Researchers Discover Gene Associated with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Dogs

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While the cause of lethal respiratory issues in humans can typically be traced back to pneumonia, inflammation or pulmonary fibrosis, that’s not the case when it comes to diagnosing similar fatal ailments in dogs.

Or rather, not until now.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki have uncovered a genetic lung tissue disorder in Dalmatians that is the likely cause of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in dogs. ARDS is a tragic ailment that occurs in Dalmatian pups or young dogs and begins with difficulty in breathing, followed by rapid deterioration and ultimately death.

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University Professor Hannes Lohl confirms, “Our study indicates that the disorder results from a defect in an anillin protein which binds to actin, the supporting microfilaments in the cell.”

For us laypeople, anillin is crucial to cell division and growth and the affected dogs appear to have an abnormal regeneration in the bronchiolar epithelium (the lining of the bronchial tract that serves to moisten and protect the airways while filtering out those nasty potential pathogens).

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Still with me? According to veterinary pathologist, Pernilla Syrjä “The lack of anillin, the actin-binding protein, can perfectly explain the changes which we see on the cellular level. Due to the malformed epithelial structure, inhaled air is trapped in the alveolar level, over-extending the alveolar walls.”

So the air is unable to make it through to their lungs and the poor little guys ultimately suffocate. What a tragic outcome for a young pooch and a new pet parent

While ARDS is not new in the world of breeders, they have learned to avoid risk lines which lessen the frequency of occurrence. The encouraging news is that results from this most recent study will ultimately help diagnose and eradicate the disease from the breed altogether.

In the meantime, genetic testing is recommended for prospective owners of Dalmatians with a test for the gene soon being made available as part of the MyDogDNA test.