Cavalier Owners Required for Health Information and DNA
Written and prepared by Carol Fowler
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed suffers from two major inherited diseases: Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) and Chiari-like Malformation/Syringomyelia (CM/SM)
These two diseases are threatening the Cavalier breed. Research indicates that 50% of Cavaliers develop a heart murmur by the age of five years and many die prematurely. Almost all Cavaliers have the Chiari-like malformation (CM) and research suggests at least 30% also have Syringomyelia (SM). SM is a condition where pockets of fluid collect in the spinal cord and can cause chronic and sometimes severe pain as well as other neurological disabilities.
Major research projects are now under way to help the Cavalier breed and enable breeders to breed healthy dogs. For example, Syringomyelia DNA Research (Dr Clare Rusbridge), and Optimisation Research (Dr Sarah Blott). The success of this research depends on Cavalier breeders and owners sending health information about their dogs to the scientists involved.
Health information needed
* Cardiologist checked heart test certificates (annually);
* MRI results for CM/SM;
* Eye test results for Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD).
* Pedigree or Kennel Club (KC) registration number of your dog (or five generation pedigree if your dog is not registered).
* DNA (in the form of cheek swabs).
Note that any of the above health information is helpful and that data from non UK dogs is also valuable.
Does this seem like a tall order? Yes it is, but if you are willing to help, you would be contributing to the future health of the breed we all love.
About the testing
Testing for MVD and MRD is straightforward and not hugely expensive, but for CM/SM it would need a ‘mini’ MRI scan at one of the veterinary centres which offers this service (see list of low cost MRI centres). The cost is around £200-£300 (including VAT) and involves an MRI scan of the brain and upper cervical spinal cord. This will need to be done either under heavy sedation or a general anaesthetic so that the dog can be positioned correctly and kept immobile for the scan. It will show if your dog has the Chiari-like malformation and Syringomyelia. The most useful information for researchers is for your dog to be at least two and a half years old when scanned because this condition can develop later in life. Scanned dogs over six years are particularly helpful.
All copies of screening certificates and pedigrees should be sent to:
Dr Sarah Blott
CKCS Health Breeding Programme
Animal Health Trust, Lanwades Park, Kentford, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7UU
This can also be done electronically: email@example.com
Request for DNA
Researchers also need DNA from your dog. DNA can be collected using cheek swab samples which can be done by you or your vet.
Animal Health Trust: Health Breeding Programme (Optimisation)
In addition to the health information outlined above, DNA from your Cavalier can be used towards developing a Breeding Programme for Cavaliers which optimizes health. Dr Sarah Blott’s study aims to calculate estimated breeding values (EBVs) for all Cavaliers, using the health data supplied by owners and breeders. With EBVs breeders will be able to use a computer programme to match their dogs with suitable mates. This aims to select against SM and MVD in a way that does not reduce genetic diversity.
Free DNA swab kits can be obtained from Lisa Jeffery at the Animal Health Trust on 01638 750659 ext 1214 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Syringomyelia DNA Research (search for the gene/s causing CM/SM)
Dr Clare Rusbridge, and the genome research team at the University of Montreal, Canada, aim to identify the causative genes or gene markers for CM/SM that will be used for the Health Breeding Programme. The investigation is at an advanced stage and the researchers are particularly requesting DNA from dogs over five years old that do not have Syringomyelia.
Please send copies of the MRI certificate/report and five generation pedigree certificate to:
Dr Clare Rusbridge/Penny Knowler
Syringomyelia DNA Research,
Stone Lion Veterinary Centre, Wimbledon Village, London, SW19 5AU
Information can be sent electronically: email@example.com
You will be sent a free swab kit for forwarding to Canada.
Please note that if your dog is in this category (over 5 years and no SM), the information is needed in addition to that sent to Sarah Blott at the AHT. In other words, DNA and pedigrees should be sent to two separate places in this case.
Thank you so much for your help and apologies for the complexity. Cavaliers are worth it, though, aren’t they?
If you need any further information or clarification, please contact Carol Fowler.
Tel: 01453 843944