AKC Canine Health Foundation Awards Six New Grants to Study Epilepsy and Reproductive Diseases in Dogs

05/09/2016

The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to prevent, treat and cure diseases in all dogs, announces six new grants have been awarded in the areas of canine epilepsy and canine reproductive disease.

Four grants were awarded through CHF’s Epilepsy Initiative which aims to better understand the physiologic and genetic mechanisms that predispose dogs to epilepsy, and ultimately, to identify better treatments. Epilepsy is the most common neurologic disease diagnosed in dogs. Dr. Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics will study the Identification of a Novel Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy Gene and Its Underlying Disease Mechanism. Dr. Lohi will investigate the role of genetics in epilepsy with the aim of isolating a gene which can be screened through testing.

Also studying the role of genetics in canine epilepsy is Dr. Gary Johnson of the University of Missouri, Columbia. Dr. Johnson’s grant, Identification of Genetic Risk Factors for Canine Epilepsy, will use a novel whole genome sequencing approach to discover DNA variations in epileptic dogs. The frequency of variations in populations of epileptic and non-epileptic dogs will be directly compared, helping to identify risk factors. Findings from these research projects may aid in the development of DNA tests to screen for disease, and further enable breeders to select against such risk factors.

Approximately one-third of dogs with epilepsy fail to achieve adequate seizure control with currently available anti-seizure medications; these dogs are considered to have drug-resistant epilepsy. The mechanisms that lead to drug resistance are poorly understood, but modeling after findings in human medicine, there is a potential link between intestinal bacteria and canine epilepsy. Dr. Karen Munana of North Carolina State University will be Studying the Role of the Gastrointestinal Tract in Canine Epilepsy using findings from human medicine as a lens to investigate whether dogs with epilepsy have an altered population of intestinal bacteria compared to control dogs, while specifically monitoring the impact of antiepileptic medication on intestinal bacterial growth rates. These findings could lead to increased understanding of epilepsy and drug resistance in dogs, and ultimately lead to a practical approach to management of the disorder.

Dr. Holger Andreas Volk of the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, is also studying drug resistance in canine epilepsy. Dr. Volk’s grant, Investigating a Ketogenic Medium-Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Supplement for the Treatment of Drug Resistant Canine Idiopathic Epilepsy and Its Behavioral Comorbidities, will also build on research findings from human epilepsy. The ketogenic diet, high in fat and low in carbohydrates, has been used as a successful treatment for children with epilepsy, decreasing seizure activity in drug resistant patients. Dr. Volk will investigate whether a similar diet will reduce seizure frequency and/or severity of seizures in dogs that are drug resistant. The researchers will also monitor if the diet improves common side effects of anti-epileptic medications such as anxiety, altered cognition, and stress levels.

Additionally, two new grants will address important canine reproductive diseases. Dr. Marco A. Coutinho da Silva of The Ohio State University will study the Role of E. Coli Biofilm in Canine Pyometra, a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection of the uterus. Dr. Coutinho da Silva’s grant takes a new approach to improving treatment options for dogs.

Two epidemiologists, Tory V. Whitten and Dr. Joni M. Scheftel of the Minnesota Department of Health, will study brucellosis in canine rescue and shelter populations. Brucellosis is a reproductive disease that can cause infertility, spontaneous abortion and severe spinal infections in dogs. This study, An Epidemiological Study of Brucella canis, will raise awareness and management of this important disease in rescue and shelter dog populations, help identify risk factors for canine brucellosis, and aims to develop a diagnostic PCR test for canine brucellosis.

“The new grants will have a direct impact on the health and treatment options for dogs with these life-threatening illnesses,” said Dr. Diane Brown, CHF’s chief executive officer.  “CHF is proud to continue to build a diverse research portfolio that helps advance veterinary medicine and biomedical science, furthering our understanding of both canine and human health.”

Funding for CHF grants comes from a number of sources, including: corporations, dog clubs, and individuals who are committed to the betterment of canine health through scientific research. For 2016, donations from new and lapsed donors (last donation 12/31/2013) are being matched dollar-for-dollar by the American Kennel Club. Make an impact and double your donation today

 

 

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