Colour Dilution Alopecia – not so simple!

In the last week of April, I had the pleasure of chairing another of The Kennel Club’s webinars, organised by the Health Team. It was a free webinar for owners and breeders who wanted to find out more about the dangers of breeding for fashionable colours, using the example of colour dilution alopecia – including what research has told us to date, and how best to support dogs affected with this condition.

Colour Dilution Alopecia (CDA) is a genetic condition found in some breeds that causes hair thinning and loss, which can leave the skin prone to sunburn, infection and dermatitis. The condition is associated with dogs who have a “dilute” colour (e.g. blue, lilac, isabella or silver). While the disorder is commonly described in Dachshunds and Dobermanns, it has also been recognised in other breeds. With the rise in popularity of “fashionable” coloured dogs, it’s crucial to understand the dangers that can be associated with breeding for certain colours and what breeders can do to try to reduce the prevalence of conditions associated with dilute coat colours.

My introduction to the webinar shared some data on the 2021 registration statistics of those breeds where there are Non Breed Standard (NBS) colours in their registration options. This applies to about 10% of the KC’s registered breeds. At one extreme, French Bulldogs had 70% of their 2021 registrations as NBS and 53% for Bulldogs. Labradors had 1% NBS but, with over 61,000 registrations, that still amounts to over 800 NBS dogs.

Colour Dilution Alopecia is a concern to many of us in the Dachshund community because it is reported in the dilute colours (blue and isabella). We ran a breed health survey in 2021, supported by The Kennel Club, specifically to find out how prevalent the condition was. Our 2018 survey had shown skin diseases and allergies to be the second most prevalent health concern in all colours (after IVDD – back disease) and we wanted to find out if this was a particular issue in the increasingly popular dilute colours. Most people will be aware that Mini Smooth Dachshunds have grown in popularity over recent years (under 3000 registered in 2013 and over 15000 registered last year). Shockingly, registrations of dilute Mini Smooths have grown from 0.1% in 2018 to 20% last year. Not only has the breed become extremely fashionable, but “rare” colours have too (often aided by the influence of social media).

In Fitch Daglish’s 1952 book “The Dachshund”, he refers to blue dachshunds, so it is clear that the dilution gene has been in the breed for a very long time. This is not something that has been added by cross-breeding. The high number of dilute puppies now being bred is down to intensive selection for the dilute coat colour in the UK population. Our 2021 health survey showed 80% of blue dachshunds were affected by CDA and 86% of isabellas.

Dr Rosario Cerundolo (Head of Dermatology at Dick White Referrals) presented during the webinar on the signs, diagnosis and treatment of CDA. He showed examples of the condition in several breeds, including Dalmatians, Russian Toy Terriers and Dachshunds. Electron microscope images illustrated the structure of hairs in dilute dogs that causes patches of hair thinning or loss and may also include flaky and/or itchy skin. It is an early-onset, lifelong condition, often being seen from around 6 months of age and cannot be cured; it can only be managed. 

The genetics of CDA

Dr Joanna Ilska (KC Genetics Health Manager) was the second speaker at the webinar and she discussed the research evidence and genetics of CDA. While the gene variants for dilution are now known and can be identified with DNA tests, the gene (or genes) that cause CDA have not been found, to date. Joanna explained that, while dilute colour is a predisposing factor for CDA in Dachshunds, the 2 traits are not irrevocably linked. The fact that dilute colours in some other breeds do not suffer from CDA and not all blue or isabella Dachshunds do either, shows this is not a simple genetic condition. The evidence also does not support the view that other health conditions are caused by the coat colour. So, the fact that many of the dilute dogs in our 2021 survey also suffered from autoimmune conditions is more likely to be a result of close inbreeding, use of popular sires, and strong selection within a narrow population pool.

The scientific evidence on the association between colour dilution and CDA was reviewed by the veterinary and genetics specialists on the KC’s Genetics & Health Screening Dog Health Group and they recommended an educational approach rather than a ban on registration of dilute Dachshunds. This webinar was part of that educational approach. 

Recognising that where there is demand, there will be supply, Joanna stressed the dangers of breeding for “rare” colours and offered some practical advice to minimise the risks. This included carrying out all recommended health screening, breeding from dogs over the age of 2 once they were known to be unaffected by CDA, and avoiding close inbreeding and popular sires.

