Multidrug resistance 1, also called MDR1, is an inherited condition affecting several breeds of dogs, especially herding dogs such as the German shepherd dog. The Mutation in the ABCB1 gene associated with MDR1 causes dysfunction of P-glycoprotein, which is responsible for removing certain drugs and toxins from the body. Clinical signs are most commonly associated with distribution of the drug in the central nervous system. MDR1 is inherited in an autosomal incomplete dominant manner in dogs meaning that dogs only need to inherit one copy of the mutated gene to be at an increased risk of developing adverse reactions to certain medications. Though adverse reactions to certain drugs are most commonly seen in dogs having two copies of the mutated gene, Carrier dogs can also experience drug sensitivities and dosages need to be adjusted accordingly. Thus, dogs that have one or two copies of the mutation are considered at-risk for adverse drug reactions. If an at-risk dog is treated with one of several common drugs (see below*), they are at risk of developing neurologic symptoms that could range from tremors, excess salivation, anorexia, and blindness to coma and even death. Because of the defective ability to metabolize specific drugs, these drugs can be lethal even at low doses. The MDR1 mutation does not cause adverse effects in dogs unless the dog is exposed to these drugs. Therefore, veterinarians should be notified when a dog is at risk for multidrug resistance 1 prior to administration of any medications.
*Drugs known to cause neurological signs related to the MDR1 mutation:
Acepromazine, butorphanol, doxorubicin, emodepside, erythromycin, ivermectin, loperamide, milbemycin, moxidectin, rifampin, selamectin, vinblastine and vincristine
In addition to this list, there are many other drugs known to be removed from the central nervous system via the P-glycoprotein mechanism in humans. However, reports of neurological dysfunction related to drugs other than those listed here are scarce in dogs. Please consult your veterinarian prior to giving drugs to known multidrug resistance 1 carriers, affected dogs, or untested dogs of breeds commonly affected with this condition.