Evaluating the physical welfare of dogs in commercial breeding facilities in the United States
Despite high levels of public concern, the state of commercial breeding (CB) dog welfare is largely unknown. Therefore, this study aimed to characterize the physical welfare of dogs in CB facilities and their environment in Indiana. This study specifically aimed 1) to characterize dog foot health in CB facilities as a function of the length of time dogs were housed on a given flooring substrate, 2) to characterize visual dog body cleanliness and visual kennel cleanliness as a function of the flooring substrate, 3) to determine the efficacy of kennel cleaning procedures and 4) to characterize the dog dental and ear health in CB facilities. With these aims in mind, physical examinations assessing foot, hock and elbow health; periodontal disease (PD) and ear health were performed on 118 dogs at five CB facilities in Odon, Indiana. Indoor flooring types were diamond-shaped coated expanded metal, polypropylene, or concrete. Dogs also had access to concrete outdoor runs and play yards containing natural surfaces. Time housed at the facility and body condition (BCS) were likely to influence foot health. Therefore, additional data collected included length of time housed at the facility and BCS. To characterize kennel and dog body cleanliness, visual cleanliness scores (scale 1-5; 1= clean) were recorded for both. To determine fecal contamination, kennel floors were swabbed after routine cleaning using electrostatic dry cloths, and later cultured for E. coli. Breed size and age likely influenced PD, so data was collected for both. PD (scale of 0-4; 0=normal), ear erythema as well as ear debris and excess hair (scale 1-4; 1= normal) were also visually scored. Because of high variation between facilities and breeds, descriptive statistics were used for analysis and results were stratified by facility. Most foot health problems observed were minor (e.g. matted foot hair n=50, or minor footpad fissures (cracks) n=6). Severe foot health conditions such as cutaneous lesions (n=6) or cysts (n=2) were rare. There was not a tendency to see increased foot health problems with increased time the dogs were housed at their respective facilities. BCS was ideal for most dogs assessed (3=ideal; mean BCS= 3.2). The most common elbow or hock health problem was alopecia (n=16). Both dogs and kennels were clean, as mean kennel and dog cleanliness scores were 1.2 and 1.0, respectively (1=clean). The percentage of individual kennels that were culture-positive for E.coli after routine cleaning ranged from 7% to 31% among facilities. Twenty-nine dogs showed evidence of PD after visual examination, which was more common in smaller sized dogs. Findings also showed that nine dogs examined had ear erythema. Additionally, 28 dogs examined had excess ear debris and 23 dogs had excess hair, which was more common in long haired breeds. Results suggested that the flooring types assessed were not inherently detrimental to dog foot health, but management practices (e.g. access to multiple surfaces) likely had a large effect. Dogs and kennels were visually clean, indicating that current management procedures (e.g. grooming or cleaning regimen) were effective for maintenance of unsoiled conditions. The range in fecal contamination suggested that the cleaning products and protocols impacted fecal contamination to different degrees regardless of flooring type. Long hair breeds may need more ear care, while smaller sized dogs may require increased dental care. The preventive care likely contributed to the majority of dogs having low dental and ear health concerns. It is also possible that the visual scales missed signs of PD. Future studies should aim to understand the impacts of management on dog health and dog and kennel cleanliness by investigating in locations outside of southern Indiana. Future research should also assess different flooring substrates as a function of dog breed and size using larger sample sizes.
Croney, Purdue University.
Animal sciences|Veterinary services
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