Dachshund data to help doctors treat kids with rare form of epilepsy

Sick Kids researchers, veterinary specialists and dachshund owners work together to tackle a devastating disease.

Photo: iStockphoto

When it comes to learning how to diagnose and treat a rare but devastating form of epilepsy, researchers from Toronto Sick Kids hospital are taking a unique approach—collaborating with veterinary specialists.

Lafora disease affects about 50 children worldwide. It is also prevalent in miniature wire-haired dachshunds. Caused by a gene mutation, it is characterized by progressive seizures, dementia and the loss of walking ability. Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure.

But researchers from the University of Surrey’s School of Veterinary Medicine in the UK and from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have sparked new hope through an innovative joint project. The cross-disciplinary team surveyed the owners of 27 miniature wirehaired dachshunds for 12 months to look more closely at the clinical signs and progression of Lafora disease. They plan to use the information gathered to improve treatment for children.

Dr. Clare Rusbridge, reader in Veterinary Neurology at the University of Surrey and chief neurologist at Fitzpatrick Referrals, said: “Lafora disease is a fatal disease that causes unbearable suffering for dogs and, in rare cases, young children. Due to its rarity, little is known about the onset of this illness, but what we have discovered, with the help of dog owners, is the clinical sign of Lafora, helping to lead to quicker diagnosis. The more we learn about Lafora, the better chance we have of treating it effectively.”

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