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2022 Canine Health Summit

Chondrodystrophy: What it is and why we seem to like it so much

Thurs, April 28, 2022 | 3:45 PM ET

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Danika L Bannasch, DVM, PhD

Professor, Maxine Adler Endowed Chair in Genetics, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis

Chondrodystrophy is a term used in veterinary medicine to indicate a dog with a combination of shorter legs and intervertebral disc disease. Prior to the discovery of the mutation that causes chondrodystrophy, many breeds were classified as chondrodystrophic just based on their short-legged phenotype. It turns out there are two major variants that cause short legs in dogs and only one affects the intervertebral discs. The genetic variant that causes chondrodystrophy is a special type of variant called a retrogene. It is an extra copy of the gene (FGF4) that is important in early development. This extra copy makes too much FGF4 in the wrong places. It only takes one extra copy to have an effect on development and thus the FGF4 retrogene, called FGF4L2 is dominantly inherited. The intervertebral discs express FGF4 when the retrogene is present and this causes the inner portion of the disc to be replaced by cartilaginous tissue as early as 10 weeks of age. Later this inner portion can degrade further and mineralize. All of the changes to the intervertebral discs makes them prone to move or herniate from their normal location as shock absorbers in the vertebral column. Acute intervertebral disc herniation can result in severe pain and paralysis in its worse form. Even though FGF4L2 causes all the discs to be abnormal, they only occasionally herniate causing spinal cord compression.

About the Speaker

Danika Bannasch is a veterinary geneticist who specializes in canine genetics. She obtained her PhD in Molecular Biology from Princeton University and her DVM from the University of California at Davis. She has been a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California-Davis since 2001. She was appointed the Maxine Adler Endowed Chair in Genetics in 2013. In 2019 Dr. Bannasch was awarded the International Canine Health Award for her research accomplishments in canine genetics. Dr. Bannasch has published over a hundred peer reviewed manuscripts and her laboratory has identified the causative variant for 16 inherited diseases in dogs and horses and collaborated on the identification many more. Her research goals are to improve the lives of dogs through understanding the relationship between their genetic variation and the resulting phenotypes. In her spare time Danika breeds dogs and competes in conformation, agility, hunt tests, tracking, and barn hunt with her Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers and Danish-Swedish Farmdogs.

2022 Canine Health Summit Sessions