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Hereditary Deafness in Dogs and Cats George M. Strain Louisiana State University Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA Causes, Prevalence, and Current Research


Outline anatomy and physiology forms of deafness hearing testing pigment genes and hereditary deafness prevalence and breeds genetics of deafness current research

Ear Anatomy:: 

Ear Anatomy: outer ear middle ear inner ear


outer ear middle ear inner ear


Round window


Approximate Hearing Ranges (Hz) human 64-23,000 sheep 100-30,000 dog 67-45,000 rabbit 360-42,000 cat 45-64,000 rat 200-76,000 cow 23-35,000 mouse 1,000-91,000 horse 55-33,500 porpoise 75-150,000 (See www.lsu.edu/deafness/HearingRange.html for more species)


Forms of Deafness inherited or acquired congenital or later-onset sensorineural or conductive result: eight possible combinations (i.e., acquired later-onset sensorineural deafness)


sensorineural (nerve) deafness - loss of auditory function because of loss of cochlear hair cells or the cochlear nerve neurons they connect to conductive deafness - blockage of sound transmission through outer and/or middle ear without damage to cochlea Definitions


Most Common Forms of Deafness hereditary congenital sensorineural acquired later-onset sensorineural acquired later-onset conductive (with human deafness, the terms syndromic and nonsyndromic deafness are also used to distinguish deafness accompanied by other health problems, such as Alport syndrome)


Infectious causes of conductive deafness: otitis externa otitis media


Hearing Testing behavioral testing - sound stimuli produced outside of the animal's visual field cannot detect unilateral deafness animals quickly adapt to testing stimuli detected through other sensory modalities electrodiagnostic testing - brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER, BAEP, ABR) objective, non-invasive detects unilateral deafness limited availability


Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response hearing uni uni deaf


Bone stimulus transducer Silent whistle


Hereditary Congenital Sensorineural Deafness usually linked to the genes responsible for white Dog – recessive alleles of the piebald gene: Irish spotting (si), piebald (sp), extreme-white piebald (sw) Dog - merle (M) gene Cat - white (W) gene Cat - piebald (s) gene (?) deafness develops at 3-4 weeks of age when the blood supply to the cochlea (stria vascularis) degenerates degeneration is thought to result from an absence of pigment cells (melanocytes) which normally help maintain the ionic concentrations of K+ and Na+ other pigmentation effects are frequently seen


Dog Breeds With Congenital Deafness reported in over 80 dog breeds prevalence (unilateral & bilateral) highest in: Dalmatian (n=5,333) 30% white bull terrier (n=346) 20% English setter (n=3,656) 8% English cocker spaniel (n=1,136) 7% Australian cattle dog (n=296) 15% Jack Russell terrier (n=56) 16%* Catahoula leopard dog (n=78) 63%* (prevalence unknown for most breeds)

Prevalence in White Cats – Non-Pure Breed: 

Prevalence in White Cats – Non-Pure Breed From 2 studies: deafness (unilateral and bilateral) in purpose-bred white kittens was 52% or 43%, respectively (n=66, 162) WW: 96% & 52% Ww: 24% & 27% Deafness was 3-5 times more likely in cats with 2 blue eyes than cats with none, and 2 times more common in cats with only 1 blue eye

Cat Breeds With the Dominant White Gene (W): 

Cat Breeds With the Dominant White Gene (W) White Cornish Rex White Devon Rex White British Shorthair White Manx White Exotic Shorthair White Persian White Oriental Shorthair White White Scottish Fold European White White Turkish Angora Foreign White White American Wirehair White American Shorthair (List may be incomplete or duplicative – please correct me if so!)


Genetics of Congenital Deafness - Dog Doberman deafness – simple autosomal recessive, vestibular dysfunction, not pigment-associated “nervous” pointer deafness – simple autosomal recessive (bred for anxiety research studies) pigment-associated deafness in dogs - ? merle gene (M) - dominant; homozygous dogs may have additional health problems piebald gene (p) - recessive, but all white-carrying dogs in the breed are homozygous – deafness probably due to a single “locus” with modifier genes – NOT simple autosomal recessive


Demi Azure Pedigree


Genetics of Congenital Deafness - Cat domestic white cats have been studied the most – absence of studies of pure breeds as in white gene-carrying dogs, inheritance does not follow inheritance of the gene itself in white cats: white gene (W) - dominant; homozygous cats do not appear to have additional health problems, except possibly reduced fetal survival piebald gene (s) - recessive, uncertain that gene truly exists in cats

Observations on Features of Pigment-Associated Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness Based on Studies in the Dalmatian: 

Observations on Features of Pigment-Associated Congenital Hereditary Sensorineural Deafness Based on Studies in the Dalmatian


Dalmatian Deafness Prevalence in the US N=5,333 70.1% (3,740) 21.9% (1,167) 8.0% (426)


Effect of Parent Hearing Status On Deafness Prevalence B-B Parents (N=2,320) B-U Parents (N=728) 73% 21% 6% 59% 31% 11%


Effect of Sex On Deafness Prevalence Male (N=2,459) 71% 22% 7% 69% 22% 9% Female (N=2,424)


