At the North of England Keeshond Clubs’ committee meeting in early 2002, the subject of various health issues within the breed was raised, along with the need for information to be made available to members. After much discussion it was felt that this could best be provided by one person on behalf of the Club and the decision was made to appoint a Health Co-ordinator, responsible for providing and up-dating information as and when it becomes available. Anji Marfleet was elected to this somewhat daunting post and in February 2009 was elected by members of both clubs to be the Kennel Club’s Breed Health Coordinator.
The Keeshond is on the whole a healthy dog, suffering from none of the more common inherited problems associated with eyes and joints (eg hip/elbow dysplasia), found in many popular and numerically larger breeds. Three health issues that have been raised are Epilepsy, Primary Hyperparathyroidism and Skin & Coat problems. If any health problems do arise with your dog which give cause for concern, the first person to contact is the breeder of your dog. Failing that the owner/breeder of the stud dog if known or the secretary of either of the keeshond clubs.
As you know, there has been a major breakthrough in the U.S and the gene for Primary Hyperparathyroidism in the Keeshond has now been identified by Dr Richard Goldstein of Cornell University. By testing all breeding dogs & bitches whose status of PHPT is unknown and by not using a gene positive dog or bitch to breed from, we now have the unprecedented opportunity to make this disease history within a very short period of time.
This still leaves the epilepsy question unanswered. Dr Barbara Skelly is now focusing on this disease now and she still wants to increase our sample numbers. So, if you have a dog that has fits and has been diagnosed as being epileptic, or who has fits and you are uncertain of the diagnosis, please contact her so that you can discuss your dog’s behaviour and presentation and decide whether it is likely to be epileptic or not. Remember, epilepsy can take many forms and seizures can be variable in their presentation, ranging from a temporary loss in consciousness to alterations in muscle tone and movement, alterations in sensation, autonomic signs (salivation, urination, defaecation) and other behavioural changes including rage and fear. The diagnosis of epilepsy is one of exclusion in that if all other possibilities are ruled out and the clinical picture is suggestive, then idiopathic epilepsy is the likely diagnosis. There is currently no single test that can confirm whether a dog is epileptic or not.
We are a numerically small breed with a small gene pool and it is our responsibility as owners of this beautiful breed to keep it as healthy as possible for future generations. This can only be done by every one being open and honest about health problems as and when they arise.
The Committee also decided in 2002 to set up a separate Health Fund so that money is available for such projects and to donate the remainder of the Dorothy Spencer legacy (approx. £700) to this fund. Anyone can contribute any amount to this kitty which will be used for the above research application and others like it in the future. The Club also supports three charities : –
- The Phyllis Croft Foundation for Canine Epilepsy
- Canine Epilepsy Support
- Justice For Dogs
Donations to these as well as the Club’s Health Fund can be made with your entry for any of the Club’s three shows, or just by sending us a cheque payable to the North of England Keeshond Club Health Fund.
For a list of useful books on the subject of canine health please see the Books section.