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History of JKD in Boxers

Cases of kidney disease (KD) in Boxers has been reported since the 1980’s but with little follow up until the 2000’swhen the Swedish Kennel Club reported kidney failure in Boxers and banned both parents from further breeding, some of these were British bred but on closer examination of the pedigrees no pattern was obvious. A group of Boxers in the USA were also reported with kidney disease, bloods were sent to Dr Linblad Toh for DNA analysis, but no responsible gene was detected. In 2008, Marge Chandler of Edinburgh University reported on 30 cases of KD in Boxers but again did not establish a genetic cause, also observations of a range of KD problems were reported to the Boxer Breed Council. Finally, several cases of KD in one family were reported to Bruce Cattanach where there was close inbreeding on one dog, details of further cases related to this dog were received suggesting that this condition was inherited, probably due to a recessive mode of inheritance. Cases were also found involving this dogs’ ancestors. KD was also detected in outcrosses to foreign dogs that with further investigation had been shown to produce KD in their own country.

This disease was referred to in the UK as Juvenile Kidney Disease because of the age of the dogs involved, usually between 6 months and 3 years.

Blood samples were collected at the request of the Boxer Breed Council for the Animal Health Trust to examine them for a DNA marker but without success.

A symposium on JKD was held by the London and Home Counties Boxer Club, funded by the Breed Council in October 2019, the speakers were Prof Hattie Syme, Head of Internal Medicine at the Royal Veterinary College, explaining the composition and mechanics of the kidney, Dr Bruce Cattanach, former head of MGU at Harwell, geneticist, giving a history of JKD together with an explanation of pedigree analysis of carriers indicating a likely recessive mode of inheritance but with problems to be solved, i.e. unequal sex distribution and the less than 25% occurrence, finally Prof Bill Amos, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at Cambridge who explained the techniques used in his study, using microsatellites which are DNA ‘markers’, which are genetic traits which can be traced
through the generations.

Prof Amos’s initial findings strongly support evidence that there is at least some genetic component to JKD, but he thinks it unlikely that it is one single dominant gene. Unfortunately, due to the Covid situation his work had ceased but we very much hope that once matters are back to normal more results will be forthcoming.

Current Research

The Health Committee of the breed Council has requested on various boxer sites, for breeders and owners to notify Boxerhealth@yahoo.com of any cases of possible kidney disease in boxers with a view to helping further research into what is probably a worldwide disease of Boxers. We desperately need some form of marker TO DETECT THE CARRIER ANIMAL. The American kennel Club has given a two-year grant for Jessica Hokamp of Ohio University for Characterisation of Renal Disease in American Boxer Dogs. Sweden and Norway are actively involved in relevant research, an Italian group have just published a paper, “Clinical and Histopathological Features of Renal Development in Boxer Dogs” and we are hoping to provide Prof Hattie Syme with information and materials to continue her research.

Clinical signs leading to increased urination, difficulty in house training, bed wetting, also increased thirst, lethargy, inability to thrive, usually signs are seen at ages 4 months up to 3 years and often bitches can be treated just for urinary tract infections. The ratio of bitches to dogs is far higher. All cases of kidney disease should be reported, preferably with pedigree, case history and if willing a blood sample in EDTA tube and if the time should come kidneys in formalin, reasonable expenses will be met by the Boxer Breed Council.

Updated May 2021