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New disease to be investigated

Episodic collapse and abnormal movements in German Shorthaired Pointer puppies:

Sometimes new and unexpected diseases crop up in breeds they’ve not been seen in previously. Determining the underlying cause can help breeders avoid problems in future, and hopefully quickly stamp out any ongoing issues.

That’s why Healthy Pets NZ, along with support from our Principal Partner, pet insurance specialist PD Insurance, are pleased to be able to help researcher Hayley Hunt with her grant application to investigate a problem detected in German Shorthaired Pointer puppies in December 2021.

At 3 weeks of age, four German Shorthaired Pointer puppies in a litter of twelve started to fall over and lose normal control of their movements when they were eating, excited or stressed. These episodes lasted less than 10 minutes, after which the puppies appeared completely normal again.

Here’s a couple of videos of the episodes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpl-D3iq_Jg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGgduAgr4rI

The affected puppies were euthanised at 6 weeks of age as the episodes became more frequent and could not be prevented, making the puppies unsuitable for adoption.

No abnormalities were found on clinical or postmortem examinations, which is characteristic of an inherited movement disorder (paroxysmal dyskinesia). These disorders are generally caused by mutations in genes that code for channels on the surface of cells or genes involved in nerve conduction, and when these do not work as they should, it leads to abnormal movements and collapse.

Numerous dog breeds (and humans) can be affected by these disorders, but many are poorly understood, and there are no previous reports of this in very young German Shorthaired Pointers.

To help find the genetic mutation responsible for this disease, DNA from blood or cheek swabs will be analysed from 4 affected puppies, 2 unaffected littermates, the dam and sire, and 2 unrelated German Shorthaired Pointer dogs. Areas of the genome where individual variation occurs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) will be used as markers to identify genes that may cause the disease.

Finding the genetic mutation responsible would mean that dogs can be tested for it prior to breeding, and matings can be planned to avoid other litters being affected. That’s a much better outcome for everyone.