October 19, 20 & 21, 2001 --- St. Louis Airport Marriott
Prepared by Karyn Colman B.Vet.Med., M.R.C.V.S.
The 2001 AKC-CHF parent club health conference
was held in St Louis. It was heavily sponsored by Ralston-Purina who were very much
in evidence and the events of September 11th also had a big impact on the proceedings,
both in terms of content and in terms of organization/scheduling.
The event was very well attended by representatives from breed clubs and the lunchtime
and evening opportunities to talk to the speakers and discuss issues was very popular.
There were also a number of posters and presentations by breed clubs (e.g. Tibetan
Terriers, Dalmatians, Boston Terriers, to name a few) giving details of their work with
various diseases or problems, their efforts to build open databases of conditions and/or
information on various research projects funded by the breed clubs, as well as posters
and presentations from some speakers and, of course, various "commercial" stands (e.g.
AKC, Ralston-Purina, OFA, Bayer) giving information on their various products.
Overall, I felt the conference was very interesting, educational, stimulating, and a
great way to keep up with AKC's latest ideas and strategies on genetic diseases as well
as to find out what other breeds are doing as far as hereditary disease control is
Due to airline cancellations and rescheduling
(which was rampant at this time), I was unable to arrive as planned, in the middle of
the day on Friday, but rather arrived after the bus transportation for the meal in the
evening had left. So I missed the epilepsy meeting and the AKC/CHF research update, as
well as a very fine meal (so my roommate told me on her return). I also had to leave
earlier than planned on Sunday so I missed the later sessions which included a talk
about PRA, one about allergic skin disease and, in theory, a "master session" on cancer,
but since it was all running very late even by the time I left, I'm not sure what was
left in or out at the end. My "roomy" was a very nice (but rather talkative, even by my
standards!) woman from the Newfy club and hailed from California. The program included
the following presentations that I was able to attend (I have marked the most
interesting ones by red print for those who don't have the time to read all the
masses of information I shall impart, at least initially!):
1) Development &
Application of Tools & Approaches for Genetic Mapping of Disease Genes in Dogs
A very scientific presentation on the canine
genetic maps and their development using 3 kinds of information: microsatellite
markers, EST's (Expressed Sequence Tags), and BAC's (Bacterial Artificial Chromosomes)
and their various uses & applications. Cone degeneration in Malamutes was used as an
example of how using the various technologies available for gene mapping and also making
use of the human genome, one can locate & map similar genes in dogs. You will (of course!)
all be delighted to hear that day blindness (cone degeneration) in Malamutes is caused
by the same gene that causes human achromotopsia (ACHM = day blindness) which is also
recessive and very rare except in Pingela! Apparently in man there are three forms of
ACHM (1, 2 & 3) and in the Pingelese ACHM 3 affects about 10% of the population!! In
any case, the gene in Malamutes is on canine chromosome 29, if anyone is interested.
This fascinating part of the presentation was followed by a discussion of the use of
SNP's (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) to map the genes/chromosomes for each breed
and there was a call for help with this part of the research. They would like samples
of DNA (blood samples) from 2 dogs of each breed who MUST NOT share grandparents, and
MUST be representative of the breed as a whole. Further details of what this group is
doing and the canine genome project are on their website
. The following are the active grants awarded to these researchers by AKC's CHF:
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Active Grant No. 1808:
An Integrated Linkage and Radiation Hybrid Map of the Dog
Elaine Ostrander, PhD, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Francis Galibert, PhD, Faculté de Medecine, Rennes, France
Sponsor: Ralston Purina Company
Abstract: Genome maps or organisms are essential
for locating and identifying genes that cause inherited disease. They consist of a
series of markers, positioned along each chromosome, which act as reference points or
address labels for different regions of the genome. Currently, the canine map is
composed of about 400 such markers, which, in principal, provides "addresses" for about
75 percent of the genome. This early version of the map has proven useful for identifying
the general location of disease genes in several breeds of dog. But a much more highly
refined map is necessary if we are to have the ability to actually identify disease
genes (not just their location) and to develop highly reproducible genetic tests for
canine diseases. In addition, the current version of the map allows us to navigate
around the genome only in relatively outbred pedigrees of dog. Many disease genes of
interest are found in pedigrees or breeds where a limited gene pool has forced
significant levels of inbreeding. A much higher resolution map with many additional
markers is necessary to map disease genes within inbred families. This proposal aims
to identify numerous additional markers and place them on the canine genome map. In
addition, it aims to map many more genes on the map. Finally, it will link the evolving
canine map to the better-developed maps of the human and mouse genomes. The resulting
map will be useful for the identification of disease genes in all breeds of dog, and
should allow canine geneticists to increase the rate at which they identify genes
responsible for inherited diseases in the dog.
