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JBLC Update - March 2017

JBLC - who are we?

The Joint Breed Liaison Committee is currently made up of two Committee members from each of the six UK Bearded Collie Breed Clubs, plus the Breed Health Co-ordinator.

In 2016 the Committee consisted of : BCC: Paula Brooks & Yvonne Fox (also JBLC Secretary), BCCS: Liz Gault & Janet Jemmett, EBCA: Tony Burscough & Dave Morrant, MBCC: Kim Evans (second post vacant), NEBCC: Sylvia Newton (also JBLC Treasurer) & Lesley Tomlinson, SCBCC: Sarah Ritchie & Belinda Steer, Breed Health Co-ordinator: Elizabeth Ayrton BVSc MRCVS.

Sadly at the end of 2016 our Chairman Mr Bob Gregory passed away. We are so grateful to Bob for his valuable contribution to the Committee over the last couple of years.

We meet at least twice a year - unfortunately due to our commitments to our own Club Committee meetings and events, we are unable to meet more frequently, but we are in regular e-mail contact and make use of conference calls.

Firstly the Good news!

We hear so much about health conditions that it can be easy to forget that Bearded Collies are generally a healthy and long lived breed. Indeed in a study published in 2013 of a survey of 36 Breeds (including cross breeds) by Dan O'Neill et al of the VetCompass project, Beardies came second in the list of longest living breeds! However responsible Breeders are keen to do all they can to maintain the breed as a happy and healthy one and to this end the JBLC has facilitated various initiatives.

Current Initiatives

The AHT/KC Genome Project

The AHT are currently working their way through the 75 breeds whose Clubs have funded the sequencing of their breeds genome. The Bearded Collie is one of those breeds and I am delighted to be able to inform members that DNA from a healthy 'geriatric' KC registered Bearded Collie has just been sent to a commercial laboratory to sequence. This is expected to take around 8 weeks to complete after which the data will be sent to the AHT to download, & process, which will take around 3-4 days and will then be analyzed.

Furthermore thanks to the money raised for the research into Addisons and in conjunction with Professor Catchpole whose team is undertaking this work we have arranged and provided funding for the DNA of a KC registered Addisonian Beardie to be sequenced as well.

Additional analysis of the data to attempt to identify any variants that contribute to Addison’s Disease will take far longer than for the 'normal' dog. It is entirely possible that we will not be able to identify any variants that contribute to this condition, however, even if this is the case, the data still can and will be used in investigations of inherited disease in other breeds and the sequence data may also be shared with other scientists as deemed necessary or helpful.

We will continue to receive any general genome project updates, but we will only be contacted again if there is something specific to the Bearded Collie to report.

For further information on the project go to: http://www.aht.org.uk/cms-display/genetics_gdg.html.

Research into Addisons disease

Thanks to the generosity of many of the Bearded Collie Community and the Breed Clubs we raised just over £10,000 for Addisons research by Professor Catchpole at the Royal Veterinary College. Of this £3,000 was contributed by the Southern Finnish Lapphund club, the Standard Poodle Club and the Pointer Club and their breeds will also be included in the work. Of the £10,000 raised it is planned to use £8,000 for the research with a further £2,000 being used to sequence the genome of an Addisonian Bearded Collie, in conjunction with the AHT genome project.

Addison's disease is an autoimmune condition and once correctly diagnosed, a properly treated dog can live a normal active life. However as the symptoms can be very general, it can be hard to diagnose quickly and anyone who has had a dog, or has known of a dog, suffering from Addison's will know how important this is to ensure the correct treatment.

Dr Catchpole and his team have already identified some of the genetic risk factors involved and wanted to investigate further to see whether these can be used as part of diagnostic blood testing which could potentially identify dogs that have an autoimmune reaction before they develop clinical signs.

Research is now underway but blood and serum samples from Beardies with Addisons are still welcomed. Although samples from the newly diagnosed are most valuable, samples from all Beardie with Addisons can be used. For the latest information on the project, see the Canine Addisons Research Project update page.

Breeders regional workshops

The JBLC recognized that many breeders are concerned about various issues regarding the long term future of our breed, whether that be decreased popularity and falling litter numbers or COI's and the use of popular sires. To enable everyone to have their say we set up a number of regional workshops so that breeders past, present and future could come and discuss what problems they see and contribute any suggestions they have. Five workshops have been held around the UK and these have been well received with 96% of participants overall rating them as either good or excellent.

From the work that has been done we are organizing a follow up day on 13th May 2017 at the Canine Academy, Tollerton. We will shortly be feeding back a report drawn up summarizing the workshop feedback to those that attended and to the wider Beardie community. We are looking at the concerns voiced at the workshops and the suggestions made by all participants to develop a strategy for the breed, in conjunction with best available external advice as appropriate. We are delighted that Tom Lewis (KC Geneticist) and Katy Evans (KC Breed Health and Conservation project) will be in attendance at the May event and we hope that as many members as possible will attend.

