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Vetgen Project A Major Breakthrough?

By Elena Duggan

For decades now, the American Cocker Spaniel owner has lived in fear of learning that his or her dog has developed cataracts or PRA. Now, there is a exciting ray of hope on the horizon, as Vetgen, one of the foremost canine genetic research laboratories in the world, continues its work on Juvenile Cataracts and PRA in Cocker Spaniels. IF these diseases turn out to be “autosomal recessive” in American Cockers (as Vetgen suspects), both cataracts and PRA could be cleared out of a line within two generations once the disease gene has been located and a test developed.

Cheryl Hogue, Research Coordinator for Vetgen, says, “Many people don’t understand what this really means for the breed. If we can develop the test, puppies can be swabbed and the owners will know which are affected, carriers, or clear. This also means that a dog that is a carrier – or even affected in some cases! – may not necessarily have to be kept out of a breeding program.

For its cataract research project, Vetgen is seeking:
  1. DNA samples from at least two or more affected dogs within a litter (or one each from a repeat breeding).
  2. DNA from the parents (at least one, preferably both)
  3. DNA from one or two of the unaffected littermates

The DNA is collected with a set of 6 small brush swabs, which are swiped in the mouth of the dogs.

Owners of affected dogs* should contact Cheryl Hogue at VetGen (1-800-483-8436 or healthydog@vetgen.com), and the lab will send out the swabs with a self-addressed envelope for their return. The dog(s)’ pedigrees should also be included. All of this is COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE and TOTALLY CONFIDENTIAL.

For the PRA project, which is further along, Vetgen needs only DNA samples from the affected dogs.

Participation by owners is absolutely CRITICAL to Vetgen’s research. Cheryl says, “Time is of the essence. We have run out of a lot of DNA for dogs that we have used in the past and our funding is limited. Vetgen is working on a direct DNA test which takes longer and is harder to develop than the previously developed linkage test. But the encouraging and exciting part is that the results from the direct DNA test will be absolutely definitive and accurate.”

She goes on to say, “What we desperately need is the participation of all of those who love the Cocker and are dedicated to its health. Knowledge is power, and in this case, the results could make a groundbreaking difference in Cocker breeding programs.”

If you have any questions please contact Cheryl Hogue at either the E-mail or the phone number listed below.

Cheryl Hogue
Research Coordinator
1 800 483-8436
E-mail: healthydog@vetgen.com

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