The GPRA-project December 2009


What is happening with the GPRA-project?

The Project are slowly in progress. Now and then new cases of GPRA occur and blood-samples from these are received to the Project.

Of course the goal is to develop a gene-test. Then a simple blood test can confirm if a sheltie is a GPRA-carrier or not. This will be a big benefit for the sheltie as a breed, and the future breeding.

More eye-tests are wanted

The foundation for the progress of the GPRA-project will be that as many shelties as possible will be eye-tested in the future, and it is important that breeders and sheltie-owners cooperate with the Sheltie Club in this matter.

Even if most of the GPRA-cases have been discovered in Sweden, we know that many shelties in Norway and the rest of Europe have the same pedigrees.

Because of the Swedish breed-restrictions between the Swedish Shetland Sheepdog Club and the Swedish KC (to register a litter the parents need an eye-test not older than 12 months before the mating), then it of course is easier to catch the GPRA-diagnosis.

As mentioned before, we try to get an ERG-test done for the PRA-cases with pedigrees of "major" influence in the breed, from lines with many offsprings. In these cases it is very important that the PRA-diagnosis is are 100% unfailing.

Before the Norwegian KC will require an eye-test done to register a litter, like they do in Sweden, the Norwegian Shetland Sheepdog Club have to decide so at a Breeder Seminar.

We can ignore the truth or not, but we do have several PRA-lines in Norway and the rest of Europe as well. It is therefore important and determined for all breeders to eye test their breeding stock before mating.

More blood samples and safer diagnosis

It is the Norwegian Veterinarian High School (NVH) who are responsible for the research. As mentioned before it has been a cooperation with the most successful research-environments in US/ Europe, and also in Sweden. These studies have not given clear answers up to now. One reason can be that the numbers of blood-samples has been too low, another that some of the PRA-diagnose not are correct.

Before using a lot of the collected money to hire one person working full time only with the GPRA-project, it is very important that the preliminary searching for the PRA-gene give a clue about where to search for the "sick gene". The more secure blood-samples we have from PRA-dogs, the closer we will be to get a new search done, hopefully during this winter/ spring.

We have a very close relationship with the professor vet. Ernst-Otto Ropstad at the NVH, who also are a specialist in eye diseases. He will take a closer look at new PRA-cases as a quality insurance.

Use of the collected money and further funding

We do continue the work trying to get more income of money to the Project. Even if the Sheltie club have done a huge stage regards collecting a considerable amount of money for the research, even more money are required to accomplish the Project. Also this year we did apply the Norwegian Research Council for extra support of money to hire a researcher. We are waiting for the answer and settlement.

Some of the money given to NVH for the purpose of the GPRA-project have been used to scan blood-samples. Some of the money kept in a bank account for the Project have been used for ERG-tests when the owner or breeder of the PRA dog not wants or can pay for it. We do know that research take time, but what has been done until now makes the foundation for further research.

Breeders who unfortunately have been breeding a sheltie with PRA, have in general been clever to find solutions for further breeding by "thinking different", and do what they can to keep away of the problem.

Engagement for the breed is important

We wish and ask for a progress in engagement from sheltie-owners with littermates or offspring from PRA-dogs, but we cannot force anyone. We depend on cooperation and favours.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary eye disease which gradually damage the cells in retina, and finally the dog will be blind. The first typically sign of PRA is night blindness, followed by bad reflection in the eyes, or a "grey-green sheen" if you look at the eyes in evening light. In shelties the disease has appeared at an age of 2 - 5 years. This type of PRA is what is called General PRA (GPRA).

Earlier PRA has been discovered at 3-5 years of age, but today it can be discovered earlier, probably because of better knowledge and competence between eye specialists, also more Vet's educated as eye specialists, better methods and better equipments.

Take a check on NSSC's website before a mating

One of the problems with PRA is that the disease do inherit as a recessive gene. This means that two completely healthy individuals can produce an offspring with PRA if both parents are carriers of the gene who cause PRA. Because of this, it is extremely important that any dog diagnosed with PRA have a totally trustable diagnosis for this disease. The breeders need to know for sure who are carriers of the PRA-gene. Carriers must not be breed from, two shelties who both have carriers in the pedigree should never be mated.

We expect that before breeders mate a bitch or lend out a stud, they check the PRA-pedigrees at the Norwegian Shetland Sheepdog Club's web site ( PRA-carriers have red characters in their pedigrees.

For stud owners, please ask for an eye certificate for the bitch to be mated. Many bitch owners are new breeders and have no experience about this, as a safety for the stud owner it can be a good thing to remind about this.

For the PRA committee, all help are needed - otherwise we use our free time for nothing. With breeders and stud owners help a fresh eye check before a mating are required, this will help the Project a lot.

The NSSK has decided from a General Meeting that our Club shall run this Project. Members are committed to follow this resolution. If it happens to be more shelties out there with PRA, it is important that they are discovered and then can contribute with blood-samples for the Project. Such things help us getting closer to find the PRA-gene, and also develop a gene-test. We are close to the goal, but the safety for the future shelties are to eye-test the shelties today.

December 2009:

The Norwegian Shetland Sheepdog Club's GPRA-Committee

Account number to the GPRA-project in Norway:
Address for bank transfer from abroad:
The PRA-Project, Norsk Shetland Sheepdog Club
Den Norske Bank, Farmannsgaten 2, N-1600 Fredrikstad, Norway
Account number: 5010.05.65517 - Swift-address: DNB ANO KK FRE

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