Monday, March 14 2022 (HealthDay News) — German shepherds are among the most elegant dog breeds on earth. However, they could be victims of a deadly swallowing disorder.

Researchers have announced that they have not just identified an underlying gene mutation that can explain the susceptibility to this disease. Still, they have also developed tests to identify the disease, congenital megaesophagus with idiopathic symptoms (CIM) — which breeders can utilize to lower the chance of contracting the disease in the new litters.

Puppies suffering from CIM are born with an expanded stomach that cannot transport foods in their stomachs. They vomit their food and don’t grow, sometimes leading to the death of a pet.

In this study, Clemson University scientists conducted a genome-wide scan to pinpoint the genes involved in the condition within German shepherds.

The scan revealed a link on canine chromosome 12 and a variant within melanin-concentrating hormone receptor 2 (MCHR2), affecting appetite, weight and how food moves through the digestive tract.

According to the authors of the study published March 10 in the journal PLOS Genetics, an imbalance of melanin-concentrating hormones may play a role in CIM.

Leigh Anne Clark, an associate professor of biochemistry and genetics at Clemson, was the lead researcher in the investigation.

It is a follow-up study published in January about treatment for megaesophagus.

Her team also found out that male pups are two times more likely than females affected by the disorder. It could be because the higher estrogen levels in females permit food particles to travel through the stomach more efficiently, which helps protect against the disease.

“What they’ve discovered in the human population is that estrogen is capable of relaxing the muscles, which connects the esophagus with the stomach. With more estrogen, the smooth muscle is naturally more likely to be opened,” said first author Sarah Bell, a graduate researcher in genetics. This can increase the movement of food into the stomach.

ACCORDING TO RESEARCHERS, the MCHR2 variant, as well as the dog’s sex, could determine the risk of developing megaesophagus with a 75% accuracy. Dog owners can swipe their pet’s gums and then send the specimen to genetic testing firms

While German shepherds have the greatest incidence of The condition can also affect other breeds, such as Labrador retrievers, Great Danes, dachshunds, Great Danes and miniature schnauzers.

Researchers say it’s unclear if the genetic variant identified in this study plays a role in CIM in different breeds.

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