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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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Endangered turtles rescued from smugglers

News Story 1
 A group of endangered turtles have found a new home at London Zoo after being rescued from smugglers.

The four big-headed turtles arrived at the zoo at the end of last year, after smugglers tried to illegally import them to Canada, labelled as toys.

One of the turtles, named Lady Triệu after a Vietnamese warrioress, has moved to a new exhibit in the zoo’s reptile house. She is the only one of her kind in a UK zoo.

Big-headed turtles have such large heads that they cannot pull them back into their shells. To compensate, they have armour plating from head to tail and a very sharp beak to fend off predators. They are ranked number 18 on ZSL’s EDGE of Existence reptile list, which puts threatened species at the forefront of conservation action. Image © ZSL  

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RCVS Fellowship board chair elections get underway

Voting for the 2019 RCVS Fellowship Chair election is now underway. This year four candidates are standing for election, including Dr Robert Huey, Professor John Innes, Professor Liz Mossop and Professor Ian Ramsey.

The Chair will attend and preside over Fellowship meetings and take the lead in consolidating the Fellowship’s position as the learned society of the RCVS. Fellows will receive an email containing a link to the online voting form, as well as candidates’ details and manifestos. Voting closes at 5pm on Thursday, 5 September.