AKC Canine Health Foundation Opens the Door to Better Health for Purebred Dogs

AKC Canine Health Foundation Opens the Door to Better Health for Purebred Dogs

By: Norma Bennett Woolf  Date: 02/28/1996 Category: | Canine Issues | Research Reports |


For many years, the American Kennel Club has backed research into canine diseases. Early efforts included money for the Genetic Disease Information System, a database for veterinarians developed at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s; for research that resulted in a vaccine for parvovirus; and for the canine genome project at University of Michigan. Last year, AKC chartered the Canine Health Foundation to coordinate its efforts in health research and to open doors for partnerships between breed clubs, the foundation, and research scientists.


AKC endowed the foundation with $1 million.

"Responding to the health concerns of owners and breeders is a primary concern of the Canine Health Foundation," said foundation president and AKC board member Dr. Robert Hritzo as he announced a $7500 grant to study hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroid disease at the University of California-Davis.

"Hypothyroidism is the highest-ranked health issue of national breed clubs," Hritzo said. "This grant presents an excellent opportunity to contribute to our knowledge about this disease."

The money will fund a two-day international symposium to bring together researchers who are involved in study of the disorder and to gain insight into future research. Topics discussed will include the genetic implications of the disease and its dermatologic, neurologic, and reproductive effects. A lay paper addressing these issues will be one of the products of the conference.

Grants have also been awarded for studies of bloat at Purdue University in Indiana and progressive retinal atrophy at Cornell University's Baker Institute in New York.

Dr. Lawrence Glickman will head the bloat study at Purdue. Cosponsored by the CHF, Morris Animal Foundation, and the Irish Setter Club of America, the study will focus on morphometric, genetic, and dietary risk factors for bloat.

The initial study will use four breeds - Great Dane, Irish Setter, Saint Bernard, and Standard Poodle, all identified at high risk for bloat. The cost of gathering and analyzing information for each breed is about $5000. The CHF will provide up to 50 percent of the cost for breeds added to the study by the researcher.

The progressive retinal atrophy study is a partnership between the American Miniature Schnauzer Club, the Baker Institute, and the CHF. The project will research the genetic component of a type of PRA found in the breed.

Cost of the project over three years will be about $175,000. Miniature Schnauzer clubs have raised $87,500 to cover their portion of the costs. The CHF will manage the grant funds and monitor the progress of the study.

This agreement is being used as a model for a program under development at CHF that will coordinate breed club participation in research studies that will benefit their dogs.


Founders fund at CHF

The Mahoning-Shenango Kennel Club became the first all-breed club to join the CHF Founders Fund with its $5000 first installment on a $10,000 gift. The first breed parent club donation to the fund was an anonymous gift of $25,000 on behalf of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America.

The club is located in the Shenango Valley region of northeast Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania. The club's 58 members will each receive a Founder's Fund pin; the club's name will appear in each annual report of the CHF and will be inscribed on a plaque in the new AKC offices in North Carolina.


New board members

Experienced dog breeders Alexander Fraser Draper and John A. Studebaker are new members of the CHF Board of Directors. Both men also have extensive business experience in nonprofit organization administration and a deep interest in canine health.

Draper, a Collie breeder and judge of Collies, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Shetland Sheepdogs, is co-founder of the Collie Club of America Foundation, the country's first foundation devoted solely to advancing the health of purebred dogs. He has also been an administrator at the American Geographical Society and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Studebaker has been a student of animal husbandry and genetics since he earned his undergraduate degree in agriculture at Ohio State University. He served as president and chief executive officer of Agrigenetics Seed Company and president of the American Seed Research Foundation. A Samoyed breeder, he also has extensive experience studying and judging livestock.

The two men join Hritzo, board secretary John Mandeville, Wayne Cavanaugh, Dr. James Edwards, Robert Kelly, Elysabeth Higgins, and Dr. Asa Mays on the CHF board.

CHF also has a science advisory committee to make recommendations for grant allocation to new research projects. This committee includes:

  • Dr. Gustavo Aguirre, professor of ophthalmology, Baker Institute, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University;
  • Dr. George Brewer, professor of human genetics and internal medicine, University of Michigan;
  • Dr. Linda Cook, professor and chair, department of comparative medicine, Stamford University;
  • Dr. Stephen J. O'Brien, chief, laboratory of viral carcinogenesis, National Cancer Institute;
  • Dr. Donald E. Patterson, chief, section of medical genetics, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania;
  • Dr. Lawrence B. Schook, professor and chair, department of veterinary pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota,
  • Dr. Joe W. Templeton, professor of genetics and veterinary pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A & M University.



The mission of the AKC Canine Health Foundation is to develop significant resources for basic and applied health programs with emphasis on canine genetics to improve the quality of life for dogs and their owners.

The goals for achieving that mission are:

  • to help dogs live longer, healthier lives;
  • to respect the dedication and interests of dog clubs, breeders, and owners in canine health and continuously seek ways to involve them in the work of the foundation;
  • to identify health issues of concern to dog owners and breeders;
  • to identify and sponsor programs of research and education, with particular emphasis on canine genetics;
  • to seek ways to integrate the observations and knowledge of dog owners, breeders, veterinarians, and other scientists for the purpose of advancing the health of dogs;
  • to responsibly monitor grantees and make the results of their work available for public use through publication in scientific journals and through dissemination of information and education with dog owners, breeders, and veterinarians;
  • to raise and invest endowment funds for the foundation's programs.


Want to help?

Dog owners, breeders, and health care professionals can spread the word about the CHF through materials provided by the foundation and by scheduling presentations for clubs and organizations. Volunteer opportunities are available for those who would like to share their expertise in the field.

Individuals, clubs, and organizations can also donate money to the fund or can help raise matching funds for a project through their breed clubs. Those who donate $10,000 or more can join the Founder's Fund for special recognition for their efforts.



About The Author

Norma Bennett Woolf's photo
Norma Bennett Woolf -

Editor and Writer for the National Animal Interest Alliance.

All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
Like this article?
Don’t forget to share, like or follow us



blog comments powered by Disqus