Canine Epilepsy: how to help the research

The Dachshund Breed Council received this information about how to participate in research to identify the genes related to Canine Epilepsy.  If you have an epileptic dog, or yours is related to an epileptic dog, please participate in the research by providing cheek swabs…

Scientists and clinicians at the Animal Health Trust ( are embarking on an exciting project to investigate the genetic basis of epilepsy in the Dog. By combining the expertise of the clinicians to diagnose dogs with idiopathic epilepsy and state of the art genetic research capability we hope to identify the genetic factors involved. If the research is successful the end product will be a DNA test that can identify the risk of developing the condition and passing it on to future generations.

At the moment the AHT is in the initial stages and the project is likely to take several years to complete but the first, and arguably most important, step is DNA sample collection. Once sufficient samples have been collected they will analyse genetic markers distributed evenly across the dogs genome to identify those that are shared by all affected dogs and different from those carried by dogs that don’t suffer from epilepsy. These markers will point to the region(s) of the DNA that contains mutation(s) that are responsible for causing epilepsy. Once they have determined the region of DNA that contains the mutations they can undertake additional experiments to identify the mutations themselves.

To be successful the AHT need DNA samples from dogs affected with idiopathic epilepsy and their close relatives, and also from unaffected dogs. The DNA can be provided as a blood sample (if blood is being drawn from your dog for another purpose) or as a simple cheek swab. The AHT would also appreciate a pedigree of all dogs that donate a sample so they can understand how the samples collected are related to one another. This will help to understand the mode of inheritance of the condition and how many genes are involved.

All research is undertaken in complete confidence. The identity of all samples submitted to the research effort will be kept confidential and the results from individual dogs will only be shared with the dog’s owner(s), once the research has been completed.

The AHT is collecting DNA samples from dogs that are:

  • Affected with idiopathic epilepsy
  • Closely related to a dog that is affected with idiopathic epilepsy
  • Unaffected with epilepsy and over 7 years of age

If you have a dog or dogs that meet any of the above criteria thenthe AHT would very much appreciate a sample from them. To request a free swab kit or sample submission form please contact the sample manager, Bryan McLaughlin ( indicating the number of kits you require and your full postal address.

You will need to complete the sample submission form that is included in the swab kit and if your dog is affected please provide as much information about your dog’s epilepsy as you can.

It helps to know: 

  • The age at which your dog developed epilepsy
  • How often he / she has a seizure
  • How long the seizures last
  • What tests or scans you dog has had to determine or rule out possible causes of the epilepsy

If you have any questions about this project please get in touch with:

Luisa De Risio, DMV, MRCVS, PhD, DECVN, European and RCVS recognised specialist in veterinary neurology

Neurology/Neurosurgery Unit, Centre for Small Animal Studies


Cathryn Mellersh, PhD

Department of Genetics, Centre of Preventive Medicine



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