What is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)?

PRA is a progressive disease of the eyes that eventually leads to blindness. It affects more than 100 breeds of dog. There is no treatment.

A dog suffering the first signs of PRA may begin to lose its vision in lowlight at night, have problems seeing obstacles or finding its way around in familiar surroundings.  Over a period of months or years their visual impairment increases and unfortunately all dogs with PRA will eventually go blind.

Taking a DNA cheek swab is quick, simple and non-invasive

Researching Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

We know that PRA is inherited – dogs can’t catch it from other dogs, and it can’t be caused by injury. Some breeds carry genetic mutations that cause PRA, making dogs of those breeds more susceptible to PRA than others – and to add to the complexity, different genetic mutations cause the condition in different breeds. The only way to truly eliminate PRA from a breed is to develop a DNA test based on the specific mutation causing the condition within that breed. And to do that, we have to identify the specific mutation responsible in each affected breed.

Our research aims to do just this. Once identified, we develop DNA tests that breeders can use to eliminate this debilitating disease from their dogs. We’re currently trying to develop DNA tests for the following susceptible breeds: Shetland Sheepdogs, Shih Tzus, Tibetan Terriers, Tibetan Spaniels, Papillons, Picardy Sheepdogs.

Imagine being told that your beloved dog is slowly but surely going to lose his sight, and there is nothing that can be done about it… Our research can change this – by developing breed-specific DNA tests to be used before puppies are bred, we have a real opportunity to protect generations of dogs from this horribly debilitating condition.

Rebekkah Hitti-Malin
Rebekkah Hitti-Malin, Research Assistant/PhD Student, Canine Genetics Research

Help our research into Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

In order to develop new DNA tests, we need help from owners and breeders of:

  • any dogs affected by PRA
  • any dog, over eight years of age, confirmed clear of PRA by a veterinary ophthalmologist

We cannot develop DNA tests to help more dogs without your help! You can help by requesting a cheek swab collection kit to gather DNA from your dog which you simply send back to us in the post!

Please send me a cheek swab kit to help with PRA research

This is Isla’s story

Before we developed a DNA test for PRA in Gordon Setters, almost half the UK population of the breed were carriers or affected by this blinding disease. Since the introduction of the DNA test in 2011, the disease has been brought under control and now only 6% of the population are carriers of the mutation.

Thanks to the use of our test, the majority of dogs like Isla, are clear and Gordon Setter breeders, like Kathryne, are close to eliminating this debilitating disease from future generations. We need you to support our vital research to develop tests to beat this condition in many more breeds of dog.

Please help our research into PRA

Donate now

We have already successfully created DNA tests for a number of breeds including Giant Schnazuers, Lhasa Apsos, English Springer Spaniels, Irish Red and White Setters, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Golden Retrievers, Miniature Long-Haired Dachshunds, Miniature Smooth-Haired Dachshunds, Miniature Wire-Haired Dachshunds, Lhasa Apsos, Tibetan Terriers and Tibetan Spaniels.

These can be purchased from www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk 

We are very grateful to the following for their ongoing support of this work:

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust,
various Breed Clubs and individuals.