The Bloodhound is considered by the Kennel Club a vulnerable native breed, defined as a breed with fewer than 300 new registrations a year. The number of Bloodhounds registered is usually under a 100 a year , but has remained relatively stable for the past decade or 2 .
The Bloodhound is very much " fit for purpose " with many of the top winning show dogs also competing and winning at the Bloodhound trials.
The UK gene pool has increased in recent years due to many Breeders and owners importing hounds and the use of AI from overseas.
The Association of Bloodhound Breeders and the Bloodhound Club formed a joint Health committee some years ago and produced health assessment forms.
The health assessment form requires a veterinary surgeon to perform visual assessments of the skin, of movement, noting in particular presence and severity of, weak hocks and weak hindquarters , Visual assessment of the eyes, body condition and a basic assessment of temperament . These can be helpful in demonstrating any breed features are not exaggerated and eyes and skin have greatly improved in recent years.
The Current Joint Committee members are Chairman Keith Long , Elin Richards , Sam Clark from the Bloodhound Club with Fiona Mckenzie and Gillian Lamb representing the ABB.
The main cause of death in the Bloodhound is cancers and bloat / torsion (GDV)
The Kennel Club have indicated they will explore research possibilities into GDV which would be welcomed.
ABB Health Initiatives
Identifying genetic diversity and degree of inbreeding
To understand the degree of inbreeding and genetic diversity within the current UK bloodhound population, the help of The Animal Health Trust was enlisted. Their report, following the analysis of ‘the complete pedigree records for the current UK Bloodhound population’ was published in 2009 and concluded the following:
Bloodhound breeders have within the last decade largely avoided high levels of in-breeding by making use of a number of imported hounds in breeding programmes (The Kennel Club’s Mate Select programme states that the average in-breeding co-efficient for the breed is 5.7%, which is respectably low).
There is some evidence of the over-use of popular sires i.e. certain stud dogs used on several bitches and having rather a large effect on the overall genetic variation of the population
2. Health Surveys
The Bloodhound Club had previously conducted a series of health surveys in the 1970s. It was felt essential to gain up to date information on health issues afflicting our hounds and useful to compare this with the 1970s surveys.
A health questionnaire was distributed to UK based ABB members with the Christmas 2010 magazine with the intention of identifying the health status of the breed, the chief causes of death and the extent to which members are carrying out health screens. The intention is to gather data every two years for the foreseeable future to ascertain trends over a period of time, and to gather data that may be useful in constructing a Breed Specific Breeding Strategy Summary
A total of 124 hounds (44% dogs, 56% bitches) were included in the survey which is thought to represent approximately 20% of the current UK population of KC registered Bloodhounds. This can be regarded as a representative sample.
The chief causes of death were bloat/torsion and cancer, a situation that has not altered since the 1970’s.
The principle reasons for non-routine vet visits were accidents and injuries, and ear infections. The incidence of treatment for skin issues and eye issues was much reduced since the 1970’s surveys were carried out.
Relatively low numbers of hounds are currently hip scored, and whilst the scores do not cause concern, the results are inconclusive due to the low numbers involved.
Owners seem more concerned about elbow scoring and a representative number of elbow scores were submitted. The average score is not a concern but some fairly high scores were recorded suggesting this is an area that needs attention.
3. Breed Specific Breeding Strategy for the Bloodhound in the UK
The Association of Bloodhound Breeders felt it would be beneficial to the Bloodhound breed to set out breeding goals that should be considered when planning a litter, with the intention of maintaining breed characteristics and improving breed health. In addition the Bloodhound has recently been placed by the Kennel Club on the list of ‘High Profile Breeds’ – we hope this document will be instrumental in removing our breed from this list.
The principle aims are:
The maintenance of genetic variation
The ongoing improvement of breed health and longevity
The maintenance of the functionality of the breed to perform the job for which it was developed.
The selection for mental (temperament) qualities required by modern society
The maintenance of the natural reproductive abilities of the breed
The intention of the Breed Specific Breeding Strategy is not to tell breeders what to do, but is to provide useful data and information to help breeders make informed choices in their breeding plans. The document is aimed primarily at new breeders, as much of this information may be common knowledge to experienced breeders.
Summer 2023 Health update
An excellent start to the year as we launched the online Health survey, the KC agreed to send to the link to all UK registered Bloodhounds of the last 10 years - so it was able to reach a far greater audience than than the Joint Health Committee could have hoped for - the response in the first fews days was terrific and we’ve be able to get these statistics from it .
Results so far from 165 hounds
Cancer has affected 23%
Ear conditions have affected 28% (although 48% of that 28% figure was nothing more than excess wax)
Eye conditions have affected 24.8%
15% have been cardiologist heart tested
6% have had a heart issue
3.6%affected by DM
NO epilepsy recorded
15% affected by allergies or skin issues
64% had no GDV and 36% have had a GDV.
These are encouraging and I believe do demonstrate the overall health of the breed is good with vets trips for our 'points of concern' ( on the category 3 list) being a low percentage and on par with other breeds not on cat 3
Particularly good to see there was no epilepsy reported and less than half had suffered with a Bloat and or GDV
Shortly after this survey the Bloat questionnaire was completed by the team at Nottingham University - it should be noted this a not a funded research Prof Mark Dunning and his team are helping us and many other breeds in the time they have available as they have a genuine interest in understanding this terrible condition and hopefully once studies have been completed with sufficiently large numbers of dogs they may be able to suggest management approaches, which reduce the development of one of both of these conditions.
