North Carolina Breeders Symposium

It is a challenge for breeders to keep pace with veterinary research and use the latest knowledge to improve their dogs. On July 17, 2004, the Canine Health Foundation, together with the AKC and North Carolina State University, took a giant step forward by hosting the first-ever AKC Breeders Symposium, gathering breeders and researchers together for a day of interactive seminars covering a broad range of canine health and genetics issues.
  • breeding
  • disease
  • genetics
  • holistic
  • nutrition
  • veterinary care
  • reproduction
  • vaccination
  • neurology
  • accupuncture
AKC Gazette in November 2004

Erica Verna, director of grants at the Canine Health Foundation and one of the event's organizers, says, "Because this was our first symposium, we didn't expect it to be sold out." But the 100 seats filled quickly and there was a waiting list to get in. Deb Bonnefond, AKC's director of veterinary outreach, also an organizer, says that during seminars breeders were attentive and asked lots of intelligent questions. Between the seminars, Ms. Bonnefond says, "it was great to see people clustered and talking. There was a lot of interaction and good energy." Jean Hetherington, who manages breeder education at the Canine Health Foundation, another symposium organizer, says, "We all toasted ourselves afterwards. It just couldn't have gone any better."

Claudia Orlandi, author of The ABCs of Genetics, launched the symposium with an energetic keynote address. Erica Verna says that Ms. Orlandi, "did a great job of taking very complicated ideas and helping people understand how to use those ideas in breeding programs." Matthew Breen spoke about cancer and how researchers are using insights from the canine genome project to understand the genetic basis of the disease. Ms. Verna says that Matthew Breen, like Claudia Orlandi, "took a complicated topic and brought it to a layperson's level."

Catherine Settle, a North Carolina veterinarian, talked about canine reproduction. Erica Verna reports that Ms. Settle was very engaging and "presented information in an upbeat and enthusiastic way." Richard Ford, a faculty member at North Carolina State University, talked about vaccination protocols. According to Erica Verna, the end of Mr. Ford's seminar transformed into an informative question-and-answer session.

Robert Schaeffer talked about alternative therapies. Ms. Verna says that she and other attendees learned that this is a much broader topic than it first appears. "In the future," Ms. Verna says, "we will have seminars specifically about acupuncture and alternative nutrition, and go into each in more depth."

Natasha Olby's presentation on neurology was educational and personal. Using video clips of affected dogs in her own home, Ms. Olby revealed some vital signs that can help owners detect and diagnose cerebellar degeneration. Although Ms. Olby's topic is complex, Erica Verna says, "she was very down to earth and took whatever questions people asked."

Because this first symposium was such a success, planning is already underway for the next one, scheduled for the end of January 2005 at the University of Pennsylvania. Arrangements for two more symposiums later in 2005 are being discussed with the University of California at Davis and Iowa State University. All three organizers say that reproduction, vaccination, and genetics will be regular topics in future symposiums, along with a number of additional topics depending on the strengths of the hosting university. The organizers say they would eventually like to have at least three symposiums annually and expand them to two or more days.