Active Grant No. 2003:
Anchoring the Canine Map Through BAC Mapping
Elaine A. Ostrander, PhD; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Sponsor: Newfoundland Club of America Charitable Trust
Abstract: Genome maps are essential in identifying
genes that cause inherited disease. They consist of a series of markers, positioned
along each chromosome, which act as reference points for navigating different regions
of the genome. Currently, the canine map is composed of about several hundred such
markers, which provide "addresses" for over 90 percent of the genome. This early
version of the map has proven useful for identifying the general location of several
disease genes. But a much more highly refined map is necessary if we are to actually
clone disease genes of interest (not just identify their location) and, subsequently,
develop highly reproducible genetic tests. This proposal aims to characterize several
hundred random clones, each containing a small portion of the canine genome, and then
mapping them on the existing map relative to the markers and genes already in place.
These clones, called BACs, will serve as "entry points" along the canine genome. Once
a region of the genome is identified where a disease gene lies, the BAC clones will
serve as starting points for investigators to genetically "walk" up and down the region
and eventually clone the gene of interest. The work done as a result of this proposal
is not breed specific, rather it will benefit all breeds of dogs equally.
2) Companion Animal Recovery
AKC's microchipping & recovery
scheme. Pay them the money & they'll keep a database of your animals'
details should they get lost.
3) Canine Autoimmune Disease
Another very technical presentation on the
various different so-called "Major Histocompatability Complex" (MHC) genes and their
potential influence on susceptibility to autoimmunity. Essentially there are breeds
that seem to be predisposed to autoimmune disease and others which seem to be more
resistant, and there may be a link to the specific alleles (variable forms of genes)
of the Class II MHC genes, of which there are 4 main types & multiple alleles of each
type (e.g. the gene DRB1 has about 70 alleles!!), that the different breeds
4) Managing Food Hypersensitivity
with Hydrolyzed Protein Diets
Basically a sales pitch for Ralston Purina's new
"hypoallergenic" diet with some science thrown in to make it look better.
5) Canine Health Information Center
(CHIC): Pilot program and next steps
This was actually quite an interesting
presentation despite its "sales pitch" aspects. It was given by 4 different people
who all talked about their various involvements with the project, two from OFA and
two from CHF. This AKC CHF/OFA initiative being run by OFA & CHF rather than
directly by AKC (but I have some difficulties working out where the lines are drawn,
I must confess!!). OFA are responsible for the "infrastructure and documentation" of
the project whilst CHF & OFA jointly will be "communicating and listening" to the
breed clubs, evaluating and approving the test criteria and protocols, identifying
research projects which may benefit from the data within CHIC and educating the
community about CHIC. They emphasized repeatedly that co-operation and collaboration
with breed clubs is what this was all about. I have copied the "presentation summary"
below with some additional notes and if you want further info their website is:
Currently (as of October 19th 2001) they have 7 breeds included
with a wide variation in no.s of dogs included (e.g. Lab's have 5,205 dogs'
results included from OFA (HD & ED) and CERF, whilst Basenji have 1! Four more breeds
were being considered for inclusion.
provide a source of health information for owners, breeders and scientists that will
assist in breeding healthy dogs.
- To work with parent clubs in the identification
of health issues for which a central information
system (read database) should be established.
