In a testament to her relentless dedication to canine health, Dr Maura Lyons of Forfar, Scotland, has triumphed in the 2023 International Canine Health Awards. The renowned researcher has clinched the Breed Health Co-ordinator category, in recognition of her critical work to improve the health and welfare of Irish Wolfhounds.

A stalwart of the Irish Wolfhound Health Group (IWHG), Dr Lyons is the linchpin connecting The Kennel Club and the IWHG, responsible for catalysing crucial research, advancing health initiatives and promoting awareness among scientists, breeders, owners and the public. This role is particularly significant given the Irish Wolfhound’s status as the largest dog breed and its place on The Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list. With fewer than 300 puppies registered annually in the UK, the breed needs champions like Dr Lyons.

A longtime Irish Wolfhound owner and a PhD holder in molecular genetics, Dr Lyons’ work has included spearheading the IWHG’s efforts to enhance treatment for pneumonia, a potentially deadly disease for the breed. Working alongside researchers, the IWHG has developed and distributed specialised treatment guidelines for Irish Wolfhounds, established a pneumonia taskforce, and saved countless lives in the process.

The IWHG, under the leadership of Dr Lyons, also provides an annual heart screening programme for over 250 Irish Wolfhounds across more than 20 regions. This initiative has been instrumental in recognising that Irish Wolfhounds with dilated cardiomyopathy do not exhibit typical symptoms, a finding that has furthered early detection and treatment.

Additionally, Dr Lyons has played a pivotal role in updating the Breed Health Conservation Plan and in creating the Irish Wolfhound Database project, which collects and curates health and pedigree data on over 170,000 Wolfhounds globally, aiding researchers and breeders alike.

Upon learning of her victory, Dr Lyons said, “This award will mean the Irish Wolfhound Health Group can continue to offer affordable heart screening sessions for all Irish Wolfhounds throughout the UK. I feel this award also recognises our breed community for their dedication to Irish Wolfhound health.”

The International Canine Health Awards, sponsored by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust and funded in part by Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank and the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation, are the world’s largest veterinary awards. In 2023, the awards have more than doubled their prize money and broadened their focus to projects centred on the One Health concept and advancing canine medicine in developing nations.

The selection panel, composed of independent international veterinarians and scientists, will present the awards at a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, 12 July, at 15:00 BST.

The 2023 awards also introduced a Special Award category to honour three veterinary clinics in Ukraine with a $20,000 prize fund. Other categories include the Alan Kelly International Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Student Inspiration Awards and The Kennel Club’s Breed Health Co-ordinator Prize.

Dr Nick Blayney, Chair of the Breed Health Co-ordinator Award selection panel, praised Dr Lyons’ work, stating, “Dr Lyons’ work in improving the awareness of health issues in Irish Wolfhounds is invaluable.”

Vernon Hill lauded Dr Lyons’ accomplishments, noting, “It is inspiring to see her passion for the breed and how she has collaborated with so many different groups – I look forward to hearing how she continues to protect and improve the health of this wonderful native breed.”