I must at this point mention our gratitude to Anne Robson for all her enthusiasm, hard work, help and advice in the planning of the workshops and in analyzing the feedback. Anne's background in research and more latterly in planning and strategy development have been an invaluable resource.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

We have now run several 20:20 clinics, but the drop off in numbers testing has been disappointing. Until recently any carriers have come from one particular line, however with the small Bearded Collie gene pool it was always going to be possible that further carriers would be identified. Recently this has indeed been the case, with a carrier found at our last CEA clinic and further carriers being found in Germany & South Africa - but with UK and other international lines in their pedigrees. To this end the JBLC continues to recommend that all dogs are CEA tested prior to being bred from so that their status is known. If we can test a generation it will be easy to eradicate this condition from the breed.

We recommend that dogs are tested via Optigen as to date these are the only results that are recognized by the KC and made publicly available and we will continue to organize at least one CEA clinic per year.

We do also strongly urge all members to ensure that their dogs undergo a BVA/KC eye test before they are bred from. This can pick up many eye conditions and is the first step in preventing any eye disease from creeping into the breed. The JBLC wrote to the KC to ask that a BVA/KC eye test should be a requirement for the Assured Breeder Scheme, recommending that eye testing is done before dogs are bred from and when the dog is a veteran, as well as ensuring that the CEA status of all dogs used for breeding is known. The KC have now added as a recommendation, that both eye testing and CEA DNA testing should be done before dogs are bred from.

Elbow Dysplasia

More Bearded Collies are being x-rayed for elbow dysplasia, which is providing further useful data. A few more Beardies have now had their elbows x-rayed - to date 119 with 5 Beardies scoring 1, 3 scoring 2 and 2 scoring 3. It suggests the incidence of elbow dysplasia could be similar to that seen in Sweden and Finland (around 5% - 7%).

Elbow dysplasia is a much more complex condition than hip dysplasia as it involves three bones in the elbow and if these bones do not fit together perfectly then this adversely affects the elbow joint, in addition defects in cartilage development may also lead to defects in the elbow joint. In effect there are many forms of developmental elbow diseases which have different causes but which are all classed under 'elbow dysplasia', furthermore its inheritance is complex and poorly understood.

The JBLC have contacted Prof David Bennett* an Orthopaedic Specialist and Senior research fellow at the Glasgow Veterinary school who can find no real documented evidence that prevalence of elbow dysplasia has or is increasing in Beardies. He reports that the flaw with the current scoring system is that it is mainly osteoarthritis which is being scored and this can also be caused by trauma and other environmental factors and will, whatever the cause, get worse with age.

However with a decreasing gene pool the JBLC continue to encourage breeders to elbow score, particularly if there is any history of forelimb lameness and to urge any breeders that do get their dogs elbows x-rayed - which can be done when the dog is hip scored - to submit the plates for analysis by the BVA panel. We would, however, recommend that dogs are scored around 1-2 years of age for a more accurate picture of the elbow joints. We will, of course continue to monitor the situation and obtain more information wherever possible and Prof Bennett is happy to keep us updated on any new information.

* Professor David Bennett, BSc, BVetMed, PhD, DVM, DSAO, FHEA, MRCVS, Honorary member BVOA, RCVS Diplomate in Small Animal Orthopaedics. Co Author of A Candidate Gene Study of Canine Joint Disease with Noel Fitzpatrick (Fitzpatrick Referrals), Dylan Clements (Dick Vet School), Andrea Short and Lorna Kennedy et al.

DNA Databank

The DNA databank is up and running and all of the breed Clubs continue to encourage members to submit cheek swabs to the bank so we can build up a useful DNA data bank for future research. The BCC continue to make DNA swab kits available to members at half price at the Club shows to try and encourage members to take part.

Currently the AHT hold samples from 164 Bearded Collies in the databank, so it's a start but we do need a lot more and from a wide a range of pedigrees as possible. Other Clubs have also actioned initiatives to promote the databank and encourage people to swab and we will continue to consider other ways to increase samples provided.

We also want to remind people to update the AHT on any changes to the health of any Beardies for whom they have submitted a sample.

Going forward

As mentioned the Breed faces many challenges going forward, with respect to COIs, our small estimated population size and the small but significant increase in auto-immune diseases. Registrations fell once again from 346 to 284, again a matter for concern and putting us on the vulnerable native breeds list. However the Bearded Collie is still a generally long lived, healthy breed with a good temperament and it is important to do all we can to maintain a positive outlook and to welcome and encourage those who may be interested in owning our lovely breed.

March 2017