Saturday, April 5, 2008

Testing Your Dog for Mutant DNA

There are some dogs that have a little mutant DNA, and this can be a very big deal because it means that certain medications, frequently prescribed for dogs, can be fatal to them. Collies are the primary breed affected with nearly three of four purebred collies being affected. Ivermectin, an anti-worm, anti-parasite, anti-heartworm and very common medication, is fatal to dogs with the mutant DNA, but other drugs can be fatal as well. Fortunately, there is a DNA test you can do at home with use of a kit from the University of Washington, to determine if your dog's genes are okay. You need to know this if you are going to treat with certain types of drugs. You can get the kit here. The cost is about $60 to do the test.

Collies are NOT the only dogs affected, as they are related to several other breeds, including Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, and even some sight hounds. See an article on collie bloodline breed relations here. You can also start learning about the problem and what dogs are affected here. Even MIXED dogs can have the mutant gene, so you may not be able to rule out the need to test unless you have a purebred dog with no collie related bloodlines.

Ivermectin is NOT the only problem drug either. See here for a list of drugs the gene is known to be involved with processing.

I had a tri-color purebred collie when I was in high school. A photo of a tri-color, though not mine, is above. I named him Lad, after the hero dog of a wonderful series of books by author Albert Payson Terhune. I highly recommend the series to kids and dog lovers and in my youth I read every one of them. (For the same crowd, I also recommend the dog stories by Jim Kjelgaard, as well as Farley Mowat books and of course Wilson Rawls' books).

Unfortunately, my collie became sick. I am not sure with what, and I was not in charge of his care or allowed to make his health care decisions. My mom said he got some shots and was never the same. He began to lose his hair in places, to vomit frequently, to lose energy, to have difficulty getting up and down stairs and to have hip issues when he was still a fairly young dog. He died my junior year in high school, and I don't know why. I now wonder if he had any of these drug sensitivity issues and if they were known then.

I am having Callie tested, to rule out one more thing that could be causing her problems. I sent away for my kit on the recommendation of her vet and we will see what happens.

Callie had a new issue yesterday and I don't know if it is related to the ongoing neurological issue or to the spinal (CFS) tap she had Monday. She began yelping in pain over tiny contacts with her face or legs. I wondered if she had a nerve issue going on. After the third time it happened I noticed she also had a tucked tail and her legs were quivering a little, so I decided to take her to Westvet even if I get branded as being over protective. I thought my dog was in pain and right now, I need to listen to her tell me what's wrong in the only small ways she has. It turns out that her medical exam revealed real pain when her head is turned left. On Monday's exam that was not the case.

After a lot of debate we decided to treat with muscle relaxants and pain meds for a week and see if the issue resolves. If not, we'll see another vet and try to determine what is going on in the spine. Neck pain shows itself often with a dog lifting a front leg, which is ALWAYS what Callie does when she has a neurologic episode, and she always tilts her head to 45 degrees. So can they be related? I don't know. She usually passes the neck pain test and I think there is something clearly brain going on.

In any event, between Callie and Esmae we have a staggering vet bill this month, over $5,000, which is a record for me personally. No one else can get sick! Unfortunately the goats go in for their first vet visit and some vaccines next week, and the horses have to go to their annual Equine Dentist visit. It'll be a rough month.

I can't help but think that my animals have access to better medical care than nearly everyone in Africa and very likely most of the rest of the world. It is such a huge disparity, we are worlds apart. This does not make me feel guilty for treating my pets with care, it just drives home how unfair it is that so much of the world still lives so primitively.

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