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Bearded Collie Club - Long-term Breed Health

How genetic issues affect long-term prospects for breed health

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Long-term Breed Health

The long-term health of the Bearded Collie as a breed is influenced by factors relating to the Bearded Collie population as a whole, as well as the health of individual dogs. The collective impact of breeding practices can also help or hinder long-term health prospects, largely by altering the diversity and balance of gene types in the population. Breeding is becoming an increasingly complex activity, with many new sources of information becoming available to help breeders ensure that the puppies they breed are healthy, have sound temperaments, and are good and typical examples of the breed.

Links to the main resources available to help breeders make choices which support long-term breed health are given below. More general health information for current and prospective Beardie owners is given in the introductory page Health and the Bearded Collie.

In addition to the Kennel Club resources, The British Bearded Collie Connexion (BCX) website has become a valuable resource for Bearded Collie people, complementing Irena's Bearded Collie Pedigree, the international Bearded Collie pedigree database.

Useful Websites

If you want a list of useful websites to keep for reference, our Breed Health Co-Ordinator Liz Ayrton, has compiled a handy list which you can view and download here.

Genetic Diversity and Breed Health

Many of the published articles on genetic diversity use too much technical language for the non-specialist. An informative and not-too-technical article on genetic diversity, 'Maintaining and Improving Breed Health' by Dr Jerry Bell, was published by the American Kennel Club in 2016. The article covers many of the issues raised by breeders in the Breeders Workshops and Breed Strategy event and contains advice and recommendations on good practice. It is reproduced on the Club's website here with Dr Bell's permission.

Dr Bell has also completed a study on the genetic diversity of Bearded Collies in the USA, which is available on the BeaCon website (link opens in new window).

Popular Sires

One of the best ways of ensuring the health and diversity of the gene pool is to avoid over-use of individual stud dogs and promote the use of quality sires from across the full range of available lines. The BCX website includes an extensive range of resources for UK Bearded Collie breeders which complement Kennel Club Mate Select information. The Breed section on Stud Dogs includes:

Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI)

All breeds have some harmful genes, but these do not necessarily have an impact on health. However, whenever individuals with a high level of relatedness are mated, there is an increased risk that harmful recessive genes from a common ancestor will be passed on by both parents, to have an adverse impact on their progeny. The Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) measures the likelihood that a dog has inherited identical copies of a gene from both the sire and the dam, passed down from a common ancestor appearing on both sides of the pedigree.

The Kennel Club's Mate Select Service can be used to find either the COI of an individual dog or the projected COI of puppies resulting from a planned mating. This COI traces ancestors back to the earliest 'founder' Beardies (or as far as KC records go, if the dog's pedigree includes imported dogs not registered with the Kennel Club). It provides a comprehensive measure of the extent to which identical genes may be inherited. A similar COI service is available on the BCX website [BCX > Breed > COI > Individual dog]. This COI is calculated using the less extensive 5-generation COI recommended by the Dog Advisory Council, rather than including as many ancestors as records allow.

It is now generally understood that maintaining genetic diversity is important in reducing the risk that harmful genes will affect the breed's overall genetic fitness and vitality. To help breed clubs monitor inbreeding, the Kennel Club publishes an annual breed average COI based on KC-registered dogs born in the UK between January and December of the previous year. The figures are published each summer for the previous year. The current annual breed average COI for Beardies is 14.8%.

Hip Dysplasia - Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs)

Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for hip dysplasia are an additional Kennel Club health resource for breeders. An EBV is an estimate of the genetic potential of an animal to pass on the genes associated with a particular attribute (either positive or negative) to its progeny. EBVs for hip dysplasia should help breeders make faster progress towards reducing the genetic predisposition to the disease. For more information, see the EBVs page.

Health Research: the DNA Databank

Since 2014 the Joint Breed Liaison Committee has been encouraging all Bearded Collie owners to support the DNA databank established by the Animal Health Trust, and clubs have taken a proactive approach by organising collection of DNA samples at club events. The databank will be used for research purposes investigating, amongst other things, the causes of inherited diseases, genetic diversity, and the frequency of genetic mutations in the general Bearded Collie population. You can find out more on the Animal Health Trust's Canine Genetics Research page.

Last updated: 16 September 2017