Genetic screening aims to reduce heart disease in Newfoundland dogs

Morris Animal Foundation
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Researchers hope to shed light on the genetics underlying subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) in Newfoundland dogs

Reducing instances of a serious heart disease commonly found in Newfoundland dogs is the goal of new research underway at Michigan State University.

Funded jointly by Morris Animal Foundation and the Newfoundland Club of America Charitable Trust, the study hopes to shed light on the genetics underlying subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) in Newfoundland dogs.

Specifically, the research will employ advanced tools to discover genetic determinants of the disease in the breed. If successful, findings could be used to genetically screen dogs for this disease and inform breeding decisions.

“SAS is a devastating and puzzling disease—devastating for the dogs and their families and puzzling for the geneticists,” says principal investigator Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan, PhD, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and small animal clinical sciences at Michigan State University. “We hope our cutting-edge genetics and genomics approaches will provide some clear and useful answers and reveal the genetic basis of this disorder.”

Characterized by the development of abnormal tissue that obstructs the flow of blood from the heart, subvalvular aortic stenosis is a serious congenital disease in dogs. Several breeds (including Newfoundland dogs) have a high incidence.

Dogs with the disease often have shortened lifespans, and current treatment options are limited to medication to improve quality of life, Morris Animal Foundation reports.

“Understanding the genetics of this serious disease could lead to advances in diagnostic tests and help inform breeding decisions, eventually leading to fewer dogs suffering,” says the foundation’s vice president of scientific operations, Kathy Tietje, PhD, MBA. “Results from this study could have implications for all dog breeds affected by SAS.”

Genetic screening aims to reduce heart disease in Newfoundland dogs