8th February 2014 was a unique Saturday in more ways than one, as not only did a group of breeders/owners of Wolfhound and Deerhounds make a trek to the Nottingham University Vet School (some travelling great distances in appalling weather), but they were joined by a panel of research vets/lecturing professors and all with one common purpose; to identify the top 3 breed related diseases and then conduct ongoing research into them. The event was advertised as an owner-breeder research forum for Irish Wolfhounds and Deerhounds and the same format had been used previously for Rottweiler’s with great success. It was a varied agenda with guest speakers from both breeds, group discussion, presentations by the vets themselves and even a guided tour of the fantastic facilities that the Nottingham Vet School proudly offers to its veterinary students. Dr Mark Dunning opened the day’s events with a general introduction as to the purpose of the day: “We wanted to invite people to let the Vet School know what they wanted research done on, which would be of most help to the dogs, the key aspects of the breeds that people think the Vet School can improve upon and lay foundations down for the future as to what we all want to achieve.” At this point many in the audience were a little taken aback and some were just plain ‘hooked’ as we were! It is not a common occurrence for Academics to go to such lengths to request key research topics from the people who will ultimately benefit the most from the outcomes of that research and yet, here we were, being asked exactly that! So fired up with enthusiasm we split into smaller groups to discuss what health issues we thought impacted upon our breeds the most, in conjunction with one of the University staff. Each group had a good mix of people representing both breeds and also a balance of breeders and owners. Our little cohort comprised of Sue and Natalie Finnett (Hyndsight Deerhounds), Anne Vaudin (Torteval), Jo Braine (Hollyhenge), Pauline Ashby (Ashgroave), Maggie Holder (Mascotts), Carla Du Rose (Bonaforte), Glenis and Mick Peach (Kilbourne Deerhounds) and myself (Ali Irvine, Midnitecove). During our group discussion there were many health matters mentioned and often we found that they affected both the Wolfhounds and the Deerhounds to some degree: Articificial insemination and storage of semen, bloat/torsion, cancers and especially osteosarcoma, digestive problems and gut motility, genetic testing and breed line identification, nutrition and exercise, temperament and type and even the role of the Kennel Club as a possible mediating body. Update from Irish Wolfhound Health Group The remainder of the morning saw speakers from both breeds presenting different topics; Gill Griffin (Kilrein) spoke of her own experiences of osteosarcoma, Rachel Quinn (Araceta) talked about an unusual incidence of PSS (portosystemic shunt) from a litter of Deerhounds she bred and Ron Hindmarch gave an insight into his dealings with his Deerhound bitch suffering from allergy issues. In addition, Rebecca Peek (Milkwood) represented the Irish Wolfhound Health Group and updated the audience on the current breed research programmes:
Regional Heart testing scheme Serena Browlie-Sykes heart research Imperial College, London research into Atrial Fibrillation New heart study led by Professor Malcolm Cobb and Siobhan Simpson Osteosarcoma with the Animal Health Trust PSS – livershunt (Utrecht University doing the latest research) DNA storage programme (blood bank at the AHT) Longevity/veteran study Dental study Hyperekplexia (Startle Disease) Rebecca Peek also went on to highlight concerns about the research carried out and also about the outcomes of any research as it appeared that the Irish Wolfhound community were at the point of almost ‘research fatigue’ as many owners and breeders were constantly supplying DNA samples (either by cheek swab or blood sample) and heart testing data and were still being asked to contribute the same things, but for different research projects. She went on to say that often there is little or no feedback received from such research projects, despite such heavy commitment from owners and that the research results do not always provide the answers that we are looking for. Also, tension between the veterinary profession and owners/breeders and a lack of understanding from vets as to the unique qualities of our breed were cited as key factors. In summary, Rebecca listed the following as being key points that owners and breeders of Wolfhounds need: Research with meaning Clarity – what does the project hope to achieve Feedback – regular updates Results – we need to see some outcomes Global communications Research that provides more than data Solutions Guidelines for breeding Improved relations with vets Pneumonia Research Update Anne Wilson represented Dr Angela Bodey (who unfortunately had other commitments) and gave a presentation on pneumonia in Irish Wolfhounds. Approximately 48 questionnaires have now been returned to Angela Bodey from owners of Wolfhounds who have suffered pneumonia and they include both UK examples and also some from Europe. The overriding issue with this disease is how hard it can hit the breed and also how difficult it can be to treat, with dogs often suffering a relapse of the condition. Naturally, the use of the drug Excenel is still a contentious issue for many primary care vets treating dogs, despite the wishes of the owner to sign the waiver and get their drug of choice. We sincerely hope that this ongoing research will not only discover the most effective treatment drugs for the condition, but also that a ‘best practice procedure’ can be initiated so that owners do not have to go through a battle with their own vets at a time when their beloved Wolfhound is so desperately ill?
