Vet receives international scholarship | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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28 June, 2016

Vet receives international scholarship

Guide Dogs Veterinarian, Caroline, holding a Guide Dog puppy.

Trip to study breeding programs in the United States

An aim to reduce disease and adverse genetic conditions in dogs bred at the Guide Dogs Centre in Glossodia has won Guide Dogs NSW/ACT veterinarian, Dr Caroline Moeser, an international scholarship.

The Derek Freeman Scholarship, which exists to support new or established breeding and puppy-raising programs, will allow Dr Moeser to travel to the United States to learn from three Guide Dog breeding facilities on methods to classify disease and record and analyse data.

Dr Moeser will also study early intervention procedures and therapeutic methods during her trip, along with how maternal elements and environmental factors influence behaviour in dogs.

It is the first time someone from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has been the recipient of such a scholarship.

A group of Guide Dog puppies sleeping in a round bed.

As the leading provider of Guide Dogs and other services that enable people with impaired vision to get around their communities safely and independently, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT began its own breeding program at its purpose-built facilities in 2011.

Since the program began, Dr Moeser, who has actively undertaken further study since graduating as a veterinarian in 1994, has developed a data spreadsheet and collected blood for DNA analysis.

“We don’t have a database up and running to analyse this data as you need to collect this information over a number of years for results to become statistically significant,” Dr Moeser said. “We are now at a stage that our breeding would benefit from this and looking at how other countries use this data will help us moving forward.”

“In a relatively small dog population, such as ours, the potential for genetic drift to occur is great, and this can have a significant effect on our gene pool. We need to be able to select the most appropriate foundation dogs in order to reduce genetically inherited traits developing further along the line.”

Dr Moeser said her objective is to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce, the incidence of all known inheritable medical conditions in breeding.

Health and welfare strategies implemented

With the health and wellbeing of the dogs her top priority, Dr Moeser has implemented a number of strategies to ensure the health and welfare of the Guide Dogs bred at the centre.

“I’ve developed a training manual for staff to give those on-site the tools to recognise disease in its early stages,” she said.

“We have also changed our quarantine and weaning procedures,” Dr Moeser said.

“Further, since the beginning of this year, all breeding has been done on-site now with no surgical inseminations. This is much better for the welfare of the dogs and reduces the need for antibiotics during pregnancy.”

Dr Moeser has also spent many hours reading through academic and scientific papers on how to best treat and prevent skin allergies, hip and elbow dysplasia and early intervention and is working closely with a professor in Animal Genomics at Sydney University. 

A veterinarian at practices in Ryde and Parramatta before joining Guide Dogs, Dr Moeser said her role at Guide Dogs, afforded her the opportunity to study breeding dogs in way that general veterinarians rarely get the opportunity to.

“Here we look at colony health as well as each individual dog that is bred. I find this really fascinating as you can track health and changes over a period of time,” she said.

In a typical day, Dr Moeser conducts surgeries and x-rays in the clinic usually of the hips and elbows. She also undertakes consultations which range from lameness to issues of the ears and eyes.

Dr Moeser will begin her research trip to Guiding Eyes for the Blind in New York, The Seeing Eye in New Jersey and Guide Dogs for the Blind in California in August.

It costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog, which are provided to those who need them at no cost.
 
As Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than two per cent of its funding needs from the government, the organisation is financially dependent on the generosity of the people of NSW and the ACT. To find out more about how you can help Guide Dogs visit our Fundraising page.