Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) causes lungs to become very inflamed. It usually appears early in dogs, with puppies have trouble breathing and then almost all dying shortly after. In humans, it is the leading cause of death in critical care patients and usually occurs because of pneumonia, trauma, or other lung diseases. Some people are more likely to get the disease because of their genes. It turns out that genetics also plays a role in ARDS for Dalmatians. Even better, researchers at the University of Helsinki have uncovered the gene responsible for this syndrome. This discovery can be applied to help treat human ARDS and to breed this syndrome out of Dalmatians once and for all.
Since the root cause of ARDS in Dalmatians is genetic, the researchers tracked down the gene responsible. The gene ANLN was found to be the culprit! When this gene is mutated, the tissue layer that lines the lungs and other organs isn’t able to grow properly. The cells can’t divide and grow normally. Because the lungs are not formed correctly, air gets trapped in the alveoli, putting strain on and damaging their walls. This makes it hard for the dog to breathe and causes its ultimate death.
Luckily, only about 2% of Dalmatians have this mutation that causes ARDS. However, because ARDS is a recessive disorder, it’s hard to know if two dogs being breed have it. The parents can look completely healthy but still carry the disease and give it to their pups. Genetic testing is the only way to really know if a dog carries the disease.
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A new service can genetically test your dog for 99$. The test provides information about potential disorders, dominant and recessive traits, and genetic diversity. This information can mainly be used to identify future disorders or for optimal breeding. For example, a breeder can know exactly which dogs to breed to get a certain eye or fur colour. More importantly, a breeder can see whether two dogs have the same recessive disease and if breeding them will cause sick offspring. The website also includes a kind of dog dating site, where owners can find breeding mates for their fido.
The new gene information about ARDS will be included this dog genetic test. With this genetic testing, ARDS could be completely eradicated in Dalmatians. While this is cause for celebration enough, this result is also a step to understanding the disease better in humans.