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The following oral presentation was made in July 2012 by Rodney Oldham on behalf of the Chow Chow Breed Council at the Kennel Clubs ‘Healthy Eye Seminar’ Updates have been included.
When each of us became involved in the world of show dogs we probably did so for a multitude of reasons. One thing most likely to have been common to all would be the simple fact that we went with our chosen breed because we were attracted to it – quirks and all!
Those who have stuck with it, usually over a not inconsiderable number of years, will doubtless have had their ups and downs – the serious breeders will have done their very best ‘for the breed’ and hopefully seen some reward for their endeavors.
Speaking personally, in the very early 80s, around 15 years after I had established my kennel of Chows, I discovered I had a hip dysplasia problem in the line. Undeterred and with the support of the late Joan Joshua, long term Chowist and first lady Fellow of the Royal Veterinary College I pursued what could be done. Trevor Turner of the BVA was sympathetic and told me that if we could find a geneticist to work with us then the BVA would include Chow Chows in the fledgling Hip Scoring Scheme. Enter Malcolm Willis, to whom I will be eternally grateful.
Armed with this information I attended our next parent club committee meeting and made my problem public. Fortunately the whole committee backed my proposal that HD scoring should be commenced and indeed supported for Chow Chows.
So some 30 years ago the Chow Hip Scoring Scheme was born off our own backs and continues until this day as the only official Chow health check.
So this leads me conveniently into the main topic of todays meeting:
Not long after this, following some general criticism of the state of Chows eyes and the fact that the KC was establishing its so called Scientific Committee several prominent members of the Chow Chow Club, including myself and Sheila Jakeman attended a meeting at the South Mimms Veterinary College to discuss what could be done to improve matters. Present were Messrs Keith Barnett from the Animal Health Trust and Prof Peter Bedford plus other KC officials.
This was a very frank and productive meeting. We listened very carefully to the expert opinions and finally agreed to take back to the breed as a whole the recommendation that the eye standard be changed to ‘medium and oval shaped’.
It had been pointed out by the vets at the meeting that some improvement could be expected in time but the likelihood of complete success very low since entropion was considered to be polygenic within the breed and thus unlikely to disappear completely. This was also confirmed by Dr Willis.
I make particular reference to this since Kathryn Symms in her letter to HP judges dated 8th June 2012 refers in her closing paragraphs to (and I quote) “It is important to realize that the 15 High Profile Breeds do have conformational exaggerations that have led to AVOIDABLE conditions causing pain or discomfort and this has been unacceptable to all of us” ………… Yes, Kathryn we agree wholeheartedly that such conditions are unacceptable, however Kathryn, perhaps you are now in possession of information you can share with us which was not available to our esteemed experts at that momentous meeting in the 80’s? (Add Note: Prof Steve Dean also reiterated in his question time that the inheritance of Entropion was still not clear)
Over the last 25-30 years we have seen great strides forward and the entropion situation improve no end but alas as warned it has not totally disappeared and even crops up in the unwanted large round type eyes we are now seeing emerge. Add (I was very pleased to hear Prof Sheila Crispin congratulate the breed in her earlier presentation)
So, why am I saying all this is? Simply – as a breed we have for almost as long as I can remember been health conscious, taken our own steps to improve matters and will continue to do so. Prof Peter Bedford has already conducted a breed Seminar and Eye Testing Session and plans are in hand to repeat this. We are also fortunate to have a very active Breed Health Co-ordinator in Pauline Lock, who is continuing to collate useful data and keep our Breed Council informed. (More information will be uploaded to the Breed Council website very soon)
The reason for Chows being included on the HP list appears to be simply a perception by the KC (their word) since no formal data has been forthcoming. So, as I stand here today our main aim has to be to get off of this stigmatized list as soon as possible. As with most of the other breeds we need much more help and guidance from the KC as to exactly how this is going to happen.
One of the main reasons for breeds being put on this list was said to be to prevent unsound dogs with breed exaggerations appearing in groups, yet to date, so far as I am aware, virtually all vet check failures across all breeds, of which there have been very few failures post Crufts, have been for eye related problems and not a single failure in any of the 15 breeds has been attributed to perceived exaggerations. I am delighted to say that to date every one of the 7 Chows presented (9 times in total) for inspection has passed the vet checks. I ask quite simply just how does this miniscule number really prove or disprove the breeds health? (Update 19th September 2012: The number of Chows presented to date now stands at 16 BOB passes and 3 Title confirmations – sadly at WKC the BOB was not passed despite having been previously passed at Bath and S Counties. The vet had carried out a very intrusive examination and declared the bitch to be suffering from mild Conjunctivitis in one eye. This temporary condition was only discovered after the Vet physically pulled down the lower lid, something a judge would not be expected to do!)
Addition: There has been some concern expressed at the way certain vets have approached the Chows and I have been requested to include mention of this. Whilst our Chows are used to being handled by show judges we feel it necessary to point out that it is part of this breeds nature to be standoffish – they do not take kindly to strangers lunging at the top of the head and are best approached by first just tickling them under the chin. Once reassured more extensive handling should be straightforward. At one vet check the vet suddenly decided he wanted the dog on the table and attempted to pick up the Chow himself without warning the owner– the dog obviously did not take kindly to this manhandling by a stranger! How many breeds would?
Finally, before I close I must raise the point of falling registrations and particularly show entries within the breed. I know we are not alone in this situation be it for economic or other reasons. However, the remaining breeders need every encouragement to carry on doing what they do best – producing quality dogs that can live happy healthy lives…………
Thank you for your time etc……………………
© Rodney Oldham
4th July 2012 with later additions
This display shows photos of U.K. Champions from the 1930's through the years and also photo's how the chow is perceived in parts of Europe. It has been questioned that this could be the reason we have been included on the High Profile List due to the chow being listed in the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals Document back in the 1980's. © Claire Merrion 4th July 2012
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