Forfar scientist's award for work to improve health of rare breed

A scientist from Forfar has won an international award for her work to improve the health and welfare of one of the UK’s rarest dog breeds.
Dr Maura Lyons is pictured with Irish Wolfhound Lichen.Dr Maura Lyons is pictured with Irish Wolfhound Lichen.
Dr Maura Lyons is pictured with Irish Wolfhound Lichen.

Dr Maura Lyons has been announced as winner of the International Canine Health Awards 2023 in the Breed Health Co-ordinator category.

She is the breed health co-ordinator for Irish Wolfhounds. Her role involves being the main point of contact between The Kennel Club and the Irish Wolfhound Health Group (IWHG) to help lead research and development, and increase awareness of vital health schemes to help improve the wellbeing of this unique breed.

Her role in raising awareness is particularly important for the lesser-known Irish Wolfhound, which is the biggest of all dog breeds in size, but not in population, as they remain on The Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list with fewer than 300 annual puppy registrations per year in the UK.

Dr Lyons has owned Irish Wolfhounds as pets for nearly 30 years. Outside of her work for the IWHG, she holds a degree in botany and a PhD in molecular genetics and works as a laboratory manager in a tissue culture laboratory.

She said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been chosen as the winner of this prestigious award.

"This award will mean the Irish Wolfhound Health Group can continue to offer affordable heart screening sessions for all Irish Wolfhounds throughout the UK.

“I feel this award also recognises our breed community for their dedication to Irish Wolfhound health because without the IWHG and the support of owners and breeders, I would not be able to fulfil my function as Breed Health Co-ordinator.”

A key focus of the IWHG has been improving treatment of pneumonia in Irish Wolfhounds as well as heart disease.

Dr Lyons has dedicated her time to disseminating life-saving pneumonia treatment guidelines among veterinary professionals and everyday owners, and helping to develop and promote a heart screening programme, now provided to more than 250 Irish Wolfhounds annually, which has resulted in saving countless lives among the breed.

Data collection from the screening programme is credited with the recognition that Irish Wolfhounds with dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) do not show the same symptoms as in other breeds, further helping with earlier detection and treatment.

Dr Lyons also investigates and collates information herself and leads on updating the Breed Health Conservation Plan through conducting breed health surveys at regular intervals. In addition to her work for the IWHG in the UK, Dr Lyons is also a founding member and trustee of the Irish Wolfhound Database project ( which curates valuable health information and pedigree data on more than 170,000 Wolfhounds internationally to the benefit of researchers and breeders.On being informed of winning the award,

Running for over ten years, the International Canine Health Awards are the largest awards in the veterinary field worldwide, inspiring scientific innovation and recognising excellence in canine research, health and welfare. Organised and run by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, and with a major financial gift from Vernon Hill, founder of Metro Bank and the Vernon and Shirley Hill Foundation, the 2023 awards aim to make a truly global impact – with prize money more than doubled from 2022 and an increased focus on funding projects focused on the One Health concept and those committed to advancing canine medicine in developing nations.

Dr Nick Blayney, who Chairs the selection panel for the Breed Health Co-ordinator Award, said: “Dr Maura Lyons wonderfully exemplifies the vital role Breed Health Co-ordinators have in improving the health and welfare of our much-loved breeds. Dr Lyons’ work in improving the awareness of health issues in Irish Wolfhounds on both the veterinary side and public side is invaluable.

“We were excited to read about her plans to put the prize money towards expanding the breed’s heart screening scheme and analysing the results, further research into pneumonia cases, creating a database of vaccination data and further developing the group’s health webinar series.”