Healthy Breeding


Dogs and cats are wonderful! They cheer us up when we’re down, are loyal friends and integral parts of the family. To see a beloved pet suffer from serious illness is heartbreaking, for their owners and treating veterinarians alike. Helping these animal becomes their top priority. 

However, the most common serious diseases in dogs are genetic in nature, making long-term treatment options often difficult if not impossible. What’s more, even if an affected dog doesn’t show any symptoms, he or she can still pass the condition on to his or her offspring.

The researchers and veterinarians at the Companion Animal Genetics Expertise Centre are developing new methods to fight genetic diseases in dogs and other companion animals. Because healthy breeding is the foundation for a healthy life! 

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  The Labrador retriever is a beloved breed by many people. It is not surprising that their superfriendly character, joy, enthusiasm and working ethos steals the heart of many people. Labradors are not only beloved pets or hunting companions, because of their stable and gentle character they often fulfill a role as assistance or guide dog. At the Centre of Expertise of Genetics of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University we work hard to keep the breed healthy by conducting genetic studies aiming to identify disease causing mutations in Labrador retrievers. By combining different research projects, more research output can be expected. Genetic studies require dogs that are affected by a certain disease, but also dogs that were free of disease and reached an old age in good health. By combining patient groups and groups of control dogs, we work efficiently towards solutions for hereditary diseases in the Labrador retrievers.   A better understanding of hereditary diseases    The ultimate goal of the veterinary researchers of the Expertise Centre of Genetics  to unravel the genetic background of hereditary diseases in the Labrador retriever, which will lead to more effective diagnostics and therapeutics. Ultimately, the development of a diagnostic DNA-test can be implemented in breeding strategies for prevention of diseases in the Labrador retrievers. In the current project, focused on Labrador retrievers, the research team aims to combine several research aspects for a leap forward in genetic research. The diseases that are currently under investigation are:   Hereditary copper toxicosis   Copper toxicosis is a hereditary disease in Labrador retrievers, where copper that is taken up from diet and drinking water, cannot be effectively excreted and accumulates in the liver. This causes hepatitis and eventually liver cirrhosis. In approximately half of the Labrador retrievers that were admitted to our clinic, increased hepatic copper levels were identified. When dogs are diagnosed in an early stage, treatment with a low copper / high zinc diet and copper chelation therapy, dog scan have a normal life expectancy in most cases. Unfortunately, every month we see Labrador retrievers for which diagnoses was too late for effective treatment. The research team previously identified genetic mutations that contribute to hepatic copper levels. In the current research project the team evaluates multiple mutations in a large group of Labrador retrievers for the development of a prediction model for copper toxicosis. They aim to develop a method for early diagnosis, so that effective treatment can be initiated in an early stage.   Ectopic ureters   Ectopic ureters is a congenital abnormality where ureters that transport urine from the kidney to the bladder, do not enter the bladder at an anatomical normal position. This is caused by an abnormal embryologic development, which can also lead to other abnormalities including absence of a kidney. The abnormal position of the ureters can lead to urinary incontinence and recurrent urinary tract infections. Recently, our researchers discovered in a small screening survey that one third of the investigated Labrador retrievers showed abnormal positioning of the ureters, without clinical symptoms. The results of this investigation are concerning, especially because these dogs did not show clinical signs and will go unnoticed and may be used for breeding. The current research project aims to identify genes that are responsible for ectopic ureters in the Labrador retriever. If you are an owner of a dog that has been diagnosed with ectopic ureters, you can contribute to the study by sending an EDTA blood sample to our research group. In that case, please contact us via   Tricuspid valve dysplasia   Tricuspid valve dysplasia is an hereditary, congenital abnormality of the valve of the right hear. In pups a murmur can often be heard. Our advice is to always go with your pup to a cardiology specialist when a heart murmur is detected at heart auscultation. Tricuspid valve dysplasia may have a fatal course. It can lead to heart failure and accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, or to severe heart rhythm disturbances.  Besides financial support, we would need blood samples from Labradors affected with tricuspid valve disease. If your dog is diagnosed with tricuspid valve dysplasia and you want to contribute a blood sample from your dog, please contact us via   Elbow dysplasia   Elbow dysplasia in the Labrador retriever is a severe problem, causing a lot of pain in dogs, that should be able to live a painful an playful life. Elbow dysplasia inevitably will lead to arthrosis of the elbow joint, and no good treatment is currently present. Our research team is searching for causal mutations leading to elbow dysplasia with the ultimate goal to develop a DNA-test that can be used for risk prediction in breeding strategies to effectively decrease the frequency of elbow dysplasia in the Labrador retriever population.      Your support counts!   Please help us to ensure a healthy future for our Labrador retrievers. Your support will lead to better diagnostics, therapies of even the development of a DNA-test, all with the ultimate goal to obtain a healthy future for our beloved breed. Together we can make a change!  
A healthy future for Labradors

“Established investigator grant” voor onderzoek naar erfelijke slokdarmverlamming

17-10-2021 | 11:49

Met gepaste trots kunnen we meedelen dat deze “Established investigator grant” dit jaar is toegekend aan drs. Else den Boer en dr. Hille Fieten ten behoeve van genetisch onderzoek naar de erfelijke achtergrond van slokdarmverlamming. 

Het European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine of Companion Animals (ECVIM-CA) is de organisatie waar alle Europese specialisten in de interne geneeskunde zijn aangesloten. Zij beheren het  “Clinical Studies Fund” waaruit jaarlijks onderzoeksgelden worden uitgekeerd aan veelbelovende onderzoeksprojecten van talentvolle onderzoekers.

Met dit geld kan een belangrijke stap gezet worden in het DNA-onderzoek van deze aandoening. Een prachtige opsteker voor het project "Pups zonder slokdarmverlamming"!

Ben je fokker of eigenaar van een hond met aangeboren slokdarmverlamming? Of wilt u pups of volwassen honden laten screenen op motiliteitsstoornissen van de slokdarm? Laat dan een slikfilm maken in het Universitair Dierenziekenhuis. Daarmee levert u een belangrijke bijdrage aan onderzoek naar deze aandoening. Kijk hier hoe je een bijdrage kan leveren aan dit onderzoek. 

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