Unique tool to prevent hereditary diseases in Kooikerhondjes

The Genetics Expert Center of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine has developed a unique breeding guidance platform for the Kooikerhondje, a small spaniel-type breed of dog. Since today, breeders from all over the world can use the Fit2Breed tool to prevent the breeding of sick animals and reduce inbreeding. Together we want to move from treating disease to prevention. Fit2Breed offers a wealth of information and can be used by breeders as a kind of tinder for dogs.

The Kooikerhondje is an old Dutch dog breed. They are beautiful, sensitive and lively dogs that were traditionally used to lure ducks toward a duck decoy. However, there are challenges to population management, especially in terms of inbreeding and prevention of hereditary diseases. Fortunately, more and more information is becoming available. Peter Leegwater, Paul Mandigers and other researchers from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, in cooperation with the Kooikervereniging, have identified several DNA mutations that cause hereditary diseases, such as polymyositis. DNA tests have become available for these. 


The available information has now been brought together in Fit2Breed, and is now available to breeders, says Hille Fieten. The program uses all data from Kooiker populations worldwide: disease data, screening test results, pedigree data, DNA test results and SNP markers. Based on this, a comprehensive population analysis was made. I am quite proud of that. Because through collaboration between breeders and researchers, we can really make a move from treating disease to preventing it.

Through collaboration between breeders and researchers, we can really make a move from treating disease to preventing it.

Coordinator of Expertisecentrum Genetica Diergeneeskunde

Fit2Breed offers an interactive pedigree, where interested parties can see all dogs and common ancestors are pointed out. The program also has a breeding module where test pairings can be performed. A breeder then gets a risk assessment for the offspring. In addition, Fit2Breed gives advice on males to use. Males that are genetically or based on pedigree analysis as unrelated to the bitch as possible appear at the top of the list. 

Tinder for dogs

We jokingly call it a kind of Tinder for dogs, says Kerstin Ueckert, president of association Het Nederlandse Kooikerhondje. She is very pleased with Fit2Breed. The cooperation between our association and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine goes back many years. We were honest about health problems and provided the data, the faculty provided the research. As a result, we now know a lot. But that also makes it much more complicated to make good risk assessments when breeding. The days when you made a pedigree on the back of a beer mat, so to speak, are really over. Fit2Breed can play a crucial role. Even abroad - internationally there are some 12,000 to 15,000 Kooikers - there is much enthusiasm among sister associations, Ueckert said. It's really unique in the world.

The days when you made a pedigree on the back of a beer mat, so to speak, are really over.

Kerstin Ueckert
President of association 'Het Nederlandse Kooikerhondje'

Hille Fieten: In the future, we would like to develop this for more dog breeds. That fits into the mission of our Expertise Center. Earlier, the Expertise Center also developed criteria for extreme short snouts, which are now banned from breeding in the Netherlands. Fieten: Preventing is better than curing. And we can achieve that if consumers, breeders, veterinarians and politicians join forces. If veterinarians advise consumers and breeders so they can make the right choices. And we collect data on disease and use that in turn to breed healthy dogs and cats.

Healthy Breeding

Fit2breed would not be possible without the support of partners and donors, including Farmfood and the Meijer Boekbinder Fund, who care about the health and well-being of dogs. The research team and Friends of Veterinary Medicine would like to thank our partners and donors for their involvement and support of Fit2breed. Check de website Healthy Breeding for more information about a healthier future for our animals.