Mutant Gene Detected in Labs Could Cause Death

September 29, 2008 | By Amy Lieberman | Category: Health & Wellness | 348 comments
Tags: health & wellness, dogs

The detection of a mutant gene in Labradors could prevent untimely, and before inexplicable, deaths (Pet Pulse Photo Design by Mike Lloyd)

MINNEAPOLIS -– Researchers have identified a mutant gene carried by 30 percent of Labrador Retrievers that causes Exercise Induced Collapse.

The findings, based off of research at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, now allows breeders and dog owners to locate the gene, which can prove deadly for their pets.

This is the first naturally occurring mutation of this gene identified in a mammal, researcher Ned Patterson says.

"People were bringing their dogs in and vets couldn't figure out what was wrong with them," said Patterson, who is also an assistant professor of veterinary internal medicine and genetics at the university.

"There was no obvious biological clue of what led to a specific collapse."

An estimated three to five percent of Labs actually have EIC, which is often onset by heavy bouts of rigorous exercise.

Symptoms include a "wobbliness" in a Lab's hind legs, which eventually will give way, Patterson says.

If a dog displays these symptoms and is continuously exercised to a high degree, the symptoms can spread throughout the body and cause death.

Veterinary researchers and biologists aren't armed with a ready cure for the disease, which is the result of faulty nerve transmission.

But this scientific breakthrough will allow vets to identify the presence of the gene and take precautionary measures to prevent a collapse.

It could also lend to an eventual decrease in the percentage of affected Labs, as breeders can preemptively locate the gene in potential breeding dogs with simple blood tests.

"There have been a number of deaths caused by this and it is just really great to know that now this can be prevented," Patterson said.

Labs with the mutant gene have been located in all 50 states, in addition to Israel, Australia, New Zealand, England and Germany.

The gene has also been identified in Chesapeake Bay retrievers and Curly-Coated retrievers.

"[But] It is a lot less likely for this gene to be found in mixed breeds," Patterson said.

The team -- which also includes researchers from the University of California at San Diego -- is presently conducting studies to see if any other potential breeds could have "some degree of this" mutation, Patterson said.

But as the percentage of affected dogs is small, Lab owners shouldn't automatically assume that their wobbly-legged dogs are afflicted.

"There are definitely different things that could cause a collapse, like muscle diseases and neurological diseases," Patterson said.

Labs under the age of three are most at risk for collapsing.

If Labs are engaged in heavy exercise regimens, like running or hunting training, they should get tested by a local veterinarian, and have the blood work sent to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

"If you back the dogs off the triggers, they are unlikely to have an episode," Patterson said. "If you stop them as soon as they get wobbly, it isn't a big deal, and you can have a happy, healthy dog in every way."

For more information, visit www.vdl.umn.edu.

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Comments (257)

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Kim B.
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Kim B.
5 years ago

This is good to know. It is amazing how far science has come in genetics.

Good Point | Reply ›

Beth  W.
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Beth W.
5 years ago

Boy have we come a long way. I'm sure reputable breeders will get their parent animals tested, but it may still carry on in the backyard breeders.

Good Point | Reply ›

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