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Harder to Breathe

Dogs like French bulldogs are prone to breathing difficulties due to their flattened faces, but so are dogs like Norwich Terriers that have normal-sized snouts, but the same gene variant might contribute to airway problems in both types of dogs, Discover's D-brief blog reports.

Researchers led by the University of Edinburgh's Jeffrey Schoenebeck conducted a genome-wide association study of respiratory disease severity in about 400 Norwich Terriers. As they report this week in PLOS Genetics, they uncovered a missense mutation in the ADAMTS3 gene that was linked to Upper Airway Syndrome in these dogs. ADAMTS3, the researchers note, belongs to a large family of protease enzymes and is involved in signaling. Loss of this signaling in humans is linked to edema, they say, adding that a similar effect is seen in ADAMTS3 knockout mice.

They then found that this ADAMTS3 variant in other dog breeds, including bulldogs and French bulldogs, suggesting that skull shape is not the only factor influencing breathing difficulties in those dogs.

"Norwich terriers and French bulldogs are genetically different, so we can't automatically assume that this mutation is going to behave the same way in the genetic context of a French bulldog," Schoenebeck tells the D-brief blog. "My gut tells me it's probably bad news for a dog with a flat face to also have this other thing, but we don't have the data in hand yet."