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Southern English Springer Spaniel Society Health Matters

QVSH letter head

Research in to hepatitis in English Springer Spaniels in the UK and Norway

Dear Sir

We would like to draw the attention of your readers to an apparent increase in incidence of hepatitis in English Springer Spaniels (ESS) and to ask for their help in our investigations.

Over the last two to four years, a number of ESS have been presented to veterinary surgeons in both the UK and Norway with a very similar history: they are typically young to middle-aged female dogs (although very occasionally males are affected) which present with sudden-onset jaundice, vomiting and often marked pyrexia. Blood samples typically show changes consistent with cholestasis (including marked elevations in alkaline phosphatase) and in addition many affected dogs have low serum albumin concentrations. Liver biopsies, when taken, have shown a variety of changes from severe generalised necrosis to more chronic pyogranulomatous inflammation. However, the unifying feature of all biopsies is a suggestion that the damage was primarily ‘toxic’ with secondary inflammation rather than being a primary inflammatory disease. Early attempts to identify obvious toxic or infectious causes have failed, and leptospira has been ruled out in most cases. In one dog, histopathology of organs taken post mortem showed evidence of chronic pancreatitis in addition to hepatitis. The disease appears to have a high mortality, in spite of appropriate supportive treatment such as high quality diet, antioxidants, antibiotics and ursodeoxycholic acid. A few dogs have recovered and anecdotally have responded to tapering doses of steroids in addition to the other supportive treatment.

The authors are investigating this disease with the ultimate aim of genetic studies to identify the cause in the Breed. They are employing a joint fully collaborative approach which includes the involvement of The Kennel Club, as well as the English Springer Spaniel Clubs of UK and Norway (NSK). Interestingly, English Springer Spaniels in the UK and Norway are very closely related genetically.

We would be very grateful if any veterinary surgeon who examines an ESS with hepatitis could contact us with clinical details and preferably the dog’s kennel club number or official kennel club name. We would also be grateful for any spare EDTA blood from affected animals to be sent to the UK DNA Archive for Companion Animals, either directly to Wendy Hallows: whallows@liverpool.ac.uk who is very happy to post out phenotype sheets and postal kits to vets, or via Penny Watson at Cambridge. To be eligible for this, dogs must be pure-bred ESS and have biopsy confirmation of hepatitis. In addition, Penny Watson is collating the pathological details at Cambridge and would be grateful for permission from the referring Veterinary Surgeon to contact the Histology laboratory used for sections or blocks from affected dogs.

If you require any further details, please contact Penny Watson on: pjw36@cam.ac.uk, Readers in Norway should contact Ellen Skancke: Ellen.Skancke@veths.no

Yours faithfully

Penny Watson, Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital, University of Cambridge

Ellen Skancke, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, P.O.Box 8146 Dep, N-0033 Oslo, Norway

Jeff Sampson, KC Canine Genetics Coordinator, The Kennel Club

Wenche Farstad, Professor, DVM ,PhD Health Co-ordinator, Norwegian Spaniel Club. Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, P.O.Box 8146 Dep, N-0033 Oslo, Norway

Lesley Bloomfield and Louise Scott Health Co-ordinators English Springer Spaniel Clubs (UK)