The Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network: News in September 2022

General News

The Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network (FCRRN) have had a relatively quiet summer with two inquiries along the lines of, “what if we had to surrender our beloved flat coated retriever…could you help?” We replied that we are available to help, we have members who are keen to adopt, and the inquirers seemed reassured to receive the green light(1) that help is available.

The general animal rescue centres are reporting many arrivals of dogs, cats, and rabbits in particular. Most animals were acquired during the COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequent lifestyle changes coupled with the rising cost of living are leading to these animals being given away.

Meanwhile flat coated retriever puppies continue to be advertised for sale at prices from £1500 and higher. Members of the FCRRN have reported the occasional adult flat coated retriever for sale at around £1500; the advertisements seem to be removed swiftly.

There have been at least three online reports of adult flat coated retrievers going missing this summer and Bodie(2) has not been found. There has been no further news of these dogs.

Flat Coated Retrievers and Cancers  

Robin (pseudonym) was a flat coated retriever who was rehomed last year and who died from cancer recently aged nearly six years. Allegedly he had a poor quality of life for four years before he went to temporary guardians in the summer of 2021.

In October 2021, I had an intense period of searching for a new home involving many conversations with the temporary guardians and with potential adopters. I met Robin and the temporary guardians near Liverpool and we spent the evening together before Robin and I had a six hour car journey to his foster home the next day. Robin was lovely, very keen for affection, gentle mouthed, and relaxed despite the poor quality of his life until the temporary guardians gave him a home.

He had several significant mental and physical problems and his foster home made great progress towards resolving those problems during his six week stay before he was adopted.

I am very sad that Robin has died at such a young age and after experiencing a good quality of life in a loving home for barely nine months. I know the pain of losing a young flat coated retriever to cancer.

Picture: Robin in recovery

As regards flat coated retrievers and cancers, there is no valid evidence to confirm the suggestions that some cancers are commoner in flat coated retrievers than in other pedigree breeds(3).

Indeed there is a danger of mislabelling flat coated retrievers as being a breed at high risk of cancers because many of their human companions care so much for their dogs that they take extra steps to diagnose and report cancers compared to the human companions of other breeds, i.e. there appears to be over-reporting by flat coated retriever guardians compared to guardians of dobermann and Weimaraner (similar size of dog and similar number of puppies registered with the Kennel Club) or compared to guardians of golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers (similar size of dog and many more puppies registered)(4).

It would be more appropriate for the quality of life of flat coated retrievers to see valid population based research into cancers, inherited diseases, and genetic diversity.

Anatoxin Poisoning in a Flat Coated Retriever

Readers will be sad to know that Cove, a two year old flat coated retriever, died recently due to poisoning from anatoxin-a and related analogues that came from cyanobacteria, formerly known as blue-green algae.

Cove’s guardians want to raise awareness among dog owners of the dangers posed by cyanobacteria and, although full details of the case will be published in a scientific journal in the coming months, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science released a précis of the case to Vet Times(5).

The emergency treatment of the systemic effects of cyanobacteria toxins requires specialist veterinary care. However in the literature there are some actions that all guardians could take to try and prevent the ingestion of cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria are single celled bacteria found in water across the world and in normal concentrations they are helpful for the water ecology. However under certain conditions (high temperature, slow flow, low water level, inter alia) they can form high concentrations that can be seen by the naked eye and they can produce toxins that are harmful to animals – human, canine, et alia(6,7,8).

The high concentrations are known as colonies which can bloom and form columns below the surface and they can form a scum at the surface(9) which is often several centimetres thick. Colonies can be blue, green, red, brown, black, or combinations thereof.

To prevent the ingestion of cyanobacteria –

Visually: at the water edge, look for columns or scums of material.

Physically: use a strong stick or handle to lift the column or scum out of the water and look at the material carefully.

It MIGHT be potentially toxic cyanobacteria if:

– the stick appears to have a coating of paint on it

– you can see pinhead or smaller size spheres or irregular clumps

– the material resembles fine grass cuttings

– the water is murky and there is blue, green, red, brown, or black colour material.

