Note: Amyloidosis is diagnosable using the Congo Red Stain test (carried out by a vet after the death of a dog).
This is the condition, which all prospective owners should be aware of, as there is only one prognosis – death.
That may sound very blunt but sadly, it is the truth and anyone considering sharing his or her life with a Shar pei has to be aware of this.
Simply speaking, amyloidosis is a build up of protein usually in the kidneys or liver, which ultimately results in the failure of the organ. It is a genetic problem and currently there is no test available to determine whether a particular puppy will go on to develop the disorder. In the early years, we used to believe that Shar pei fever (see FSF) was a pre-cursor to amyloidosis.
It was believed if a dog suffered with fevers then it would develop amyloidosis. However, it has become apparent that this is not so. A dog could suffer with fevers all of its life and die of old age and likewise, a dog could die from amyloidosis at a young age and never have a fever. At first, it was thought that one gene was responsible for both problems but today it is believed that each problem has its own gene(s).
The Shar Pei Club of Great Britain (SPCGB) is committed to working with partners, stakeholders and supporters to try to find a genetic marker for this heartbreaking condition. Late last year the Club and The Kennel Club jointly funded the sequencing of a dog that had been lost to Amyloidosis (confirmed by Red Congo stain post mortem) as part of the Kennel Club's Give a Dog a Genome project. Supporters, club members and the committee, raised a further £2,000 to sequence a second dog in the hope that we could move the research on and quickly find some clues into this deadly disease.
The genomes were sequenced by The Animal Health Trust and the results shared with SLU in Upsala, Sweden where Dr Jennifer Meadows is leading the work on this disease.
We are now looking to sequence the genome of a long-lived healthy dog who was lost at the age of 15 to old age. This dog has tested negative for Amyloidosis and had never suffered any Shar Pei related illness or condition. We are hoping that her DNA could hold some clues as to why to try and move the research forward.
How you can help;
If you would like to support us in our research and would like to either raise funds for us or donate towards the cause you can do so via the SPCGB. You don't need to be a member of the club to help, you don't need to be in the UK. If you have ever owned or loved this breed we would be grateful of your help.
We are also looking to create a DNA/tissue bank from long-lived dogs for use in future research. If we are fortunate enough to find a genetic marker and develop a DNA test we will need control dogs to trial the test. As we need to know the Amyloidosis status of the dogs in the trial we can only use DNA from dogs that have passed away and have been tested by Red Congo stain. We are looking for owners of dogs of 12 years and over to take DNA swabs of their dogs now and to commit to having Red Congo done post mortem and possibly donating some tissue and/or blood. Its a terrible thing to contemplate losing your dog but it is only through brave and selfless owners that we will be able to build this vital DNA bank. If we don't start this vital work now, who knows how many years we may have to wait to have enough control dogs.
We are working closely with our Breed Health Coordinator, Heather Morris and the Animal Health Trust who will store the DNA for the project. If you feel you can get involved and would like your dog to leave a lasting legacy, please contact us.