If not identified before surgery, a rare genetic mutation could cause a dog to be exposed to dangerously high levels of anesthetic agents.
Scientists at the School of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University (USA) initially discovered the mutation in greyhounds and more recently in other dog breeds.
For years, veterinarians have known that some greyhounds struggle to break down certain medications, resulting in prolonged recovery periods after anesthesia and life-threatening.
The previously unknown genetic mutation that researchers discovered in greyhounds causes less CYP2B11 to be produced, the enzyme that breaks down these medications.
Not surprisingly, the mutation has also been found in other dog breeds that are closely related to the greyhound, such as borzoi, Italian greyhound or whippet.
However, when the research team expanded its survey to more than 60 races, using donated samples from the DNA Bank of the University Veterinary Hospital, they were surprised by what they found.
According to the study, some popular dog breeds, including golden retrievers and labradors retrievers, may also have difficulty breaking down commonly used anesthetics, midazolam, ketamine and propofol.
«We started with a condition that we thought was specific to greyhounds and affected a relatively small number of dogs,» explains Stephanie Martinez, author of the study. «Now it seems that there could be many more dogs affected by this mutation, dogs of breeds that we would not have expected.»
The study found that one in 50 golden retrievers and one in 300 farmers may have low amounts of the CYP2B11 gene. Even mixed breed dogs were not saved, although the prevalence was much lower in only one in 3,000 dogs.
Michael Court, the principal investigator of the study and veterinary anesthesiologist who began studying the slow decomposition of anesthetic drugs in greyhounds more than 20 years ago, indicates that «although we have developed special anesthesia protocols that work very safely in greyhounds, the question persistent it was: should we be using these same protocols in other dog breeds?
Court and Martinez are now moving forward to create a simple test that could be used by dog owners and their veterinarians to detect the mutation and determine the sensitivity of an individual dog to problematic anesthetics.
«We also suspect that dogs with the mutation may have trouble breaking down medications, in addition to those used in anesthesia.» «The challenge now is to provide accurate advice to veterinarians on what medications and dosage of medications should be used in affected patients,» they add