The AKC Canine Health Foundation Celebrates 25 Years of Advancing Canine Health

Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

In 2020, the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) celebrates its 25th anniversary. Founded by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1995 as an independent, 501c3 non-profit organization to focus on research specifically for canine health, CHF has invested more than $58 million in research and educational grants and canine health projects. Bolstered by outstanding donor support, CHF continues to make great strides in advancing the health of all dogs.

Taking a historical walk through CHF’s research portfolio, one of the initial projects CHF completed with the support of its donors was contributing to the research and publication of the first genetic linkage map of the canine genome. Understanding the frequency with which genes tend to be linked, or passed on to offspring together, provided a valuable resource to map canine traits of interest and served as the foundation for the complete canine genome map.

Progress in the study of canine genetics continued as CHF collaborated with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to create the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) in 2001, a database of canine health information and a repository of canine DNA available for use in health research. CHF-funded researchers discovered the genetic mutations responsible for numerous canine diseases such as cystinuria in Newfoundlands, stationary night blindness in Briards, von Willebrand Disease in several dog breeds, and more. Investigators eventually improved our understanding of complex, polygenetic diseases such as dermatomyositis in Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies. Thanks to collaboration with our donors, this work studying canine genetics and the genetic mutations associated with disease continues today.

Joyce Baker Brown with Lindi and Palmer

“CHF-funded research has already helped Boxer breeders reduce the incidence of sub-aortic stenosis and degenerative myelopathy in our breed,” states Boxer-lover and CHF supporter Joyce Baker Brown, “but their cancer research has the greatest potential to improve the lives of dogs and humans.”

Over the years, research initiatives in canine cancer, bloat, epilepsy, hemangiosarcoma, and tick-borne disease have contributed much-needed funds to discover more accurate diagnostics and more effective treatment and prevention strategies for these important diseases. These focused initiatives allow CHF to target fundraising and research funding on the highest priority diseases in all dogs and across all dog breeds.

With sponsorship support from AKC Reunite, the nation’s largest non-profit pet microchip and recovery service, CHF also created the Search & Rescue Dog Health Fund in 2001 to launch the 9/11 Medical Surveillance Study.  This ground-breaking, longitudinal study examined the physical and behavioral health of dogs deployed to New York City and the Pentagon following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Data analysis continues as researchers compare the health results of these dogs to similar dogs not deployed to these sites. Results will help ensure that search and rescue dogs can do their job in the best and safest way possible and provide insights into the health of human first responders and all dogs.

Steven Friedenberg, DVM, MS, MBA

Through a strong portfolio of educational grants, including CHF’s Clinician-Scientist Fellowship program, the next generation of canine health researchers gain critical experience. The American Kennel Club/AKC Canine Health Foundation/Theriogenology Foundation Small Animal Theriogenology Residency Program supports training of practitioners in canine reproductive medicine and clinical genetics. AKC Canine Health Foundation Clinician-Scientist Fellow (2015) and veterinary critical care and emergency medicine specialist, Dr. Steven Friedenberg notes “Working with the AKC Canine Health Foundation connected me with breed clubs and a network for sample collection and discussion of high priority canine health concerns.” These programs ensure that CHF’s mission to advance the health of all dogs will endure for years to come.

Sharing scientific breakthroughs and the latest canine health information is a major component of CHF’s mission. Making CHF-funded research findings accessible to veterinary professionals and dog owners is critical to ensure that present and future dogs benefit from these scientific advancements. Outreach materials offered at include webinars and podcasts, newsletters, canine health articles, genetic consultation services, infectious disease fact sheets, and more. CHF’s biennial National Parent Club Canine Health Conference, sponsored by Purina, also provides an unmatched opportunity for dog lovers, breeders, veterinarians, and canine health researchers to gather and discuss the latest findings in canine health research.

Alongside its donors and supporters, CHF remains committed to the physical, mental, and social well-being of all dogs. During their 25th anniversary year in 2020, CHF has now surpassed a milestone of 1,000 canine health research and educational grants awarded. Executive Director, Dr. Calvin Carpenter states, “Thank you to the AKC, our corporate partners, funded researchers, and every supporter that has contributed to this mission. The future of canine health looks bright as we reflect back and look forward to the many discoveries that will help all dogs live longer, healthier lives.”

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