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Reference Desk October 2011

Study Finds Genetic Factors for Deadly Disease in Pugs, Small Dogs

    DENVER, Colorado, October 25, 2011---Preliminary results from a study funded by Morris Animal Foundation out of the University of Georgia have identified two genetic loci associated with necrotizing meningoencephalitis (NME), an often fatal inflammatory brain disorder that affects pugs and other small breed dogs. The findings, published recently in the Journal of Heredity, may lead to better care for affected dogs and better prevention.

    NME is an often fatal disease for small breed dogs, including pugs, Chihuahuas and Maltese. Currently, patients that develop NME die despite treatment. To change this, the cause of NME needs to be identified and there needs to be a way to definitively diagnose NME while the patient is alive. Identification of genetic factors that contribute to the development of NME should lead to diagnostic tests and allow veterinarians to determine more appropriate treatments for this fatal disease.

    Renee M. Barber, DVM, from the University of Georgia, received a fellowship grant from Morris Animal Foundation to learn more about the disease’s development. She and her team of investigators began the genetics studies by comparing DNA from pugs with NME to DNA from healthy pugs. The preliminary data identified two broad regions of DNA that, if altered, may predispose a dog to the development of NME.

    The study will continue as researchers will validate these initial findings and identify the specific changes within these regions of DNA that contribute to disease development in multiple small breeds.

    Ultimately, the study should help to not only improve patient care and disease prognosis but to also help breeders eliminate this devastating disorder. The investigative team includes scientists from the Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center of Santa Fe, New Mexico; the Neurogenomics Division, Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix; the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at Texas A&M University; and the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia.

    Source:  Morris Animal Foundation

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