ANNUAL HEALTH REPORT 2015/2016

My annual reports have tended to be rather repetitive over the years and this year is no different. Apart from the conditions highlighted regularly in the past, none of them at all prevalent, there are very few health issues associated with the Schipperke. While individual animals can, in common with all living creatures, develop health problems, the breed is free of any constructional exaggerations leading to health complications and most dogs remain fit and well in to a ripe old age.

MPSIIIB
It is disappointing and frustrating that details of the test offered by The University of Philadelphia have yet to be published for peer review. Over a number of years, I have been repeatedly assured by Dr Giger at the US facility that publication is imminent but nothing has materialised. In January 2016, however, he contacted me to say that he now has a draft manuscript which requires some final amendments by a colleague, so this may be an encouraging development. I will continue to remind him regularly.

Nevertheless, we have never, to my knowledge, had a case of MPSIIIB in this country. I am also unaware of any further errors in test results in the last eight years and the status of tested dogs over this period is entirely consistent with that of their parents. Sadly, not all breeders have chosen to make use of the on-line test result registers on the Club web-site but with steadily increasing numbers of dogs now “clear by descent”, there is room for optimism. In order to maintain this healthy position, I would urge all owners and breeders to provide details of their dogs’ status for publication to assist fellow breeders and for the benefit of the breed as a whole.

FINNISH EPILEPSY STUDY
This is progressing steadily. Samples from older (10+ years) dogs are still particularly welcome. I await the next update from Helsinki University.

LEGGE-PERTHES DISEASE
I have heard of no affected animals in recent years.

KC HEALTH CO-ORDINATORS’ MEETING
This was especially interesting this year. Pedigree dogs are frequently in the limelight these days with popular emphasis on undesirable “in-breeding” or “over-breeding”. Schipperkes are a minority breed with a small breeding population and it is important that we keep the gene pool as open as possible if new health problems are to be avoided. Easy to understand data on this topic was provided at the symposium and this was circulated to all exhibitors at the Club CH show last October. Breeders are strongly advised to consider this information when planning matings. The KC’s on-line Mate Select tool is also very useful.

There was also a detailed presentation on canine cancers. It has been suggested to me on several occasions that cancers of various types may be of particular concern in the breed. This is not borne out by the admittedly limited responses to the two health surveys carried out by the Club or by the KC/BSAVA survey available on the KC web-site. The symposium presentation underlined that the overwhelming majority of canine cancers, most occurring in elderly animals, are random and have no hereditary risk component. The committee has concluded, therefore, that there is no compelling evidence to suggest that further exploration is needed at this stage.

I can be contacted in confidence to discuss any health matter affecting the breed.

IAN MILLAR
(Health Co-ordinator)
January, 2016.

Annual Health Report Feb 2015

The year 2014 has been very quiet on the health front which, since my lap-top died, taking much of my data to the grave with it, was no bad thing! As ever, of course, the Schipperke still presents as a breed which is fundamentally sound and healthy, with no structural exaggerations.

SECOND BREED HEALTH SURVEY.

Unfortunately, this was something of a non-event, with virtually no questionnaires returned. The Health Committee had hoped that a second survey might provide more specific information, perhaps pinpointing conditions, such as cancers, which might be deemed common in the breed and which might, therefore, warrant further exploration. Given the response rate, no further health surveys are envisaged now unless significant other health concerns emerge.

The Kennel Club has recently conducted a health survey of pedigree dogs, however, and a full report will be published next year. Although only 20 Schipperkes participated in the survey, it will be interesting to view the results.

The Royal Veterinary College is also undertaking a large-scale health survey involving all veterinary practices in England. I have indicated that as a breed, we would be interested in being included in the study but it does seem likely that more popular breeds with larger populations will be selected.

EPILEPSY.

The Finnish study is ongoing and I plan to have another push for samples from UK dogs soon. At the time of writing, I await a further update from the University of Helsinki.

MPSIIIB.

Despite repeated assurances over three years or more, Dr Giger of the University of Pennsylvania has still not published the material on his test for this condition. This means that his premise for the test and his methodology have not been subject to review by other geneticists. I remind him on a regular basis.

Nevertheless, we have not had a known case of this dreadful condition in this country to date. Furthermore, we have not become aware of any incorrect test results for approximately seven years now. Our test result registers on the Club web-site indicate that the MPSIIIB status of progeny is entirely consistent with that of the parents. We have significant numbers of dogs which have tested normal (clear) or are clear by descent and I think there is justification for optimism overall and for continuing confidence in the test itself.

The situation in the U.S., where the problem was arguably more established, is similarly improved. Initially, many breeders there had to include carriers in their breeding plans or risk losing their established lines or, even worse, restricting the breed gene pool, thereby increasing the danger of encountering new health problems. Now, however, the test has identified increasing numbers of clear dogs and breeding from carriers is no longer necessary in many kennels.

