Belgian shepherds may be genetically protected against diabetes

The genetic make-up you inherit contributes to your health, for better or worse. That may also apply to dogs and diabetes, according to a new study published on May 13 in PLoS ONE. The study identified a genetic interaction that may protect Belgian shepherd dogs from developing diabetes.

Researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Uppsala University (UU) analyzed DNA of more than 500 dogs across nine different breeds from five European countries to see if, in fact, genetic factors influence the natural variation of fructosamine concentration in healthy dogs.

When the nine breeds were analyzed in sum, there was no association between the dogs’ blood values and their DNA. However, when the breeds were analyzed separately, the researchers discovered variations in a region on chromosome 4 associated to fructosamine concentration in Belgian shepherds.

“The interacting region harbors three very interesting genes, but the exact mechanism of the interaction remains to be determined,” one of the study’s researchers, Marcin Kierczak, PhD, told Phys.Org.

“The Belgian breed has a low risk of developing diabetes and our findings could be connected to a protective mechanism against the disease. Now we are trying to learn more about this phenomenon.”

The Malinois Belgian shepherd is a herding dog, hard-working and closely related to the German shepherd (another breed that rarely suffers from diabetes).

“Dogs need a good supply of oxygen and an even blood-sugar level to work hard,” study researcher Katja Hoglund, DVM, PhD, and Associate Professor, told Phys.Org. “Our hypothesis is that dogs with good blood glucose control have been selected in the course of developing the Belgian shepherd, thus creating a breed with a protective trait against development of diabetes.”


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