- To establish and maintain a central health
information system in a form and manner that will
support research into canine diseases and provide health information to owners and
- To establish scientifically valid diagnostic
criteria for the acceptance of information into
- To base the availability of information on
individually identified dogs at the consent of the owner.
- Operating Guidelines
- Parent Clubs - the active involvement of
parent breed clubs in the identification and of breed-specific health issues in a central
information system is essential to the success of CHIC
- Data - the data entered and maintained in
CHIC must be accessible and useful for authorized scientific research into canine diseases
and must be maintained in a format that makes such information available to interested
breeders and owners.
The availability of information on individually identified dogs in CHIC will be
subject to the consent of the owner
- Test Acceptance - there must be
scientifically valid diagnostic criteria and procedures established in advance for the
acceptance of information about any disease into the CHIC database
- Identification - there will be a requirement
for permanent identification of each dog from whom data is to be entered into CHIC
(microchip, DNA &/or tattoo)
- DNA Storage - CHIC, once established, will offer DNA
storage services for families of dogs with specific diseases
- How CHIC can benefit you & your breed?
- Breeding information - information for breeders (central data
storage provides breeders with a reliable source of information about a dog they may be
planning on using in their breeding program, they
emphasized the "one-stop shopping" benefits of having a central database with all
relevant health clearances/results
related to the individual breeds).
- Buyer's information - information for
new owners (breeders can provide copies of CHIC records for new puppy owners and other
breeders or refer them to the CHIC database for accurate information about the results of
their health testing).
- Research information - for parent clubs (can
access CHIC data on their breed to help determine health research priorities and evaluate
the participation and effectiveness of testing programs and incentives they have
established and they stressed that it would be FREE
for breed clubs to access the info); for
breed research (scientists can get accurate information on multiple generations of dogs in
order to conduct research that can benefit breeds and eliminate genetic disease, CHIC
database can serve as a resource for these scientists); for all breed research (as CHIC
database becomes more complete (?? Not sure complete
is the right word but as more information is gathered) researchers will be able to
utilize the information for epidemiological studies that will enhance our knowledge of
health issues affecting all breeds of dogs).
- How to participate:
- Call CHF or OFA for an application form!!
- The following steps must then be completed:
parent club should have a health committee and a health committee chairman that conducts a
survey of breed health issues and recommends health research priorities among other breed
health committee should work with the club (breed
club) to determine what health tests should be conducted for each breed. Things to
consider when recommending testing include:
- What tests are currently being used by
- What tests are available for significant breed
- At what age are these tests appropriate and
- It is usually better to start with the basics
- CERF testing should be considered for all
breeds to prevent the spread of eye disease
parent club should provide specific recommendations to CHIC for testing in their breed.
This recommendation should include the minimum age at which the test is appropriate. Also,
as in the case of some tests, what test interval is appropriate?
Hip Dysplasia Test OFA (>24 months), GDC (>24 months), or PennHip
Elbow Dysplasia Test OFA (>24 months), GDC (>24 months), or PennHip
Cardiac Exam OFA (>12 months)
Eye Exam CERF (annual exam)
forms are to be sent to CHF or OFA and the application will be reviewed
by the CHIC board
breed club will be contacted within 30 days to discuss the timetable for inclusion into
- In general the CHIC database operates on the principle of owner choice in
terms of the release of information about an individual dog. A club may request an open
database but all owners must sign a release for the information about their dog.
- Owners have a choice of what information they will release
about their dog
- Dogs that are known to be positive for a disease, or test as affected for a
genetic disease, with the owners' permission will be listed at no charge.
- For breeds not included, they "encouraged" us to work with the
breed club to develop recommendations stating that
all OFA & CERF results are currently being inserted into the database, even as we
speak, free of charge!!
- Test reports are available for all tests taken for individual dogs even if
the breed club has not applied to be included. OFA & CERF results are included FREE;
results from other registries have a ONE TIME fee of $25 per dog (i.e. not per registry
as far as I understood it),
however if the dog is affected or a carrier there is NO FEE for inclusion (quite
what happens if one has entered the dog at a $25
fee for, say, one DNA test that is clear but subsequently has another test performed which
shows the dog to be a carrier or affected, they didn't say - no mention of
refunds was made!).
