You may be aware that Kidney disease has affected the Bull Terrier Breed for many years; I have personally seen references in breed literature dating back more than 50 years. Most breeders, should they breed for any length of time, may expect to encounter it at some point, as it has been known to affect individual stud dogs that have been used extensively and which form corner stones of the current Bull Terrier gene pool.
For some time UP/C testing has been a recommendation for Kennel Club Assured Breeders of Bull Terriers and is considered good practice by many responsible breeders as it may indicate a likelihood of susceptibility to the condition. Many consider kidney disease as the most distressing of the hereditary diseases thought to affect the breed as is it fatal and causes pain and suffering not just to the dogs but to owners too who see a much loved dog fading before their eyes.
However, as useful as the UP/C test may be it is not conclusive and is only able to indicate the likelihood in some cases, and will certainly not identify animals that are either clear or carriers of the condition.
Some time ago, thanks to the generosity of Terry Heath (Holloville) and a number of supporters, funds have been lodged with the Animal Health Trust to develop a DNA test for the condition, A successful DNA test will not only identify those animals that are affected but should also identify animals that are clear as well as those which are carriers.
To develop a DNA test the AHT need DNA samples from animals that have been robustly diagnosed as being affected by kidney disease. Of particular interest are samples from young affected dogs as these are most likely to be suffering from an inherited form of the disease, as opposed to age related kidney disease, which may be genetically different.
Dr Cathryn Mellersh, who is leading the project at the AHT, has confirmed that they may need samples from as few as 50 affected Bull Terriers to develop a DNA test. To date they have received just four samples from affected dogs which have succumbed to the condition, although the clinical information for two of these is very limited.
I am therefore writing to you to ask if you could publish and make your membership aware of the need for samples to be provided to the AHT as a matter of urgency. The samples should be taken in the form of cheek swabs, however if blood is being drawn for diagnostic reasons then a little extra can be taken by your vet and sent to the AHT (suspended in EDTA) for research purposes. The samples of particular interest are from dogs with a very high UP/C which suggest a chronic kidney problem. Diagnosis of renal nephropathy is only really definitive at necropsy, and once a problem has been recognised the kidneys can lose their functionality within a very short period, therefore owners should request a swab sampling kit from Bryan Mclaughlin at the AHT as soon as the condition is suspected. His telephone and e-mail contacts are as follows: 01638 751000 extension 1280, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kidney disease is a distressing condition, and I feel certain that you would not wish to miss this opportunity to eliminate it from the breed.
Health and Breeder Services Manager
The Kennel Club