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Newfoundlands needed for study into ligament disease

published on May 18 2010
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Cruciate ligament disease is the most common cause of lameness in dogs

Veterinary scientists at the University of Liverpool are looking for Newfoundland dogs to participate in a study that aims to develop a new test to reduce the prevalence of cruciate ligament disease in canines.

Cruciate ligament disease is the most common cause of lameness in dogs and is particularly common in large breeds, such as Newfoundlands.  It is also a condition experienced by sports professionals, particularly athletes and footballers.  Previous research has suggested that the disease may be genetic in both humans and animals, but further study is needed in order to identify the genes responsible.

The condition affects the cranial cruciate ligament and the caudal cruciate ligament in the hind legs of the dog.  These ligaments ensure that the knee joint moves smoothly, but in dogs with cruciate disease the ligament can tear or rupture, causing severe pain and stiffness.  Surgery is often necessary to stabilise the knee, but some cases result in osteoarthritis – an incurable condition.

The research team are looking for Newfoundland dogs of any age that have been diagnosed with cruciate ligament disease as a result of surgical investigation.  Scientists are also looking for Newfoundlands that have not presented with the disease, which are more than seven years old.  Researchers will take DNA from the saliva of the dog, or a blood sample, to investigate the genetic factors that may influence the development of the disease.

Arabella Baird, who is leading the study at the University’s School of Veterinary Science, said: “If we can identify the genes that are involved in this debilitating condition, we can help develop a test to detect it early on.  This information will be significant in influencing breeding strategies to reduce the risk of the disease being passed on down the generations.  This condition is also common in humans, particularly athletes, so if we can identify the genes in dogs, we may also be closer to identifying them in humans.

“Owners who would like to help us in this work can consult their vet if their dog has already undergone treatment or they can take a simple swab test of the dog’s saliva using a kit we can send to them at home.  All samples will be anonymous and the results will remain confidential.”

Marion Wilks, from the UK Newfoundland Club, said: “The disease affects approximately 22% of Newfoundland dogs and is a very painful and distressing condition.  Treatment for the condition is expensive and it is often the case that once one leg is affected, it is only a matter of time before the problem develops in the other limb.  This research is important in improving the health and welfare of the breed as well as other large dogs that are susceptible to the disease.”

The research is in collaboration with the University of Manchester and funded by the Kennel Club and the Newfoundland Club UK.

Owners who want to take part in the study should contact Arabella Baird by telephone: 0151 794 4208; or by email: arabella.baird@liv.ac.uk.

More information can also be found on the project website: ugwww.liv.ac.uk/~abaird

Notes to editors:

1.  The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £98 million annually.

 

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