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Statement on Juvenile Kidney Disease (JKD)

Since 2005 there have been reports of approximately 40 Boxers of either sex aged between 5 and 30 months of age presenting with clinical signs of end-stage renal failure. Diagnosis is understood to have been based on parameters such as blood tests, urinalysis and ultrasound examination. There are no recorded renal biopsy findings or post mortem data for any of the cases to confirm whether there were any consistent patterns of underlying pathological change to implicate a common aetiology.

Whether or not the syndrome being investigated in Boxers is similar to or related to a familial condition known as juvenile renal dysplasia that has previously been reported to occur with a dominant mode of inheritance but with incomplete penetrance in a number of other breeds, for some of which a reliable direct gene marker test is available, remains unknown.

A review of the pedigree analysis of cases investigated by Dr Bruce Cattanach was considered in summary form by the Boxer Breed Council’s Health Sub-committee in February 2011, which also included members of the Boxer Breed Council executive. It was concluded that the available summary data neither confirmed nor denied a familial pattern of inheritance. The sub-committee was advised that blood samples collected from affected cases were being investigated with the aim of identifying a direct marker gene that could be used to unequivocally identify affected, carrier and clear stock. However, it has recently been reported that whilst the work has now been completed a marker gene has yet to be identified.

The health sub-committee is now considering and formulating a strategy aimed at identifying an effective means of alerting breeders, owners and veterinary surgeons of the need to be vigilant with regard to the prevalence and continued investigation of cases of Boxers aged up to 30 months presenting with signs of kidney disease. Emphasis will be placed on the early recognition of cases so that a standardised method of data collection and analysis can be applied to obtain as much information as possible to improve understanding of both the causation and control of the condition.

Although more definitive advice cannot be issued at the present time it is recommended that breeders carefully research the family history of prospective sires and dams. Breeders should also endeavour to avoid or at least minimise the potential effects of close breeding on genetic diversity by making use of online tools such as the Kennel Club’s “Mate Select” programme located at http://www.the-kennel-club.org.uk/services/public/mateselect/Default.aspx.


Frequently Asked Questions
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Juvenile Kidney Disease Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  How big a problem is Juvenile Kidney Disease (JKD)?
A:  The honest truth is that no-one knows.  So far the reported cases are consistent with an occurrence of less than 0.1% within the UK Boxer population however we cannot be complacent and this number may simply mean that not all cases are being reported.  It is for this reason that Breed Council is encouraging the whole Boxer community to get involved in identifying and reporting cases.

Q: What is JKD?
A:  It is not yet known with any certainty what causes JKD but it may be the result of an abnormal development of the kidney. The kidney continues to develop after birth gradually changing from an embryonic into an adult state. Unless sufficient kidney tissue evolves into the adult state, affected dogs will begin to experience problems with their kidney function.  If kidney function becomes compromised the clinical signs by which JKD is recognised will become apparent.  If there is an overall reduction of 75% or more of functional kidney tissue then recovery is very unlikely

Q:  Is there just one form of kidney disease that affects Boxers?
A:  At the moment we are unsure if there are one or more forms of JKD which affect Boxers.  More detailed study of samples of kidney tissue obtained from clinically diagnosed cases needs to be made.  When these samples are examined using specialised forms of microscopy then the answer to this might become clearer.

Q:  Are kidney problems common in other breeds?  Is there anything we can learn from other breeds?
A:  Yes, other breeds get kidney problems but so far the genetic basis for it in Boxers has not been shown to be either similar or comparable.  Until further investigations are carried out we cannot say with any certainty whether or not there are similarities with known conditions in other breeds.

Q:  What symptoms does a dog with Juvenile Kidney Disease usually present?
A:  The main symptoms seen are increased thirst and therefore an increase in the frequency of urination.  Loss of appetite, weight loss, stunted growth, lethargy and vomiting are also seen in most cases.  When the kidneys are examined by ultrasound they are smaller than normal and often uneven in shape.

