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Re-starting SLEM Testing of Border Terriers in the UK

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Spongiform-Leuco-Encephalo-Myelopathy (SLEM) aka Shaking Puppy Syndrome (SPS) testing is re-starting through the Kennel Club Genetics Centre (KCGC) within the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge.  Read how the Border Terrier Breed Health Group are supporting this in the interim months until a full scale service can be implemented.

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Interim testing service

SLEM testing was previously part of the services delivered by the Animal Health Trust and you may recall reading The Kennel Club statement regarding AHT Canine Genetic Services this time last year.

The new testing service, which will be largely funded by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust, will take some months to set up at full scale by the University of Cambridge.

The Border Terrier Breed Health Co-ordinator, Eddie Houston, has therefore been in discussion with Dr Mellersh about bringing forward a testing facility for SLEM in Border Terriers.  Many health-conscious Border Terrier breeders would like to be able to test their dogs for the SLEM mutation prior to breeding, without the need to send DNA samples to the USA.  There is added concern that if the lack of a UK facility goes on too long, more and more breeders will get out of the habit of carrying out the tests.

The Border Terrier Breed Health Group, working with the Cambridge Team and with the Border Terrier Club, has introduced an interim DNA testing solution for SLEM until Cambridge is able to fully open its DNA testing service for business.

Ordering a SLEM test kit

To obtain your test kits:

  • An online order form will be used to order the Test Kit/s (click on the link below)
  • Payment by the owner at the rate of £50 per Kit (£60 for outside UK) is to be made to the Border Terrier Club which has made a donation to Cambridge in advance for the Kits and the testing service
  • Ronnie Irving has been asked (working with Euan Castel Treasurer of the BTC) to distribute the swab kits to owners wishing to test their dog
  • Owners not able to make on-line payment to the Border Terrier Club, will require to send by post an order and payment by cheque to Ronnie Irving at Greenfields House, Banbury Lane, Kings Sutton, Banbury, Oxon, OX17 3RX
  • On confirmed receipt of payment, the kit will be sent to the owner by post
  • The owner will then swab their own dogs and return the swabs to the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at Cambridge at their own expense
  • Owners will take five swab samples from each dog
  • Some of the buccal swabs will be used to conduct the SLEM Test. The KCGC will extract and store the remaining Border Terrier DNA samples, with the objective of retaining these DNA samples for future research purposes.  Potential research purposes might include investigations to identify novel disease-associated genetic variants, estimate the frequency of specific genetic variants within the UK population and/or study other genetic aspects of the population
  • Owners completing the Sample Submission Form included with the Kit, will be required to provide written consent for the DNA to become the property of the University of Cambridge and be used for research purposes.  

Any financial surplus remaining with the Border Terrier Club when the interim arrangement ends, will be transferred to the Border Terrier Breed Health Fund held by the Joint Border Terrier Clubs’ Treasurer. 

Security of Data - All owner information will be retained in a secure database and will not be shared with anyone outside of the KCGC.  SLEM Test results will be communicated by the Cambridge Team to the individual owners and to the Kennel Club Health Department for publication in the KC Breed Records Supplement and for inclusion in the dog’s Kennel Club registration records.  Summary reports may be provided to the Border Terrier Breed Health Co-ordinator (BHC) periodically, to confirm the number of dogs tested and the frequency of the SLEM mutation within the population tested.

A promising start

Dr Cathryn Mellersh at the KCGC has said that if anyone has any questions as to the methods being used in this interim period, she is happy to answer them.

Meantime it is confirmed that in the first week following the announcement of the system, a total of 22 testing kits have been requested and despatched to Border Terrier owners.

Eddie Houston, Border Terrier Breed Health Co-ordinator said, “We hope that this interim arrangement will be of great help to breeders in the fight to eliminate SLEM from the breeding population of Border Terriers.  Our thanks go to the Kennel Club Genetics Centre for their co-operation in the project and to the Border Terrier Club for helping with the administration of the scheme.  We hope that all breeders will avail themselves of this service so that the SLEM status of their dogs, if it is not yet known, can be established before they are bred from.”

 
For more information on Border Terrier Health, visit the Breed Health Group website.



 

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