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A meeting of the Breed Council's Health Subcommittee was held on Tuesday 18 January 2011 at the Kennel Club, London W1.
Shortly before the Breed Council meeting last October, the Animal Health Trust announced that a mutation responsible for the development of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Golden Retrievers had been identified. This is different from the mutation that causes the progressive rod-cone degeneration (prcd) form of PRA; and there are at least two non-prcd forms of PRA affecting Golden Retrievers. The DNA test that has been developed by the AHT is being called "GR_PRA1". The mutation that causes the additional form has yet to be identified.
The Council had suggested undertaking a DNA testing pilot study to better establish the prevalence of GR_PRA1 in the UK gene pool (the current tentative estimate being approx. 5% are Carriers); and the AHT has kindly offered to test 200 samples free of charge. Ideally, samples will be taken nationwide and from individual, unrelated animals to give as broad a representation of the UK gene pool as possible.
At this meeting, Representatives discussed the project details and agreed that each Club would arrange its own sampling session and invite its members to volunteer swabs from dogs that meet the project criteria. In return for volunteering a sample, the owner would get the result of their own dog's status. The Council's Health Coordinator will collate results and information from the 200 samples in the project.
If people are not able or prefer not to participate in the pilot study, then they may buy the test privately and the results will be sent to them alone: they would not be analysed as part of this specific project. As the GR_PRA1 DNA test is not an "official KC scheme", results will not go on the KC registered dogs database; or be published on registration certificates, in the BRS or on the KC website. A new testing scheme would only become 'official' after consultation with or at the request of the Breed Clubs/Council.
The Subcommittee also discussed several other conditions previously identified as being of concern within the breed, including:
Epilepsy: difficult to properly diagnose, there is a lot of anecdotal information, but a lack of facts. It was agreed to approach referral centres with relevant experience or project work for further advice
Hearts: there is a need for data eg from cardiologists and owners, to try to establish the incidence of heart problems in Goldens and this will be followed up.
Cancers: work continues at the AHT to try and identify inherited genetic mutations that make Golden Retrievers more susceptible to developing: melanomas and soft tissue sarcomas; and mast cell tumours. Dr M Starkey has advised that they need more samples of Grade 3 MCTs which need to be stored in a special solvent ('RNAlater'). Unfortunately, biopsy samples received from diagnostic laboratories are preserved in formaldehyde which destroys the DNA.
Elbow Dysplasia: this is a serious problem because it is so painful. Uptake of the screening scheme by breeders is slowly increasing and it is a 'Recommendation' rather than a 'Requirement' under the KC Accredited Breeder Scheme. ED screening will be discussed further at the next Council meeting.
Ectopic Ureter: there was concern that an operation is now available to correct this in very young puppies; and as it is not listed as an hereditary problem, some people are being advised that they can breed on after this surgery. It was agreed that dogs with the condition should not be bred from as there is a risk of passing on the problem: and also agreed that Mrs Woods should continue to collate data and report back to the Subcommittee and Council.
The Breed Council had appointed a Health Coordinator and formed a Health Subcommittee comprising nominated Representatives from each Club plus Officers of the Council, to meet with Kennel Club requirements. Further information on health matters is available from either the Club Representatives or from Mrs Margaret Woods, Health Coordinator, email: Breed Health Co-ordinator.
Christine Morrell - Secretary 20 February 2011