Lafora Information for Breeders

 Introduction: key facts for breeders

The health and welfare of our beloved breed is of vital importance to responsible breeders and it is heartwarming to see that many more are now supporting the UK Lafora testing programme. Here are some reasons why:

  • from current testing 10% UK mini wires are affected and 36% are carriers
  • according to veterinary neurologists with expertise in Lafora, ALL affected dogs will, at some stage go on to exhibit some symptoms
  • average age of onset: 7.1 years old, though some tested affected dogs have started to show symptoms age 2.5
  • 50% of owners say that the impact on themselves and their dogs has been very severe or severe
  • 80% of vets do not recognise the symptoms when first presented, so a ‘vet check’ is not sufficient
  • a tested ‘unaffected’ status dog is NOT Clear. It may either be a carrier or clear.
  • prospective puppy buyers are now becoming more aware of Lafora and are actively seeking breeders who have known status stock
  • from analysis of recent Kennel Club Breed Supplement Records (Winter 2012 – Summer 2013), of litters registered:
    • Over 50% litters registered are from unsafe combinations: Not Tested to Not Tested, Affected to Carrier or Affected, Carrier to Not Tested  or Not Tested to Not Affected (but could be carrier or clear).  Many of these dogs may be carriers or clear, but some of them will be affected.
    • Looked at another way, of 357 puppies born in this period, less than 10% of them would be safe to mate without testing at least one of the breeding pair.

Puppies Registered Winter 2012 – Summer 2013

Clear to clear 34 9.5%
Clear to affected 7 1.9%
Clear to carrier 8 2.2%
Clear to not affected* 49 13.7%
Clear to not tested 79 22.1%
Not affected* to not tested 25 7.0%
Not tested to not tested 155 43.4%

*i.e. will not develop symptoms themselves but have not been tested to differentiate carrier from clear status

Faced with these statistics, it simply isn’t acceptable for any breeder to breed without knowing the status of the dogs. Whether they are big, small, a show breeder, a commercial breeder with a money motive, hobby breeder or the pet owner who wants another dog ‘like the one I’ve got as I’ve been told she/he is a good specimen’, unless careful choices are taken on breeding pairs,  there is a risk that puppies born will be bred from later irresponsibly and produce more affected puppies.

BUT breeders with top stud dogs have a special responsibility to lead the way publicly and refuse to put untested or known carrier studs, (however special they are, however many shows they have won) to known affected, carrier or untested bitches….. and that also applies to those breeders who flock to them in the hope of producing a champion dog.

A Breeder’s Perspective

Susan Holt, who has been heavily involved in coordinating the WHDC Screening Programme for some time has written an insightful piece on Lafora from a breeder’s perspective.

Kennel Club Requirements

The Kennel Club already recommends, and may shortly require that members of their Accredited Breeding Programme should have any mini wire hair dachshunds tested for Lafora ‘affected’ before breeding (see Kennel Club).  Shortly the Kennel Club will also show Lafora DNA test results within their Mate Select Health Test Result Finder service. 

Breed Pairings:

In order to breed out this horrendous condition from a breeding population within a reasonable timescale, it is vital that the Lafora status of any breeding pair is known. If two carrier dogs, (who will never show any sign of the condition themselves) are unwittingly bred together, or a carrier bred to an affected dog, then affected puppies, inheriting a copy of the faulty gene from each parent, will be born. Because of this, it might seem  that the best way forward is to avoid breeding any dog identified as either an ‘affected’ or a ‘carrier’ dog. However, by limiting the gene pool so severely, there is a very strong chance of either increasing the prevalence of equally dangerous and potentially fatal genetic traits, including as yet unknown conditions.

A useful diagram illustrating how this works can be found here: Lafora genetics RAG % chart.

By knowing exactly what the characteristics are of any breeding pair, it is possible, in theory, to remove the faulty gene entirely from a population within three generations whilst allowing strictly controlled breeding of carrier dogs (see genetics page). The reality is slightly different: because there are so many breeders (both hobby and professional) who either are not aware of the condition or are not willing to comply strictly with to such a programme, the chances are that it will take much longer to reduce and hopefully eventually prevent Lafora.  It is encouraging that there is progress now being made with reducing the incidence of the Cord1 gene, proven to be linked to PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), which affects miniature long hair, mini smooths and the other dachshund varieties (including the mini wire) to a greater or lesser extent.

Read more about what it is like to own a Lafora affected dog on our Living with Lafora section, particularly the heartbreaking stories in Blogs on Dogs,  or the latest in the Autumn 2013 Press Release

To get involved in the UK WHDC Screening Programme, read more about how to get your dogs tested,  go to WHDC test results to check out the status of potential studs and bitches. 


Watch out for exciting news soon – the launch of our Lafora Pioneer Breeder’s scheme, replacing our current  Supportive Breeders page.




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