Category archives: Ask The Vet

The Labrador Retriever Copper Toxicosis Test- Interpretation, Breeding Strategy, and Monitoring

The Labrador Retriever Copper Toxicosis Test- Interpretation, Breeding Strategy, and Monitoring

The liver disease, copper toxicosis (CT) has become a hot topic among Labrador retriever breeders and dog owners with the arrival of a new genetic test which identifies two recently described mutations found in Labradors associated with opposite effects on the amount of dietary copper stored in the liver. As with all new canine genetic tests, questions and concerns may arise from breeders about how to interpret their dog’s test results, how to use this information to maintain the health of their dog, and how to use the information for their breeding program.

What is liver copper toxicosis?

Copper toxicosis is an inherited metabolic disease affecting Labrador retrievers and other breeds, which can result in chronic liver failure. Dogs with copper toxicosis have a decreased ability to excrete dietary copper from the body resulting in excessive copper storage in tissues and organs, including the liver, which can result in liver damage, subsequent cirrhosis and the inability of the liver to function properly. Though the age of onset and speed of disease progression are variable, most affected dogs will present in middle age with non-specific signs of liver dysfunction including weight loss, lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In late ...

What’s the Deal with von Willebrand Disease II? - An Important Update for the Boykin Spaniel

What’s the Deal with von Willebrand Disease II? - An Important Update for the Boykin Spaniel

The clotting disorder known as von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a relatively common and potentially lethal disease of dogs. Three general types of vWD (types I, II, and III) have been described based upon the specific genetic cause and level of deficiency in a protein known as von Willebrand factor (vWF), which plays an important role in blood coagulation. Dogs deficient in vWF protein are at risk of potentially life-threatening bleeding episodes when undergoing surgical procedures or as a result of traumatic injury. Therefore, when a relatively high frequency of Boykin spaniels was identified in the Paw Print Genetics (PPG) laboratory to carry a mutation in the VWF gene previously associated with vWDII in German shorthaired and wirehaired pointers (Kramer and colleagues), Boykin spaniel lovers and our team at Paw Print Genetics (PPG) were understandably concerned.

Concern turned to confusion as Boykins expected to be at risk for vWDII (based upon their genetic testing results) failed to show any signs of a clinical clotting disorder. In addition, results of additional blood tests looking at the product produced by the gene on several “at-risk” dogs showed no deficiency in vWF protein and no increase in blood clotting times. At that time ...

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Inherited Disease - Preventing Blindness Through Genetic Testing

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Inherited Disease - Preventing Blindness Through Genetic Testing

Since we started working with the Boykin Spaniel Society (BSS), both Paw Print Genetics (PPG) and the BSS have learned much about the genetic disease concerns of these wonderful, little brown dogs. By using the founder breeds of the Boykin as a guide, PPG developed the first Boykin spaniel inherited disease testing panel in 2014. Based upon the results collected over two years of testing Boykins, in September 2016, the original disease testing panel was split into two panels; the Boykin spaniel essential panel (containing the most clinically important and/or common diseases) and the supplemental panel (containing diseases of less clinical importance and/or lower incidence).

Two of the four diseases on the Boykin spaniel essential panel are inherited diseases of the eye. Diseases resulting in vision loss or blindness are among some of the most life-altering and troublesome non-lethal diseases of dogs. However, with knowledge of a specific genetic mutation resulting in blindness as well as an understanding of how that specific eye disease is inherited, blindness caused by the mutation can be prevented through the use of genetic testing and informed selective breeding practices based upon test results. Two eye diseases known to be inherited in the ...

Genetic Disease Testing and the Hunting Labrador- Protecting Your Investment

Genetic Disease Testing and the Hunting Labrador- Protecting Your Investment

You’ve spent a small fortune and an immense amount of time selecting, purchasing, socializing, and training your young Labrador retriever, Charlie, for the big hunt. It’s the first hunt of his career and he’s amped! As you are getting everything out of your truck, you let Charlie out of his crate to run around and explore a little. He disappears for several minutes as you are getting your gear and you call him back to you. However, when he returns, you notice that Charlie seems wobbly in his rear end and eventually his hind limbs collapse. He attempts to keep running, but drags his hind limbs for a short distance before giving up and lying down. Uncharacteristic for Charlie, he won’t get up when you call him and he no longer seems to be as interested in the hunt. After comforting Charlie for several minutes, he gets back up on his feet, though you can still see that he is a little wobbly. After several more minutes, Charlie is back to his jovial self with little indication that anything was wrong.

Unfortunately, the scenario described here is not a terribly uncommon story among Labrador owners and those that hunt with ...

Prevention Is Smart Breeding- PFK Deficiency in the English Springer Spaniel

Prevention Is Smart Breeding- PFK Deficiency in the English Springer Spaniel

Likely originating in Spain, the spaniel family of dogs have long been important companions to bird hunters around the world. As late as the 1880’s, springer and cocker spaniels were born in the same litters and were only differentiated by size after birth. Dogs under 28 pounds were considered “cockers” and were used for their ability to hunt the small wading bird known as the woodcock while the larger “springers” were used to flush game birds to be captured by trained birds of prey (which were later replaced by firearms). Separate breed status for cocker and springer spaniels was established in 1902 by the Kennel Club of England and the English springer spaniel (ESS) was formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1910. Since that time, the ESS has been further differentiated into the leaner and less densely haired “field” variety and the heavier boned and thicker coated show or “bench” lines.

Like other breeds, along the historical path to the modern ESS, the breed has developed some inherited disease concerns that keep breeders on their toes. Luckily, some of these inherited diseases can be eliminated from blood lines though the use of genetic testing technologies and selective breeding ...