Q:  What age do the symptoms usually become apparent?
A:  Symptoms usually start between four months and two years old.

Q:  How should an affected Boxer be treated?
A:  There is no cure but you should obviously consult your vet who will recommend a low protein diet with white meat (ie chicken, fish etc) as opposed to red meat

Q:  How do I report a case?
A:  You need to e/mail boxerhealth@btinternet.com and you will be sent all the details of what you need to do by return.  Any reasonable expenses which are incurred in providing samples will be covered by Boxer Breed Council 

Q:  Will cases remain confidential?
A:  Details will only be made available to the Boxer Breed Council Health Committee and its scientific advisers

Q:  What else can I do to help?
A:  It is essential that everyone who breeds Boxers follows the good breeding practice of keeping in touch with every puppy that they have sold, at least annually, to check on their health.  Do not assume that people will get in touch with you if there are problems since they often don’t.  If you are not already in touch with your puppy buyers in this way then you should start ringing round past litters you have bred, checking that they are fit and well.  Any suspected cases of JKD should be reported immediately.  If you discover a case when you are checking round then it is obviously particularly important to make certain that you have exercised every endeavour to follow up on all the siblings from that litter.   Littermates of affected Boxers should certainly not be bred from.  To help ensure that this does not happen we recommend that responsible breeders should be endorsing all the puppies they sell as 'progeny not eligible for registration'.  Such endorsements should then only be subsequently lifted by the breeder once the dog has been satisfactorily heart tested and only when it is old enough to be considered unaffected by any juvenile kidney problems i.e. over three years of age

Q:  How is JKD inherited and which lines are affected?
A:  There is not enough evidence yet to be certain about which lines are affected or how the condition is inherited.  A simple recessive inheritance was initially suggested but there are other possibilities.  This will hopefully become much clearer as more cases are reported.

Q:  I have a Boxer bitch that I want to mate.  What should I do?
A:  Until the facts become clearer the only possible advice is that you should avoid close line-breeding.  It is also sensible to wait until your bitch is over three years old to be certain that she does not have the condition herself.  You should also ask the owner of any stud dog you are considering, how many (if any) JKD cases the stud dog is known to have produced

Q:  In planning matings, what % of inbreeding on the Kennel Club’s Mate Select website is acceptable?
A:  Choosing to become a breeder brings responsibilities.  Every breeder needs to balance many factors when deciding on a mating such as health, temperament and type.  The coefficient of inbreeding is just one of these considerations.  At a time when the advice is to avoid close line-breeding MateSelect is simply a useful tool to help you avoid such matings but there is no ‘target’ figure that you should be working to.  However, to give a range, you should remember that the breed average is 7.3% while matings such half-brother half-sister matings will result in a minimum value of 12.5% and will often be higher (20-25%) if there are several common ancestors in earlier generations     

Q:  I have seen some Boxers’ pedigrees advertised as JKD free.  Is this possible?
A:  Until more evidence is submitted it is impossible to make such claims about any Boxer

Q:  Is it only UK dogs which are affected?
A:  This is highly unlikely to be the case

Q:  What is Breed Council doing to help?
A:  If we are to have any chance of solving this problem we need cases to be reported.  We are aggressively advertising the need for this in the dog press, veterinary journals, club websites, catalogues and schedules.  Everyone needs to be clear – progress will never be made unless there is full breeder co-operation in the identification and reporting of cases.  In anticipation of an increased number of cases being reported following the campaign, the Health Committee has arranged for blood samples to be stored free of charge at the Animal Health Trust.  Once a suitable number have been supplied, the Health Committee will be seeking funding from Breed Council and other suitable bodies to enable the search for a gene test to be progressed.  This will not be easy and previous attempts have failed, but it is the best end result possible and the Health Committee is currently assembling an advisory panel to help in these endeavours.  

Q:  Where can I get more information?
A:  The Health Committee is always very willing to answer questions and to share the replies on this page.  If you have a question which has not been answered here please e.mail us on boxerhealth@btinternet.com

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