cornea by covering the eye's surface allowing light to focus on the retina at the back of the eye. When the lens becomes cloudy light cannot pass to the retina properly and vision is blurred and decreased.
    Hereditary Cataracts are almost invariably bi-lateral, meaning that both eyes are normally affected. The good news though is that although there would be a restricted vision, the dog would almost never go blind. The cataract may develop rapidly over weeks, or slowly over years, in one or both eyes. Like humans, dogs also develop cataracts with age (often after 8 years of life).


    Information to be uploaded


    As with many breeds there have been incidences of Field Spaniels suffering from hypothyroidism.

    What is hypothyroidism?
    Hypothyroidism is a disorder of the thyroid gland -- two small butterfly-shaped lobes located in the neck. This gland has a number of functions, but is most well known for regulating your dog’s metabolic rate. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland is under-active, and unable to secrete enough thyroid hormone. This, in turn, decreases your dog’s metabolism.

    How does a dog get hypothyroidism?
    Most cases of hypothyroidism stem from the dog’s own immune system attacking the tissues of the thyroid gland. This condition is called autoimmune thyroiditis. The dog’s own system attempts to compensate for this at first by secreting more and more of the thyroid hormone, but eventually the gland is unable to keep up with the attacks on its tissue, and the dog becomes hypothyroid and symptomatic. While there is a genetic predisposition for thyroid disorders, environmental factors such as pollutants and allergies probably play a role as well.

    What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
    Below are some of the symptoms of Hypothyroidism. Dogs do not have to have all of them to be hypothyroid. In some cases they may only have one or two of the symptoms.
    · Lethargic behaviour such as a lack of interest in play, frequent napping, tiring out on long walks
    · Weight gain, sometimes without an apparent gain in appetite
    · Bacterial infections of the skin
    · Dry skin
    · Hair loss, especially on the trunk or tail (“rat’s tail”)
    · Discoloration or thickening of the skin where hair loss has occurred
    · Cold intolerance/seeking out warm places to lie down
    · Slow heart rate
    · Chronic ear infections
    · Severe behavioural changes such as unprovoked aggression, head tilt, seizures, anxiety and/or compulsivity. As we are investigating Late Onset Seizures in the breed, it might be useful to eliminate thyroid as a cause of this.
    · Depression

    Are there certain breeds that are more susceptible to hypothyroidism?
    Most dogs who are affected by hypothyroidism fall into the mid to large size category. Many breeds are affected by this disease, including (but not limited to):
    · Golden Retrievers
    · Doberman Pinschers
    · Greyhounds
    · Irish Setters
    · Dachshunds
    · Cocker Spaniels
    · Airedale Terriers

    Hypothyroidism is rare in toy and miniature breeds of dogs.

    Is age or gender a factor?
    Most dogs contract hypothyroidism between the ages of 4 to 10. It appears to affect males and females equally, however spayed females are at a higher risk than unspayed females.

    How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?
    All diagnosis begins with an examination and taking of a history. Your veterinarian will be looking for clinical signs of hypothyroidism during a thorough physical examination of the dog, and will ask questions about your dog’s health and behaviour. If hypothyroidism is suspected, a blood test will be ordered. There are a number of different methods for testing the thyroid. They involve some complicated terminology, but it is important to understand the efficacy of these tests when discussing diagnosis with your veterinarian.

    ­ Free T4 by dialysis (FT4D) - This is the most common test. This procedure is considered to be the "gold standard" for assessment of thyroid's production and cellular availability of thyroxine. FT4D concentration is expected to be decreased in dogs with thyroid dysfunction due to autoimmune thyroiditis.

    ­ Canine Thyroid Simulating Hormone (cTSH) - This procedure helps determine the site of the lesion in cases of hypothyroidism. In autoimmune thyroiditis the lesion is at the level of the thyroid gland and the pituitary gland functions normally. The cTSH concentration is expected to be abnormally elevated in dogs with thyroid atrophy from autoimmune thyroiditis.

    ­ Thyroglobulin Auto Antibodies (TgAA) - This procedure is an indication for the presence of the autoimmune process in the dog's thyroid.

    How is hypothyroidism treated?
    Hypothyroidism is treated with a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone called thyroxine (levothyroxine). Blood samples will need to be drawn periodically to assess the effectiveness of the dosage and make any adjustments necessary.

    What should I expect from the treatment?
    Most symptoms should clear up after treatment. With regularly scheduled check-ups to ensure correct dosage, your dog should be mostly symptom-free for the rest of his or her life. Hypothyroid dogs that receive proper treatment have a normal life span and are able to maintain good health well into their golden years. In rare cases a dog that has been diagnosed as Hypothyroid, may after a course of treatment, start to function normally again and no longer require medication. This is one of the reasons to have the check ups to ensure the medication dosage is correct.