Coat Pigmentation Genes In Dalmatians base coat - underlying coat color B - black (dominant) b - liver (recessive) extreme-white piebald gene - sw - white covering; recessive but homozygous in all Dalmatians [hair is white if it contains no pigment granules (melanin) or other substances which absorb light] ticking gene - T - dominant, produces holes in white to show underlying coat color


Effect of Varying the Expression of the Extreme-White Piebald Gene weak gene expression: failure of the piebald gene to completely suppress the underlying coat color (black or liver); results in a patch, animals are less likely to be deaf strong gene expression: suppresses pigmentation in the iris (blue eyes) and tapetum (red eye), and in the stria vascularis (deafness)


Effect of Patch On Deafness Prevalence Patched (N=436) Not Patched (N=4,404) 90% 8% 2% 68% 23% 9%


Effect of Eye Color (Brown or Blue) On Deafness Prevalence BR-BR (N=4,246) BR-BL (N=372) 73% 21% 7% 49% 33% 18% BL-BL (N=143) 50% 33% 17%


Prevalence of Deafness In Dalmatians By Country United States 30% (G Strain, N=5,333) UK 21% (M Greening, N=2,282) Holland 18% (B Schaareman, N=1,208) Belgium 19% (L Poncelet, N=122)


Impact Of Breed Standards United States: allows blue eyes Europe & Canada: do not allow blue eyes efforts through breeding to reduce blue eyes in Norwegian Dalmatians also reduced deafness prevalence.


Breeding Recommendations BEST ADVICE: don't breed affected animals a unilaterally deaf animal is genetically the same as a bilaterally deaf animal, and should not be bred! it is unwise to repeat a breeding that produced large numbers of deaf animals avoid breeding to animals with a history of producing many deaf offspring


Breeding Recommendations (cont.) do not totally breed away from patches (Dal) avoid breeding blue eyed animals if deafness is a problem in your breed, ALWAYS know the hearing status of animals you breed to! breeding decisions should always take into consideration of the overall good of the breed

Current Research: 

Current Research

Canine Genome Project: 

Canine Genome Project sequencing of canine genome now a designated priority project of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NIH) and sequencing of the boxer has begun (1.5X sequence of a poodle was just published in Science) expected to cost about $50M microsatellite marker sets now available for whole genome screen studies (MSS1=172, MSS2=327) 3,270-marker canine radiation hybrid linkage map now available

Molecular Genetic Approaches to Identifying Defects Responsible for Deafness: 

Molecular Genetic Approaches to Identifying Defects Responsible for Deafness candidate gene approach: sequence dog/cat genes equivalent to ones identified in the mouse or in man that have been shown to be causative for deafness (i.e. mitf, c-kit) whole genome screen approach: use a set of microsatellite markers that cover all dog/cat chromosomes with minimal spacing to identify markers that co-segregate with deafness, then narrow down to specific gene


Study: Molecular Genetics of Deafness AKC/CHF: Murphy, Strain "Genetics of Hereditary Deafness in the Domestic Dog“ 1. examine candidate genes from mouse/human: mitf c-kit 2. DNA collection from affected pedigrees Dalmatian English setter 3. determination of mode of inheritance


Study: Molecular Genetics of Deafness Results: mitf – not causative for deafness in Dal c-kit – not causative for deafness in Dal mode of inheritance: NOT simple autosomal recessive best modeled as being inherited as a single “locus” but one that does not follow Mendelian genetics

Syndromic and nonsyndromic human hearing loss loci: 

Syndromic and nonsyndromic human hearing loss loci

Other Ongoing Molecular Genetic Studies: 

Other Ongoing Molecular Genetic Studies AKC/CHF - Murphy, Strain: "Whole genome screens using microsatellite markers in genetic analyses of hereditary deafness in the Dalmatian and English Setter” 1. pedigree of >200 Dalmatians with DNA 2. English setter DNA pedigree being assembled 3. whole-genome screens underway JRT Research Foundation - Strain: “Assembly of a DNA pedigree for whole genome screens for hereditary congenital deafness in the Jack Russell Terrier” further funding being sought

Other Ongoing Molecular Genetic Studies: 

Other Ongoing Molecular Genetic Studies University of Pennsylvania: genetics of deafness in “nervous” pointers (Steinberg) Michigan State University: candidate gene studies of deafness in various dog breeds (Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan) Europe: candidate gene studies and whole genome screen studies of canine deafness (Distl, Dolf) Cat studies: none known of at present


References: Strain GM. Deafness in Dogs & Cats web page: www.lsu.edu/deafness/deaf.htm Strain GM. 2003. Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk. The Veterinary Journal (in press). Strain GM. 1999. Congenital deafness and its recognition. Vet Clin N Amer: Small Anim Pract 29:895-907. Strain GM. 1996. Aetiology, prevalence and diagnosis of deafness in dogs and cats. British Veterinary Journal 152:17-36. Little CC. 1957. The Inheritance Of Coat Color in Dogs. Howell Book House: New York. 194 pp. Searle AG. 1968. Comparative Genetics of Coat Colour In Mammals. Logos Press/ Academic Press: London. 310 pp.


The importance of hearing: (with thanks to Gary Larson’s Far Side)

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