The Italian greyhound (IG) is a wonderful breed. As a true greyhound, the IG is happiest when provided an opportunity to exercise frequently. However, in their down time IGs are just as content laying on the couch with their human family. Their sweet demeanor combined with easy grooming has made this breed desirable to many. Unfortunately however, like most pure bred dogs, the IG can develop a handful of inherited diseases that make life a challenge for the breed and those that love them.
It isn’t a secret among IG aficionados that one of the biggest health concerns for the breed is their oral health. Though the exact reason is yet to be fully understood, it is not uncommon for IGs to develop early-onset dental disease resulting in significant problems in early adulthood. Though a commitment to daily tooth brushing can help prevent many dental issues, there is also an inherited dental disease in IGs that can now be eliminated through genetic testing of dams and sires prior to breeding!
In the “Health Concerns” section of the Italian Greyhound Club of America website, there is a discussion about “a condition in IG's where the teeth are small and pointy, and the enamel is rough and yellow. These rough teeth trap a lot of calculus [hardened dental plaque], and special attention must be paid to brushing these teeth if one is to keep them healthy.” The condition this author is referring to is an inherited disease known as familial enamel hypoplasia or amelogenesis imperfecta (AI) caused by a genetic mutation in the ENAM gene. The ENAM gene plays an important role in enamel formation during tooth development. In addition to the rough, discolored appearance of teeth that are more prone to plaque buildup, in severe cases of AI, dogs can also develop oral pain due to enamel erosion, and rarely, cavities.
AI is an autosomal recessive disease in IGs meaning that a dog must inherit two copies of the causal mutation (one from each parent) in order to develop the disease. Dogs that only inherit one copy of the mutation do not develop signs of the disease, but can have affected puppies when bred with another carrier of the mutation. It is the symptom-free carrier state of this disease that makes genetic testing crucial in preventing the condition. By identifying carriers and only breeding them with dogs that are free of the mutation, dental anomalies from this mutation can be completely eliminated in any bloodline. As true with all inherited diseases, it is not recommended to breed AI-affected dogs. In the study describing the AI-associated mutation, 30.3% of the dogs studied were carriers of the disease and 13.8% were affected.
Paw Print Genetics offers testing for amelogenesis imperfecta in the Italian greyhound. If you have questions about this disease and how testing might help your breeding program, please feel free to email us at AskUs@pawprintgenetics.com or call our laboratory at 509-483-5950 to talk to one of our helpful staff members!