- A CHIC number and CHIC report will be provided to dogs who
results identified by the parent club are included
receives a "normal" result for every one OR
receives an "affected" or "carrier" evaluation and the owner has
signed the release form so that it is in the public domain.
- The breed club may add optional tests to the list that can be
included on the report but these are not required for the issuance of a CHIC
no. or report.
6) Restoration of
vision by gene therapy in the rpe65 mutant dog
This was an interesting presentation on some research at Cornell where a gene was
injected in the eye to restore vision in dogs with a recessively inherited congenital
night blindness. Injection of the active/normal gene into the eye resulted in some
restoration of night vision in the dogs, thereby heralding the onset of new treatments
for genetic diseases in dogs (and indeed humans) by supplying the patient with the
correcting/active gene (so-called gene-therapy).
7) Ground Zero: Search and Rescue
A presentation by one of the veterinarians at ground zero who was working
with the search and rescue dogs there. For more information, see the web page:
A talk about epilepsy which
covered the clinical signs, incidence levels in
different breeds, modes of inheritance in different breeds that have been established
(kind of), and hereditability calculations. There were two main messages:
- It is likely that 100's of genes will
eventually be detected that cause epilepsy
- The condition may be monogenic or
polygenic (and there is some discussion about the role of mitochondrial DNA in the male
predisposition!) i.e. no single mode of inheritance in all breeds.
information on canine epilepsy can be found at:
9) Genetic Disease
of the Reproductive system
This was something of a misnomer. The veterinarian giving the presentation
gave a clear and concise overview of female reproductive abnormalities. One fact that I
found quite interesting was that singleton females in large litters of males
"frequently have reproductive problems as a result of the excessive exposure in the
uterus to the influences of the male siblings". So, there you are.
10) American Kennel club 9/11/01
A talk by Alfred Cheauré on the impact of 9/11
at AKC and what AKC did in response.
11) Breaking new frontiers with sled
This presentation was given by a veterinarian working for Ralston Purina and
based in Alaska with a large kennel of Alaskan Huskies. It was also something of a
misnomer, since the talk was about the nutrition of hard working dogs and didn't
actually contain anything new (I subsequently learned that his presentation was also based
on work done with another food manufacturer, most of which had already been published,
explaining why it was nothing new!). The take home message was (as we all know!) that dogs
need optimal levels of good quality protein and decent levels of good quality fat (dogs
use fat as their main energy source, not carbohydrates, so low fat diets for dogs are not
a good thing) for optimal performance.
12) Canine vaccination today
This presentation was given by a veterinarian, who went through all the various
vaccines available for dogs (16 currently available and 11 more are in development!)
and distinguished between those that are "core" vaccines and those that were "optional".
Core vaccines included parvo, distemper, hepatitis and rabies, whilst optional vaccines
included leptospirosis, Lyme disease, parainfluenza and several others. Core vaccines
were said to be essential for puppies and young dogs and the "optional" vaccines
may or may not be important depending on the area in which you live & the risks of
contracting the disease and it's likely effect on the dog's health if it did (some,
like the coronavirus vaccine, were considered unlikely to be of any real benefit to
any dogs). He briefly touched on vaccination schedules and duration of immunity -
basically he said that one needs to vaccinate puppies and young dogs. As the dogs get
older they become less susceptible to some diseases and there was some discussion
about boosters being required every year, every other year or every three years for
some vaccines. Research was/is required as no one had done much work on the duration
of immunity and whether vaccine antibody titres could be accurately transposed to
predicting actual levels of protection.
The AKC CHF are sponsoring research on the
duration and extent of core vaccine immunity, which is now in
its third year. Details of the grant can be found on the CHF site at
Grant No. 1604.
