Anyone who’s ever known a Newfoundland Dog knows they are incredible sweet, gentle and big-hearted dogs. Breeders and breed enthusiasts alike also know that these gentle giants are sometimes afflicted by cardiac disease. One form, subvalvular aortic stenosis, has been shown to have a heritable component for which there is now a genetic test!
Subvalvular aortic stenosis is the most common heart disease with which dogs are born, and Newfies are over-represented. An abnormal ridge of tissue below the aortic valve which adversely affects the normal flow of blood out from the heart and into the aorta can produce an array of clinical signs: audible heart murmur at the level of the aorta, sudden collapse, intermittent fainting spells, and irregular heart rate. In some instances the first sign of a problem can be an inexplicable sudden death. Dogs affected with the condition may show no clinical signs at all and live out a normal lifespan. Severely affected individuals, despite chemotherapeutic intervention with cardia supportive medications may not live to five years of age.
Given the insidious nature of this condition, and significant cost of traditional screening methods: definitive diagnosis of this malformation requires advanced diagnostic imaging, namely ultrasound evaluation of the heart, i.e., echocardiography, the discovery of a less expensive and accurate test for this condition has been long sought after. Often veterinary medical research benefits from human research into congenital diseases; however, this was not possible when searching for genetic clues to this disease as, thankfully, it is a rare condition in children. Because it is an uncommon disease in humans the entire canine genome had to be evaluated for clues to identify the causative mutation.
With the advent of a genetic test, breeders can pre-screen dogs to prevent breeding of animals who possess the potential to pass on the causative mutation, and veterinarians have another diagnostic option in their toolboxes. By employing selective breeding practices we may actually be able to rid this wonderful breed of this disease altogether.
Have questions about this or any other genetic conditions of dogs or cats? Give us a call at 972-712-1300. You only want the best for your pet. So do we.