New DNA Testing Scheme For Border Terriers

The Kennel Club has approved a new official DNA testing scheme for Spongiform LeucoEncephaloMyelopathy (SLEM) in Border Terriers, following consultation with the breed health coordinator on behalf of the breed clubs.

SLEM, sometimes referred to as ‘shaking puppy syndrome’, is hereditary and can affect puppies from the time they begin attempting to walk.  Those affected by the condition show severe tremors, mostly in the hind limbs.  Scientists at the University of Missouri, the Animal Health Trust and at Wisdom Health, have now identified a mutation responsible for this disease in the Border Terrier. 

To find out which laboratories the Kennel Club is able to record results from, and which labs will send results direct to the Kennel Club, please refer to our Breeds A to Z.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: “The Border Terrier is the tenth most popular breed in the UK so it is important that breeders have the tools needed to produce healthy dogs.  This new DNA test will help to enable breeders in their efforts to eradicate shaking puppy syndrome in the breed by making sensible breeding decisions.

“The Border Terrier breed community is very health-focused and do a lot to protect and improve the breed’s health, so we are pleased that the Kennel Club is now able to record the results of this test and can contribute towards protecting the future of this popular breed.  This DNA test is a result of work carried out by the University of Missouri, supported by the team at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust and researchers at Wisdom Health, and we would encourage all breeders of Border Terriers to make use of this new test.”

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the Animal Health Trust, added: “It has been a privilege to be able to collaborate on this research breakthrough which was led by Dr Ana Kolicheski and Dr Gary Johnson at the University of Missouri. My team were able to supply a number of DNA samples from affected cases in the UK, which helped to confirm that the mutation discovered in the US is the same mutation segregating in affected Border Terriers in the UK.

“It can be very difficult to identify the gene linked to an emerging neurological disease such as this, but the result is fantastic and we are very pleased to be able to quickly offer the DNA test at the AHT for the UK and European market. Now, there is no reason for any more Border Terriers to be born with shaking puppy syndrome, illustrating the enormous potential of DNA testing when implemented quickly and effectively across a breed.”

The Kennel Club continues to work alongside breed clubs and breed health coordinators, in a collaborative effort to improve the health of pedigree dogs. It is happy to accommodate a club's request to add a new DNA test to its lists and would normally need a formal request from the breed's health coordinator or a majority request from the breed clubs.

Test results for this DNA test will be added to the dog’s registration details which will trigger the publication of the result in the next available Breed Records Supplement. The result will appear on any new registration certificate issued for the dog and on the registration certificates of any future progeny of the dog, and also on the Health Test Results Finder on the Kennel Club website.  Results for dogs already tested can also be recorded, but owners will need to submit copies of the DNA certificates themselves.

If the owner includes the original registration certificate for the dog (not a copy) then a new registration certificate will be issued, with the DNA result on it, free of charge.  Any DNA test certificates should be sent to Health and Breeder Services, The Kennel Club, Clarges Street, London, W1J 8AB, or scan and email copies of the certificates.