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Epilepsy in the American Water Spaniel

December 2001 update: AWS Partners accepts grant offer.

AWS PARTNERS has accepted the AKC Canine Health Foundation's offer to be sponsors of Grant #2304 for the study of epilepsy in the American Water Spaniel. This grant from the CHF will provide $100,000 funding over 2 years to the University of Missouri (Columbia) Veterinary Hospital for this research.

The CHF has requested we submit a contribution $6,820. We have signed over the existing amount of $2,500 from our Donor Advised Fund, leaving us with a remaining amount of $4,320 to contribute.

Please help with your donation to AWS PARTNERS to attain this goal. We are making a difference!

Purpose of a Genetic Marker

The purpose of discovering the epilepsy gene(s) is to make a test available to discover if a breeding prospect has the affected or carrier gene(s) for the disease. This will provide some of the following protective options for breeders:

1. It would no longer be necessary to research historical information on the dogs' ancestors relevant to the disease. Breeders wouldn't have to "dig" for background information on the line of the dog they are interested in, only test that particular dog.

2. Dogs with affected genes can be removed from a breeding program before being bred and before ever displaying epileptic seizures. A breeder would not have to wait years to see if a dog in question displays symptoms.

3. Dogs with carrier genes can be carefully bred to non-carrier mates to ensure non-affected offspring are produced. A breeder would not have to wait years to learn if their breeding decision was a success or a disaster.

4. Careful breeding decisions can ultimately eliminate ever producing another epileptic AWS and eradicate the disease by producing a higher number of genetically clear dogs available to breed. AWS lines can be saved, not ruined, by knowing which dogs to breed, ensuring the move toward better health.


It has been a little over two years since Keoni's first seizure, a little over one year since the first AWS DNA sample arrived at the University of Missouri for the epilepsy study, and one year since opening the AWS PARTNERS Donor Advised Fund. As I reflect on the events that have passed during that time, it is obvious that we are making progress and are learning.

We have received 186 blood samples for this study, including samples for 14 dogs known to have seizures.

There has been a tremendous increase in overall AWS health testing using the tools currently available. AWS owners and breeders are acquiring testing in OFA Hips & Cardiac, Penn-HIP, CERF and Thyroid.

Owners and breeders alike are beginning to have more open discussions about various health issues that may be impacting the AWS. They are showing an increasing interest in learning about canine genetics and are sharing what they learn with each other. Many have found that there is no need to hide a defect they have discovered in their line. They have learned that having a problem does not mean ending a line, and sharing information will lead to better breeding decisions to help in saving those lines.

AWS owners and breeders understand the importance of participating in these health projects. Once a DNA marker is found for a disease, current breeding stock can be tested for that marker. In the meantime, if a mode of inheritance is discovered, a tool will be available to work with while the marker is being researched.

On a personal note, I would like to thank every one that has called or sent emails, letters, and cards with well-wishes for Keoni. Your prayers and good thoughts are working. He has set a new record for 2001 of almost 3 months seizure-free. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts!

I would also like to thank, once again, those of you that have participated in this project and donated DNA and funds. You are making a difference! Thank you for being an AWS PARTNER!

To participate in the Keoni Project, please request a packet personalized to your dog.

To raise funds for Grant #2304, please give us your fundraising ideas and help us obtain tax-deductible contributions to the AWS PARTNERS Donor Advised Fund. Contact your vet, groomer, boarding kennel, and friends in other breeds. Finding this marker will not only benefit the AWS, but will also help other breeds afflicted with epilepsy.



Linda Ford





Beth Lagimoniere