Discouraging “rare” colours

You may have read the recent press release on the recommendations from the NBS Colour Working Party. The Colour Watch system mentioned in their report will be one element of the KC’s approach and provides a framework for marketing and communication to puppy buyers, breeders and owners. Work is also underway as part of the KC’s strategic review to establish more effective ways within the registration system to promote well-bred puppies with breed standard colours and relevant health-tests. For several breeds, there have also been changes made to Breed Standards and to the lists of BS and NBS colours in the registration process.

How to raise awareness?

The Colour Watch system will be a key element in the KC’s approach to raising awareness of the risks of breeding for so-called rare colours and NBS colours. Several breed club communities are already producing educational materials and we have seen great examples of these at Discover Dogs and on club websites. Clearly, there is a role for breed clubs and councils, as well as the KC. 

The KC would, of course, be pleased to collaborate with breed clubs and their charities on joint campaigns that help raise awareness. One simple step would be for breed clubs to share links to this webinar and the other resources in the KC Health YouTube channel. If breed clubs are serious about protecting the health of their breed, they need to be proactive on social media. On Facebook, there are dozens of Dachshund Facebook Groups and it’s likely the same for other breeds. It is a massive task, though, and we need to address both supply and demand.

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it’s the illusion of knowledge’: Stephen Hawking 


Dog Health Improvement – what’s working?

I am grateful to Dr Brenda Bonnet for sending me a copy of an interesting and useful paper published in January by a team from the University of Copenhagen Department of Veterinary Medicine. [Mapping of initiatives to prevent inherited diseases and exaggerated phenotypes in dogs – Bruun, Fredholm, Proschowski & Sandøe]

The team describes and examines 4 types of initiative designed to address the negative effects of dog breeding. These are: research, actions in the breeding community, education of the buying public, and legislation. The study draws on source material from the FCI and Kennel Clubs, animal welfare organisations, published research, and legislation.

I’ll cut to the chase and say that the report’s conclusions and recommendations mirror a couple of key points I’ve written about numerous times in this column:

  • We need data and evidence, but endlessly seeking more data or the “perfect” set of data  won’t make much difference to dog health
  • The real issue that we need to address is human behaviour change and most of the solutions developed so far have been developed in isolation and fail to “join the dots” in what is a complex system

Research initiatives

There are 3 main types of research initiative; epidemiological studies to establish evidence of the prevalence and severity of diseases; research to develop tests and diagnoses of diseases; and research to develop treatments. In the UK, the VetCompass studies that I have written about previously are among the most well-known and useful epidemiological research. These studies, together with breed health surveys (run by the KC and breed clubs), provide good baseline data and the potential to measure improvements over time. They also enable us to set objectives for improvement and to prioritise among different conditions. Our UK Breed Health and Conservation Plans are the key documents summarising this research and individual breed improvement plans.

We are all aware of the pace of development of new DNA tests but a major concern is the relevance of these. Just because a particular mutation has been found in a breed doesn’t necessarily mean it is associated with the clinical manifestation of a disease. Resources such as the IPFD’s Relevance Ratings in their DNA test database make it clear where tests are worth considering within a breed’s improvement plan.

Additionally, it’s all too easy for breeders and buyers to mistake “health-tested” for “healthy” and we still have a lot of education to do in this regard. 

Initiatives by breeding organisations

The Danish paper acknowledges that Kennel Clubs and Breed Clubs have taken some effective action to improve breeding programmes but admits these are limited to dogs within the registries. We know there are at least as many “pedigree” dogs bred outside the UK KC registry and, therefore, these breeders are hard (or impossible) to reach with education programmes.

Unsurprisingly, amendments to Breed Standards are one attempt to limit the negative effects of extreme conformation or exaggeration.

Traditions like coat colour and specific conformational aspects are quoted as being considered to be equally important as health and welfare, which mitigates against many of the necessary improvement actions being adopted by breeders.

The paper describes breeding programmes imposed by Kennel Clubs as being “a balanced consideration of many aspects related to the breed, its health and breeders”. For example, the size of a breed is important and if too many criteria are included, many dogs would be excluded from breeding with a resulting further loss of genetic diversity and the emergence of new diseases. There will always be debate about whether KCs have got the balance right and the pace of improvement that is possible.

Initiatives such as Breed Watch and Breed Health and Conservation Plans are 2 key elements we have here in the UK, to support judges, breeders and breed clubs.

