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Phenotype, inheritance characteristics, and risk factors for idiopathic epilepsy in Finnish Spitz dogs

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  • 1 Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 2 Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, 51014 Tartu, Estonia.
  • | 3 Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 4 The Referral Animal Neurology Hospital Aisti, Virtatie 9, Myyrmäki, Vantaa, Finland.
  • | 5 Institute of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences, Estonian University of Life Sciences, 51014 Tartu, Estonia.
  • | 6 Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 7 Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 8 Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 9 Department of Medical Molecular Genetics, Research Programs Unit for Molecular Neurology Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 10 Department of Molecular Genetics, Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, 00029 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 11 Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 12 Department of Medical Molecular Genetics, Research Programs Unit for Molecular Neurology Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 13 Department of Molecular Genetics, Folkhälsan Institute of Genetics, 00029 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 14 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, and the Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 15 Animal Science, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.
  • | 16 Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the phenotype, inheritance characteristics, and risk factors for idiopathic epilepsy (IE) in Finnish Spitz dogs (FSDs).

Design—Prospective epidemiological study.

Animals—2,141 FSDs.

Procedures—From 2003 to 2004, questionnaires (n = 5,960) were sent to all owners of 1-to 10-year-old FSDs in Finland. Phone interviews were performed 1 to 2 years later.

Results—Estimated prevalence of IE was 5.36% (111/2,069 of FSDs that were still alive). Males were predisposed to IE. The median age of onset was 3 years (range, 0.6 to 10 years). The median seizure frequency was 2 seizures/y (range, 0.5 to 48 seizures/y), and the median duration of the seizure episode was 11.75 minutes (range, 1.5 to 90 minutes). The majority (85%) of the seizures had a focal onset, and 54% were characterized as generalized secondary. A generalized seizure phase was determined to be a risk factor for development of progressive disease. Factors associated with the occurrence of a generalized phase were the age of onset, duration of the seizure, number of feeding times per day, and whether the dog was used for hunting. The seizures were not progressing in 678% of the dogs and were easily controlled by antiepileptic treatment in 78.9% of the dogs. The heritability estimate of IE in FSDs was 0.22; IE was best explained as a polygenic trait.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In the present study conducted in Finland, complex focal seizures were the most common seizure type for FSDs with IE, and a generalized seizure phase was a risk factor for progression of the disease. Results suggested a benign course of epilepsy in FSDs.

Abstract

Objective—To determine the phenotype, inheritance characteristics, and risk factors for idiopathic epilepsy (IE) in Finnish Spitz dogs (FSDs).

Design—Prospective epidemiological study.

Animals—2,141 FSDs.

Procedures—From 2003 to 2004, questionnaires (n = 5,960) were sent to all owners of 1-to 10-year-old FSDs in Finland. Phone interviews were performed 1 to 2 years later.

Results—Estimated prevalence of IE was 5.36% (111/2,069 of FSDs that were still alive). Males were predisposed to IE. The median age of onset was 3 years (range, 0.6 to 10 years). The median seizure frequency was 2 seizures/y (range, 0.5 to 48 seizures/y), and the median duration of the seizure episode was 11.75 minutes (range, 1.5 to 90 minutes). The majority (85%) of the seizures had a focal onset, and 54% were characterized as generalized secondary. A generalized seizure phase was determined to be a risk factor for development of progressive disease. Factors associated with the occurrence of a generalized phase were the age of onset, duration of the seizure, number of feeding times per day, and whether the dog was used for hunting. The seizures were not progressing in 678% of the dogs and were easily controlled by antiepileptic treatment in 78.9% of the dogs. The heritability estimate of IE in FSDs was 0.22; IE was best explained as a polygenic trait.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In the present study conducted in Finland, complex focal seizures were the most common seizure type for FSDs with IE, and a generalized seizure phase was a risk factor for progression of the disease. Results suggested a benign course of epilepsy in FSDs.

Contributor Notes

This manuscript represents a portion of a thesis submitted by Dr. Viitmaa to the Department of Equine and Small Animal Medicine, Helsinki University, as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a PhD degree.

Supported by the Archimedes Foundation (Estonia), the Finnish Kennel Club (Finland), and the European Commission (FP7-LUPA, GA-201370).

Address correspondence to Dr. Viitmaa (ranno.viitmaa@helsinki.fi).