New Advances in Genetics and Disc Disease in Dogs
Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, co-author of Honey, Have You Squeezed the Dachshund? on new genetic research that could help us understand the risk factors of intervertebral disk disease (IVDD).
Researchers at the University of California-Davis recently identified a genetic mutation across dog breeds that results in a condition called chondrodystrophy. Caused by early changes in the structure of growth plates, chondrodystrophy (CDDY) is characterized by a reduction in long bone length, or shorter legs.
The findings appeared in “FGF4 retrogene on CFA12 is responsible for chondrodystrophy and intervertebral disc disease in dogs” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
CDDY can also trigger an abnormal process that causes premature degeneration of intervertebral discs, or the cartilage between the vertebrae in the spine. According to the UC-Davis researchers:
“Two retrogene insertions of functional fibroblast growth factor 4 (FGF4) explain short-legged phenotypes of dogs. FGF4 gene is involved in many biological processes including bone development.”
Identifying individual dogs that have this genetic susceptibility could be a valuable tool for owners, breeders, and veterinarians in understanding the risk factors of intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). Given the high mortality rate of IVDD and expensive surgery, having this information could potentially save money and lives of pets.
“What we need to know now is the prevalence of this retrogene in all of these breeds,” said Dr. Pete Dickinson, a UC-Davis veterinary neurologist and an author on the paper. “Without that, it’s difficult to establish how to start breeding the condition out. We need as much information as possible to make a plan and help improve the well-being for dogs who suffer from this condition.”
“Dogs with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) are 50 times more likely to have this mutation; that’s an incredibly strong correlation with disc disease,” said Dr. Danika Bannasch, a UC-Davis veterinary geneticist and the paper’s lead author. “Being able to identify the cause of this painful condition is the first step to alleviating pain and suffering for dogs at greatest risk.”
IVDD is a serious condition that requires pet owners to invest time and comply with a treatment plan. Dogs recovering from back surgery need assistance with walking and expressing their urinary bladder, as well as physical therapy.
There are a lot of resources out there to support pet owners whose dogs have been diagnosed with IVDD, and advice on choosing a treatment plan. I’ve been sharing videos on Youtube for seven years now, discussing veterinary health for pets and demonstrating my own experience caring for a dog with IVDD, and in 2016 released Honey, Have You Squeezed the Dachshund? with Kristin Leydig Bryant, the “go-to” person at DREAM Dachshund Rescue in Atlanta.
We’re still learning about IVDD, an inherited condition that affects about one in five dachshunds. But with the right resources, you can learn to recognize early signs of IVDD and ways to manage it.
Becker, K.S. (2018) Available at: https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2018/02/21/chondrodystrophy-in-dogs.aspx
Dr. Adam Christman, DVM, MBA, has practiced veterinary medicine for more than 15 years and is Co-Chief of Staff at Brick Town Veterinary Hospital in Brick, New Jersey. Along with Kristin Leydig Bryant, he released Honey, Have You Squeezed the Dachshund? to help people whose pets are either at risk for or have developed IVDD. Dr. Christman believes strongly in the human-animal bond and will do anything he can to strengthen that relationship. He loves helping dogs with special needs and disabilities, and he especially enjoys showcasing IVDD dogs, including Cosmo, on his YouTube channel to demonstrate how easy caring for these wonderful, loving creatures can be.