Open Studbooks and the introduction of unregistered dogs or cross-breeding with phenotypically similar dogs are other strategies available in some Kennel Clubs. These have the potential to increase genetic diversity and help breed away from issues in some breeds.

The paper concludes that the effectiveness of initiatives by the FCI and KCs is difficult to evaluate. They doubt whether instructions are being followed by show judges and breeders. They also worry that any improvements will be very slow to be seen.

Initiatives to influence buyers

There is plenty of research to suggest that many buyers do not emphasise health in their decision-making. Fashion and societal influence (e.g. via social media) often play a larger part in determining choice of breed.

There have been campaigns by veterinary groups and animal welfare organisations to discourage people from buying brachycephalic (and other) breeds. The paper concludes that these have not “had any measurable effect”. It is clear that traditional marketing campaigns and ever more websites with information for buyers simply won’t work (on their own). This, of course, takes me back to my point about the science that is missing is Behavioural Science.

Legislative initiatives

You’d have to have spent the last year sleeping under a rock not to be aware of the legislation that has been introduced in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to address welfare issues in pedigree dogs (breeding and exhibiting). The Norwegian court cases against the NKK and breeders of Cavaliers and Bulldogs have also been widely discussed.

While much of the new legislation does send strong signals about what is and is not acceptable, there appear to be significant variations in interpretation and enforcement. We’ve seen the same issue with the UK breeder licensing regulations, with huge variations between different local authorities. Legislation also risks driving breeders underground; unhealthy dogs will still be bred but are invisible to law enforcers. The unintended consequences of badly thought-through legislation should not be underestimated.

So, what works?

It would be easy to conclude from the Danish paper that nothing much works! I have written previously about the COM-B behavioural change model (Michie et al) and I still think this holds the key to achieving breed health improvements. The focus has to be on human behaviour change (breeders, judges, buyers, owners, vets) and we will need a different combination of initiatives for each group. It would be helpful to have a “roadmap” of options for different groups and it would be even more helpful if there was increased collaboration and pooled resources rather than multiple scattergun approaches.

The Evidence Pyramid Revisited

This is the 9th anniversary of my “Best of Health” articles. It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing these for 9 years! Thank you to everyone who reads them and to those who correspond with me following their publication. You can find a complete archive of my articles on my blog at:

Last month I wrote about the challenges of cherry-picking data from published research studies and how they can be used to generate click-bait headlines in the national press and on social media. I emphasised the importance of breed clubs collecting their own data with robust health surveys. Ideally, these should include gathering responses from owners of dogs that aren’t part of the show community or that aren’t KC registered. These non-show and non-KC data have the potential to demonstrate whether or not there are differences in the health of these different sub-populations of our breeds.

My caveat at the end of last month’s article was that more data won’t improve dog health or longevity. There is little point in endlessly arguing with the published research or debating whether or not the sample in a survey is truly representative of what’s happening in a breed.

I was reminded of an article I wrote in 2017, following the Breed Health Coordinators’ Conference. One Of the presentations was by Dr Zoe Belshaw from the Centre for Evidence Based Veterinary Medicine at Nottingham University. Zoe talked about the so-called Trust Triangle which describes the different types of information you might come across and the levels of trust that can be associated with each.

A variation of this is the Evidence Pyramid which has expert opinion at the bottom, followed by Case Studies, Cohort Studies and Randomised Control Trials (RCTs). These latter 3 are unfiltered information which may be available as Open Access papers. Sitting above these are a series of filtered information sources such as Systematic Reviews (meta analysis). These publications dissect and critique a set of primary research papers in order to arrive at “the best evidence” to support a particular case (or to disprove it). This is the sort of work that Zoe’s colleagues do at the Nottingham Centre for EBVM and they then publish what can be considered to be best practice for vets and clinicians to adopt. As with all science, “best practice” today could well change if new research evidence emerges.

This all seems quite logical but, recently, I was intrigued to read an article by Dr Michael Putnam, an Associate Professor of Medicine in Wisconsin who argued that the Evidence Pyramid is flawed.

One of the points he makes is that, in the real world, when a medical professional needs an answer to some obscure clinical question, they rarely dig through published case reports. Their pragmatic approach is to ask a respected colleague for their expert opinion because they feel this carries more weight than reading some randomly published paper.