Prevention is Smart Breeding- Cystine Bladder Stones in the Newfoundland Dog

Prevention is Smart Breeding- Cystine Bladder Stones in the Newfoundland Dog
'Scout' courtesy of Brad Geddes via Flickr, Creative Commons license

From its early history as a North American working dog used to retrieve fishing nets and perform human water rescues, the beautiful and intelligent Newfoundland dog has carved out a well-deserved place in the heart of dog lovers around the world. Their characteristic large size, marked by heavy bones, powerful musculature, webbed feet, and thick hair coat make the Newfoundland particularly adept at tasks involving swimming. However, they are just as capable and content pulling carts on land and performing other land-based tasks. In addition, their generally calm, loyal, and affable temperament have helped establish them as great family dogs.  

Over the years, Newfoundland breeders have selectively bred dogs that have displayed the most desirable characteristics in an effort to improve their breed. Unfortunately, alongside these desirable traits, sometimes the predisposition to produce offspring with certain inherited diseases are also silently passed from generation to generation in the form of genetic mutations. Such a genetic mutation found in the canine SLC3A1 gene (first described in 2000) is responsible for a potentially life-threatening condition in the Newfoundland known as cystinuria. Luckily for Newfoundlands and those that love them, cystinuria can be eliminated from most blood lines through the incorporation of ...

The Von Willebrand Disease Type II Mutation and the Boykin Spaniel

The Von Willebrand Disease Type II Mutation and the Boykin Spaniel

Von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a group of relatively common, inherited disorders of blood clotting in dogs. First described in humans in the 1920’s, vWD is now known to be caused by various mutations in the vWF gene which serves as a blueprint for a protein known as von Willebrand factor (vWF). The vWF protein plays an important role in the cessation of bleeding by binding and adhering platelets to wound sites. VWD is categorized into three main classifications (I, II, and III) based upon the quantity and structure of vWF protein present in affected dogs.

In 2004, a scientific paper was published by Kramer and others which described a specific mutation in the canine VWF gene associated with vWD in the German shorthaired pointer (around the same time, the same mutation was also identified as a cause of excessive bleeding in the German wirehaired pointer). Classified by clinical presentation as von Willebrand disease type II (vWDII), the discovered vWDII mutation has only been described in the scientific literature for the two German pointer breeds. However, the Paw Print Genetics laboratory identified the same mutation in several other breeds including the Boykin Spaniel. To our surprise, the mutation has been ...

Prevention Is Smart Breeding- Urate Bladder Stones in the Spanish Water Dog

Prevention Is Smart Breeding- Urate Bladder Stones in the Spanish Water Dog

Though reliable accounts marking the early origins of the Spanish water dog (SWD) are lost to history, likely ancestors of the SWD (and probably the Portuguese water dog) were described in the Iberian Peninsula around the 12th century. Primarily used as a herding breed, the Spanish water dog has also been trained to perform tasks for fishermen and hunters including towing boats to shore, gathering fishing nets, and retrieving game from waterways. Though still used as working dogs in modern day Spain and other countries, the demand for Spanish water dogs dropped precipitously during the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries when machines took over many tasks historically performed by the SWD and other breeds. This decrease in demand led to a decline in the world Spanish water dog population which still remains relatively small today.

In general, dog breeds with smaller population sizes tend to also have a smaller amount of genetic diversity within the breed. This means that any two individual dogs from a small breed population are more likely to share the exact same genetic information at any given location in their genome, including disease associated genetic mutations. This is ...

Prevention Is Smart Breeding- Progressive Retinal Atrophy and the American Eskimo Dog

Prevention Is Smart Breeding- Progressive Retinal Atrophy and the American Eskimo Dog

Despite its name, the roots of the American Eskimo dog can be traced back to Germany where it was known as a white colored, miniature to medium sized variety of the German spitz. This well rounded farm dog came to the United States with German immigrants in the early 20th century and adopted the name American spitz in the World War I era when war related anti-German sentiment and American patriotism were widespread. The breed was first recognized as the American Eskimo dog (AED) by the United Kennel Club in 1919 and was accepted by the American Kennel Club for registration in 1995. Known for its alert demeanor, the AED makes an excellent watchdog that alarms its family of potential danger through warning barks. The AEDs intelligence, fast learning, and desire to please have made it a competitor in the agility ring and obedience trials. Though not universally recognized as three separate varieties, the modern AED is often split into three size groups (toy, miniature, and standard).

Despite its many talents, beautiful physical characteristics, and intelligence, like other pure breeds, the AED has developed some inherited disease concerns over the course of its development that have caused significant issues ...

Prevention is Smart Breeding- Ichthyosis and the Norfolk Terrier

Prevention is Smart Breeding- Ichthyosis and the Norfolk Terrier

There are few dog breeds that can match the spirit and spunk of the Norfolk terrier. Prior to the recognition of the Norfolk terrier as its own independent breed, this small, English bred working terrier fell under the Norwich terrier banner, in which either drop or prick ears were recognized as acceptable traits. With time, Norwich breeders began to differentiate dogs based upon ear carriage. The drop eared members of the breed eventually became known as the Norfolk terrier, thereby splitting the breed into two very similar, yet distinct lines. The Norfolk terrier was officially recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1964 and by the American Kennel Club in 1979. Two independent breed standards were established for these breeds and despite their common roots, the breeds have diverged slightly in their physical appearance over the past few decades. The Norfolk terrier is well known for their energy, loyalty, bravery, and affectionate demeanor. Breeders of the Norfolk terrier take pride in producing dogs with great temperament while maintaining the breed’s ability to work. That being said, today’s Norfolk terrier is more commonly found in homes as a companion animal rather than fulfilling its original purpose of hunting rodents and other ...