Cocker Spaniel Club of the ACT

Health Issues

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Like all living organisms, there are a range of heriditary defects which affect our lovely breed and there will be more discorvered over the years no doubt, but with DNA testing technology the breeders around the world are working at controlling and hopefully erradicating these issues.  At this point the  Cocker Spaniel has the following, of what is considered the 3 major health problems that we are able to DNA test for:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Familial Nephropathy (FN)
  • Adult Onset Neuropathy (AON)

Breeders within the Cocker Spaniel Club of the ACT must adhere to Australian National Kennel Council’s (ANKC) rules and regulations when breeding.

The below information is from ANKC’s breeder guidelines on Hereditary Diseases.

Hereditary diseases are due to random gene alterations (mutations) occurring as accidents in nature. Once the gene mutations occur they may be passed on from parent to offspring, sometimes hidden but sometimes becoming apparent, resulting in hereditary diseases in the unfortunate affected animals. Because these mutations occur naturally one may ask why we should be concerned about them? Natural selection has been replaced by breeder selection within the limited gene pool of any one breed. As well as taking control of selecting for good traits the breeder must accept the responsibility of selecting against hereditary diseases.
Concern about hereditary diseases
There are real reasons for concern about hereditary diseases:
(a) They affect the health and welfare of the unfortunate dogs that are affected.
• some hereditary diseases are life-threatening, e.g. heart and kidney diseases and many are debilitating, e.g. hip dysplasia and blindness
• others are at least discomforting and aggravating, e.g. entropion, distichiasis.
• for the sake of future generations we should aim to breed dogs that are not likely to pass on defective genes causing hereditary disease.

(b) Concern for future buyers of puppies
• it is distressing to see the effects of an hereditary disease on a loved pet
• cost of treatment is often high
• buyers become disillusioned with purebred dogs when their puppies develop hereditary diseases.

(c) Financial risk to the breeder
• a breeder who produces a puppy that subsequently becomes affected with an hereditary disease must act responsibly in dealing with the buyer on the matter
• breeders are prone to risk of litigation if an affected puppy is produced; a defence is to be able to show that all reasonable care has been taken to avoid hereditary diseases in the breeding program.
Obligations under the Code of Ethics and Code of Practice
The Australian National Kennel Council has a Code of Ethics and a Code of Practice for Hereditary Diseases that provide solid guidelines for breed clubs and breeders in relation to
hereditary disease. Breeders are obliged to conform to both Codes. The Code of Ethics includes a clause whereby breeders are required to breed only for improvement of the breed. The Code of Practice for Hereditary Diseases has three main thrusts directed at:
• reducing the incidence of hereditary diseases;
• protecting the purchaser of a puppy;
• protecting the breeder who has made all reasonable efforts to minimise the risk of hereditary diseases.

Legal advice is that the Code of Practice for Hereditary Diseases should be adhered to for the protection of both buyer and seller. Provided the information given is not misleading or deceptive, adherence to the Code should substantially reduce members' exposure to claims such as breach of contract and negligence.
Recommended action for breeders in relation to hereditary diseases
National Breed Councils and Breed Clubs are recognised as the guardians of their breeds and, for the long-term benefit to the breed, breeders should participate in any hereditary disease control programs conducted by these bodies within their breed. Ignorance is no excuse.
• Find out what hereditary diseases, if any, are known to be problems within your breed – ask responsible, experienced people within your breed.
• Find out if there is any known incidence of these diseases within the lines of your dogs, particularly among their parents and siblings.
• Before breeding from your dogs, find out what testing should be done in relation to hereditary diseases.
• Comply with the requirements of the Codes.
• Select against hereditary diseases for the benefit of future generations of the breed, to protect prospective puppy purchasers and to reduce the financial risk to you as a breeder.