Putnam argues that systematic reviews are emphatically not the highest level of evidence. This is a good point because they are simply a view of the actual evidence collected from a range of RCTs and observational studies. Obviously, this then depends on the quality of the review process and the input papers and studies which are in the review pool. Many of the studies included in these reviews will involve small sample sizes and (sometimes) dubious methodologies particularly when it comes to statistical analysis. I have had several conversations recently about papers published on research into intervertebral disc disease where the statistical analyses were less than ideal and/or where the studies were underpowered due to small sample sizes. The reason I queried these papers was that the findings contradicted previous studies (both in dogs and humans). Luckily, I have some very capable statistician friends and am in contact with researchers to whom I can turn for a critical appraisal of new papers.

A paper published by Prof. John Ioannidis (Stanford University) in 2016 said that there is massive production of unnecessary, misleading, and conflicted systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Instead of promoting evidence-based medicine and health care, these instruments often serve mostly as easily produced publishable units or marketing tools. He concluded that “China has rapidly become the most prolific producer of English-language, PubMed-indexed meta-analyses. The most massive presence of Chinese meta-analyses is on genetic associations (63% of global production in 2014), where almost all results are misleading since they combine fragmented information from mostly abandoned era of candidate genes.” More shockingly, a 2022 paper by Ioannidis stated that simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true and that many research findings may simply be accurate measures of the prevailing bias.

What should be at the top of the pyramid?

Putnam argues that RCTs should be at the top of the evidence pyramid. However, he goes on to say that we should acknowledge that many RCTs are poorly designed, underpowered and subject to bias. Therefore, instead of the pyramid having discrete layers that differentiate between sources of evidence, the model should recognise that some trials are worse than some cohort studies. In other words, there is more of a blurred boundary between observational studies and RCTs. The case for this reengineering of the Evidence Pyramid was also made by Murad et al in the BMJ in 2016.

Does it matter in the real world?

We are encouraged to consider Evidence Based Veterinary Medicine as an underpinning principle for recommending approaches to diagnosis and treatment of canine health conditions. The quality of evidence should determine the confidence in recommendations.

In practice, there don’t seem to be that many published RCTs that are of relevance to us but there are numerous observational and cohort studies (retrospective and prospective). Putnam ended his article by saying that “good observational studies may be better than bad RCTs and that we should read and judge each paper by its individual merits, not by its strata on a colourful pyramid.”

So, in the real world, it might be worth reading the “Limitations” section of any research paper before you read the full paper. It’s also worth reading the “Conflicts of Interest” declaration to find out who funded the study. I think it was Sid Vicious who said “Today, everything’s a conflict of interest”! 

Who’s using the data and why?

It’s not unusual for research papers to get widely reported in the national press, particularly where it’s possible to spin a provocative headline that grabs readers’ attention. Lobby groups and campaigners are also skilled at selecting research that supports their cause. You’d be surprised if they didn’t do that; after all, they have a cause to promote. 

In March 2019, I wrote about the discussions on social media when new scientific papers on canine health and welfare matters are reported and when breed clubs publish their health survey results. Newly published research should prompt us to ask the question “why?” – why might a particular association have been identified and why might the results have turned out like they did.

Last year, the VetCompass project published a paper that generated a lot of publicity in the national press. Life tables of annual life expectancy and mortality for companion dogs in the

United Kingdom reported an approach to assessing canine longevity (Life Tables) which is well-established in human health studies. The paper’s findings that the French Bulldog had the shortest life expectancy of just 4.5 years compared with Jack Russell Terriers (12.7 years) inevitably made for some eye-catching headlines. The VetCompass paper also reported the average longevity of Japanese French Bulldogs to be 10.2 years. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that figure didn’t feature in the press headlines.

In contrast, the Kennel Club’s 2004 and 2014 breed health surveys showed the median age of mortality of French Bulldogs to be 9 and 5.9 respectively. This data is summarised in the French Bulldog Breed Health and Conservation Plan. When the KC’s 2014 survey results were published in 2016, the overall median age of death of pedigree dogs was reported as 10, down from 11.3 in 2004. This led to descriptions of an “apocalyptic drop in purebred dog longevity” despite the fact that no such (statistically valid) conclusion could be drawn from the data reported.

Why the differences in longevity?

