Two new DNA tests introduced for Swedish Vallhund and Shar Pei

The Animal Health Trust (AHT) has announced new DNA tests to help combat eye disease in two breeds.

Researchers at The Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT have discovered the genetic mutation responsible for retinopathy, a form of PRA, in the Swedish Vallhund and the mutation responsible for open angle glaucoma and primary lens luxation (POAG/PLL) in the Shar Pei.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the AHT, said, "We’re really pleased to be able to kick off 2017 with the news that we’ve discovered two new mutations, and developed two new tests, which will help to reduce the number of dogs affected by these inherited eye diseases.

"These tests will arm Swedish Vallhund and Shar Pei owners with a new tool to better identify, and control, these eye problems which are both quite serious. Dogs with PRA can cope well with the disease but most will suffer from progressive visual impairment as there is no effective treatment available, whereas the build-up of pressure in the eye associated with glaucoma is extremely painful, and also blinding, if treatment is not effective.

"The AHT has a very good track record of discovering mutations associated with eye diseases and helping breeders to control, and in time, eliminate, these conditions within different breeds. If used well, these scientific discoveries will help to improve the lives of countless generations of dogs who don’t have to be affected by these blinding diseases any more, giving them the gift of sight."

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said, "This is another example of the great work being carried out by the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT.  The discovery of these two mutations will go a long way in helping to safe guard the eye health of both the Swedish Vallhund and the Shar Pei, which will be beneficial for breeders who will be able to make more informed breeding decisions in order to minimise the risks of dogs inheriting certain genetic conditions in the future."

Retinopathy test

The test for retinopathy was made available to breeders of the Swedish Vallhund from 1 February following several years of research at the University of Helsinki/Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics in Finland and at the AHT. More than 50 tests have been sold within the last month.

Dr Sally Ricketts of the AHT, who worked on this research, said, "This test is the result of several years of hard work. Researchers in Finland were able to find a region of DNA in affected Swedish Vallhunds containing a gene in which mutations have been shown to cause retinal degeneration in humans and rodents. Our work has built upon their findings to determine a specific mutation and prove its strong association with retinopathy in Swedish Vallhunds, which has enabled us to develop this new DNA test.

"None of this could be done without the support and involvement of the owners and breeders, and funding from the Swedish Vallhund Society, so it’s been a real team effort and taken several years to get this positive result. Now, with regards to controlling retinopathy, these dogs - and their owners - will have a much brighter future."

The AHT's advice to Swedish Vallhund breeders is that at least one parent should be clear of the mutation. If a carrier is bred to another carrier, there is a 25% chance the litter will be affected, as opposed to none of the litter affected if a carrier is bred with a dog who is clear.

POAG/PLL test

The same advice has been given to Shar Pei breeders to reduce the risk of POAG and PLL. The AHT have discovered that both POAG and PLL appear to be caused by the same genetic mutation, and a test for the mutation was launched on 1 March. The test was also given a special pre-launch in Coventry on Sunday 26 February, which was attended by the Shar Pei Club of Great Britain.

Primary glaucoma is a painful and blinding disease associated with high pressure inside the eye. In POAG/PLL, glaucoma results from reduced drainage of fluid from the eye, which can result in enlarged eyes and unstable lenses.

The Retinopathy for Swedish Vallhund and POAG and PLL for Shar Pei DNA tests cost £48 and are available to order now from www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk

Credit: AHT. Dr Sally Ricketts, Geneticist at the AHT, and Alma, a Swedish Vallhund.