Rowena is a PhD student in the Centre for Animal Welfare researching healthy conformational limits in UK domestic dog breeds. Her research investigates relationships between morphology and disease, and ultimately aims to provide recommendations to dog breeders regarding safe limits to the extremes of conformation they can select for.
Rowena graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare (1st). Her final year research project investigated the potential to apply meta-analysis to the results of animal welfare studies, using the existing literature on feather pecking in laying hens as an example, under the supervision of Professor Bill Browne . During the following summer she worked under the supervision of Dr Melissa Bateson at Newcastle University’s Centre for Behaviour and Evolution, investigating fear of humans in hand-raised and wild caught European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).
Grants & Awards
- (2012) UFAW Travel Award to attend the Swedish Kennel Club Dog Health Workshop
- (2011) Dogs Trust Canine Welfare Grant (with Dr C Burn & Dr A Hendricks)
- (2011) Early Career Bursary - Int'l Conference on Veterinary and Animal Ethics
- (2010) UFAW Research and Project Award (with Dr C Burn & Dr A Hendricks)
- (2010) RVC Prize Poster Day - 1st year Prize
- (2009) UFAW Dissertation Award - for the highest mark in final year project
- (2009) ASAB Vacation Scholarship (with Dr Melissa Bateson)
- (2008) University of Bristol Undergraduate Scholarship
- (2008) UFAW Vacation Scholarship (with Prof Christine Nicol)
Conformation and disease
Rowena’s research centres around the welfare of both pedigree and cross bred dogs in relation to their morphology. Her research specifically focuses on disorders that are directly associated with exaggerated conformations. Several exaggerated breed characteristics are commonly acknowledged to be at high-risk of certain disorders, but empirical evidence is lacking and the extent of the exaggerations that can be accepted is currently unknown.
Her PhD focuses on:
- Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (in relation to skull conformation)
- Intervertebral Disc Herniation (in relation to back and leg conformation)
- Corneal ulcers (in relation to skull and eye conformation)
It is hoped that this epidemiological study will generate quantitative recommendations for ‘healthy’ conformational limits necessary to prevent these disorders, with the aim of raising dog welfare through improved breeding practices.
Rowena is also interested in owners' and breeders' perceptions of the clinical signs of disease in companion animals, and how they may differ with those of animal health professionals. This is with a particular emphasis on conditions that may be thought of as 'normal for the breed'. This has been investigated in her own work on BOAS, and also with BVetMed and BSc elective project students, investigating areas such as owner perception of stertor, breathing effort and obesity.
Rowena is currently a tutor to first year Bioveterinary Science (BSc) students, and is involved in Directed Learning sessions and lectures related to animal welfare and ethics to the BVetMed, BSc and veterinary nursing courses.
Rowena is currently recruiting and assessing brachycephalic dogs from Dogs Trust rescue centres, specific brachycephalic breed clubs, and the Mandeville Veterinary Hospital with Mickey Tivers, European Specialist in Small Animal Surgery
PACKER, R.M.A., HENDRICKS, A. & BURN, C.C. (2012) Do dog owners recognise clinical signs related to a conformational inherited disorder that is 'normal for the breed'? A potential constraint to improving canine welfare. Animal Welfare 21(S1): 81-93 http://dx.doi.org/10.7120/096272812X13345905673809
Packer RMA, A Hendricks & CC Burn (2013) All the better to see you with? An investigation of the effect of craniofacial and palpebral conformation on the risk of corneal ulcers in domestic dogs.Proceedings of the 57th BSAVA Congress. Birmingham, 4-7th April 2013. Clinical Research Abstract.
Packer RMA, A Hendricks & CC Burn (2012) How long and low can you go? A preliminary investigation of exaggeration of back length and reduction in leg length as a risk factor for intervertebral disc herniation (IVDH) in domestic dogs. UFAW Recent advances in animal welfare science III, Merchant Adventurers' Hall, York
Packer RMA, A Hendricks, JL Axe & CC Burn (2011) Preliminary indications of a lack of owner recognition of clinical signs related to a conformational inherited disorder - a potential constraint to improving breeding practices in pedigree dogs. UFAW International Animal Welfare Symposium, Historic Dockyard, Portsmouth