I attended the KC Breed Health Symposium on 5 October 2017 on behalf of the HWV. There were 200 registrants for the event. We had a number of brief but interesting lectures with health updates in, some of which I have summised below.
Epilepsy Lecture by Professor Holger Volk (BVA)
A most engaging, knowledgable speaker, Professor Volk gave us a brief rundown on some points about canine epilepsy which I have tried to summarise below.
- Epilepsy needn’t be a death sentence.
- The similarities between the disease process between dogs and humans is useful for several reasons:
- Technical (shared knowledge)
- Institutional (shared funding)
- One of the biggest challenges is the unpredictability of when it will happen since it can happen at any time. Although 60% of seizures happen overnight.
- Dogs with poorly controlled epilepsy/ high seizure frequency are at increased risk of
- Premature death
- Behavioural changes
- Reduced quality of life (for both dog and owner)
There have been several studies on the impact of epilepsy on the dog and owner. These seemed to suggest that the biggest concerns about what would cause an impact on the quality of life of the owner were:
- Seizure type (eg cluster)
- Side effects
- Not having additional drugs.
Surprisingly cost wasn’t identified!
They identified that support was important and that this is was beneficial coming from
- Vets (particularly if they regularly saw the same one)
- Breed and support groups
A key point to note is that Idiopathic Epilepsy isn’t just one disease – there are thousands of reasons why it can happen. It is usual that there are multiple predisposing factors all coming together at the same time to cause a seizure.
Specialists diagnosis of seizures tends to be very variable and often biased towards their expectations in certain breeds. Diagnosis is very subjective.
Cognitive Impairments in Epilepsy
There is evidnce to suggest a decrease in cognitive abilities in dogs with epilepsy. It can also reduce their susceptibility to being trained although positive reinforcement works better.
Every brain has the capacity to have seizures
Different brains have different thresholds to trigger seizures
Treatment is based on changing the seizure threshold.
Study on occurence of seizures in untreated dogs
- Some had a number then stopped
- Some had some, then stopped, then started again
- Some had seizures which continued to increase in frequency
The important thing to note is that drugs aren’t designed to change this pattern of occurance.
The development of new drugs
In general the new drugs that we are seeing developed now don’t tend to be any more effective in stopping/ reducing seizures, their main benefit is to reduce the side effects associated with them.
RVC have developped an app to monitor seizures: Further details here
Diet trials in epilepsy
There has been a trial to see the effect of adding medium chain fatty acids to a diet.
- This seemed to reduce the seizure frequency in a number of the dogs.
- This sort of treatment is never likely to work on all dogs with IE due to the different triggers in different dogs.
- Interestingly the supplements had no effect on the levels of the drug being used to treat the dogs in the bloodstream.
- There was an increase in the blood level hydroxybutyrate (BHB)
All in all there is some interesting work being done on canine epilepsy. We won’t be able to eradicate it in one step since there are so many different triggers to the condition but working on the individual triggers we may be able to get somewhere.
Give a dog a genome (AHT)
One of the most important purposes of studying genetics at the AHT is to find deletrious mutations in DNA that can cause disease.
In 2004 the genome of a boxer named Tasha (Can Farm 1.0) was sequenced as a reference genome for others to compare back to.
DNA mutations are found by comparing the DNA of an affected dog to a reference dog without the disorder. Difference genes in the structure are called “candidate genes” and indicate where the mutation may be. By referencing to a succession of further dogs one by one these candidate genes are narrowed down to a single gene that is causing the mutation. This process assumes that reference dogs aren’t going to have the disease you are looking for.
The Give a Dog a Genome project is sequencing genomes from a mixture of healthy dogs of a breed (where there are no major health concerns) and dogs of other breeds with particular health issues being deemed worthy of further investigation. There are 16 breeds where dogs with Ideopathic epilepsy has been sequenced, 9 with PRA, 7 with hereditary cataract and 4 with osteosarcoma with another 24 with other conditions having been sequenced.
So far the project has already identified:
- A retinopathy mutation in the Swedish Valhund
- A mutation causing Oculoskeletal dysplasia in the Northern Inuit
- A mutation causing PRA in the Lhaso Apso
International Partnership for Dogs
This is an organisation who are allowing collaboration between specialists to try to enable the using and sharing of data from all sorts of international sources. They focus on the Health, Wellbeing and Welfare of dog breeds.
They are building a database to help share information.
They run an International Dog Health Workshop which will be hosted next time by the Kennel Club in the UK. This will be in 2019.
I hope this brief summary gives you a brief insight into some of what was covered. I have tried to keep the information as concise and accurate as possible, however, I cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies.