December 2003

We would just like to wish our readers and supporters a very Merry Christmas and Happy Festive Season.  Please refer to the education page for an article about dog breeding practices, if you are interested in learning more about pedigree dogs.

September 2003 - News

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI),  Exocrine Pancreatic Atrophy (EPA),  Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy (PAA) & Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO)

German Shepherds appear to have an increased risk of developing subclinical EPI and intestinal diseases at a young age especially if subjected to any form of Stress.

Those affected usually eat well, may have diarrhoea but loose weight and become too thin (sometimes loosing appetite). This has now been diagnosed as partial or subclinical PAA, where the pancreas is subjected to selective destruction of enzyme producing acinar cells. This is diagnosed by the TLi tests after 8- 12 hours fasting which shows the degree of the damage to the pancreas. The treatment is to help the pancreas to recover before there is a complete PAA as subclinical PAA can lead to EPA as can pancreatitis etc. but with subclinical PAA the endocrine pancreas is usually unaffected.

The addition of a small amount (50-100 grams) of raw pigs pancreas per meal is often enough, although a course of antibiotics with probiotics to balance the gut bacteria is helpful as SIBO is likely to be present.

Pancreatic powder can be used but it is expensive.  No change to diet or feeding times should be necessary unless there is no marked improvement, when allergies such as wheat intolerance etc. should be looked at. Otherwise food changes can cause upsets and problems. Re-testing should be done to monitor progress towards recovery to normal.  

EPA usually in older dogs is diagnosed by TLi tests which show abnormally low TLI concentrations. A pancreatic supplement is likely to be needed for life although some dogs will improve and the dosage can be reduced. Raw pigs pancreas can still be used but antibiotics with probiotics to balance gut bacteria should be given as SIBO is almost certain to be present and can be difficult to eliminate or control.

Attention must be paid to diet. An easily digested and possibly low fat and fibre diet at least to start with. EPA is believed to be an auto-immune disease but some German Shepherd Dogs are likely to have a low count IgA, an important muscosal defence, and research is underway to see the possible effects of this.

When a suitable regime is found, the dog with EPA can usually live a normal life.

Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy in German Shepherd Dogs and Rough Collies
Etiopathogenesis and response to long term enzyme replacement treatment/
Marie Wiberd University at Helsinki 2003
Gastrointestinal disease in the GSD Roger Batt BVSc; PhD: MRCVS and  A Cook BVMSc; Diplomate: ACVIM: MRCVS;  League Handbook 1995
Exocrine Pancreatic Atrophy in the German Shepherd Dogs M E Wiberg, S A Saari, and E Westermarck 

August 2003 - News

Hot Spot
With this years very hot summer the information Group has been inundated with many calls about the following subject. I have tried to put together a short summary on the subject and hope it will help people understand what a Hot Spot is and why they occur.

 What is a "hot spot"?
A hot spot is a localized area of skin inflammation and infection. The infection can be superficial or deep. Other common names for this condition include: moist dermatitis, and acute moist dermatitis.

What are the signs of a hot spot?
Redness, oozing, pain, and itchiness are hallmark signs. Hair loss is commonly present. Sometimes hair can mat over the lesion, obscuring the size and degree of the problem. These lesions can appear suddenly, and grow rapidly. It is common for an owner to notice a small area of inflamed skin in the morning (perhaps an inch or couple centimetres in diameter) and come home from work to be met with a large area the size of the palm of a hand. The dog is usually highly agitated, and will not leave the area alone. Some dogs will even growl or snap if the area is touched.

What causes a hot spot?
There is usually an inciting factor to initiate the extreme licking and scratching behaviour. Look for fleas, mites, or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite, allergies (food, inhalant, contact), or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc.). Some animals have been known to "start" a hot spot out of boredom or stress-related psychological problems.

What can I do to treat a hot spot?
The first thing to do is speak with your veterinarian. Due to the rapidity of spread and possibility of deeper skin infection, it is wise to start treatment with your vet. Also, these hot spots can be very painful to the animal -- caution is advised, use a muzzle if need be for your protection.

  1. Shave the area. The first treatment for hot spots is to dry them out and get air to the area. Hair loss is a feature of hot spots, but hair can also mat over the inflamed area, covering up a potentially much more severe and large problem.
  2. Cleanse the area with cool water and a gentle skin cleanser.
  3. Cool compress the area 2-4 times a day with a cool wet washcloth.
  4. Medications - Depending on the severity and size of the hot spot, your veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics, topical drying sprays or medications, and/or special shampoos.
  5. Prevention of licking, biting, scratching -i.e. Elizabethan collar
  6. Additional home remedies that can be used until you can see your vet:
  7. Tea bags can be applied to sooth and dry the area ,  cream(E45). Aloe Vera Gel, Information  from a Great Dane breeder has offered First Aid treatment used by breeders, this is a small measure of Epsom Salts added to the drinking water.
  8. Please consult your Vet as this is just a First -Aid treatment.

It is very distressing to have to announce that since March of this year, we have had a number of new pedigrees given us of animals who have been confirmed as suffering from Epilepsy.  Some from sources which have not been observed before.  We have been fortunate enough to have been offered some help by two people one who is prepared to help establish a positive test to diagnose what type of Epilepsy the patient has.  We are waiting for the Professor to confirm that the test has been set up for correct administration, if anyone wishes to take advantage of this please will they contact one of us, with particulars.

Our researcher has started his work on samples received from healthy animals, to establish what is a normal result of the TLi test. He hopes that when a scale has been established he will then proceed to testing dogs suffering from the condition.  There is no data available on what is normal or abnormal.  He wishes also to compare it with other breeds.  The new kit used is very sensitive so it picks up accurately any abnormalities, previous research did not have such success.  Tested in the research were working animals such as stock from the Forces/Police etc. These animals being under much more stress.  Future features being examined will be bitches which are in whelp these will possibly be the control.  Neutered and castrated animals to test what level of IGA is passed on.  If anyone has found their companion or any stock they have bred has been diagnosed with this problem please continue to keep us informed, as we can still place you on the volunteers list.  We received a combined essay from Helsinki on the research finished this year on EPI. A booklet is now available on this research.

EYE PROBLEMS and research
The researcher still wishes to hear from owners whose animals have eye problems. His comparisons are with GSD's and Westies, both breeds tending to have the problems studied (Panus and Cataracts). Many people have contacted us and have been given information and help with eye problems.  But we still need more, most are being referred to him at clinics and thus are waiting their turn, where they could be seen post haste if the group were contacted.

DM research
Is still slowly progressing. If you have an animal with this problem your Veterinary Surgeon can get you an appointment with the researcher.  One good piece of news is whilst doing the tests they are hopeful they have found a marker for Anal Furunculosis. It is hoped that they are right and if so it is a step forward in the right direction. I hope to have an article coming to me from Belgium on this subject, when received it will be condensed and available in the pack on this subject.

One disappointing feature is that only few give us feedback to pass on to the researchers who are giving their time and expertise free of charge. Some owners are not bothering to complete the questionnaires and returning them, which is in many cases the main source of help to the people doing the research on our behalf.  Please consider what a help this could be not only to the breed, but in some cases the same animals if it has a relapse. Prompt information to hand could assist in making life more comfortable for the animal and assisting in a cure for it and maybe others.

Many owners knock breeders when a sick animal comes to light, but the Group can say that many breeders do care about this breed and have volunteered to assist in most of the research offered.

Thank you for your help.

Let us continue to make this a healthy long lived and popular breed for generations to come.

June 2003 - News

It is  hoped to be able to get an afternoon SEMINAR.  Speakers will be the researchers of A/F and DM. EPI and SIBO and Cataracts.  All have expressed their  wish to be able to let  you know how you have all helped in these projects.  We have to find a suitable  hall and if anyone has any ideas, please could you contact me.  An article on health problems relating to the GSD will be printed on completion at some point in the near future.

EPI Research
German Shepherd Faecal IgA Analysis
German shepherd dogs are predisposed to a number of inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases including chronic diarrhoea, skin infections and anal furunculosis.  A number of studies have investigated the susceptibility of dogs of this breed to disease, and the role than IgA immunity may play in this problem.  IgA is the class of antibody which is present in the largest amounts at the external surfaces of the body e.g. lining of the intestines, respiratory tract and skin.  IgA deficiency in humans is not a fatal condition but is associated with recurrent respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal disease, and skin disease and is a common primary immunodeficiency.

Previous studies have identified a relative, rather than total, IgA deficiency in the serum, saliva, tears and faeces of German shepherds when compared with other breeds  As part of my PhD studies in the Department of Clinical Veterinary Science at the University of Bristol,  I have been investigating the role of IgA in dogs with chronic diarrhoea  presented to the university, to see if there is a link between IgA and the occurrence of this condition.  We were interested in finding if there was indeed a relatively low level of IgA in faeces from German shepherds when a large number of samples were screened. With help and funding from the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, we were able get a large number of faeces samples from German shepherd dogs belonging to many of the readers of this newsletter.

A total of 210 samples were collected and analysed. .  We were able to detect IgA in all the faeces samples and found that there was a great variation in the amount of IgA present within them.  This is not unsurprising due to the different diets and bowel habits that the animals will have, but it did indicate that none of the dogs had a total lack of IgA.  The large variations found also support the requirement for large numbers of samples when carrying out this type of study and without the help of the owners of the dogs included in this study, this would have not been possible.  Work is ongoing to collect enough samples from other breeds of dog to get a large enough group to compare with the German shepherds to determine whether the range of measurements seen are similar in both groups.  We continue to look into other aspects of the IgA pathway to determine whether there is indeed a link between IgA and disease susceptibility in German shepherd dogs.

Genome Project / DNA
Approached at Crufts by Dr Jeff Sampson, representatives at the Discover Dogs stand were able  to support this project by allowing blood samples to  be taken from their ever willing animals.
I will keep you posted on this  one.
Anal Furunculousis

If  your charge or kennel has  this  terrible  problem please ask you vet  to refer you to the research  which has been written  about in the BVAJ. It is  a must  that the animal is insured. For funds will not cover free treatment.


March 2003 - News

We are very excited to announce that the researcher dealing with DM is about to launch more work on this problem.  I am also told that his group has been working on the immune system with a lot of success.  Anal Furunculousis is apparently one of the problems being researched, which they have found a marker for, this should help to eliminate this terrible problem from the breed.  GSD's suffering from anal furunculousis must be referred to the researcher by their own vet. The vet's are aware the research is going on and will know to whom they should refer the patient.  This is the biggest step forward for years, so let us keep our fingers crossed that an answer come from this research.

EPI Kennels of healthy dogs are still required, please contact me if you are interested, but we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

More pedigrees have been sent of animals suffering from this problem.  Please send us a copy of the pedigree if you know of any more animals diagnosed.

January 2003 - Help needed with Research


Our thanks for the support so far for the Stomach and EPI problems.

We still need HEALTHY animals to be included. We have had a number of kennels or groups of dogs volunteered, but would indeed be grateful for more.  Faeces and DNA samples required.  Appointment arranged at owners convenience.  PLEASE support.



Recent research examining 2000 apparently normal dogs has shown that by thirteen and a half years old all dogs have some degree of opacity in their lenses in the eye. In few is there an obvious defect in their vision, but quite what effect these changes have remains to be investigated. We look at two breeds with different life spans, to see if dogs with longer lifespan (we used the Westie as an example) have cataract at a later stage than dogs with a shorter longevity (here we used the German Shepherd Dog). It appears with the small numbers so far examined (around 100 in each group) that this does seem to be the case. We would like to examine more dogs of both breeds to determine whether this really is the case. The examination is undertaken in a darkened room but only takes a minute or two and is not stressful at all for the vast majority of dogs. Please contact Dorothy if you feel able to help and perhaps we can arrange an afternoon examining dogs and talking about eye problems in the German Shepherd.


GRACILIS Muscle Contracture.

Many owners have informed us of having this problem in Working GSD's. We are reporting this to our researcher, who has requested that all completed forms be sent to him. For those who have not returned these please complete as soon as possible.


Please contact Dorothy on all of the above mentioned subjects.

Dorothy Cullum  - Tel: 01277 220933


2002 Research News