Study identifies genetic mutation behind disk disease in dogs

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Researchers at the University of California-Davis have identified a genetic mutation across dog breeds that is responsible for chondrodys­trophy, the skeletal disorder leading to shorter legs and abnormal intervertebral disks.


The findings appeared in "FGF4 retrogene on CFA12 is responsible for chondrodystrophy and intervertebral disc disease in dogs" in the Oct. 24 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017;114:11476-11481).

"Dogs with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) are 50 times more likely to have this mutation; that's an incredibly strong correlation with disc disease," said Dr. Danika Bannasch, a UC-Davis veterinary geneticist and the paper's senior author, in a university announcement about the study. "Being able to identify the cause of this painful condition is the first step to alleviating pain and suffering for dogs at greatest risk."

Identifying individual dogs with this genetic susceptibility could provide a valuable tool for owners, breeders, and veterinarians to mitigate the risk of intervertebral disk herniation and resulting spinal cord disease. "What we need to know now is the prevalence of this retrogene in all of these breeds," said Dr. Pete Dickinson, a UC-Davis veterinary neurologist and an author on the paper. "Without that, it's difficult to establish how to start breeding the condition out. We need as much information as possible to make a plan and help improve the well-being for dogs who suffer from this condition."

The study is available at

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