Norwich Terrier Club
Health Sub-Committee Report March 2007

Firstly, a report on the progress of the Norwich Terrier research into Epilepsy in the breed which is being compiled on behalf of the Norwich Terrier Club by the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket, under the direction of geneticist, Dr. Cathryn Mellersh:

2006 ended with a total of 170 Norwich Terrier blood samples, together with 5-generation pedigrees, included in the AHT research database. The Club would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this initiative so far, with particular thanks to our friends from the Finnish Norwich and Norfolk Terrier Club who recently responded to the appeal for more Norwich blood samples by collecting a total of 24 samples at their Club Show in September 2006 and sending them to the AHT. We do thank them very much because now the database has a sufficient number for the geneticists to start work on analyses. Thanks must also go to Club President, Ruth Corkhill, who has given up a great deal of her time in taking blood samples at Club Shows, and visiting homes and kennels to do so, when requested.

Regular Updates:

Please do not forget to update the AHT if any of your Norwich already in the database develop health problems. It is most important to keep the information as up-to-date as possible.

1991/1992 Norwich Terrier Club Health Survey:

Those of you who contributed to the excellent survey conducted by the Club fifteen years ago will be delighted to know that all the information submitted at that time has recently been returned to the current NTC Committee and, subsequently, has been passed on to Dr. Mellersh at the AHT, who was delighted to receive it. Work on pedigrees of present-day dogs can go only so far, and to receive not only pedigree information which is in excess of fifteen years old but also health details of those dogs is indeed an exciting prospect. This kind of information is not usually available for research, so most sincere thanks are due to all those who responded so fully to that health survey which took place so many years ago. I am sure you must all feel very pleased with this news and, of course, all that information is also being treated with the utmost confidentiality.

European Dog Genomics Initiative – Epilepsy Studies:

Scientists at the Animal Health Trust are part of an exciting new initiative, headed by Dr. Leif Andersson ( Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology of Uppsala University), Dr. Michel Georges (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Liège) and Dr. Mark Lathrop (The Centre National de Genotypage) to submit an integrated programme to the EU commission proposing to take advantage of the dog as a unique model system with which to study human medicine. The deadline for submission is April 2007.


If it is to be successful the programme needs to focus on conditions that affect man as well as dogs (so results from the research will have a direct impact on human medicine) so epilepsy has been selected as one condition to be included in the programme. Epilepsy affects many breeds of dog so the results of the research have the potential to impact a large number of dogs. The aim of the research is to carry out genetic analysis of DNA samples from dogs affected with idiopathic epilepsy and their close relatives, and identify genetic mutations that are responsible for the condition. Genetic resources that are now available with which to study genetics in the dog are excellent, following the sequencing of the complete canine genome in 2004 (Lindblad-Toh et al. 2005) . Now the only limitation to identifying the genetic mutations responsible for the vast number of inherited diseases that afflict purebred dogs are collections of DNA samples from dogs affected with the disease under investigation. If sufficient samples from dogs affected with idiopathic epilepsy can be collected, and the EU successfully convinced the project is worthy, then there will be every chance of characterising many of the mutations that cause epilepsy in dogs. Knowing the mutations that cause epilepsy will enable the development of DNA diagnostic tests that breeders can use to identify any dogs at risk of developing epilepsy and passing it on to future generations. In addition, information regarding the genes and pathways involved with the development of epilepsy could realistically lead to improved treatments for the condition. Even if the EU proposal is not successful, establishing a strong collection of DNA samples would place the consortium in a strong position from which to apply to alternative funding bodies.

People Involved:

The epilepsy consortium is being led by Dr Hannes Lohi, from the University of Helsinki. Hannes led the effort to identify the mutation responsible for epilepsy in Wirehaired Dachshunds and demonstrated their epilepsy is a model for Lafora disease, the most severe teenage-onset human epilepsy (Lohi et al. 2005) .

Dr. Cathryn Mellersh runs the canine genetics group at the Animal Health Trust, where the focus is on understanding the genetics of various inherited canine disorders.

In collaboration with Jacques Penderis (Glasgow University) the group recently identified the mutation responsible for L-2-hydroxyglutaric aciduria in Staffordshire Bull Terriers (Penderis et al. submitted) , as well as the mutations responsible for progressive retinal atrophy in the miniature longhaired dachshund and hereditary cataract in the Staffordshire bull terrier and the Boston terrier (Mellersh et al. 2006a; Mellersh et al. 2006b) .

In summary, the epilepsy programme is being prepared by scientists with proven track records in the fields of canine veterinary genetics.

What is the likely outcome for Norwich Terriers?

It is hoped that Norwich Terrier research will also produce results that will lead to a DNA test which will determine whether a dog is ‘clear', ‘a carrier', or ‘affected' with regard to epilepsy. Such information should help breeders reach an informed decision as to whether or not a dog should be included in the breeding programme.

Norwich owners who have supported the Norwich Terrier research initiative conducted by the Animal Health Trust, by submitting blood samples from their dogs, will receive a DNA test result, as regards epilepsy, for those dogs free of charge. Other dogs belonging to that same owner, but which have not been included as individuals in the research database, will be entitled to a DNA test result at a discounted price.

Breeders who have not contributed to the Norwich research scheme will be charged the full fee current at the time if they wish to have a DNA test result, relating to epilepsy, on one of their Norwich.

Progress in identifying new DNA tests for many canine health conditions is being made all the time. It is hoped Norwich Terrier owners will not have too long to wait for a good conclusion for our lovely breed.


Eileen Needham
Secretary, Norwich Terrier Club Health Sub-Committee.



Secondly, the results of the survey conducted by the Kennel Club/British Small Animal Veterinary Association are now published, and available online:

The Summary for All Breeds, and the summaries for individual breeds can be downloaded from The Kennel Club website