Funding Research to Improve Animal Health and Welfare

Our veterinary surgeon colleagues put pets first every day when they go to work at our Vets4Pets and Companion Care practices. But, did you know we also have a team of vets which works behind the scenes as part of our Clinical Services team?  

This team of experienced veterinary surgeons spend its time supporting the clinical development of our practices to make sure they’re always at the cutting edge of best practice, as well as writing material for our clients and the general public. This team also sponsors important veterinary research…something we’re passionate about!

Our sponsored research assistant Hattie spends her days at the Animal Health Trust (AHT), the UK’s leading veterinary and scientific research charity dedicated to the health and welfare of animals. As part of its work it offers diagnostic laboratory services to vets and DNA testing to assist dog breeders. While with the AHT, Hattie has been investigating a condition called glaucoma in Border Collies.

Glaucoma is a very painful condition where excessive fluid builds up inside the eyeball, causing high pressure and damage to the optic nerve resulting in blindness. In some cases, this is caused by severe goniodysgenesis – a malformation of the part of the eye that allows fluid to drain. Scientists have been investigating whether this goniodysgenesis could be inherited in Border Collies, and if so, could they test for it?

While previous studies have said “yes”, the AHT was keen to investigate this subject itself as a lot of the other research on this condition did not meet the standards that the AHT requires before it implements a new genetic test.

This vital work has been undertaken in collaboration with James Oliver BVSc PhD CertVOphthal DipECVO MRCVS. Dr. Oliver is Head of Ophthalmology at Dick White Referrals, which is the largest veterinary referral centre in the UK and one of the Pets at Home Vet Group’s Specialist hospitals.

We are pleased to report, alongside the AHT, that Hattie’s findings have verified the previous research, proving that a genetic defect known as the OLFML3 mutation is associated with glaucoma in Border Collies.  

Although glaucoma is relatively rare, affecting approximately 1,500 dogs in the UK per year, knowing this devastating disease can have a genetic link in Border Collies is a vital step to identifying at-risk dogs.

The AHT, off the back of Hattie’s research, is now pleased to begin offering a genetic test for the OLFML3 mutation to Border Collie owners and breeders.

Being able to test for this mutation will allow the AHT to offer genetic counselling advice to breeders. This will focus on reducing the risk of producing glaucoma-affected dogs but will also consider how to maintain genetic diversity in the breed.

We are very proud to support Hattie with her research and to be driving improvements in animal health and welfare through this fantastic work.

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