What has the wolf got to do with cavaliers? Well not very much for the last few thousand years but that is about to change thanks to the LUPA project. This EU funded project has attracted a grant of €580,000 which is aimed at unravelling the genetic background of specific canine disease using a novel genetic method and one of the projects in this application is mitral valve disease in Cavaliers. We now have full funding for all the expensive tests (and they are VERY expensive) that we need to study the greatest health problem in Cavaliers.
One of the molecular biologists involved in this project is indeed the person who developed this new DNA methodology, so we believe we have access to the top scientist in this field in the world. Using this technique in a large enough sample will most likely lead to the discovery of the genes behind the disease, and hopefully later to genetic tests and improved treatment modalities.
In the Cavalier project, it has been outlined (based on the current knowledge of the inheritance of degenerative mitral valve disease) that a sample size of 100 dogs with an early onset and 100 dogs with a late onset would be required to be able to find the diseased genes. We define early as dogs developing mitral insufficiency before 4 years old or have developed signs of heart failure before 8 years, and we define late as dogs over 10 years without a murmur or very mild mitral insufficiency. The group is currently working to obtain these comparably large groups of dogs in Sweden and Denmark, but we in the UK would like to contribute.
We need blood samples and pedigrees from cavaliers in one of 3 groups:
1. Dogs under 4 years with a loud murmur.
2. Dogs under 8 years that have developed heart failure. This does not necessarily mean a cough. They should also have breathlessness, weight loss, and exercise intolerance. They should also need medication.
3. Dogs over 8 years with no murmur or a very quiet one.
As it is important to make sure the diagnosis is correct, a cardiologist should examine the dog. There is no charge if it is done at one of the centres and we are prepared to travel to see these dogs if we can gather enough together. In addition, we are organising a health clinic in Bagworth on 27th September. If you can attend with a suitable dog, please bring your pedigree.
So in answer to my original question, LUPA is the latin word for wolf. They used that word because of the story of the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, who were left without any humans to take care of them as babies but survived thanks to a female wolf who provided them with protection and food. The real name of the project is “Unravelling the molecular basis of common complex human disorders using the dog as a model system”.
Simon Swift, Liverpool University Small Animal Teaching Hospital
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