Optimisation of breeding strategies to reduce the prevalence of inherited disease in pedigree dogs
One option for improving the welfare of purebred dog breeds is to implement health breeding programmes, which allow selection to be directed against known diseases while controlling the rate of inbreeding to a minimal level in order to maintain the long-term health of the breed. The aim of this study is to evaluate the predicted impact of selection against disease in two breeds: the Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) and the Labrador Retriever. Heritabilities for mitral valve disease, syringomyelia in the CKCS and hip dysplasia in the Labrador were estimated to be 0.64 (± 0.07), 0.32 (± 0.125) and 0.35 (± 0.016), respectively, which suggest encouraging selection responses are feasible based upon the estimation of breeding values (EBVs) if monitoring schemes are maintained for these breeds. Although using data from disease databases can introduce problems due to bias, as a result of individuals and families with disease usually being over-represented, the data presented is a step forward in providing information on risk. EBVs will allow breeders to distinguish between potential parents of high and low risk, after removing the influence of life history events. Analysis of current population structure, including numbers of dogs used for breeding, average kinship and average inbreeding provides a basis from which to compare breeding strategies. Predictions can then be made about the number of generations it will take to eradicate disease, the number of affected individuals that will be born during the course of selective breeding and the benefits that can be obtained by using optimisation to constrain inbreeding to a pre-defined sustainable rate.
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