Breed Health & Conservation Plan

What is a Breed Health & Conservation Plan (BHCP)?

Breed Health & Conservation Plans were introduced by the Kennel Club in 2016. Their purpose is to ensure that all health concerns are identified through evidence-based criteria, and that breeders are provided with useful information and resources to support them in making balanced breeding decisions that make health a priority.

The project is part of the Kennel Club’s wider work to improve dog health and involves a joint collaboration with Breed Health Coordinators. Seventeen ‘key’ breeds were initially selected when the BHCP initiative was first introduced. Since then, many more breeds have gone through the process and, in time, every breed will have its own BHCP. Work began in the autumn of 2019 to compile the English Springer Spaniel BHCP and the document was finalised in February 2020. Click on the link below to read the full report.

How was the ESS BHCP compiled?

The process began by bringing together evidence on a wide range of issues including known inherited conditions, complex conditions involving many genes and environmental factors (e.g. hip dysplasia), conformational concerns and population genetic diversity. The aim was to take an all-round ‘holistic’ view of breed health using data from many different sources including our 2013 ESS Health Survey, KC Purebred Dog Health Surveys, official DNA and clinical health screening records, scientific literature, current research, veterinary practice and insurance company data.

From there, the next stage was to identify and prioritise the most significant health issues in terms of prevalence and welfare impact and to jointly agree what actions and/or guidance are needed for owners and breeders on how to improve breed health.

What priorities and action plans have been agreed?

Taking into account the evidence base and the experience of the Breed Health Co-ordinators, the following ESS priorities and action plans have been agreed:

  • Genetic diversity:

Evidence shows the rate of inbreeding for the breed has consistently increased over time and the extensive use of popular sires is still prevalent. More needs to be done to help breeders understand the consequences of close breeding, using popular sires and loss of genetic diversity in the breed. The KC is to investigate formulating breeding advice and the Breed Clubs (through the Health Co-ordinators) will make every effort to increase awareness using all available channels.

  • Breed health education:

The major challenge continues to be the ability to reach thousands of ESS owners in the wider population, beyond the show/field trial/breed club communities. The ESS Health website will continue to be expanded and, in particular, more guidance will be added on general husbandry issues (e.g. ears, teeth, weight, nutrition, etc.). In addition, the KC will investigate the possibility of directing traffic through its Breed Information Centre to the ESS Health website.

  • Engaging in further research:

The breed will continue to engage in research opportunities. In particular, new avenues are being investigated into Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle (IOHC) research, with the Kennel Club assisting in recruitment of dogs.

Will the BHCP be reviewed?

This BHCP will evolve over time and a review will be held between the ESS Health Co-ordinators and the Kennel Club in approximately two years’ time.