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ABSTRACT

One aim of this thesis was to study the Finnish Kennel Club's control programme for canine genetic diseases (PEVISA), and to evaluate the programme's effectiveness, economic and health benefits. Another purpose was to study different key groups' attitudes, knowledge about and commitment to these programmes. A third aim was to find methods to improve the present health programmes. Three questionnaire surveys were mailed during the years 1997-1998 to 680 veterinarians, 320 dog breeders and 640 dog owners. The response rate in these surveys was 47%, 36% and 36%, respectively. Hip dysplasia records of 64 349 dogs in 22 breeds and ophthalmological examination records of 18 146 dogs were analysed as well as more detailed hip dysplasia and pedigree data of 10 706 German Shepherd Dogs.

The present control programme's effectiveness in decreasing the prevalence of inherited diseases has been limited, and consequently no direct economic benefits can be shown. Only in nine breeds of 22 included in the study were significant changes in hip dysplasia prevalence detected; in four breeds the disease prevalence increased during the study period. As ophthalmological screening programme show that most breeds have very low disease prevalences, no conclusions about the trends can be drawn. In two breeds, disease prevalence increased during the study period: however, this is probably due to changes in examination routines that have made it easier to detect previously undiagnosed mild cases.

Possible reasons for poor success are ineffective selection against genetic diseases in breeding and the present programme's concentration on collecting information, which is, however, not effectively used for more advanced breeding methods. As heritability estimates for hip dysplasia (0.31 to 0.35) in this study were moderate, selection against hip dysplasia should be possible. In spite of the control programme's poor actual effectiveness, the key groups (veterinarians, breeders and dog owners) have a positive attitude toward it and believe in its usefulness. However, veterinarians and dog owners felt that they had limited knowledge and would need more information about genetic diseases and the programme.

In the future the control programme should be planned more individually so that it responds to every breed's specific needs. In programme planning health issues should be integrated into a comprehensive breeding programme. Also goals and objectives should be more precisly specified for each breed. All groups involved in the programme should participate in the planning phase as well as the evaluation of the programme more than they do at present. In the future, recent advances and modern methods of veterinary medicine and animal breeding -- including for example prediction of breeding values and DNA-techniques -- should be used.

KEY WORDS: inherited diseases, canine, screening, control programmes


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