It is NOT likely to be potentially toxic cyanobacteria if:

– the material is firmly attached to plants, stones, or the bottom so it will not lift out

– you see the material clinging to the stick and it is long and stringy

– the material contains roots or leaf-like structures; these are likely to be aquatic plants(10,11).

If you are in any doubt then do not let your dog enter or drink the water.

If you think there are potentially toxic cyanobacteria in the  water and your dog enters the water, drinks from it, or eats something in or near it, then move away swiftly and wash the dog with a copious amount of uncontaminated fresh water(12).

Go to a veterinary facility urgently.

Flat Coated Retriever Frolic

More cheerfully, there is a frolic on Sunday, October 16th 2022 at Llyn Llywelyn, Beddgelert(13).

John Bowman and his family are once again showing their willingness to organise a frolic and you would be very welcome to join John, Robbie, Nevis and others.

For further details you can contact John via the Flat Coated Walks UK Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1631887350394854/

Non-Facebook users can contact John by email: mcgurgle@aol.com.


Some readers might ask a reasonable question about the relevance of Robin and cancers, and Cove and anatoxin poisoning from cyanobacteria, to the FCRRN. A reasonable reply is that the network formed to help improve the quality of life of flat coated retrievers and the news about cancers, the surrender and adoption processes, preventing and treating toxic cyanobacteria, et alia, could help to improve the quality of life of a flat coated retriever.

Finally, please could you remember the FCRRN if, via any route, you learn that a surrender or adoption is being considered. I know the FCRRN have reassured some people about our key aim(14) and our availability.

Dr Iain J Robbé

On behalf of the Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network (FCRRN)

Email: walesandwm@gmail.com


“Rescues R Us”

Experts: none of the FCRRN is acting in the capacity of an expert; each contributor is offering their advice based on accessible evidence. If you are concerned about any subject in the newsletters then you should consult a veterinary professional.

© 2022 Flat Coated Retriever Rescue Network

(1) http://www.iainrobbe.com/fcrrn_02/

(2) http://www.iainrobbe.com/fcrrn_03/

(3) Robbé, I. J. (2018). Options to improve the welfare of flat coated retrievers against inherited diseases.pdf

(4)  https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/pedigreebreedhealthsurvey

(5) https://www.vettimes.co.uk/news/government-scientists-confirm-anatoxin-poisoning-in-dog/

(6) Scottish Government. (2012).Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) in inland and inshore waters.pdf

(7) Anderson-Abbs,B. (2016). California freshwater harmful algal blooms.pdf

(8) Chorus, I. (2012). Current approaches to cyanotoxin risk assessment, risk management and regulations in different countries. https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/374/publikationen/4390.pdf

(9) Aparicio Medrano, E. et alia. (2016). An alternative explanation for cyanobacterial scum formation and persistence by oxygenic photosynthesis. Harmful Algae, 60, 27-35.  

doi: 10.1016/j.hal.2016.10.002

(10) Clemson Cooperative Extension. (2022).

(11)  Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) guidance. (2008). https://dec.vermont.gov/sites/dec/files/dwgwp/bluegreen/pdf/cyanoguidancevtcommunities.pdf

(12) Bischoff, K. (2021). Algal poisoning of animals. https://www.msdvetmanual.com/toxicology/algal-poisoning/algal-poisoning-of-animals

(13) https://naturalresources.wales/days-out/places-to-visit/north-west-wales/beddgelert-forest/?lang=en

(14) http://www.iainrobbe.com/fcrrn_01/

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About Iain Robbe

I am a medical practitioner (MB, BS, 1980; MRCS, LRCP, 1980) registered with the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I have reactivated my licence to practise and I am providing telephone support to vulnerable elderly to assist them during the pandemic. I remain active as a Clinical Medical Educationist participating in a number of projects with the universities of St Mary’s and Dalhousie in Nova Scotia and Mount Allison in New Brunswick, inter alia, and separately with three of the veterinary schools in the UK. My focus is on teaching and research in professionalism, ethics, and communications, and particularly the influences of vernacular architecture on the creation of positive learning experiences in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. I have the degree of Master in Public Health from the University of London (1985) and the degree of Master in Medical Education with distinction from the University of Wales (2001). The guiding principles in my practices are based on andragogy and humanism, and the prime ethical principle of autonomy for the individual and in population health.

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