Dog lovers who own Golden Retrievers and Labradors are being invited to take part in new research into canine atopic dermatitis — otherwise known as skin allergy.

The Itchy Dog Project was launched at this year’s Crufts Dog Show by veterinary researchers at The University of Nottingham’s Vet School. The team is looking for dog owners to take part in the study which can all be done online.

The aim of the project is to investigate the potential genetic and environmental causes of canine atopic dermatitis and to develop a strategy to reduce the number of dogs affected by the disease. The researchers are asking owners to register online to take part, even if their dog does not have an itching problem.

Vet School Research Fellow, Dr Naomi Harvey, said, “We know that at least 10 per cent of dogs suffer from long-term skin allergies and it can have a serious impact on their lives, and on the owners’ lives in dealing with it. We need to collect data on both atopic (itchy) and non-atopic (non-itchy) dogs from these breeds so we can look for differences between them at a genetic, environmental and behavioural level to help us better understand the causes and impact of the disease. Only purebred Labradors and Golden Retrievers, aged three years and over, can be registered with the project.”

Dean of the Nottingham Vet School, Professor Gary England, said, “This is a great opportunity for dog lovers to get involved in some citizen science that could have a huge impact on future treatment and possibly even breeding methods.”

Taking part in the study will involve completing an online survey after registering your dog on The Itchy Dog Project website. The survey will ask questions about your dog’s health and lifestyle and should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. A link to a second survey about your dog’s behaviour will then be emailed to participants and should take up to 15 minutes to fill in.

Owners of eligible dogs may be invited to donate a sample of their dog’s saliva to the project for genetic analysis of their DNA. However, the samples and information provided by dog owners will only be used for the research purposes — not for offering a diagnosis or individual results of the analysis.

The Itchy Dog Project has been funded by the Dogs Trust. Runa Hanaghan, Deputy Veterinary Director of the Trust said, “As well as ensuring that every dog it rehomes goes to a loving, responsible family, Dogs Trust invests in research projects across the UK to improve animal welfare. Canine atopic dermatitis can be extremely uncomfortable and distressing for dogs so we’re pleased to support this research and play a key role in aiming to reduce the number of Golden Retrievers and Labradors who suffer from the condition. We look forward to seeing the results and how they’re taken forward to shape future preventative treatment.”

Full information on the research and details of how to register to take part are available here.

This story is a guest submission and does not reflect the views of Dogs Monthly Magazine, always consult a qualified expert.

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