The Cocker Spaniel--Comprehensive Breed Health Survey Project: Advancing the Health and Well-Being of All Cocker Spaniels
Rapid development of new medical research technologies offers breeders ever expanding vistas of opportunity to improve the health and quality of life for Cocker Spaniels. Learning how to use these advances, require we understand the health status of Cockers now, and establish a way to measure changes over time.
With the goal to better understand the most important health problems of the Cocker Spaniel and prioritize support for research on these topics, we've developed the Cocker Spaniel-Comprehensive Breed Health Survey (CS-CBHS).
The information collected is prioritized based on incidence and risk and serves as a resource to American Spaniel Club Foundation committees to evaluate grant proposals and awards. For breeders and the fancy the CS-CBHS is a tool for comparison and breeding decision making because of increased awareness of risk.
A unique feature of this project is its confidential, online survey format. Using a breed specific survey tool, data is collected into an online database that will in time, allow participants to access their dogs' records to update and compare them to the general population.
Still in preliminary development, it is designed to be cost effective and encourage participation from Cocker owners worldwide through the Internet. Launched in November 2002, the tool is being revised to allow owners to update records without replacing data already entered. This will allow tracking over time while continuing to encourage data entry by the fancy. Another feature in development is that it will allow members to retrieve their own dogs' records to compare their health information to the general population.
Because the project is an epidemiological study, it provides the fancy with information on the incidence and distribution of disease. Interpretation and reports are prepared annually by Dr. Chet Thomas, DVM, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. These reports are available on the American Spaniel Club website, and at the annual American Spaniel Club Flushing Spaniel Show.
Data Collection, Security, and Research Data Banking
To assure confidentiality, the database and tool are maintained off the ASC site, by a contracted third party data management firm. ASC members were assigned Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) they use to enter information on their own dogs. Non-members create their own PIN and use the same process. The data management firm can sort members from non members in reports. Dogs are tracked by registration number and their owner's PIN by the data management firm and only the data management firm has access to the tables that link them.
This tracking capacity may in time be a resource to researchers interested in working on health topics that affect Cocker Spaniels.
The survey tool is integrated with the database and designed to be completed online. It is also available on paper for those without Internet access. Dr. Thomas, together with the CS-CBHS work group, first reviewed existing breed surveys and talked to university researchers involved in those projects, then talked to other breed club health committee members to consider existing models.
The work group compiled an extensive literature search on the development and effectiveness of online surveys, as well as background on surveying for control of genetic disease. The tool was then developed reflecting the range of conditions on record with the Purdue's Veterinary Medical Data Program together with questions developed by the CS-CBHS work group.
To test the entire process, we ran data summaries after the first six weeks and the reports are being written now. Participation in the first data set includes 101 owners, 206 dogs.