Wednesday, December 14, 2016
New gene test to save dogs.
Veterinarians have struggled for years to understand why a common heartworm medicine causes some dogs to fall into a coma and die,though they knew it primarily affects herding dogs, such as collies and Australian shepherds – breeds known for their furry white feet. A Washington State University(WSU) professor, Dr. Katrina Mealey, solved that puzzle in 2001 by pinpointing a mutation that makes the drug react differently in some dogs and cats. She also invented a simple genetic test to detect the mutation, likely preventing thousands of pet owners from poisoning their furry friends. Mealey grew up with pet collies and went on to earn doctorates in pharmacology and veterinary medicine. The mutation has been observed in about a dozen dog breeds. A certain gene produces a protein that pumps drugs and other toxins out of the brain. With the mutation, however, the gene doesn’t produce enough of the protein, allowing certain drugs to accumulate in the brain. The results can be devastating. Mealey pointed to one case in 2009 involving a miniature Australian shepherd named Cash. When Cash was a puppy, his owner took him to visit some horse stables in Montana. It’s there, veterinarians suspect, that Cash ate some of the heartworm medicine ivermectin. Soon Cash began staggering and lapsed into a coma. After visiting a veterinary emergency room in Bozeman, he was flown by chartered plane to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Cash was hospitalized for 26 days, eight of which he was comatose and needed a ventilator to breathe. Nursed back to health, he walked out of the hospital two days before Thanksgiving. Pet owners can submit for testing a vial of a pet’s blood or a swab of its mouth as owners are advised that unless it’s a pedigreed purebred testing is necessary.more