Scientists at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre have identified the mutations responsible for causing dry eye and curly coat syndrome and episodic falling in cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS).

Scientists working in the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust have identified the mutations responsible for causing dry eye and curly coat syndrome and episodic falling in cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS).
 
Two years old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Author, Philippe Brizard.The two separate conditions cause trauma and distress not only for the dogs but also their owners.

  • Episodic falling is a neurological condition, induced by exercise, excitement or frustration, in which muscle tone increases. This means the dog is unable to relax its muscles, becomes rigid and falls over. Affected dogs usually start to demonstrate clinical signs before one year of age, with most cases having their first episode aged 4-7 months.
  • Dry eye and curly coat (known scientifically as congenital keratoconjunctivitis sicca and ichthyosiform dermatosis) affects a dog’s eyes and skin. Affected dogs produce no tears making their eyes incredibly sore. Their skin becomes very flaky and dry, particularly around the foot, and this can make standing and walking difficult and painful. This syndrome appears to be a problem unique to CKCS and most dogs diagnosed with the condition are put to sleep.

 
The mutations were identified by PhD student Oliver Forman, who analysed over five million letters of DNA from CKCS affected with these two diseases. The episodic falling study was undertaken in collaboration with Prof Jacques Penderis from the University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine, who diagnosed many of the dogs that contributed to the study.

By identifying the genetic mutations responsible for causing these conditions, the AHT has been able to develop DNA tests to identify carriers, which will be available from April 18, 2011.

Cathryn Mellersh, head of canine genetics at the Animal Health Trust.Cathryn Mellersh, head of canine genetics at the Animal Health Trust, said: “As with all inherited disease, it’s important that breeders are armed with the facts and that they still continue to use carrier dogs in their breeding programmes.

“Breeding a carrier with a non-carrier will not produce affected puppies, however breeding just clear dogs with other clear dogs could reduce the gene pool within the breed and this could lead to other health problems in the future.”
 
Mike Townsend
, chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust said: “Every dog deserves to lead a healthy, happy life and this breakthrough will make a real difference to the future health of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

“Our knowledge about inherited diseases in dogs is growing every day and by passing knowledge about the importance of health testing onto breeders and puppy buyers we can help to ensure that the healthiest genes are passed down through the generations.”
 
Owners and breeders can access the DNA tests for dry eye and curly coat and episodic falling, from April 18, through the AHT’s online DNA testing webshop.

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