Development, distribution and analysis of a health inventory questionnaire for the Australian Shepherd as an indication for inherited disorders
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The general health of a broad variety of dog breeds is a hot topic. To get a view over more generations of the breed and of disorders for which no routine screening exists, a health inventory in the form of a questionnaire for owners can give valuable information on the health status of the breed. For this research project the Dutch Australian Shepherd was used. The questionnaire was developed by consultation of veterinary specialists of several departments of the faculty of veterinary medicine of University Utrecht, the Dutch Australian Shepherd Club (ASCN) and experts in analysis of questionnaires. The final questionnaire consisted of six different sections: (1) introduction, (2) general section, (3) health section, (4) behavioral section, (5) reproduction section and (6) final questions. For the behavioral section the validated short version of the Canine Behavioral and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ)© was used. The final questionnaire consisted of 233 questions, these were not all visible for the owners, only questions that applied to the dog filled in, were visible. The estimated fill in time was 10-20 minutes. A total of 448 questionnaires was filled in, from this number 428 could be used. The results were analyzed descriptively and a multiple logistic regression model was used to investigate the correlation between the 14 C-BARQ subscales and the general characteristics of the dog. In addition the independent variable age was analyzed. Finally the means of the 14 subscale scores were compared to the means of the general population. To investigate the reliability of asking owners about screening results, a sample size of 188 dogs with a Dutch pedigree number was selected and the hip dysplasia (HD) and eye examination (ECVO) results given by the owner were compared to the results in the ‘Raad van Beheer’ database. The results show that a point of moderate concern was the prevalence of epilepsy/movement disorders, more research is recommended to discriminate between the hereditary idiopathic epilepsy and the non-idiopathic epilepsy/movement disorders. Points of mild concern were the allele frequency of the MDR1 gene mutation and cancer as the cause of death. The ASCN is already screening MDR1 gene mutations in the breeding population, by doing this the allele frequency should go down in the future. If the ASCN wants to further investigate cancer, histopathological examinations are needed to discriminate between the different forms of cancer in order to know the prevalence of the different cancer forms and maybe to set up a breeding program. No behavioral problems emerged in this questionnaire, but with behavioral problems it has to be taken into account that this is most of the time something subjective. This questionnaire also shows that asking owners for screening results, it is reliable for hip dysplasia, but unreliable for eye examinations. The reason for this seems to be that owners are not aware of the screening tests done before the dog came into their possession.