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El Blanco Award Honors Client for Help with Canine Genetics Research

April 18, 2012

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Ms. Denise Powell's breeding efforts and advocacy resulted in an American Kennel Club agreement to allow registration of the healthier Dalmatian dogs within the official breed.

April 18, 2012

The School of Veterinary Medicine is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2012 El Blanco Award, Ms. Denise Powell of Hayward, California.

The El Blanco Award recognizes significant contributions that animal owners and other benefactors have made to clinical veterinary medicine by presenting afflicted animals for clinical studies; offering hypotheses and evaluations of therapy; and supporting clinicians at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital who pursue novel diagnostic or therapeutic methods.

Powell, a dog breeder, is being honored for her contributions and dedication to eliminating hyperuricosuria in the Dalmatian breed. Hyperuricosuria occurs when excessive amounts of uric acid are found in the urine; the acid can form "stones" that block the urethra and require surgical removal.

Danika Bannasch, DVM, PhD, Professor of Genetics, Department of Population Health and Reproduction, nominated Powell for the El Blanco honor. "Denise revived an almost dead breeding experiment to produce 'normal' Dalmatians that will never develop urate bladder stones," Bannasch explains. "We used these dogs to identify the gene and causative mutation for excretion of high levels of urate in Dalmatian urine."

As a breeder, Powell has also emphasized backcrossing to an earlier, healthier type of dog that genetically is more than 99% Dalmatian - but whose offspring are less likely to have hyperuricosuria. Powell and others have worked hard to have these dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club. November 1, 2011, Dalmatian dogs descended from the cross were granted registration status.

Powell made direct contributions to genetic research: She provided urine samples, DNA samples, pedigrees, and photos of her dogs - and she found other breeders to provide similar materials.

Using the samples, Bannasch's lab identified the mutation that causes the problem. Her research team has also identified many other breeds that have the hyperuricosuria mutation and can benefit from the DNA test developed from this research.

Powell's involvement benefited the teaching mission of the school as two graduate students' doctoral theses were based on this project.

Finally, Powell's commitment helped the Bannasch lab develop a DNA test that dog owners can now use to make informed breeding decisions.

In all, Powell has made a distinctive contribution to canine health.

About the Genetics Service

The Genetics Service at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital offers help to pet owners who are concerned about inherited diseases, especially in purebred dogs. Appointments and telephone consultations assist veterinarians and clients with the diagnosis of canine inherited diseases, and more than 100 DNA tests are available to help eliminate them. Laboratory support for the Genetics Service comes from the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, where karyotyping, parentage analysis and some disease testing are performed.

About Danika Bannasch

In addition to her clinical work in the Genetics Service, Danika Bannasch pursues research. She is particularly interested in the development of molecular diagnostic tests for inherited diseases in dogs and horses to provide tools to produce healthier animals. She has identified the genes and mutations that cause Lethal White Foal Syndrome and HERDA in horses as well as hyperuricosuria in dogs. Her laboratory is currently working on identifying the genes responsible for cleft lip and cleft palate in dogs and a Connemara hoof wall defect in horses in addition to other projects.