Help Stamp out Epilepsy

Help Stamp out Epilepsy

Dave and Ellen had Nina for about three years and called often to share her antics or just to say how much they loved her. When I picked up the phone one Sunday afternoon and heard Ellen’s voice there was no reason to expect what followed. Nina had suffered three grand mal seizures. Each was lasting progressively longer and they were occurring closer together. After the first, Nina would seek out Ellen to make sure she was close by before succumbing to unconsciousness. She would then stay close to Ellen, depending on her for reassurance and comfort when it was all over. Ellen, a nurse, knew all too well what she was dealing with. No, they didn’t want to return her or act on the contract, Nina was a part of their family and she had epilepsy.

Eventually Nina’s daily dose of medication was worked out. She still chases squirrels in the yard and enjoys the love of her family. The medication has kept her free so far from seizures but it’s not without side effects. The phenobarbital makes her ravenously hungry and she will always carry a little more weight than she should. For her owners there will always be a cloud of concern.

As for my breeding program five years of work ended there. The sire, dam and all the get were spayed or neutered. Two years later Nina’s brother started to seize. Although I worked through this with both families somehow it didn’t feel like I’d done enough.

Epilepsy simply refers to repeated seizures. If we have looked and can’t find the cause, then it’s called idiopathic (or primary) epilepsy. The term idiopathic simply means that we don’t know the cause. Many idiopathic epileptics have inherited epilepsy: epilepsy caused by a mutation in a specific gene that they inherited from their parents. One of the goals of the Canine Epilepsy Project is to identify genes responsible for epilepsy in dogs.

The Canine Epilepsy Project is a consortium of researchers from the University of Missouri, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University and the Animal Health Trust in Great Britain who are working together to discover the mutations (or marker) responsible for hereditary epilepsy in many breeds of dogs. The Italian Greyhound Club of America has pledged its support. Now we need your help. Blood samples are needed from affected dogs and their close relatives.

In order to have the best chance at finding a breed specific marker, samples are needed from 6 or more nuclear families. The ideal nuclear families consist of the dam, sire, their parents and as many siblings as possible, affected or not. EVERY sample is important to this research. Please consider sending a sample even if it is for only one dog. If the consortium feels that there is a good possibility of finding a marker for our breed they will notify IGCA. At that point additional funding will be needed. The IGCA has already marked the funds and grants from the AKC Canine Health Foundation will match the other 50% of funding needed to continue.

There are no guarantees that a breed specific marker will be found but if no samples are submitted it’s guaranteed no marker will not be found. As guardians of this breed it is our responsibility pursue every avenue of hope. Please join me in participating. It’s easy to do and could make a very big difference to our little dogs.

For more information on submitting samples,  or research participation details visit the Canine Epilepsy Network website at or you can contact me, Pat Klinger,  at , phone 908.637.8124, fax 908.6378120 or mail 8 Birch Ridge Drive, Great Meadows, NJ 07838