RESEARCH INTO CUSHING'S SYNDROME AT NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY
Researchers at the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science are interested in investigating the characteristics of Cushing's Syndrome within the Border Terrier breed and would be interested in hearing from owners of dogs affected by the disease, and also in details of dogs which have previously died from it.
This is one of the conditions being monitored by the Breed Health Group and we would encourage as many owners as possible to respond. We would also be grateful if these owners could also fill in our own health survey form.
The link to the Nottingham survey is: https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=DQSIkWdsW0yxEjajBLZtrQAAAAAAAAAAAAN__sV2TrJUNTIzVUFTNTA0WURST1U5WVJKT0xPMlk3MC4u
The link to the Border Terrier Breed Health Group survey is:
Breed Health Co-ordinator
BORDER TERRIER BREED HEALTH 2020
This year has been an unforgettable one for all of us. The spectre of coronavirus has impacted on
many aspects of our lives including health research into animal disease.
Sadly, this year has seen the Animal Health Trust forced into liquidation. Founded in 1942 the AHT
was an independent animal charity which received no Government funding and employed in excess
of 200 vets, scientists and support staff. The Trust provided clinical referral services for both small
animal and equine cases and was highly regarded for its work in the fields of infectious and genetic
diseases, oncology and stem cell research.
In 2009 the Kennel Club entered into a partnership with the Genetics Research Department at the
AHT and over the years this has proved a fruitful union doing much to advance our knowledge of the
genetics of a number of important canine diseases and leading to the development of DNA tests for
22 of them. These tests are applicable to around 50 different breeds so their use has helped to
reduce the incidence of the conditions within the gene pool and to directly avoid the birth of
thousands of dogs doomed to be afflicted by painful or life limiting conditions.
Like many charities the Animal Health Trust had been struggling with funding in recent years and
unfortunately this was greatly exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to
the Trust officially going into liquidation on 31st July of this year.
At breed level the AHT partnered the University of Missouri in the development of the DNA test for
Spongioform Leuco Encephalo Myelopathy (SLEM) and was the laboratory which provided the test in
the UK .It was also storing a large number of DNA samples intended for use in research into trying to
establish the genetic basis of Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome(CECS) also known as Paroxysmal
Gluten Sensitive Dyskinesis(PGSD).
Dr. Cathryn Mellersh, leader of the team at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT, has
managed to arrange for the DNA material being held at the AHT to be transferred to the University
of Cambridge where it is hoped that much of the
the research and testing will recommence.
Unfortunately this has caused problems with SLEM testing. At present this means that the only
laboratory which offers SLEM testing is that of OFA/University of Missouri. They are prepared to
accept samples from the UK, so if anyone urgently needs tests done before they resume in the UK
they could utilise their service .If it proves likely that there will be an extended period before the test
becomes available again in the UK we will look at perhaps making more use of this facility. The latest
news on that in January is, however, positive and it is hoped that the Kennel Club and the University
of Cambridge will soon come to an agreement which will enable testing to re-commence.
On the subject of SLEM I am pleased to report that there have been no confirmed cases of any
affected puppies having been born this year. Although it may have been difficult to have potential
breeding stock screened this year we now have a sizeable number of dogs known to be CLEAR,
either by testing or hereditarily. Provided at least one member of a proposed mating pair is known
to be CLEAR no affected puppies will be born.
Breeding advice continues to be that it is irresponsible to mate a CARRIER or UNKNOWN to anything
other than a CLEAR and that any pups from such matings should not be bred from until their genetic
status has been ascertained.
One of the casualties of the Animal Health Trust closure has been a delay in Mark Lowrie's further
research into CECS/PGSD. The proposed investigation into trying to identify possible genetic factors
involved in the condition has been put on hold. Hopefully the project will continue.
Gall Bladder Mucocoele(GBM) has again been the subject of much interest this year. We know that
after a meal, cholecystokinin(CKK) is released by the duodenum and that its function is to cause
release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and also contraction of the gallbladder with the
release of bile into the intestine via the common bile duct.
Research by Barker et al has shown that dogs affected by GBM have reduced levels of CCK as
opposed to unaffected animals. They also show an increased immune response of IgA, an
immunoglobulin which has a role in maintaining mucous membranes within the body. It is
postulated that a combination of these two factors results in gallbladder hypomotility thus allowing
for the accumulation of bile and mucus within the biliary system. It is also suggested that PGSD
could be an underlying causal factor but further studies will be needed to confirm this.