The VetCompass paper describes some of the limitations associated with the results they published. The limitations included:

  • The sample size for FBs was relatively small, resulting in life tables with reserved confidence
  • The sample was biased towards younger dogs that contribute proportionately more deaths in younger ages

VetCompass reports are based on a particular sample population – dogs attending first opinion vet practices in the UK. This sample will, like every sample, have its own biases. We know, for example, that insured dogs are more likely to be taken to the vet. The Life Tables paper was derived from a sample of nearly 900,000 dogs that had at least one visit to a vet

(90% in England) during 2016. These visits would have been not only due to illness but also included routine vaccinations. It is, therefore, not as simple as arguing that the dogs in the study were all ill. The paper drew data from nearly 900 vet clinics and VetCompass claims to gather data from about a third of all practices in the UK.

It is always worth looking at a range of research papers and analyses in order to build a picture of a breed’s health and longevity. Another useful source of such information is the International Partnership for Dogs ( They have collated and published data for many breeds, including French Bulldogs, Pugs and Bulldogs (all 3 of which have been the subject of recent VetCompass studies). Their Globally Relevant Integrated Health Profiles (GRIHP) are particularly useful as they pull together data from multiple sources, including UK and Swedish insurance data, VetCompass, Breed Club surveys and more. They don’t, however, provide any specific longevity statistics for French Bulldogs, only data on relative risk mortality compared with an all-breed average. The Agria data show, for example, that French Bulldogs have at least twice the relative risk of mortality than all breeds, for 6 types of health condition including respiratory, eyes and neurological.

One thing VetCompass does really well is communications; it publishes open-access peer-reviewed papers that meet the needs of a technical audience, with supporting data available. It also publishes infographics; easily digestible summaries that are visually appealing and comprehensible to the “person on the Clapham Omnibus”. VetCompass seems to practise a very “agile” approach to the use of its data assets. It publishes useful chunks of information at frequent intervals that answer specific questions. 

Breed clubs need their own good quality research

If a breed has concerns about a particular health condition, age of death or cause of death, it should ensure it can collect sufficient good quality data from a representative sample of dogs. I have previously emphasised the value of clubs collecting data that can show any differences between sub-populations (e.g. show vs. working or show vs. non-show).

The point of Breed Health Surveys depends totally on “the exam question” you are setting out to answer. If the exam question is “what’s the biggest issue?”, most Breed Clubs’ surveys have been able to answer that. The KC’s 2004 and 2014 surveys did that too. If you want to know where to focus effort on improvement, asking about prevalence and age of diagnosis isn’t going to get you very far. You need to know about severity and welfare impact as well. Finally, if you want to know if there’s been any change (for the better or worse) over a period of time, you’d better make sure you’re measuring the same thing, in the same way, at the start and the end. Otherwise, you’ll end up with “Garbage in, Gospel out” with someone cherry-picking the results to suit their own argument!

VetCompass gives us “big data”; breed health surveys give us “small data”. We need both, but most importantly, we need to define the “exam questions” before rushing off to design surveys, or to see if we have data already available.

I believe that all our breed club communities should be supporting the development and use of The Kennel Club’s Breed Health and Conservation Plans (BHCP). These are the most comprehensive documents that summarise the breadth of research available. Breed club officers and health representatives need to be familiar with the content for their own breed so that they can present a balanced and evidence-based argument when challenged about health and/or longevity.

More data won’t improve dog health or longevity

In September 2020, I said that data are necessary but not sufficient. I went on to explain that without human behaviour change, the lives of dogs will not improve. The missing science is that of Human Behaviour Change. 

We do need to question the research that is being published and to understand its strengths and limitations. Every piece of research has the potential to nudge us towards actions that will improve the health and longevity of our dogs. We need to see the bigger picture and focus on the behaviours of owners, breeders and vets who can all actually make a positive impact on dog health.

8 accelerators for breed health improvement in 2023

My January “Best of Health” article is usually either a reflection on the past year or a focus on the New Year. No matter how you look at it, the pedigree dog world continues to be in the spotlight with multiple voices calling for change and improvement. Headlines about breeding legislation from across the world throughout 2022 reflect the fact that, for many people (and dogs), health improvement hasn’t happened fast enough. Our ability to implement change simply hasn’t kept pace with the pressures we face.

I have said many times that this isn’t a veterinary or science problem, it’s a human behaviour change problem and we need to get better at managing change. Professor John Kotter’s 8-step change model was first published in 1995 but was enhanced in 2014 when it became the 8 accelerators of change. This month, as we look ahead to 2023, I want to introduce you to the 8 accelerators and how they might apply to your breed.

