Research Projects Supported by the LHF

The leading cause of death in Leonbergers, as reported to the LCA’s Health Research and Education Committee, is cancer. The most common type of cancer is osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. Bone cancer occurs when when uncontrolled, abnormal cells replace normal, healthy bone cells in bone tissue. The bone becomes weak and often breaks. Bone cancer can occur in any bone, but is most common in the major bones of the legs.

The LHF has provided a grant to Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, of the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT, who is conducting research on the genetics of bone cancer in the dog, and will be looking specifically at Leonbergers. The goal of her study is to locate the genetic marker for osteosarcoma, which could lead to health screening, earlier diagnosis and more targeted treatment for this fatal disease.

Blood samples from Leonbergers are needed. Please visit the website of the Broad Institute to download forms and obtain instructions on submitting samples from your Leonberger.
PLEASE NOTE: If your dog is healthy at the time you submit your blood samples, but later in life develops cancer (of any type), it is important that the research team at the Broad Institute be notified of this change in health status. Please contact Dr. Lindblad-Toh, or the Broad Institute, so that they can update their records.

Addison's Disease
The adrenal gland produces hormones and other chemicals that regulate a number of body functions, including metabolism, blood pressure, and stress response. In dogs with Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism), adrenal gland function is "underpowered", resulting in lack of energy, weakness and weight loss (among other symptoms). The cause has not been determined; however, it is probably a genetic disorder.

The LHF is supporting two important Addison's disease research projects.
Both studies are being conducted in concert with several other breeds. The first project, conducted by Dr. Anita Oberbauer at the University of California - Davis, is aggressively seeking genetic markers for Addison's disease. The second project, conducted by Dr. Markus Rick at Michigan State University, is focused on the development of a test that will identify carriers of Addison's disease.

Inherited Polyneuropathy
Inherited polyneuropathy (also referred to as laryngeal paralysis/polyneuropathy (LP/PN), or Harvey's disease) is a serious neurological disorder which affects nerves that stimulate muscles. Without this stimulus, the muscles begin to function poorly, and eventually cease to function at all. This is a progressive and debilitating disease that is frequently fatal.

Laryngeal paralysis is caused by degeneration of the nerve to the larynx that protects the airway. The vocal cords fail to open properly, leading to airway obstruction and labored, loud breathing. Symptoms include a change in bark, wheezing, and coughing or choking while eating or drinking.

Polyneuropathy is associated with the degeneration of many of the longest nerves in the body, typically causing a lack of coordination in the legs. This leads to a knee popping gait, exercise intolerance, tremor, muscle atrophy, and, in time, an inability to walk.

Dr. Diane Shelton of the University of California - San Diego, and Dr. Ned Patterson of the University of Minnesota are studying the mode of inheritance of LP/PN in the Leonberger. They are conducting an on-going research study focused on the development of a DNA test that will definitively identify LP/PN carriers and affected dogs. This is a project of utmost significance to the Leonberger breed in general, and specifically for Leonberger breeders around the world. Some of this work has already been completed, but financial support from the LHF is funding the purchase and evaluation of additional genetic markers.