    DNS Profiling
    Most breeds suffer from
    a number of inherited conditions.

    DNA Profiling is a major step forward
    in addressing these conditions
    by identifying the gene(s)
    that may be responsible.

    The actual process of DNA profiling only uses around 1% of the DNA that is generated from each swab. The Kennel Club will store the remaining 99% of the DNA, free of charge. As the scheme grows and the number of DNA profiled dogs in successive generations increases, this stored material will generate a breed-specific DNA archive. The ideal scenario within a breed is to ensure that all parents are DNA profiled. Obviously, this will not be practical for all breeds, but the closer a breed can approach this situation, the more valuable the archive will be for that breed.

    So, why will these DNA archives be valuable?

    Identifying the genes usually involves analysing DNA samples from affected and unaffected dogs. At the moment, the most appropriate approach is to analyse DNA samples from families where one or more of the members are clinically affected; the ideal family structure being offspring, parents and grand parents. The availability of breed DNA archives will remove the laborious, and often difficult, process of assembling these family samples every time they are needed for research. The DNA archives will therefore be an extremely important research tool for breeds which might, in the future, want to undertake research into breed-specific inherited conditions.

    We offer DNA profiling at our Health Testing days

    Facts about DNA Profiling

    · A DNA profile is an indisputable form of identification for life.
    · A DNA profile can be used to verify parentage.
    · A DNA profile does not give any information on any disease status of a dog.
    Taking a mouth cell sample for a DNA profile is simple for you and painless for the dog. It should take about 5 minutes.
    · If you use the KC DNA Profiling Scheme, you will receive a Certificate of DNA Profiling once the process is complete.
    · The remainder of the sample that you provide can be stored, free of charge, as part of a breed DNA archive. The DNA could be used, completely anonymously, to help develop DNA tests for diseases in your breed in the future.

    What is a DNA Profile?

    A DNA profile is a unique DNA signature that is present in each and every one of our dogs’ DNA. It serves to uniquely identify each dog, but more than that it can serve to verify a dog’s parentage. This is because half of a dog’s DNA profile is inherited from its dam and half from its sire. So, a comparison of a dog’s DNA profile with that of its Sire’s and Dam’s DNA profile will confirm that they are indeed its biological parents; if either has been incorrectly registered as a parent this comparison will certainly reveal the anomaly.

    These days DNA profiling is very straightforward and involves taking a small amount of DNA from a dog that can be processed by a specialist laboratory to reveal the embedded DNA signature, its "DNA profile". All that is needed to get this DNA is a small amount of tissue from a dog. Increasingly, this is achieved by gently removing cells from the inside of a dog’s cheek using a small brush. This will remove enough cells to provide sufficient DNA for DNA profiling, it is non-invasive and causes no problem to the dog, other than a slight tickling sensation. Blood samples can also be taken and the white cells therein used to make DNA. Obviously if blood samples are to be taken, this will require a person qualified to take such samples.

    The Kennel Club and DNA Profiling

    The Kennel Club started a DNA Profiling Scheme some years ago in collaboration with the Southern Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club and this has been made available to other breeds in the intervening years. During this time there has been steady progress in improving the technological aspects of profiling. Perhaps the most significant advance in this area has been the recent adoption of an international standard procedure for DNA profiling in the dog. This has been overseen by the International Society for Animal Genetics (ISAG), the same organisation that produced similar international schemes for DNA profiling in the Horse, Cattle, Sheep and Pigs. This standard procedure means that we will be able to recognise and accept DNA profiles of dogs that have been profiled in other countries, provided they have used this standard procedure. This has been the impetus for us to create a new DNA profiling system here at the Kennel Club. The main improvement is the creation of a new fulfilment centre that now coordinates the profiling process and accurately tracks each sample as it goes through the process. The whole process from start to finish will become more streamlined and take no more than a couple of weeks.

    So how does this new system work?

    Owners wishing to have their dog DNA profiled should first approach the Kennel Club for a DNA Profiling Request Form, which requires details of the dog to be profiled and the owner’s contact details. The form also contains details of costs and a facility to pay by credit card or cheque. Upon receipt of the completed form(s) and the appropriate payment the information is then passed to the fulfilment centre, which will send out the profiling kit and instructions directly to the owner. Once the samples have been taken, the owner returns the sampling brushes directly to the fulfilment centre in a reply envelope. The fulfilment centre then sends the sample directly to the testing laboratory where the DNA profiling is undertaken. Once the profiling has been successfully completed, the fulfilment centre notifies the Kennel Club directly and a DNA Profile certificate is issued to the owner of the dog. This new system aims to turn around profiling requests within three weeks of the receipt of the DNA Profiling Request Form at the Kennel Club.


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