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Statement on PRA in Bearded Collies - 13th April 2019

In light of the recent highlighting of cases of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) in Bearded Collies the JBLC has today considered all the evidence. This includes:

  • results of eye tests carried out by board certified ophthalmologists in the USA which show 4 cases between 1991-1999, 4 cases between 2000-2009 and no cases since.
  • The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has provided results on 267 Bearded Collies between 2007-2017 with no reported cases.
  • The Kennel Club (KC) has provided data on 436 Bearded Collies being eye tested from 1980 (some of which may overlap with the BVA data) and there are no cases of affected dogs.
  • No references to cases in the Bearded Collie in the current scientific literature.
  • Breed health surveys carried out in 2004, 2007-2011, 2014, 2018 and 2019 show no dogs with PRA.

This does not mean we do not have the disease but we cannot find any evidence for it in recent years in the UK. The Animal Health Trust (AHT) have no validated test for PRA in Bearded Collies. They recognise 35 different mutations causing the disease to date and there are often multiple mutations present in a breed. For instance in Tibetan Spaniels PRA3 is seen and represents 66% of cases but in the others the mutation is not known. In Tibetan terriers PRA3 and RCD4 account for over 50% of cases. So even if the PRCD mutation is of significance in the Bearded Collie it does not necessarily represent all cases and therefore it would be very difficult at this stage of knowledge to predict the inheritance mode of the disease in the Bearded Collie.

The JBLC would therefore continue to encourage all owners to have their dogs BVA/KC eye tested, which has been in the breed recommendations for some time. This applies especially to the veteran dogs as in many breeds PRA is of later onset (5 years). If positive PRA dogs are found and the owners contact us, we can then discuss with the AHT sequencing the DNA of these dogs, but in light of the complexity of the disease in other breeds it may need several cases to establish the true picture. It is important to approach this in a scientific manner as given our low registration numbers we do not want to eliminate dogs unnecessarily from the gene pool.

Liz posted a further statement on the JBLC Facebook page this morning:

"At Ken Hines suggestion we had a telephone conversation last night to discuss PRA. One thing we are absolutely agreed on is we all have the health of our Bearded Collies as our priority and therefore because of this is does produce emotional responses from people because they care. We have different lines of approach to the disease and neither is without its flaws at the present state of knowledge.

The JBLC have advised eye testing as this diagnoses the disease and then allows for genetic sequencing. The flaw with this is that the disease often does not become apparent until 5 years so a dog may already have been bred from. We will endeavour to set up an eye testing session in the near future and would encourage people to especially consider testing their veterans as these are the dogs that will give us information on the state of disease in the breed. We have recommended eye testing for some time now since the problems with CEA. Ken has advised prcd testing - the advantage of this is that it picks up dogs much earlier. However, at present we do not know if prcd is the only mutation in the Bearded Collie as PRA is a complex disease so there is a danger that dogs that are prcd clear could still develop PRA.

The ideal would be to sequence some affected dogs and establish which mutations are present and then DNA test which is what we are trying to do but the problem at present is that most affected dogs are dead. Neither approach is wrong they are just different and people need to understand those differences. I would urge us all to work together on this and help each other for the sake of our dogs. Many breeds have great divisions in them amongst the exhibitors and breeders, let us set an example in the Bearded Collie by working together for the good of our dogs. This does not mean we have to agree on everything but sharing information and healthy discussion is useful and does not mean we need to insult other people. Life is too short.

I am happy to compile a spreadsheet with results of eye tests and prcd results and post it in the JBLC files if that will help people make informed decisions on breeding. Please send them to me by email via this link."