Create a sense of urgency

This is the starting point and is all about focusing on the big opportunity that a breed faces. We need to present this as an opportunity, not a threat, and it must appeal to heads and hearts. Beating people up with more data on the prevalence of health conditions isn’t going to cut it. The opportunity is to demonstrate that registered pedigree dogs that participate in KC-regulated activities are leading the drive towards improvement. We should all be able to unite behind a commonality that dog shows and other activities are a force for good.

For your breed, do you see a big opportunity that could unite everyone?

Build a guiding coalition

The guiding coalition means looking beyond the “usual suspects” and engaging a broad spectrum of people who are motivated to accelerate your breed’s improvement efforts. 

The guiding coalition needs to include diverse perspectives and a common commitment to do the right thing for your breed. However, this has to start with Breed Club and Council officers who are in positions of influence and who can marshall resources to enable improvement projects. 

Form a strategic vision and initiatives

A great strategic vision motivates people to take action. For some breeds, the vision might be to increase the popularity of the breed to avoid its demise. For others, it might be to address a particular health issue that is widespread or is causing increasing concern. For some, it might be about diverting demand away from unrecognised colours, particularly if these are associated with health or temperament issues. The breeds currently listed as Breed Watch Category 3 (formerly “high profile breeds”) might set themselves the challenge of moving to Category 2.

Strategic initiatives are targeted projects and activities that will make a tangible difference to your breed. These could be screening programmes, education initiatives aimed at puppy buyers, or support for owners to help them improve the welfare of their dogs (“be a better owner”).

Enlist a volunteer army

This means looking beyond Breed Club communities and engaging with other groups of owners. Every breed probably has numerous Facebook Groups of enthusiastic owners who meet, talk and often raise funds for their breed’s health projects. These groups give you far more reach than can be expected from a breed club. The 5 largest Dachshund Facebook Groups, for example, cumulatively have more than 80,000 members. Regional Dachshund Groups have, on average, around 5000 members. Find out who the Admins are and get them onboard. 

You have to build enthusiasm around the vision, and create a feeling that people “want to” be involved, rather than “have to” be involved. You can’t, and won’t, get everyone onboard. Research shows that you just need 15% of a group to be able to build enough momentum to make progress. 

Enable action by removing barriers

Kotter says that innovation is less about generating brand new ideas and more about knocking down barriers to making those ideas a reality.

If health screening programmes are expensive, breed clubs and breed charities may be able to offer subsidies. If people can’t find a convenient local vet to carry out screening on their dog, set up screening sessions at club shows and events. Make it easy for people to get their dogs health screened. Remove the friction that prevents participation.

Generate short-term wins

People get fed up waiting to see improvements promised by long-term strategic visions. You have to find some quick wins and then shout about them. They enable you to track progress towards your vision and they energise others to drive change. 

A “win” is anything, big or small, that moves you towards your vision. Publish the data that shows how you have reduced the frequency of a deleterious genetic mutation, or the data showing year-on-year uptake of a screening programme. Trend data is particularly useful, so if you’ve conducted multiple breed health surveys, share the evidence that participation is increasing or, better still, that a health condition is reducing in prevalence.

These quick wins are important because they enable you to demonstrate progress, even if the real goal is likely to take longer to achieve. They also motivate other people to get onboard with your improvement initiatives. Jam today, not jam tomorrow.

Sustain acceleration

It’s easy to take your foot off the accelerator after a few quick wins. Don’t. You have to use those wins to enable further improvements. Get more people involved and expand the volunteer army. Getting new people involved will mean they are likely to come up with more ideas (and energy) for achieving your next improvements. 

It can be really hard to maintain motivation and it’s not surprising that we see a turnover of Breed Health Coordinators or club committee members. That’s why it’s really helpful if each breed has a Health Team (Committee) who can share the load and support each other.

Institute change

What is your succession plan for when your Breed Health Coordinator retires and for maintaining a diversely talented Health Committee? Most breeds will have vets or vet nurses in their club community. These people can add credibility and bring much-needed scientific capability to health improvement initiatives.

Continuity of leadership is one of the success factors for sustainable performance improvement. Accelerators 1-7 are all about building capability for change and improvement. Accelerator 8 is about sustaining it over the long-term.

Kotter’s original change model implied there was a linear, sequential, set of steps required to bring about sustainable change. His “accelerator” model implies that many of the steps can be run concurrently and continuously.

I’ll leave the final words and thoughts for the New Year to Dr. Deming: “You don’t have to do any of these things; survival isn’t compulsory”.