Last year it was announced that Border Terriers had been removed from the list of breeds being
monitored for late onset hereditary cataract. Very few cases had been recorded over the years so
this seemed like a sensible move. However, though true that few cases had been confirmed it was
equally true that only a small number of animals had been tested.
We know that cases are being recorded in North America and in Scandinavia so it would be naive to
assume that we don't have the condition in the UK. Unfortunately previous requests for details of
confirmed cases have met with a poor response. However, this year possible cases have been
recorded in two littermates and their breeder has kindly put the information into the public domain.
The Breed Health Group is keen to try to establish if this is a significant issue within the British
Border Terrier population and if we need to be encouraging more widespread eye testing. It would
be appreciated if owners could fill in a questionnaire for all eye tested dogs, clears included. These
may be downloaded from the Breed Health Site--- borderterrierhealth.org.uk .
There has been a better response to our request for owners to fill in questionnaires this year and
including the respondents to the CECS/PGSD one we have had 75 returned including 10 from
overseas. These questionnaires help us to monitor both existing and emerging health issues and it
would be great if as many owners as possible could fill them in for all their dogs even those which
they regard as being completely healthy.
Of the 64 dogs from the UK ,age range 8months-18years, 16 were reported as having no health
The remaining 48 animals suffered from a range of conditions with a few unfortunates having
multiple health issues.
The conditions reported were:
ENDOCRINE (12) consisting of: Cushing's Syndrome(8), Hypothyroidism(3), Diabetes(1)
ORTHOPAEDIC(4):Osteoarthritis(3), Bilateral rupture of anterior cruciate ligament(1)
CARDIOVASCULAR(3):Congestive heart failure(2), Patent Ductus Arteriosus(1)
DIGESTIVE(16): GallBladder Mucocoele(9), Pancreatitis(2), Inflammatory Bowel Disease(5)
NEOPLASIA(7):Lipoma(3), Mammary(1,) Soft tissue sarcoma(1), Testicular(1), Warts(1)
NEUROLOGICAL: CECS(10), Other seizures(2)
BEHAVIOURAL ISSUES(3): Aggression(2),Excessive timidity(1)
DENTAL ISSUES (2)
OCULAR(10) :Progressive Retinal Atrophy(1), Underdeveloped optic nerve(1), Diabetic cataract(1),
Senile cataract(1), Cataract detected at BVA eye exam(6)
4 clear BVA eye examinations were also reported.
We also received 11 reports from overseas- Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
3 dogs had no health issues and conditions reported in the others were: CECS(1), INFLAMMATORY
BOWEL DISEASE(1), MAMMARY TUMOURS(1), ALLERGIC SKIN DISEASE(1).
5 Eye exam results were declared,1 of which had bilateral cataracts and the other 4 were clear.
It is encouraging that owners have been responding to our requests for details of confirmed cases of
Cushing's Syndrome, GBM ,CECS/PGSD and also cataracts and I hope that more will continue to do
The Breed Health Group declared our intention to set up an Open register for Cushing's Syndrome
and we are considering it for other conditions. We appreciate all survey forms completed and would
ask as many as possible of those reporting these conditions to give permission for their dog's details
to be published.
Remember, sharing knowledge is the best way to maintain good health within our breed.
Eddie Houston B.V.M.S, M.R.C.V.S
Breed Health Coordinator
Eddie Houston, Breed Health Coordinator, has written the following article on
For many years our breed was on Schedule B of the BVA/KC/ISDS eye testing scheme as there was concern that it could be affected by late onset hereditary cataract. Last year the Border Terrier was removed from the list due to the low number of affected dogs which had been found.
This might sound like a positive move but in reality so few dogs were actually screened that it probably did not give a true representation of the possible incidence of this condition within the breed.
Hereditary cataracts are known to be present in many breedsand although there is some difference in the appearance of the cataract and the means of inheritance between breeds they can be broadly divided into two categories; juvenile where the changes can be seen within the first few months of life and late onset where changes aren't usually present until between 3 and 7 years of age. Juvenile cataracts will usually be present and of similar size in both eyes and will often lead to significant sight loss or total blindness by 2 to 3 years of age if left untreated. Late onset hereditary cataracts may be unilateral or bilateral, vary in shape and in the speed at which they progress often taking quite a few years before they significantly interfere with vision. By the time they become apparent affected animals may well already have been bred from.
