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Epilepsy Gene Mapping

From its origins in Finland, the Finnish Spitz breed has been plagued with idiopathic epilepsy. While the North American Finnish Spitz do not suffer from this genetic malady to the same extent as do the dogs in Finland, the genes behind our dogs in North America obviously originate from the same source. The Canine Epilepsy Project, a joint effort between the University of MO at Columbia and the University of MN, has collected blood samples from affected Finnish Spitz and their relatives for a number of years. Now Dr. Hannes Lohi at the University of Helsinki has moved ahead with this project. Dr. Lohi and his associates are working with the U of MO and have access to the samples previously submitted. For their research, however, they would like additional information on the samples from affected dogs that were previously submitted as well as samples from additional affected dogs.

If you previously submitted a blood sample from an affected dog, please download a copy of the questionnaire here, complete it and submit it in accordance with the instructions. If you have a Finnish Spitz that is affected with seizures with no known cause such as a head injury, please help this work move forward by having a blood sample drawn, completing the paperwork for the U of MO submission and completing Dr. Lohi's questionnaire as well. Instructions and forms for submitting new samples to the U of MO which in turn will be available to Dr. Lohi are located here. Only by providing the necessary samples will we eventually have a DNA marker for this disease and be in a position to eliminate it from our breeding population!

Liver Issues

Anecdotal stories regarding liver issues in the breed have existed for years. In many instances, a dog with liver issues will exhibit lethargy and low appetite. Liver dysfunction initially is diagnosed by examining a number of liver factors in routine blood work. While the numbers may provide some clues regarding the specific liver issue, definitive diagnosis in living dogs may be difficult. Often the liver may look normal on ultrasounds but the symptoms persist. Biopsies often are not recommended with an ill dog as this further shocks the liver. In many instances, the recommendation is to treat the symptoms with a change in diet, pH adjustment, and ongoing monitoring. Until we obtain further information through exploratory surgeries or necropsies, it will remain difficult to document the liver issues that are affecting the breed. In the meantime, we have begun a project of charting the liver enzyme test results where medical data exists and check it against the progress the dog has made with various changes in diet. Because the liver is such a critical organ in the body, attempting to obtain better information in the coming years on the hepatic issues adversely affecting the breed is a priority.

YOU CAN HELP! If you have a dog that has experienced abnormal liver values we will appreciate the medical data you can provide. Only with the underlying medical data can we move forward in an effort to determine the number of liver issues affecting our Finnish Spitz and move on to testing and prevention. If you have a Finnish Spitz that has been affected with liver issues, please contact Diane Helland.

On an ongoing basis, the goal is to identify Finnish Spitz that are carriers for certain genetic disorders. With this knowledge, concerned breeders that are attempting to eliminate health problems in their breeding programs can breed around the issue through outcrossing or by breeding to another Finnish Spitz that appears to be free of the defective gene. The known genetic disorders in our breed include luxating patellas, epilepsy, liver problems and hip dysplasia. If you have a Finnish Spitz that has been diagnosed with any of these disorders please let us know. With this knowledge we can make progress in eliminating the incidences of these issues for breed prosperity for the future.