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Selective breeding could reduce syringomyelia
cavalier king charles spaniel
Researchers looked at the link between SM and head shape in certain breeds.

New research identifies risk factors for neck scratcher's disease

New research by the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences, shows selective breeding may be the way forward to reducing the incidence of syringomyelia (SM) - a painful condition that can lead to paralysis - in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel and other toy breeds.

SM - also known as "neck scratcher's disease", as one of the common signs is scratching in the air near the neck - sees fluid-filled cavities develop within the spinal cord near the brain.

The study looked at the incidence of the condition in Cavalier King Charles spaniels and its link to head shape in certain dog breeds, and identified two significant risk factors - the extent of brachycephaly and the distribution of doming of the cranium.

The research found that brachycephaly is associated with a malformation of the skull, known as Chiari-like malformation (CM), and concluded that the results of the study, in combination with the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club scoring scheme, may allow for selection against risk aspects of conformation to enable a reduction in the incidence of CM and SM. The complete research paper has been published in BioMed Central's Canine Genetics and Epidemiology journal and can be viewed at
www.cgejournal.org/content/1/1/9/abstract.

Undergraduate student Thomas Mitchell, lead author of the study, said: "Dog breeders are very experienced at selecting for a certain conformation or appearance in dogs. 

"Our findings may allow breeders to select away from the condition over fewer generations by choosing appropriate matings and offspring to continue breeding programmes. The identification of an appearance that might protect against developing the disease is a significant step forward in tackling this painful condition.

"The study also provides guidance to breed clubs, breeders and judges that have a responsibility to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be harmful in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of the breed.  It will also provide vets with verified advice to provide to breeders outside the show ring and to occasional hobbyists."

Aimée Llewellyn, health information manager at the Kennel Club, who funded the study, said: “The findings of this research are very interesting and will likely prove invaluable for breeders who wish to make sensible and informed choices when it comes to breeding healthy puppies."

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Art installation uses 15,000 discarded plastic bottles

News Story 1
 London Zoo has unveiled a new art installation made from 15,000 discarded single-use plastic bottles, all of which were collected from London and its waterways. The installation, dubbed the Space of Waste, is 16ft tall and was created by the artist and architect Nick Wood. It houses information about plastic pollution and the small steps that everyone can take to tackle the issue.

Mr Wood commented: “Building this piece with ZSL was a satisfying challenge, as plastic bottles are not usually seen as a building material – recycling them into this structure, which will remain at ZSL London Zoo all summer, was a great way to turn the culprits themselves into a stark visual reminder of the worsening plastic problem in our city.” Image © David Parry/PAWIRE/ZSL 

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Strategic alliance to support development of agri-food sector

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Queen’s University Belfast have formed a new strategic alliance that will see both institutions form a research and education partnership.

Under the agreement, the organisations will pool their resources and expertise to support the development of the agri-food sector. It will work across three core themes: enabling innovation, facilitating new ways of working and partnerships.