KARLTON INDEX.

This independent mechanism for evaluating individual breed strategies to highlight and tackle health issues, is currently under review and should be re-launched in the foreseeable future.

GENETIC DIVERSITY.

This topic remains on the Health Committee’s agenda and will be discussed in greater detail in the coming year.

IAN MILLAR (Health Co-ordinator) 7th February, 2015.

NEW DNA TESTING SCHEME FOR SCHIPPERKES

At the request of the Schipperke breed club, the Kennel Club has recently approved a new official DNA testing scheme for Mucopolysaccharidosis type IIIB (MPS111B) in this breed.

This test is offered by the University of Pennsylvania in the USA (https://netapps.vet.upenn.edu/PennGen/SampleTesting/default.aspx ) and further details can be obtained directly from them.

As copies of test results cannot be sent directly to the Kennel Club by the laboratory, the owner of a dog would be required to submit a copy of their dog’s result if they wish the KC to record the DNA status.  Once received, the test result will be added to the dog’s registration details which will trigger the publication of the test result in the next available Breed Records Supplement. The result will appear on any new registration certificate issued for the dog and on the registration certificates of any future progeny of the dog, and also on the Health Test Results Finder on the Kennel Club website.

 If the owner includes the original registration certificate for the dog (not a copy) then a new registration certificate will be issued, with the DNA result on it, free of charge.  Please send any DNA test certificates to Health & Breeder Services, The Kennel Club, 1 – 5 Clarges Street,  Piccadilly, London W1J 8AB or scan and email copies of the certificates to hbs@thekennelclub.org.uk.

The Kennel Club continues to work alongside breed clubs and breed health coordinators, in a collaborative effort to improve the health of pedigree dogs. The Kennel Club is happy to accommodate a club’s request to add a new DNA test to its lists and would normally need a formal request from the breed’s health coordinator or a majority request from the breed clubs.

Epilepsy Research In Schipperkes

Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder in the Schipperke breed world-wide, and there is evidence of genes playing a major role in the disease predisposition.

There is an ongoing research project on the genetic background of epilepsy in Schipperkes at the University of Helsinki and Folkhälsan Research Center in Finland. The aim of the project is to identify genes and mutations underlying epilepsy in the breed in order to gain knowledge about biological processes involved in epilepsy, and to develop tools to guide diagnosis and breeding practices.

The research project was started in 2006 by collecting blood samples and performing clinical studies at The Aisti Animal Neurology Hospital, Vantaa, Finland. Twenty two dogs participated in the clinical studies. In addition to the clinically examined dogs, detailed epilepsy questionnaires were collected from 66 dogs with epilepsy. The aim of the clinical studies and the collection of epilepsy questionnaires was to evaluate the clinical picture of the disease in Schipperkes, e.g. the typical age of onset, seizure type, seizure frequency and seizure duration. Based on this study, the average age of onset of seizures was 54 months (4.5 years), range 6-108 months.

The dogs experiencing epileptic seizures were normal according to a number of clinical studies (EEG, MRI, blood biochemistry, neurological examination): no external reason for the seizures were found in the brain or in the blood count. According to the studies, the most common epilepsy type in the breed was focal secondarily generalised seizure.

In order to disentangle the genetics of epilepsy in the breed, DNA samples from a large number of epilepsy-affected and -unaffected dogs have been collected. To date, samples of 442 Schipperkes have been collected within the research project, and 101 of them have epilepsy according to the owners’ reports. Samples from 120 dogs were selected for the preliminary studies to locate the epilepsy-predisposing gene/s in the breed; this sample set included 60 dogs with epilepsy and 60 unaffected old (above 8 years) dogs. Close relatives (e.g. full siblings) were avoided in the study, as they can bias results in case-control studies. The relatedness of the dogs determines how the samples can be used in genetic studies. The large number of samples in the DNA bank facilitated the sample selection for the study, and showed the benefit of having large sample collections with good health records.

These 120 Schipperke samples were included in the LUPA project (www.eurolupa.org) funded by the 7th framework program of the European Union. Schipperkes were analysed for whole genome to identify genes and variations associated with epilepsy. The preliminary results showed genomic regions that are likely to harbour epilepsy-associated genes. In order to confirm and refine the results, more detailed studies will now be performed within these genomic regions. One of the most important methods to confirm novel findings is to replicate them in a larger sample material. Thus, sample collection is still ongoing, and the hope of the research group is that Schipperke owners will participate in this study by sending their dogs’ blood samples to the group. Both samples from epilepsy-affected and -unaffected dogs are needed.

For detailed information and instructions for sending the samples can be found at: http://www.koirangeenit.fi/Englanniksi/participate.html. Epilepsy questionnaires are collected from dogs with seizures: http://www.koirangeenit.fi/Englanniksi/questionnaires.html