Dachshunds, Epilepsy, Lafora and diet

hi, I have joined the forum because I volunteer as a Pet Adviser with the Dachshund Breed Council, and am heavily involved with helping to raise awareness of lafora disease in mini wire hair dachshunds in the UK, raising money to develop a DNA test, which is now a Kennel Club approved test and a ‘recommended’ test for their Assured Breeder Scheme.

Lafora is a form of inherited late onset epilepsy known to be present in mini wire dachshunds, beagles and bassett hounds. It is characterised by jerking of the head as if startled by sudden movement, light or noise, and can also cause fitting, blindness, unsteadiness, aggression and dementia. Affected dogs cannot metabolise starch into sugar efficiently, and platelets of complex starch build up in the brain and central nervous system, over time.

That is why we strongly recommend a low starch diet, preferably free from grain. If any veterinary researchers or dog food manufacturers are interested in undertaking furrther research, or developing a specially formulated food, I have details of owners with tested affected dogs all over the UK who would gladly take part - some as yet are not symptomatic - others most definitely are.

If you have a dog you think might be affected, contact me via the site for more info.

Hello and welcome to the forum. I have to say that I had not heard of this disease before I read your post so thank you for posting and making us aware of it. Am I right in assuming that should anyone want to have a dog of one of these breeds, it is best to buy from a long standing breeder who has not seen it in his or her line? Also, is it best to feed a raw diet as that seems to meet the criteria of low starch?
I do hope that eventually a DNA test is found soon.

Thank you Dottie for your reply. Unfortunately buying from a long standing breeder who has not/claims not to have seen it in their lines isn’t enough. Some who have been in the breeds for a long time are still in denial, or unaware, particularly in Beagles and Bassets , where realisation is only just dawning and we have no information on just how widespread a problem it is.

I am delighted to say that there is actually a DNA test - and it is approved by the Kennel Club. Working in conjunction with a research lab that looks into Human Lafora in the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, Mini Wire Hair Dachshund owners conducted clinical trials in 2010 and established that approx. 8% of mini wires are Lafora affected - i.e. they carry a copy of the gene from both the dam and sire. Evidence so far seems to suggest that all of those dogs will go on to develop the symptoms to a lesser or greater degree. Since then the Toronto hospital has established a full spectrum test that can also identify carrier dogs and we now know that around 35% mini wires are carriers - i.e. they can pass the condition on but will never show any symptoms themselves… which brings me back to your question: the only way you can be sure of buying an unaffected dog is to buy it from a breeder who knows the status of both breeding partners and can prove it .

Fortunately we now have a well established twice yearly subsidised testing programme where owners can bring their dogs to have bloods taken at a Vet practice in the Midlands and then the bloods are sent in bulk to Canada. It can take up to 3 months for the test results to come back and it costs (currently) £150 to have the tests done with the subsidy, £280 without, but provided breeders plan well in advance to have their dogs tested, that is small price to pay to ensure that their pups will not go on to develop the condition, which is truly, truly, life destroying.

The good news is that all the test results are publicly available both on the Kennel Club health test results facility and on the Wirehair Dachshund Club Website (google WHDC Lafora - owners can also request a test there for dachshunds, beagles or bassets).

This might put some people off buying a mini wire, but I’d suggest the opposite is true. At least there has been a proactive stance to health and it is possible now to buy a dog that won’t suffer from this horrible condition - and there is also plenty of info about what other DNA tests etc. to look out for on the Dachshund Breed Council website

I only wish that I had known as much about it as I do now when my own dog, Alfie, started to suffer. Had I known earlier, I might have been able to reduce the symptoms by feeding him a low starch/easy to digest starch diet. As it was, the poor little chap suffered all the symptoms of full blown epilepsy - and you can see the impact on YouTube videos if you google Alfshuman Laforadog.