Juvenile Epilepsy Or Je In Dogs

Juvenile epilepsy is a specific type of epilepsy that develops in young dogs rather than adult and mature dogs, which is much more common. This type of epilepsy is rather rarer than classical types of epilepsy, and has been identified as a breed-specific health issue within the Lagotto Romagnolo dog breed, within which the condition affects a clinically significant number of dogs and that potentially, runs the risk of become spread ever-wider throughout the gene pool if steps are not taken to prevent this.

Juvenile epilepsy or JE in dogs is a hereditary health condition, which means that it cannot be caught from another dog, but only inherited from the parent dogs. Dogs affected with the condition inherit a certain combination of faulty genes from both sides of their parentage, which causes the affected form of the condition.

Dogs affected with juvenile epilepsy or JE are usually diagnosed at a very young age, which means that the chances of a breeder unwittingly breeding an affected dog and so, producing an affected litter are low. However, dogs of the breed may carry one copy of the gene fault that causes JE even if they are not affected by it themselves, which is referred to as carrier status.

A carrier dog that is bred from will then pass on the gene fault in question, which may cause their offspring to be affected or carriers, further contributing to the spread of JE if they are themselves used for breeding.

In this article, we will look at how juvenile epilepsy is inherited, how the condition affects dogs, and how dogs can be health tested prior to breeding to find out their status. Read on to learn more.

What is juvenile epilepsy?

Juvenile epilepsy is a specific type of epilepsy that presents for the first time in young dogs, often leading to obvious symptoms from around the time that the dog in question is just five or six weeks old. Some dogs will appear to recover completely by the time they are four to six months old, and go on to live otherwise healthy lives with no further problems, although for some dogs, JE will continue to show symptoms and cause problems for the entire duration of the dog’s life.

Unlike many other forms of epilepsy, juvenile epilepsy doesn’t manifest as acute seizures, but as poor coordination, clumsiness, body tremors and a higher than normal propensity to walk into things and fall over.

All of these symptoms can make it hard to allow the pup to have a normal life, as the risk of attacks can compromise their safety and wellbeing.

What sort of dogs are at risk of JE?

Juvenile epilepsy has been identified as a problem within the Lagotto Romagnolo dog breed, because the condition has been diagnosed in a clinically significant number of dogs of the breed, which indicates that it poses a risk of becoming widely spread across the breed’s entire gene pool.

Because the Lagotto Romagnolo is not a hugely common breed in the UK either, the number of unrelated dogs within the gene pool and so, potentially small size of the pool of breeding stock means that limiting the spread of the faulty gene that causes the condition and so, curbing its spread is essential to preserve the breed’s health and viability in perpetuity.


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How do dogs inherit juvenile epilepsy?

Juvenile epilepsy occurs in dogs that inherit a certain combination of gene mutations, which are passed on from parent dogs to their young. JE is passed from dogs to their offspring by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that for a dog to be affected, they need to inherit two gene mutations, one from each parent. Just one parent dog passing on the gene fault will not cause their litter to be affected, but they may become carriers.

Knowing the status for JE in the two parent dogs allows breeders to determine what the status will be for puppies in their subsequent litter. JE status is expressed as either clear, carrier or affected, and carriers will themselves be healthy but can contribute to the spread of the gene fault and potentially, affected puppies.

The mode of heredity for JE in dogs can be outlined as follows:

  • Two clear dogs will have a clear litter.
  • Two affected dogs will have an affected litter.
  • Two carriers will produce a litter of 50% carriers, 25% clear an 25% affected.
  • A carrier and a clear dog will have a litter of 50% carriers and 50% clear.
  • A carrier and an affected dog will have a litter of 50% carriers and 50% affected.
  • A clear dog and an affected dog will have a litter of carriers.

Health testing for JE in dogs

To find out the status of any given dog prior to breeding, you will need to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from your dog in the form of a blood sample or cheek swab. This is then sent off to one of the laboratories that test for the condition, and the result returned as an expression of either clear, carrier or affected.

Breeding and buying healthy puppies

Lagotto Romagnolo breeders are urged to test their parent dogs prior to breeding, and make the results of such tests available to potential puppy buyers.

Carrier dogs may be used with caution in breeding programmes with no ill effects, assuming that they are bred to a clear dog and that the subsequent Lagotto Romagnolo puppy buyers are advised of the potential carrier status of their puppy, so that they can make an informed decision in their turn about whether or not to breed from their dog.

Potential puppy buyers should ask Lagotto Romagnolo breeders to provide health test results for their own breeding stock, even if the parent dogs appear healthy – because in some cases, affected puppies may appear to recover and become asymptomatic once they reach a few months of age, but will still pass on the carrier form of the condition to their young.


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