My Canadian cardiologist colleague, Dr Robert Hamilton who was a co-author in the ARVC paper has made a finding that I consider a breakthrough for Boxer breeders. It is what one might call a biochemical test for developing ARVC with the potential of recognising the disease BEFORE clinical symptoms appear. Affected dogs show a single band on an identifying gel while normal dogs, free of the disease, show no sign of this band. This is not a gene test but should serve breeders well as a simple diagnostic test for the disease. The effectiveness in dogs of different ages remains to be checked.
This question is being addressed right now in a trial but requires breeder help. Further ARVC cases are needed. This note is therefore a call for blood samples from more affected dogs. These are to verify that all accurately diagnosed animals have the identifying band. North American Boxers are the main source of such dogs as the disease remains a major problem in this part of the world. I believe that Kate Meurs is going to contribute to this part of the study. However, blood samples from numbers of normal dogs must also be checked to verify that none have the identifying ARVC band. Here lies a major problem in NA as Holter analyses only identifies a proportion of dogs that are at risk of developing ARVC at some time in their lives. Any collection of Holter-normal dogs from NA is therefore liable to be contaminated. This is where UK breeders can help. ARVC is now rare to non-existent in the show section of the breed in the UK, so that such dogs should NOT have the tell-tale ARVC band on gels.
This note is therefore a first appeal to all Boxer breeders for blood samples to contribute to a large scale trial being conducted by Dr Hamilton. Blood samples are wanted from ARVC affected dogs which will be mostly of NA origin and the hope is that UK Boxer breeders will provide samples from their normal clear stock (and any rare ARVC cases that may be found). Whole blood in EDTA, as collected in previous UK Boxer studies, will serve. So, in NA, anyone with fully-diagnosed ARVC cases and, in the UK, anyone who is having their dog’s blood tested for any purpose should request their vet to collect blood samples for this diagnostic trial too. Breeders with ARVC cases in NA should contact Virginia Zurflieh(firstname.lastname@example.org) for details on what to do. UK samples should be sent to me (contact: email@example.com) to freeze and hold for shipment to Dr Hamilton in Canada. Pedigrees (or registered names in the UK) will be needed. The total findings will be published in a paper for a medical/veterinary diagnostic journal; it is already in the process of being written. I should stress that the paper will NOT include any owner or dog identification. All information will be held in total confidence.
I hope there will be major NA and UK breeder support for this fantastic opportunity to find a way out of the general ARVC problem, as well as deal with any remaining threads in the UK.