Our current research has three main strands:
Additionally, we have been supporting research projects carried out at UK Veterinary Schools.
Genetic basis for IVDD:
This project, which is being carried out by the Animal Health Trust, aims to build on the 2011 work of Mogensen et al. That study used dogs with calcifications (cases) and dogs without calcifications (controls) and concluded that a major locus on chromosome 12 harbours genetic variations affecting the development of intervertebral disc calcification in Dachshunds.
Our project used dogs that have suffered herniations in the lumbar region between the ages of 4 and 7 (cases) and dogs over the age of 12 that have never suffered back problems (controls). This is a significant difference from the Mogensen study, which looked at calcifications, not herniations.
Moving forward, we think the most appropriate next step is to undertake a genome-wide scan that will involve typing a set of cases and controls for around 200,000
markers spanning the dogs’ DNA to try to identify a region of the canine DNA associated with IVDD. For this genome scan we need to ensure that we have a robust set of cases, so we will work with a
neurologist to review cases to create a tight case definition, as has previously been done for complex conditions in the dog, such as epilepsy.
It is highly unlikely that this research will lead to a “simple” genetic DNA test for IVDD because we know that environmental and lifestyle factors also play a part, but we hope it may lead us to some form of test that could give an indication of risk and help inform breeding decisions.
Alternative screening techniques:
All the main research into screening for IVDD has been carried out in Scandinavia, using X-rays. This work forms the basis for the UK IVDD Screening Programme.
In addition to X-ray Screening, we will also be carrying out a small number of CT scans to see if this might be a viable technique.
An interesting article on the use of Thermal Imaging to investigate Back Disease was published online by The American College of Veterinary Surgeons in their journal Volume 43, Issue 7, in October 2014. This concluded that medical infrared imaging was 90% successful differentiating between normal dogs and 97% successful in identifying the abnormal intervertebral disc space in dogs with IVDD. In 2012, we ran a short project to record thermal images of the backs of Smooth and Miniature Smooth-haired Dachshunds, but we were not able to complete the project with any useful results.
In 2013, Packer et al (from the Royal Veterinary College) published a paper demonstrating a link between the length:height proportions of Dachshunds and their risk of suffering from IVDD (this study looked at disk extrusions, not calcifications). The conclusion was that longer-bodied and shorter-legged Dachshunds were more at risk than those of more moderate proportions.
This research has informed and reinforced our education programme for breeders and judges to select for more moderate conformation.
However, the study also identified body condition as a significant risk factor; namely dogs that were over-weight or obese were also more likely to suffer disk extrusions. We therefore conducted a Lifestyle Survey of Dachshunds in 2015. This survey was developed with the support of the Royal Veterinary College. We have summarised the main findings here and the full report is available on our Health website.