Breed Health

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Canine Genetics Centre Appeal

Please read the appeal from the Canine Genetics Centre.  In addition, an email is being sent (from today) to all Breed Clubs and Canine Societies/Agricultural Societies/Training Clubs/Gundog Clubs etc.

The Border Terrier Breed Health Group will be pledging a donation of £3,500 to the appeal and it is our understanding that Border Terrier LifeLine will also be pledging £1,500 to the appeal.

There is still a long way to go to save the CGC, but every little helps and if individuals can donate and are UK taxpayers, then Government Gift Aid is added to each amount by simply ticking a box on the donation form.

Canine Genetics Centre logo



As Head of the Canine Genetics Centre at the University of Cambridge, I am reaching out to breed clubs, societies and other canine groups seeking your help and where relevant, your members. I very much hope you will be able to share this email and related links with your organisation’s committee and membership, and I thank you in advance for your interest.

You may already be aware that the Kennel Club and Kennel Club Charitable Trust have announced that they are no longer able to contribute financially to the Canine Genetics Centre (CGC). They have been long term substantial funders for the Centre, supporting our joint objective to improve the genetic health of our dogs. However, their withdrawal of funding from April 2024 has placed the Centre in a precarious position. We need to secure around £345k over the next few months, either as pledged support or direct donations, to keep the Centre running. My team and I are determined not to let the Centre close down – and we are appealing to the grass roots for support.

This is why I hope you will be able to help spread this message and engage your “membership” through whatever means possible.


For readers who may be unaware of what we do, here is some context to the appeal:

Sadly, dogs have the highest known occurrence of inherited genetic diseases after humans. At CGC we undertake the genetic research necessary to identify the precise mutations that cause inherited canine disease. Commercial DNA testing laboratories cannot offer tests for specific mutations until the research phase is complete and details of each mutation have been published. Many of you will have had your own dogs DNA tested, but you may not be aware that the tests rely on the research that we, and other research groups around the world, undertake.

Since its inception, the CGC has been at the forefront of canine genetic research, identifying 32 mutations, most of which form the basis of commercially available DNA tests. This output places CGC on par with, or even surpassing, others in the same field – a testament to its dedication to canine health and efficient operation.

Some of the inherited disease mutations identified by CGC include:

  • Primary lens luxation in around 20 different breeds of dogs
  • Progressive retinal atrophy - 7 different mutations in 8 different breeds of dogs
  • Primary open angle glaucoma - 4 different mutations in 4 different breeds of dog
  • Inherited forms of ataxia - four different mutations in 5 different breeds of dog


Given our situation, the CGC has launched an appeal with a target to raise £345k to secure the Centre over the next twelve months. These funds are to fill the immediate funding gap and an advisory group, comprised of unpaid volunteers, has been formed to develop a longer-term funding strategy. So, while we encourage Breed Clubs, individual members, breeders and dog owners to engage with the work of the Canine Genetics Centre and fundraise to help support our research in the future, we do not intend to make an appeal on this scale again.

Our Dogs newspaper has dedicated space this week to our appeal launch, aiming to engage enthusiasts across the pedigree dog world. We hope to amplify this through social media and various other support activities, with my team and I making an appearance at Crufts in the next few weeks too. Stay tuned for updates!

How can you contribute?

Breed Clubs and Societies

Please pledge now

We encourage breed clubs, societies and other groups to support us in any way they can. Recognising that some clubs with smaller numbers may face constraints, we've set up an option to pledge on our website. Clubs can also donate in increments, providing flexibility. Complete our Pledge Form here.

Breeders, Owners & Enthusiasts 

Please donate today

Help us broaden our reach by spreading our APPEAL to a wider audience. While Clubs may face constraints, individuals may wish to contribute directly, benefiting from Gift Aid – turning every £1 donated into £1.25. Please encourage direct donations. Individuals can also pledge directly through our Pledge Form.

Illustrative Example

If 50 breeds could find 40 people willing and able to donate £100 each, we would be able to establish a solid foundation, affording us time to implement sustainable and longer-term funding approaches. We understand that £100 might be out of the reach of many, but this is for illustrative purposes and aims to demonstrate that this challenge is more manageable than it appears. We appreciate any donation, regardless of amount as every contribution will have a meaningful impact.

Donate now

International APPEAL:

Genetic mutations transcend borders, impacting breeds globally, not just within the UK. We urge you to spread this APPEAL far and wide, reaching out to overseas Breed Clubs and enthusiasts. Your help in reaching a broader audience will make a significant difference in our collective efforts to resolve our short-term funding issue.

Sharing is caring - please share the APPEAL within your networks.

Finally, we would like to express our sincere thanks for your consideration and support. We apologise if this email reaches more than one member of your committee, or if you are already familiar with our appeal - we are trying to extend our reach as widely as possible.


With our warmest wishes,

Cathryn, her team and advisory group

Breed Health Report 2023


There haven’t been any major changes on the health front this year and the conditions regarded as significant continue to be: Spongiform- Leuco-Encephalo-Myelopathy (SLEM), Gallbladder Mucocoele (GBM), Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) aka Paroxysmal Gluten Sensitive Dyskinesia (PGSD), Cushing’s Syndrome and late onset Hereditary Cataract.

Breed Health Group

Six of the seven Border Terrier Clubs have agreed to form a health group to consider the health status of the border terrier. In particular the group will consider the evidence associated with two conditions of immediate concern to the breed. Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome is the first condition. It has been reported over several decades and has attracted limited veterinary research. The second condition is ‘shaking puppy syndrome’ a neurological illness recently anecdotally reported in very young puppies.

Hereditary Cataract

For many years our breed was on Schedule B of the BVA/KC/ISDS eye testing scheme as there was concern that it could be affected by late onset hereditary cataract. Last year the Border Terrier was removed from the list due to the low number of affected dogs which had been found.

This might sound like a positive move but in reality so few dogs were actually screened that it probably did not give a true representation of the possible incidence of this condition within the breed.

Hereditary cataracts are known to be present in many breedsand although there is some difference in the appearance of the cataract and the means of  inheritance between breeds they can be broadly divided into two categories; juvenile where the changes can be seen within the first few months of life and late onset where changes aren't usually present until between 3 and 7 years of age. Juvenile cataracts will usually be present and of similar size in both eyes and will often lead to significant sight loss or total blindness by 2 to 3 years of age if left untreated. Late onset hereditary cataracts may be unilateral or bilateral, vary in shape and in the speed at which they progress often taking quite a few years before they significantly interfere with vision. By the time they become apparent affected animals may well already have been bred from.