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AKC Canine Health Foundation Awards Research Grant to Study Bloat

The study involves the genetics of gastric dilatation volvulus, or bloat, and its association with specific genes of the immune system and gut bacteria.


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The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) awarded a new research grant to Michael Harkey, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to study the genetics of gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) and its association with specific genes of the immune system and gut bacteria. The research grant is entitled, “The Genetics of Bloat in German Shepherd Dogs: The Roles of Immune System Genes and the Gut Microbiome.

Dr. Harkey’s team recently completed a study in great Danes in which they showed a significant association of three genes of the dogs’ immune system with bloat, according to the CHF. For each of the three genes, one allele was found at high frequency in dogs with bloat, and the presence of any one of these “risk” alleles tripled the chance the dog would experience bloat during its life. The team also showed that the bacterial population living in the intestinal tract was altered in dogs with bloat and in dogs that carry risk alleles, possibly predisposing them to bloat.

“While we don’t yet know if other dogs show this same association of genetics and the gut microbiome with GDV, this new research will explore whether this association occurs in another breed of dog, the German shepherd dog,” said Diane Brown, DVM, Ph.D., Dipl. ACVP, CEO for CHF.

“Our hope is to define genetic markers for identification of at-risk dogs of all breeds, and ultimately, to design appropriate probiotic or dietary therapies to prevent GDV,” Harkey said.

The American German Shepherd Dog Charitable Foundation Inc. (AGSDCF) also has decided to lend full financial support to the CHF for this grant.

“We are very proud to have the opportunity to work with CHF on this project as we give back to our dogs and to the remarkable people who care for them,” said Debra Ann Hokkanen, president of the AGSDCF.

Harkey is seeking samples from German shepherd dogs and will send sample collection kits o those with eligible dogs. Contact him at mharkey@fhcrc.org or 206-667-3369. His team’s findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

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