Torsion / bloat is likely to affect everyone who keeps a bloodhound over a period of time affecting puppies as well as older dogs so it is vital as much can be found out as possible so please do complete the survey whether or not you have yet experienced this terrible condition if you have not already done so.
We are still on a 1.6% co efficient which is excellent.
We had hoped to meet with the KC in April to discuss our removal from category 3 but sadly they were unable to meet us but we now have a date in September where we can demonstrate how both clubs take health seriously ,have health pages on both their websites in addition to a specific joint health group website - where we have showcased in photos just how much todays Bloodhounds eyes have improved along with showing how there is no exaggeration in loose skin now - this with consistently good judges reports being returned to the KC , critiques from all rounders saying how well breeders have done in improving the breed , plus the recent health surveys will present a good case to the KC. We have also had excellent publicity shown on Crufts TV coverage in their Vulnerable Breed films where Frank Kane had visited the Bloodhound Club trials showing we are a true dual purpose breed - and of course we welcomed the Kennel club Chairman Tony Allcock OBE who joined us on Junior day at our Trials. We do strongly believe being on the Category 3 list is harmful to the breed. we are now one of the most vulnerable breeds , with very few new people considering getting a Bloodhound - this is a real cause for concern for our future , so it is so important for the KC to recognise how the breed has improved and remove us from the category 3 list.
Summer 2022 Breed Health updates
I recently attended a Large and Giant breed Working Group meeting run by the Kennel Club on the subject of Bloat and torsion , presented by Professor Mark Dunning. There were representatives of several other breeds who are affected by this terrible condition. It was an interesting talk and presentation and most encouraging to see there are studies ongoing We have said we would very much like to be kept up to date and involved in any future research or studies. Sadly as yet there are no breakthroughs on prevention or the causes of it - though gulping food or water. along with stress have been previously identified. Latest studies indicate that dogs who seem to suffer from regular gastric problems even if they are not particularly serious occurrences also appear to be at a greater risk . The main factor for a good outcome remains getting to a vet promptly so the veterinary surgeon can operate swiftly .This you tube video illustrates what happens to the stomach as its twisting. Patterson Veterinary DIA Client Education Video- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)- Bloat - YouTube
This demonstrates how incredibly serious Torsion is as the movement of the stomach causes a stretching of the gastric wall, which prevents circulation and oxygen reaching tissues properly, leading to necrosis (cell death), clots, haemorrhage and possible peritonitis/ septicaemia. This leads to a wider obstruction of blood flow across the body of an affected individual, causing an elevated heart rhythm, whole-body inflammation and poorer chance of survival.
We look forward to hearing more and being involved in these studies - this and cancer are still the main cause of deaths in our Breed.
We are awaiting the launch of an online Kennel Club health survey which we hope is now imminent , please do participate when it is available , it is so important to monitor the health of the breed.
Our inbreeding co efficient is currently the lowest its been at only 1.6 % - this has been achieved predominantly by the use of imported stud dogs
Bloodhound registrations have significantly reduced over the last 2 years - not helped by the pandemic certainly .but the registrations for 2020 were 36 and 2022 just 19 . This is the lowest number on the vulnerable breeds list. We believe being on the category 3 list does deter potential new owners from considering the breed
Aims for removal from the category 3 list -
It s now 11 years since this was introduced and we were one of the breeds placed on it. We have as a breed been working for many years to identify any health issues and continue to do so , information on our heath page shows that eye clinics have been taking place since the 1990s as as well as regular health surveys
The Kennel club listed the following as points of concern
Excessive amounts of loose facial skin with conformational defects of the upper and/or lower eyelids so that the eyelid margins are not in normal contact with the eye when the dog is in its natural pose (e.g. they turn in, or out, or both abnormalities are present)
Excessive skin on head or body. Handlers should be discouraged from pulling skin forward over head and eyes
Hair loss or scarring from previous dermatitis
Signs of dermatitis in skin folds
Our view is many of these perceived conditions / concerns are no longer valid in todays Bloodhounds.
We have in recent years moved away from exaggerations ie excessive loose skin
as a result eyes and skin are much improved. It has become apparent that our numbers
are too low to collate sufficient data from the health check forms completed either by the
owners own vet or at breed health clinics , the feedback from judges at show has been
consistently good, and one of the other suggestions the KC have is to provide photographic
evidence of improvements To demonstrate this here are some photos from successful
show winners , these are not professional photos , but do show todays Show bloodhounds
have good clear eyes and very little loose skin as per the standard.
This is just a small example We aim to produce a greater collection of photos
and possibly videos as evidence of the major improvements in the breed to
present to the Kennel Club in the near future .
The death of a hound is a very sad occasion, whether it is a gradual decline or a sudden death. The health group records the cause of death of Bloodhounds as part of the monitoring process. They would be grateful, when you are ready, if you could let Fiona McKenzie know . We would like the age, sex and cause of death. Thank you