Thursday, November 26, 2015

ProjectDog Fundraiser: Vestibular Deafness in Dobermans

A few years back (in 2012, I've been blogging here for awhile!) I wrote about ProjectDog, and how they had a Doberman survey. I was contact recently by a breeder who would really like to see ProjectDog get some much needed funds, asking me if I was willing to blog about them again. I was provided with a linki to a fundraising campaign to fund research on Vestibular Deafness in Dobermans (affected dogs are referred to as "dings", but I'm going to use the other, less mean sounding, DVDob). It's "vestibular" deafness rather than the usual sort, because frequently it also severely impairs the dog's equilibrium.

According to this article (which quotes Ann Ramsbottom, the Doberman breeder who uses the Cambria prefix, who has had a lot of very beautiful and successful dogs), a gene for DVDob was isolated in 2012, and is an autosomal recessive mutation. Meaning that, like Von Willebrand's Disease, a dog who is a carrier can be bred to a dog who is "clear", and the resulting puppies will not be affected by DVDob. But they still don't know if the gene is related to other things, more prevalent in certain lines, associated with other genes, etc. and would really like the research to move forward. Frequently puppies are so badly affected that they are euthanized before they get very old. To paraphrase the Cambria breeder's quote from the above article, They seem to be in constant discomfort, have trouble locating the nipple to nurse, have trouble latching, and that's if the mother doesn't push them away.

Breeders don't want to have to watch their puppies suffer, and definitely don't want to have to make the tough decision to euthanize puppies when they're still only a few weeks old. It would be a great boon to learn more about DVDob and its causes, and build a database of dogs who are carriers, clear, and affected to be aware of these factors as well while breeding.

And before you think "It's just deafness, what's the big deal?", take a look at the video on the top of the Go Fund Me page for ProjectDog to study Doberman Congenital Deafness. It's of a three week Doberman puppy affected by DVDob. The puppy struggles around on the surface where he was placed (granted, there's only so well three week old puppies move anyway), unable to even maintain an upright posture. His head movements are jerky, unnatural and heartbreaking, as are the little cries he's making. He looks, to me, like a wounded animal. It seems rough to say, but it doesn't surprise me that a dam would reject a puppy like that, if the rest of the litter seems "normal" and viable.  There's another video on the page of a 10ish week old puppy affected by DVDob, and these physical symptoms have not gone away. She falls over for no reason, she cries, she staggers around. It breaks my heart (and might break yours, so if you don't want to sit weeping at the computer, perhaps don't watch those videos).

So, if you're able, I urge you to donate what you can to ProjectDog so they can resume funding research in this area.