Many FACE financial grants for critical veterinary assistance are awarded to owners of dogs with a serious spinal condition called intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). IVDD is a major cause of pain and paralysis in certain dog breeds, especially those with short legs like the Dachshund, French Bulldog, Corgi, Basset Hound, and Pekingese.
In IVDD, the discs in a dog’s spine can degenerate over the course of time or suddenly herniate, depending on the type of IVDD the dog suffers from. IVDD is a painful condition that often requires surgery and physical rehabilitation.
Recently, researchers at the University of California Davis have discovered the genetic mutation responsible for chondrodystrophy, which is a genetic trait that many IVDD-prone breeds share. It’s characterized by changes in bone growth, leading to short long bones (legs) and premature spinal disc calcification and degeneration.
The scientists report that dogs with IVDD are 50 times more likely to have this mutation. The gene identified, the FGF4 retrogene, was found to play a key role in bone development for dogs with chondrodystrophy. FGF abnormalities in humans can lead to conditions like dwarfism.
Identification of this mutation can help control the incidence of IVDD in dogs. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory offers two genetics tests for breeders and owners of short-legged breeds prone to IVDD. Breeders can test for IVDD risk in their dogs, identifying those that are carriers of 0, 1, or 2 copies of the gene.