"New health testing scheme introduced for Lafora’s disease in Beagles
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"New health testing scheme introduced for Lafora’s disease in Beagles

Dogs
Health & Safety

The Beagle is a small, lively and versatile dog breed that is one of our most popular dog breeds today, but that historically was much more widely kept for working purposes. These entertaining, comical and loving dogs from the Kennel Club’s hound group are now the 21st most popular breed overall in the UK, an they tend to be robust, healthy and long lived.

However, as is the case for most pedigree dogs, there are a number of hereditary health conditions that have become present within the breed’s wider gene pool over time, and which can be passed on from parent dogs to their young by means of heredity. In some cases, parent dogs can be tested for their status for specific health conditions prior to breeding, which means that breeders can make an informed decision about the suitability of any given mating match.

Not all of the hereditary health conditions that Beagles may inherit can be tested for prior to breeding, and even among those conditions that can be identified prior to a mating match being made, health testing protocols are not mandated or widely recommended for every testable condition.

However, when it comes to conditions that affect a reasonable number of dogs of the breed, the Kennel Club and Beagle breed clubs can suggest and introduce new testing protocols where available, and advise breeders and puppy buyers on how to make an informed decision to undertake testing and check the results.

One Beagle-specific health condition that can be passed from parent dogs to their young is called Lafora’s disease (sometimes called Lafora disease), and in August of 2018, the Kennel Club (in conjunction with the Beagle Breed Health Coordinator) officially approved a new testing and results finder database for this condition.

In this article we will explain the basics of what Lafora’s disease in Beagles is, what the health testing scheme involves, and how and why breeding stock should be tested prior to breeding.

Read on to learn more about the new health testing scheme for Lafora’s disease in Beagles.

What is Lafora’s disease in Beagles?

Lafora’s disease is a hereditary health condition that is not contagious and that can only be passed from dog to dog by means of heredity. The effects of Lafora’s disease in Beagles are similar to those of epilepsy, and the initial symptoms of the condition rarely become apparent in dogs under the age of five, with the most common age of onset being between the ages of five and seven.

This relatively late age of onset means that without health testing, by the time it becomes apparent that a dog has Lafora’s disease, they may already have been bred from and so, potentially have passed the condition on to their own young.

Lafora’s disease is a progressive health condition that is often very slow in onset, sometimes taking several years to become acute.

The initial symptoms of the condition include strange, uncontrolled movements on the part of the dog, which may manifest as involuntary jerking or shuddering. Attacks of this type may begin with no warning, but they can also in some cases be triggered by external stimulus such a flashing or flickering lights, sudden or erratic movements, or loud noises.

Over time, the symptoms of Lafora’s disease in Beagles can become more widely spread and potentially include gradual, progressive blindness and also dementia.

How is the condition passed from dog to dog?

Lafora’s disease in Beagles is passed from dog to dog by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that whether or not any given Beagle inherits the condition will depend on the status of both of their parents combined.

Dogs are either affected by the condition, carriers of the condition (which means that they themselves are unaffected but will pass on the gene mutation for the condition to their own young) or clear, which means that they are neither affected by nor carriers of Lafora’s disease.

  • Two clear dogs will produce a clear litter.
  • Two affected dogs will produce an affected litter.
  • Two carrier dogs will produce a mixed litter within which any given pup has odds of 50% for inheriting carrier status, 25% for clear status, and 25% for affected status.
  • A clear dog bred with an affected dog will produce a litter of carriers.
  • A clear dog bred with a carrier will produce a litter with odds of 50% carriers and 50% clear.
  • An affected dog and a carrier will produce a litter with odds of 50% carriers and 50% affected.

How does the Beagle health test for Lafora’s disease work?

The Lafora’s disease health scheme for Beagles takes the form of a DNA test, and you just need to ask your vet to take a blood sample or buccal swab from your dog to get a sample of their DNA, which is the sent off to an approved laboratory for testing. The lab then returns a result of the dog’s status, being either clear, carrier or affected.

Who should get their dogs tested for Lafora’s disease, and why?

If you own a Beagle and you are intending to breed from them, you should get both your own dog and their prospective mating match tested beforehand. This will allow you to find out not only the status of the two individual dogs, but also what status their litter would inherit if bred from.

If you own a pet Beagle that you don’t intend to breed from, you might also want to consider having them tested too, particularly if you know that any of their close relatives have Lafora’s disease. This can help you to predict your dog’s future health and monitor them for signs of the condition if they are identified to have the affected form of the condition, even if they are fine at the moment.

Prospective Beagle puppy buyers are advised to purchase their new pup from a breeder that had their parent stock tested for Lafora’s disease, and to check the results before committing to a purchase.

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