Allergic Dermatitis Study

According to the RRCUS health survey, allergic dermatitis is the breed’s #4 health concern and is often debilitating and very frustrating for both the Ridgeback and its owner.

Dr. Hammerberg at North Caroline State University has created a diagnostic test for predicting the risk of a dog developing allergies. To evaluate this test, he needs small blood samples from litters of pups.

Breeders can coordinate this blood draw at the puppies’ health check before they are sent to their new homes

Litters both with and without a family history of allergic dermatitis are needed, so every breeder can contribute to this project. Please make the effort. This is ground breaking work that could literally provide us with the tools to eliminate allergic dermatitis in Rhodesian Ridgeback breeding programs.

The cost of shipping is covered by Dr. Hammerberg.

Allergic Dermatitis
CHF Grant # 2234  (2001)

Basophil/Mast Cell Response to Lectin as a Predictor for Risk of Allergic Disease in Genetically Susceptible Dogs
Principal Investigator:  Bruce Hammerberg, DVM, PhD.

Atopic dermatitis, or skin allergies, is a chronic debilitating disease that is widely distributed among the breeds of dogs. This inherited disease is listed as a high research priority for the following breeds: Australian Terrier, Belgian Tervuren, Bichon Frise, Chinese Shar-Pei, Clumber Spaniel, French Bulldog, Norfolk Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Pharaoh Hound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Sealyham Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and West Highland White Terrier.

The skin mast cell and circulating basophil are the cells mainly responsible for itching and skin damage seen in atopic dermatitis. This laboratory has recently discovered that circulating basophils from atopic dogs release significantly more of the inflammatory mediator, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), than basophils from normal dogs when stimulated with lectins that bind glycoproteins on the surface of basophils.  If there is an inherited difference in how surface glycoproteins signal release of TNF-a, then knowledge of the molecular basis for this difference will lead to being able to identify dogs that will have a higher risk of developing atopic dermatitis.  Excluding these dogs from breeding will help reduce the frequency of atopic individuals in a breed.

We have developed monoclonal antibodies specific for two surface glycoproteins responsible for signaling the release of TNF-a. These monoclonal antibodies are being used to purify the glycoproteins for amino acid sequencing that will reveal their identity regarding comparable surface signaling proteins. The monoclonal antibodies are also being used to develop a diagnostic aid for predicting risk of developing allergic diseases in puppies before they show any clinical signs. To accomplish this we are asking breeders to provide small samples of blood from parents and offspring under 6 months of age, collected in heparinized blood tubes and sent by overnight shipping.

Melanie Behrens is coordinating this collection effort and can get you started. Contact her at or 845-635-1489 if you have a litter on the ground or are expecting one in the near future and you can go this extra mile for the breed.

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