A UK IVDD Screening Programme has now been developed from a scheme that has operated in the Nordic countries for some years. This is based on research published in numerous papers that show the risk of IVDD is correlated with the number of intervertebral disc calcifications (IDC) identified by X-ray in dogs around the age of 24 to 42 months. The association between IDC and IVDD has been established as a tool to reduce the occurrence of IVDD.
This scheme is being operated by the Dachshund Breed Council in partnership with CVS Group at a number of their veterinary practices across England, Scotland and Wales. All 6 varieties of Dachshund in the UK are encouraged to participate.
Cost of screening
Screening is available at a discounted price of £300 per dog (including VAT). This is the fee payable to the CVS practice where the dog is X-rayed. Scoring of the X-rays will be paid for by the Dachshund Breed Council. With effect from May 2017, the Breed Council's Health Fund will also subsidise the screening by £100. This can be claimed back from the Breed Council and is NOT a reduction in the CVS fee of £300.
The aim of the X-ray examination is to detect calcified intervertebral discs. Dachshunds are particularly predisposed to intervertebral disc prolapse; various studies have shown that the disease affects approximately 20% of the dogs. Radiographic examinations have shown that the number of calcified discs in dogs is largest at 2 years of age, whilst the incidence of clinical disc prolapse is the greatest at 5 years of age. Dachshunds that have a high number of clearly calcified intervertebral discs at a young age have a higher risk of developing disc prolapse in later life. A relatively high heritability for the development of calcified discs has been found in the breed.
Minimum age requirement (official radiographic age) - X-rays of the vertebral column are performed when the dog is between 2 and 4 years of age (24-48 months).
Preparation of the patient
The dog must not be given any food 12 hours prior to the examination, but can have free access to drinking water. The coat on the neck, back and shoulder should be brushed and groomed so that dirt and small particles do not affect X-ray quality.
The dog must be sedated prior to the radiographic exam. The sedation must be deep enough to allow positioning of the dog as specified in this procedure.
DICOM images with embedded data including the dog’s identity (registration number and chip number) will be collected. Standard Dachshunds will require a minimum of 5 exposures and Miniatures will require a minimum of 4.
Scoring of the X-rays will initially be carried out by Dr. Anu Lappalainen, one of the specialists in Finland, to ensure consistency of approach.
Owners will be informed of the “score”, which will comprise the total number of calcifications, plus their location in the spine. Owners will also be offered the same advice as is given in Scandinavia:
IDC 0: no calcifications - low; no restrictions on breeding
IDC 1: 1-2 calcifications - low; no restrictions on breeding
IDC 2: 3-4 calcifications - moderate; aim to breed with a dog with 0 or 1 calcifications
IDC 3: 5+ calcifications - severe; avoid breeding with this dog
It is clearly going to take time to screen and report results for UK dogs and it may, therefore, be impossible to adhere rigidly to the advice given above, at least in the short-term. In the absence of screening data, owners will have to use their best judgment, knowledge of pedigrees and information on family history of IVDD to make informed breeding decisions. Read our advice on what the X-ray scores mean.
Owners will be asked to sign a Consent Form which explains how the data gathered will be used, including publication of X-ray scores of dogs screened, at some point in the future. Data may also be shared with other research partners such as the Kennel Club, RVC and AHT.