Working dogs and over eights help celebrate 50 years of the Eye Scheme

21 November 2016

The Hereditary Eye Disease Scheme celebrates 50 years

To coincide with the start of Canine Health Testing Week (21 – 27 November) and to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Hereditary Eye Disease Scheme, part of the Canine Health Schemes (CHS), run by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) in conjunction with the Kennel Club (KC) and the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), free eye examinations are being offered to 50 working dogs and 50 dogs over eight years of age.

The main purpose of the Hereditary Eye Disease Scheme, which currently screens for 12 conditions in over 50 breeds, is to ensure that there is no evidence of hereditary eye disease in dogs used for breeding and over the last 50 years thousands of dogs have been tested, helping to improve ocular health in breeds generally.
CHS will approach a number of working dog organisations to organise examination of 50 working dogs, whereas the owners of dogs that are over eight can contact the CHS office on 020 7908 6380 for details of their nearest participating Eye Panellist.

CHS already discounts eye examinations for dogs over eight years of age, because testing is particularly important in older dogs. As Professor Sheila Crispin, Chief Panellist of the Eye Scheme, explains, it is important to ensure that as a dog ages it “remains free of the inherited eye diseases listed for the breed” and that “no late onset of potentially inherited conditions are emerging in older animals”. Testing older animals also helps to identify age-related ocular and generalised disease of potential or actual significance.

As part of the 50 year celebrations Dr Terence Grimes, one of the original Eye Scheme panellists, was interviewed by the BVA. Dr Grimes commented in the interview on the high standards current eye panellists achieve in their work, “The standards that panellists can reach today is a reflection not just of the specialist education available but also of the dedication and diligence of people who undertake this work.”

Gudrun Ravetz, President of the British Veterinary Association, said:
“50 years is a landmark for any programme and this is a very special and important birthday. Thousands of dogs over those 50 years have been screened and this has allowed breeders and owners to make informed decisions about which dogs to breed from, helping not only individual dogs to receive correct treatment but breed eye health to improve generally over time.”

Aimée Llewellyn-Zaidi, Head of Health and Research at the Kennel Club, said: “Everyone wants their dogs to be able to maintain good vision for as long as possible and eye testing is a great way to monitor the health status of a dog's eyes. Some inherited eye conditions can develop in older animals, so we are pleased to be able to offer testing for older dogs, as well as working dogs, as part of National Canine Health Testing Week. Data collected from the scheme enables us to monitor breed eye health which can go a long way in getting a clearer picture of canine eye health more widely.”

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