The Kennel Club is collaborating with Breed Health Coordinators on a new health initiative set to launch later this year.

This initiative aims to provide breeders and puppy buyers with a clear, evidence-based guide to health testing priorities for each breed.

Breed Health Coordinators and Assured Breeders were the first to receive information about the upcoming Health Standard. This new breed-specific approach to health testing is developed using The Kennel Club’s extensive health data. The initiative aligns with The Kennel Club’s strategic goal of safeguarding the future health and well-being of pedigree dogs.

The Health Standard employs a standard protocol to prioritise health tests based on scientific evidence from The Kennel Club’s unique Breed Health & Conservation Plans (BHCPs). These plans have been developed over many years, in collaboration with Breed Clubs, and through the review of over 4,000 pieces of scientific literature. The standard also considers published literature, prevalence data, and genetic diversity to categorise and prioritise health tests for every Kennel Club registered breed.

Once launched, the Health Standard will be available on The Kennel Club’s website and in a hard-copy booklet. Supporting information about each test will be accessible through the Breeds A to Z section on The Kennel Club’s website. This marks the first time The Kennel Club has published formal guidance for all breeders and puppy buyers, expanding beyond the current recommendations and requirements for Assured Breeders.

The Assured Breeders scheme recommendations and requirements will remain unchanged for the time being. However, the Health Standard will eventually become the formal set of guidance for all breeders registering with The Kennel Club.

Guidance for All Breeders

Charlotte McNamara, The Kennel Club’s Head of Health, stated: “The Health Standard will be our most robust and thorough review of health testing to date. It will serve as a clear guide for breeders at all levels of experience and for puppy buyers wondering how to navigate and prioritise the range of health tests available, using the deep understanding we have gained over the last decade about breed health.”

Breeders will be encouraged to undertake all the health tests listed for their breed. Each test will be categorised as ‘essential’, ‘advisable’, or ‘other’ based on clinical evidence about a condition and its prevalence within a breed. Tests categorised as ‘other’ indicate that more data is required, but it is still recommended that parents undergo health testing before breeding.

The Health Standard will not be a mandatory requirement for registration but aims to encourage natural adoption of health testing practices. It will complement future plans to incentivise breeders and puppy buyers to prioritise health testing.

Breed Health

Charlotte added, “Our aim is for all Kennel Club breeders and puppy buyers to use this resource to clearly see all the testing appropriate for their breed and to encourage them to health test for the health conditions listed. For puppy buyers, this resource should help them in shaping questions to breeders on health. We already offer a number of health screening programmes including our world-leading breathing scheme for BOAS (RFG scheme) and our DNA Health Testing Services bundles, which aim to simplify the process of selecting and using DNA health tests.”

The Health Standard recognises that many breeders may not currently conduct comprehensive health testing, especially novice breeders. With 42% of litters registered with The Kennel Club coming from first-time breeders, the Health Standard aims to simplify decision-making and emphasise the importance of health testing.

The protocol for the Health Standard considers not only the prevalence and relevance of a condition for each breed but also the genetic diversity of the breed. This balanced approach aims to improve breed health while maintaining a viable, genetically diverse population.

Ongoing Oversight and Review

The Health Standard is rooted in science and will be subject to ongoing oversight and comprehensive regular five-yearly reviews. As new data and trends emerge, the categorisation of the tests will be updated accordingly.

Charlotte concluded: “This is just one vital step in our journey to providing better information, education, and incentives to breeders and puppy buyers. Our goal is to increase the natural demand for and uptake of health testing and other responsible breeding tools.”

The Health Standard will be formally launched later this year, following digital development and further engagement with Breed Health Coordinators, Breed Clubs, and Assured Breeders. More details will be provided at that time.