The Importance of Breed Specific Disease Dr Mark Dunning, Dr Catrin Rutland, Dr Nigel Mongan, Dr Janet Daly and Professor Malcolm Cobb then rounded off the pre-lunch sessions with their own presentations on different topics. Mark Dunning focused on the importance of breed related disease and why the Vet School had decided to have forums such as these for individual breeds. He explained that vet students are taught about breed specific diseases and a breed’s predisposition to certain illnesses. Frequently such conditions are rare in the general dog population and so a primary care vet may miss a diagnosis or there may be a delay in the diagnosis, which could be disastrous for the dog concerned. Due to the nature of breed specific diseases, the people best placed to highlight and identify them are those people that deal with the dogs on a daily basis – US! Breed related conditions present themselves either through retrospective or prospective studies or case reports, but the important factor is what is done with the information from such studies and ensuring that just because a condition has been reported in a breed that the entire breed/breeders do not become blacklisted. Any identified breed specific illnesses can also have other effects, such as insurance companies treating all dogs of that breed as a higher risk and increasing premiums or reducing cover accordingly. Variants of any disease also need to be understood - do Rottweiler’s have the same types of osteosarcoma as Wolfhounds, for example, or are there similarities between Wolfhound pneumonia and human pneumonia? Dr Dunning concluded that the whole point of any research for Wolfhounds is that the breed should be better as a result of the research, that other breeds of dog may also benefit from the outcomes and that human disease could also be impacted upon.
Comparative Heart Research Dr Catrin Rutland is one of the heart specialists on the Team at the Nottingham Vet School and she highlighted the importance of comparative cardiovascular research that was ongoing. She was keen to stress that advances in human heart research should also be able to benefit our pets. 1 in 3 people will develop a heart disorder and it is the same in dogs. There is a human genetic test for Cardiomyopathy, but no such test exists for dogs at the moment and so we have to wait for signs of heart problems to show in our Wolfhounds. In the last 5 decades diagnosis and treatment of humans has improved hugely with early diagnoses, new therapies and improved survival rates and quality of life. Dr Rutland’s goal is to improve the survival rate and quality of life of dogs with heart disease using comparative medicine, comparing humans to dogs and utilising the Team at the University which comprises of Referral Clinicians, Pathologists, Data Analysts, Primary Care Clinicians and Heart Scientists. All these people can help uncover the mystery of heart problems in our dogs and they will also use the power of genetics to develop diagnostic tests and identify the causes of cardiovascular disease. We as owners/breeders can help significantly with this work by providing different DNA samples from our dogs in the form of blood samples or cheek swabs. Some samples/swabs have already been donated (this is a procedure that the Bonaforte hound owners are now quite familiar with from heart testing days) and the DNA yield from these is good so far and one of the vets on the Team has established a cheap method for extracting the DNA from the samples given. More samples/cheek swabs are definitely needed and should be sent to Siobhan Simpson (see contact details at end of article) as she is currently completing a PhD on ‘Investigating the genetic basis of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)’. Siobhan can be contacted to supply the necessary cheek swab kits and will be passing some onto the Irish Wolfhound Health Group for use at their regional heart testing sessions and also for samples to be taken at shows or other venues. Dogs do not have to be suffering from any form of heart problems to donate a cheek swab and Siobhan is particularly interested in swabs from veteran dogs.
