Lafora In the UK
During the course of the work on the human form of Lafora, described in History of Lafora Research, the Toronto hospital developed two genetic tests: one which can be used to identify ’affected’ dogs (i.e. those with two copies of the faulty gene’ (see genetics page for further information), and one which can identify ‘carrier’ dogs (1 faulty gene) and ‘clear’ dogs (no faulty genes).
The Kennel Club already recommends that members of their Accredited Breeding Programme should have any mini wire hair dachshunds tested for Lafora ‘affected’ before breeding (see Kennel Club), because every puppy born from an affected dog will be at least a ‘carrier’ and if unwittingly bred to another carrier or affected dog, puppies may be born ‘affected’, thus bringing yet another dog into the world who will suffer the dreadful consequences in later life.
In order to breed out this horrendous condition from a breeding population within a reasonable timescale, it is vital that tests which identify ‘affected’, ‘carrier’ and ‘clear’ dogs are used. 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 prevelence of equally dangerous and potentially fatal genetic traits, for example in Mini Wires, IVDD (Back Disease) or 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 dachsund varieties (including the mini wire) to a greater or lesser extent.
What’s Happening Now?
From early 2010, the various Breed Clubs and the Dachshund Breed Council have worked first to establish exactly what the current situation is with Lafora in the Mini Wire Dachshund and secondly to work towards eventual eradication of Lafora. The first step was to take swab tests from nearly 100 dogs from across the UK to be tested in Canada in order to assess just how embedded this disease is in the current breeding stock. The WHDC published all the results on their website here in 2011.
The proportion of dogs affected within that sample was around 12%, although given that the tested dogs were a self selecting sample (i.e. a large proportion of owners who had dogs tested already had reason to suspect their dogs might be affected or had had affected dogs in the past), it is likely that the true figures may be somewhat lower, but even so, this indicates that the number of carrier dogs is likely to be very significant, possibly as many as 45% of the population.
In June 2011 the WHDC and DBC announced a Controlled Testing Programme for mini wires in the UK. This was a fantastic step forward and we encourage all UK owners who either are thinking of breeding or believe their own dog might be affected to have their dog tested, and to pass the message on to friends and members of the veterinary profession.
Go to: How to Get your Dog Tested to find out more or read the latest news here. and please pass on information to any friends with mini wires. The Dachshund Breed Council’s Lafora DachsFact leaflet provides useful printable information to hand on: Dach-Facts Lafora V3. If you would like to help our campaign by distributing posters and information for veterinary surgeries, carrying cards to hadn out to other pet owners, or would like to get involved in fundraising, please contact email@example.com.
What is Laforadogs doing?
It may be too late to help Alfie and other affected dogs, and owners of affected dogs are very cautious about having another Mini Wire.
Members of Laforadogs are helping with work towards the eventual eradication of this condition from the mini wire dachshund population, including via this site, which we hope will help with publicizing the testing programme amongst other pet owners, breeders and others who regularly show their dogs. You can help by printing off details of the Dach-Facts leaflet (above), taking part in the current testing programme and telling any friends with mini wires about the disease and why it is important that they too take part in the testing.