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Junctional epidermolysis bullosa is an inherited health condition that poses a risk to certain bloodlines of dogs of the German shorthaired pointer breed, which causes blistering of the dog’s skin and mucous membranes.
This is of course both painful for the dog and unpleasant to look at, and generally, presents for the first time in affected dogs from birth or within a few weeks of birth. The condition occurs due to a gene mutation that affects the body’s collagen levels, leading to a lack of skin elasticity and insufficient collagen present within the skin. This makes the skin itself fragile and prone to tearing, which can then go on to cause further problems such as secondary infections, and issues with normal healing.
The condition isn’t contagious between dogs, and junctional epidermolysis bullosa can only develop in a dog that has inherited the right combination of faulty genes to cause the affected form of the condition – which in turn, depends on the status of their two parent dogs.
In dogs that carry the genes for the affected form of the condition, it cannot be prevented or reversed – but pre-breeding health testing can help to ensure that affected dogs are not bred from and so, do not go on to further the spread of the condition.
In this article we will look at junctional epidermolysis bullosa in the German shorthaired pointer in more detail, including the symptoms of the condition, how it affects dogs, and how to find out your own dog’s status. Read on to learn more.
Junctional epidermolysis bullosa is one of three variants of epidermolysis bullosa, each of which have their own risk factors and symptoms. Junctional epidermolysis bullosa is the type of disorder that appears in some bloodlines of the German shorthaired pointer breed, and this is unfortunately one of the more acute and serious variants of the condition, and one that often proves fatal at a young age.
The condition leads to the development of heavy clusters of blisters across particular areas of the dog’s body, most commonly in and around the mouth, paws, elbows and knees, hips, genitals and ears, although it can also affect the back, head and face too. In affected dogs, the structures of the skin itself – the dermis and epidermis – break down very easily from even minor trauma or normal contact, leading to separation of the dermis from the epidermis, resulting in painful, weeping lesions and blisters.
Junctional epidermolysis bullosa has been identified as a risk to dogs of the German shorthaired pointer breed, with males and females being equally at risk of inheriting the condition. Generally, it becomes evident that something is amiss in affected dogs from a very young age, with symptoms becoming apparent from within a few weeks of birth, or even from birth in some cases.
The junctional type of epidermolysis bullosa – the type that affects some German shorthaired pointers – affects the base membranes of the skin, which produces more acute and severe symptoms than occurs when the upper levels of the skin are affected alone.
The condition is very painful and debilitating for affected dogs, and leads to a range of symptoms that can have an acute affect on their quality of life and wellbeing.
The first and most obvious indication of the condition is fine, fragile skin that is papery and weak, and which tears at even very minor pressure or contact.
Blistering and suppuration of the skin also occurs, which can lead to very deep lesions that will look and feel very sore and painful. The condition affects the inside of the mouth, throat and digestive tract too, resulting in blisters and sores that can occlude breathing as well as making eating, drinking and barking very painful.
Blistering of the paws can of course render the dog unable to walk, and affected dogs will naturally tend to be distressed, in pain, and very unhappy.
Unfortunately, junctional epidermolysis bullosa cannot be cured or reversed, and almost always proves fatal in affected dogs. Often, when the diagnosis is confirmed, a decision may be made to put the dog to sleep to avoid further suffering.
The only way that junctional epidermolysis bullosa can be prevented is by ensuring that the two parent dogs of any pup or litter don’t pass the condition on to their offspring, and there is a health testing protocol in place to enable this.
Junctional epidermolysis bullosa is passed from dog to dog by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that the status of any given puppy depends on the status of both of their two individual parent dogs.
All of this means that it is possible to breed a carrier dog and produce a healthy litter; but knowing the status of both parent dogs is vital to ensure only healthy dogs are bred.
If you own a German shorthaired pointer that you are considering breeding from, you can find out their status by asking your vet to take a cheek swab or blood vial from your dog, which is then sent off for laboratory testing to return a result of clear, carrier, or affected.
If you are looking to buy a German shorthaired pointer puppy, you should also ask to see the results of health testing on the litter’s parent stock before committing to a purchase.
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