Wanted: 4,600 Dogs for Bloat Study

Tufts University will examine 23 breeds to try to find genetic links to life-threatening bloat.

Among the 23 breeds that will be studied are the Briard, left, and Great Dane.

Cioli/I-5 Studio

Tufts University researchers are looking for 4,600 purebred dogs to participate in a landmark study of bloat, a life-threatening condition that primarily afflicts larger canines.

The study will use DNA taken from blood and abdominal tissue samples to investigate possible genetic links to bloat. The condition—a stomach dangerously filled with gas, fluid or food—can kill a patient even after immediate veterinary treatment and surgery.

“Bloat is a challenging disease because it escalates quickly,” said assistant professor Claire Sharp, BVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVECC. “The dog is fine one minute and in a life-threatening situation the next. Dogs often die from bloat while their owner is off at work or sleeping at night.”

Sharp and colleague Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ACVECC, received a $250,000 grant from the AKC Canine Health Foundation to examine bloat.

Teaming up with researchers from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the two Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine professors hope to enroll 200 dogs from each of 23 breeds. Ideally, half of the dogs are bloat survivors and half have been bloat-free.

More than 150 dogs were enrolled as of late June.

“We are confident that a significant amount of risk for bloat will be explained purely by genetics,” Sharp said.

The sought-after 23 breeds are Bassett hound, Bernese mountain dog, bloodhound, Borzoi, boxer, Briard, Doberman, English setter, Fila Brasillerio, German shepherd, German shorthaired pointer, golden retriever, Great Dane, Greater Swiss mountain dog, Irish setter, Labrador retriever, mastiff or bullmastiff, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Siberian husky, smooth collie, standard poodle and Weimaraner.

Veterinarians and dog owners interested in participating in the study may email Sharp at claire.sharp@tufts.edu.

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