ACE: Abolish Canine Epilepsy

Canine epilepsy is a widespread problem in Border Collies. Both primary (potentially genetic) and secondary (trauma, disease, drugs, etc) epilepsy manifestations are seen. While the extent of epilepsy in dogs is estimated to be as high as 5.7% the prevalence in Border Collies is not yet documented. However, we have reason to believe there is great cause for concern. In 2004, BCSA invited canine epilepsy researcher Dr. Ned Patterson, DVM, from the University of Minnesota, to speak at our national specialty. He reported that in a survey of all teaching hospitals in the country for dogs admitted primarily for epilepsy, Border Collies are number one, with a statistically much higher incidence than average. He also feels that in his own practice, our breed is one of the most difficult to treat for epilepsy. So, although these studies were small and informal, they still indicate that we likely have great cause for concern and need to take action.

What you can do to help:

1. Donate funds toward epilepsy research. There are many good studies out there. BCSA has chosen to support the work being done jointly by Dr. Patterson and his colleague James R. Mickelson, PhD (University of Minnesota & University of Missouri). Please see their website, the Canine Epilepsy Network, to read more about their work. You can make a tax-deductible donation toward their work through the AKC Canine Health Foundation; the current grant funding their study is Grant #266. (Note that grant requests are submitted years before they are opened, so the text of this grant does not mention our breed, it was written before we became involved. But, rest assured that their work is all-breed in nature, and your money will indeed go toward helping the Border Collie and all other breeds!).

When choosing a study to support, it’s recommended that you inquire what the researches plan to do with the study results. Currently, there is debate among the scientific community on whether it’s ethical to accept public funding, and then later sell patent rights to the results of the study. Patented DNA tests result in higher test prices, making the test less accessible to the average breeder, less utilized, and less beneficial to our dogs. When Dr. Patterson spoke to our club, he confirmed their research department’s commitment to release any study results to the public domain, meaning any DNA test company could offer the test; with the goal being to keep pricing competitive and low.

2. Submit DNA samples of epileptic Border Collies and their unaffected relatives to a study. This is the most important piece of the puzzle! If you have a dog who has exhibited multiple seizure events, we want his DNA, as well as the DNA of as many of that dog’s relatives as you can track down! Blood samples are adequate, but a larger tissue sample is desired. So, if you have the unfortunate situation of euthanizing an epileptic dog, please consider having a larger sample collected from that dog at that time. You can review a current count of how many affected/unaffected samples from our breed have been submitted so far to Dr. Patterson’s study, as well as find sample submission instructions, by going to their website, Canine Epilepsy Network. Dr. Patterson reported that as few as 50 affected samples can lead them to the gene(s) responsible; but more samples are better and increase the odds that we’ll find the answer. The study is completely confidential.

3. Educate yourself. There is a wealth of information on the Canine Epilepsy Network website; as well as information on participating in discussion lists and forums.



Tuesday, June 27, 2006 – NC State Scientists Looking for Genetic Clues in Canine Epilepsy

The AKC Canine Health Foundation announces that investigations underway at North Carolina State University are examining the role genetics plays in canine epilepsy, which might also reveal clues about how the disease works in humans.

A pair of studies involving Dr. Karen Munana, associate professor of neurology at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), will explore why some dogs respond poorly to seizure medication.

For more  information, visit: American Kennel Club/Canine Health Foundation or contact: Jeff Sossamon, Director of Development-AKC Canine Health Foundation.