Veterinary charity the Animal Health Trust (AHT) has held a border collie day as part of its research efforts into canine glaucoma.

Some of the 52 border collies and their owners who attended the event at the AHT in Newmarket.

An estimated 1,500 dogs are affected by primary glaucoma each year in the UK, with the majority having both eyes removed. The AHT recently launched a six-year study to try to prevent this from happening.

The border collie day was held during World Glaucoma Week last week (March 8 to 14, 2015), with 52 dogs and their owners attending – some travelling from as far as Doncaster and South Wales to Suffolk.

Visitors heard talks about different research projects into the breed being conducted by the AHT, including glaucoma and epilepsy.

Owners also contributed to the AHT’s glaucoma research, greatly boosting the sample numbers from border collies by allowing eye examinations and DNA samples in the form of cheek swabs to be taken from their dogs.

The research – led by head of canine genetics Cathryn Mellersh and veterinary ophthalmologist James Oliver, and supported by funding from Dogs Trust – aims to develop DNA tests to identify dogs at risk of developing inherited glaucoma.

By removing at-risk dogs from the breeding population, the prevalence of glaucoma could be drastically reduced over time. If successful, the DNA test could benefit a number of other popular dog breeds including golden retrievers, English and Welsh springer spaniels, cocker spaniels and basset hounds.

Dr Mellersh said the day had been a great success. “It really helped us spread awareness of canine inherited glaucoma, which is a problem not enough dog owners are aware of,” she said.

“It’s heartbreaking to see dogs go blind and need to have eyes removed due to this sudden and aggressive form of the disease.

“There is a lot of research ahead of us, but with enough support from dog owners and breeders – such as those who attended the border collie day – we hope to make a difference and develop a simple DNA test to quickly identify which dogs possess the genetic abnormality responsible for this condition.

“If we can achieve this then, hopefully, in the future, fewer dogs will suffer from this painful and blinding disease.”

Mr Oliver said most of the breeds being investigated by the AHT for glaucoma were on the British Veterinary Association/The Kennel Club/International Sheep Dog Society Eye Scheme for hereditary eye diseases, which advised screening for goniodysgenesis before breeding.

Goniodysgenesis is an abnormality affecting the drainage pathway of the eye and is known to be significantly associated with glaucoma,” he said. “However, we’ve learned goniodysgenesis can be progressive with age, so screening a young dog may not be conclusive enough. 

“That’s why a genetic test would be ideal and have a much greater impact on reducing the number of dogs affected by glaucoma in the future.”

The AHT is collecting DNA samples in the form of a cheek swab from dogs diagnosed with glaucoma, goniodysgenesis and dogs older than five clear of goniodysgenesis.

Its geneticists hope to make significant steps towards identifying the mutation(s) responsible for goniodysgenesis in different breeds.

Owners of border collies, flat-coated retrievers, English or Welsh springer spaniels, cocker spaniels, American cocker spaniels, basset hounds, golden retrievers, Leonbergers and Dandie Dinmont terriers who fit the criteria are able to help the research by consenting to eye examination and submitting DNA samples from their dogs.

For more information on the research and the breeds affected, visit
Donations can also be made to the AHT Gift of Sight Appeal there.

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