CRIEDD 2019 copyright Animal Health Trust
CRIEDD 2019 copyright Animal Health Trust

A new consortium of vets and scientists across the UK has been set up to tackle inherited eye disease in dogs.

CRIEDD (Consortium to Research Inherited Eye Diseases in Dogs) includes leading canine geneticists from the Animal Health Trust alongside six veterinary ophthalmologists: Professor Sheila Crispin, Stuart Ellis, Lorraine Fleming, David Gould, Christine Heinrich and James Oliver.

The multidisciplinary team will focus on investigating current and emerging inherited eye diseases and developing new DNA tests to benefit a number of breeds, effectively reducing the number of affected and carrier dogs.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the Animal Health Trust, who has established the Consortium, said, “Inherited eye diseases cause pain, impaired vision or even total sight loss in thousands of dogs each year. But many have a simple mode of inheritance and are easily preventable using simple DNA tests once the underlying mutation has been identified.

“We have seen the impact of DNA testing on reducing the number of carrier and affected dogs with specific inherited eye conditions over the last 15 years, thanks to work we have undertaken with the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. In some breeds, through the use of DNA testing, gene mutations causing blinding conditions have decreased by a staggering 90% or more.

“With this new support from Dogs Trust, we plan to widen our investigations to look at DNA from any dog of any breed that has a confirmed diagnosis from a veterinary ophthalmologist of any inherited eye disease. This should result in the development of new DNA tests which could eradicate emerging eye diseases before they have a chance to take hold.”

Samples needed

The group now requires DNA samples from any affected dogs of any breed to further its research. DNA samples can be collected using simple buccal swabs, which are available, free of charge, from the Animal Health Trust, and can be returned using the regular mail service. The Animal Health Trust genetics team will screen all DNA samples for around 80 different known inherited eye disease causing mutations, regardless of breed or disease.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh added, “Through this research, we are confident that we will identify mutations causing inherited eye disease in breeds that have not previously been reported. Samples from dogs who present with clinical signs not associated with a previously reported mutation will be fast-tracked, so we can identify the genetic cause and develop DNA tests.

“Our research will progress significantly faster with the support of both vets in practice and veterinary ophthalmologists so we hope vets treating dogs with clinical signs of eye disease will get behind this project and help us to reduce suffering for many more dogs.”

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