DCM Research Preliminary Findings Professor Malcom Cobb then rounded up the morning’s sessions with some early preliminary findings from the DCM heart research as follows: DCM may affect male dogs more than females Serena Brownlie’s data has been collected over a 30 year period on AF There is a significant difference in the age of onset in males and females Males are more likely to develop DCM than females There is evidence for sex disparity in development of DCM in Irish Wolfhounds Although these findings are very tentative, already we can see some results/feedback from samples that we have donated and this will only increase as more samples are donated and we get a broader picture of the genetics involved in Wolfhounds and ultimately the aim of the research is to narrow down and identify the genetic marker/genome for DCM in our dogs. The Voted Top 3 Breed Specific Diseases After lunch the whole audience joined together to produce a list of the health issues that the groups considered important and impacted upon the quality of life of our dogs. The list was quite long, as you can imagine, and so we set about voting on our top 3, with the help of Malcolm Cobb, and those diseases were: Pneumonia FCE – Fibrocartilaginous Embolism (also known as puppy paralysis) Bloat/GDV – Gastric Dilatation Volvulus These 3 topics will now become the focus of research for the team at Nottingham Vet School, but other existing projects will also still continue. In addition Professor Cobb identified what he described as ‘low hanging fruit’ that the Team will also look at over the next 12 months in a bid to improve the situation for Wolfhound and Deerhound owners and these items were: Feedback about research projects – naughty scientists improving feedback Building awareness of breed specific diseases in the veterinary profession Best practice guidelines for primary care vets treating dogs A generic consent form to issue to owners and vets
So What Happens Now? Now that the 3 key areas of research have been identified, work will commence by data gathering on these topics and also contacting existing researchers in the relevant fields to see if any collaborative work can be achieved and to avoid repetition. Owners/breeders may also be asked to submit more samples from their dogs, usually in the form of cheek swabs as physical samples, but also written data may be requested such as the pneumonia questionnaires or other such data collection techniques. The Team at the Vet School have assured us that they will keep us all updated with their ongoing work and any preliminary findings, but many of these projects will last 5 or even 10 years and so we must continue to supply what information we can, as it can only help our beloved breed in the longer term. These breed forum days are also set to become an annual event, but in the interim, the key members of the Team can be contacted to clarify any points that we are unsure of and in return they will update us with findings as and when they occur. As owners we can all play a part in this by heart testing our dogs on an annual basis, sending in cheek swabs, filling out health questionnaires and also letting the relevant people know when our beloved hounds pass away, not only as to what age they reached, but also their general state of health as well as the cause of death. CONTACTS: Malcolm Cobb Professor of Comparative Veterinary Medicine - Deputy Head of School - Divisional Head of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences Contact Room B06a Veterinary Academic Building Sutton Bonington Campus Sutton Bonington Leicestershire LE12 5RD UK 0115 951 6416/0115 951 6440 email@example.com
Mark Dunning Clinical Associate Professor in Small Animal Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences Contact Gateway Sutton Bonington Campus Sutton Bonington Leicestershire LE12 5RD UK 0115 951 6751 Mark.Dunning@nottingham.ac.uk
Catrin Rutland Lecturer in Anatomy and Developmental Genetics, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences
Contact Room A11a The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science Sutton Bonington Campus Sutton Bonington Leicestershire LE12 5RD UK
0115 951 6573 firstname.lastname@example.org
Siobhan Simpson School of Veterinary Medicine and Science University of Nottingham Sutton Bonington Campus Leicestershire LE12 5RD Email: email@example.com