The concept of a condition which develops from possibly as young as 3 years of age being referred to as late onset may seem a little odd but it helps to distinguish these hereditary cataracts from the "senile" ones which are age related and likely to occur in animals older than 10.
In a number of breeds eye screening is regularly performed on all potential breeding stock. Routine eye screening has notbeen carried out by the vast majority of Border breeders in the UK as we have been working on the assumption that we do not have a significant problem .
However, in some areas of the world such as North America and Scandinavia eye exams are more commonly undertaken and cataracts are the commonest defect being recorded, albeit at fairly low levels. Both juvenile and late onset cataracts have been recorded and it would seem naive to think that the condition isn't present in dogs in the UK.
Previous requests for reports of confirmed cases have had a disappointing response but a couple of related dogs have recently been diagnosed with late onset cataract and their breeder has kindly put that information in the public domain. This does not mean that we currently have a major problembut it does raise the question as to whether we should perhaps be more proactive with regards to having routine eye screening carried out.
As it can be difficult to differentiate between cataracts which are hereditary and those which have other origins e.g eye injury or systemic diseases such as diabetes, eye testing is normally carried out by ophthalmic specialists, a list of whom can be found on the BVA (British Veterinary Association) website at:
The Breed Health Group is keen to monitor this condition and we would appreciate our standard questionnaires being completed for any dogs diagnosed with cataracts particularythose confirmed by an ophthalmic specialist. Whether the diagnosis has been made by a specialist or a first opinion vet.please include the dog's age at the time of diagnosis along with details of the person carrying out the diagnosis. .Anyadditional information would also be welcome. (To complete the survey please go to: XXXXXX)
A good response will help us to formulate future plans for dealing with the condition which may include organising testing sessions at Breed Club Shows when this becomes possible and trying to explore the genetic factors involved.
Remember, the only way breed health can progress is by the sharing of information. Anyone can be unlucky enough to breed a dog affected by a hereditary problem but being open about it may help to prevent issues becoming more widespread.
Six of the seven Border Terrier Clubs have agreed to form a health group to consider the health status of the border terrier. In particular the group will consider the evidence associated with two conditions of immediate concern to the breed. Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome is the first condition. It has been reported over several decades and has attracted limited veterinary research. The second condition is ‘shaking puppy syndrome’ a neurological illness recently anecdotally reported in very young puppies. The group will seek to provide interim advice to breeders on both conditions, alongside developing a research plan to more clearly identify the clinical symptoms and epidemiology of both illnesses and to seek potential inheritance factors that may assist control or elimination of both conditions. The group will also consider the general health status of the border terrier and comment on other diseases that could be listed for further research. The members of the new group will be Dr Eddie Houston, veterinary surgeon and Chairman of the Border Terrier Club, Prof. Jeff Sampson, previously a geneticist at the Animal Health Trust and the Kennel Club and Dr Andrew Harbottle, a border terrier owner and a research scientist working in the field of biomarker discovery. Prof Steve Dean will attend the meetings as the Joint Clubs’ Breed Health Co-ordinator. To get the latest information from the UK Border Terrier Breed Health Group www.borderterrierhealth.org.uk .
Please see the Breed Health Group Website, https:/borderterrierhealth.org.uk , for details on two Open Registers that have been created to list dogs suffering from 1) Cushings Disease and 2) Gallbladder Mucocoele. A protocol for the diagnosis required for Cushings Disease is also described.
Breed Health Report 2019
Please see Steve Dean's 2019 Breed Health Coordinator's Report for Border Terriers at
Breed Health Group News, 3rd January 2020
There is an update on the Breed Health Group Website about the Paroxysmal Gluten-Sensitive Dyskinesia Study. Briefly, Mark Lowrie has advised that he is struggling for diagnosed CECS affected dogs that are not already on a gluten free diet to take part in the study. If you can help please contact him.
Breed Health Group News, 4th July 2018
A 10% discount on the SLEM Test is now available to all members of the seven breed clubs. A code, available from Bill Shorthose, Club Secretary, needs to entered at the checkout line to apply the 10% discount. Useage of this will be monitored by AHT and the continuing availability of the discount will be review in due course.