Antibody Response and Duration of Immunity in Dogs Vaccinated with Attenuated Canine
Distemper Virus, Canine Adenovirus Type 2 and Canine Parvovirus Vaccines from Commercial
13) Update on hip dysplasia and a
new treatment for canine cancer
An M.D. from the University of Michigan gave this talk, which briefly touched
on HD and then went into some detail, and at some length, on the use of lowering copper
levels with tetrathiomolybdate for the treatment of cancer (low copper restricts blood
As far as HD was concerned, he talked about the
efforts going into trying to determine the genetics of the condition. At the moment the
mode of inheritance is not known. What they do know is that the distribution in the
population is not compatible with a single gene effect, BUT it is also not
"hopelessly" polygenic (i.e. more than 10 genes involved). They think it may,
possibly be monogenic (i.e. a single gene) in some individual breeds but they really
14) Breeding strategies for the
management of genetic disorders
This was a very interesting talk given by
Jerrold Bell DVM, who has also written several articles published in the AKC Gazette (and
the latest AMCA Newsletter) about breeding dogs.
The take-home messages were:
- Primary goal of dog breeding is to
maintain/enhance the quality of the breed
- Secondary goals
- do not produce affected/ill dogs
- decrease the incidence of carriers
For the genetic disorders:
- Look at the confidence levels of the gene
marker tests (usually around 80-90%)
- To help check the confidence levels of gene
markers, you need to look at the parents and grandparents (i.e.
have their test results available)
- For direct gene tests,
only need to have the results of the actual dog
- For phenotypic (i.e. what you, or a
specialist, can SEE) or gene linkage tests or where there is no
test for the carrier status, you need to have a knowledge of the test results for as many
relatives as possible to estimate the relative risk.
Jerrold went into quite a bit of detail about
width and depth of pedigrees and gave specific advice on breeding strategies based on
the availability of tests and the mode of inheritance. He emphasized heavily the fact
that genetic disease was NOT a stigma, and that OPEN health registries were of paramount
importance so that as much information was available to as many people as possible, to
enable them to make informed choices. Without open registries, breeders cannot easily
assess the depth (i.e. how many generations back) or breadth (i.e. how many littermates)
of the pedigree and, therefore, the information behind their dogs. For polygenic traits
(or those with unknown modes of inheritance), the breadth of the pedigree is of equal,
if not greater, importance than the depth (i.e. as many of the litter as possible should
be screened, not just breeding stock) to get an idea of how likely any given animal is to
pass on some of the responsible genes).
Each breeder needs to assess their own breeding
stock and assess their own rate of progress. Do not throw the baby out with the bath
Finally he summarized by saying that a good breeding program:
- Does not continually multiply carriers
- Replaces breeding stock with quality, healthy stock
I can talk for hours on
this subject and he did promise that the presentation would be published in the AKC
Gazette in the near future so I'll leave it at that.
15) The purina
parent club partnership program (ppcp)
At some point during the weekend (I forget exactly when, since it was not a "scheduled"
presentation) someone from Ralston Purina presented their wonderful and magnificent
Breeder's Club and then went on to explain how the breed clubs could get money from
RP for every one of their members who became a member of the Breeder's Club. Basically,
the breed club had to hand over its membership list to RP who would then check off all
its Breeder Club members against the membership list and give x dollars to the breed
club (related to the amount of dog food the members bought) for health research. At
least 50% of the money had to go to CHF recognized health research (to a so-called
Donor Advised Fund with CHF) & the other up-to-50% could be used for rescue or
educational programs. The information on the program should have been sent to the
parent clubs by the end of December and enrolment of breed clubs for participation
is from 1st December 2001 through 31st March 2002. Of course,
they also want the breed clubs to "encourage" their members to feed Purina (preferably
exclusively) & join the Breeder's Club, to maximize the money they get (all highly
dubious if you ask me, but then I have always had problems with these kinds of
marketing strategies) and they promised they will only use the membership lists for
their own purposes (whatever those might be!!).
If anyone wants further information, or has any
questions, just give me a call or (preferably) e-mail me at:
THIS PAGE LAST UPDATED MARCH 3 02