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Could your twitching dog be the clue to curing a deadly childhood disease?


Most of you reading the title of this article will probably frown their eyebrows, but please read on, because your dog could be able to provide the clue needed to treat a terrible neurologic disease that strikes children down hard, in the prime of their lives.


Two experienced  veterinary neurologists, Dr. Susan Fitzmaurice and Dr. Clare Rusbridge have been confronted in the last few years with Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds having epileptic seizures after the age of 7. The fits were provoked by flashing lights, watching television or if approached in sunlight. Sue and Clare went to great lengths to establish a diagnosis for these dogs and with the help of two veterinary pathologists (Dr. Diane Shelton, San Diego, California, and Dr. Robin Franklin, Cambridge, England) they came to the conclusion that this disease was the same as the deadly human disease, Lafora’s Progressive Myoclonus Epilepsy. Fortunately, the disease in the dogs is much less severe than its human counterpart.


My name is Berge Minassian, I am a paediatric neurologist and scientist dedicated to understanding, and hopefully one day curing this devastating condition. This disease, in humans, strikes otherwise completely normal children, just as they are entering adolescence. Once the fits start, they do not stop, despite our best efforts. The seizures get worse and worse until they kill the child. Because of the onset of the disease after 10 yars of age, many of the families, not knowing what is brewing in their first child, have had further children, who witness the ordeal of their sibling, only to themselves then starting to succumb to the condition. Our research laboratory is part of the large Center for Applied Genomics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada and is headed by Dr. Stephen Scherer. This is the same lab which was involved in such seminal discoveries as the gene for Cystic Fibrosis. We have already discovered one gene for Lafora's disease. Surprisingly, we also discovered that in humans, there is a second gene, which also causes this horrible disease. This second Lafora's disease gene has been very hard to find in humans. We now know that this second Lafora's disease gene is the same gene causing the problem in the Miniature Wirehaired Dachshunds. If we can find the Dachshund Lafora gene, then that would be a major leap forward in unravelling the biology of this disease in humans. We would be much closer to a fuller understanding of what is going on, and hence much closer to a potential cure for our children.


We are planning NO EXPERIMENTS OF ANY KIND on the dogs. What we need is a little bit of blood, that is all. If you have a Miniature Wirehaired Dachshund who has fits, THEN PLEASE CONTACT US, and allow your puppy to give us a little bit of blood. Epilepsy is common in dogs, and there are many forms of epilepsy.  Please contact us only if your dog is a miniature wirehaired dachshund. Many children in the future will look back at this and will be eternally grateful. Dr. Susan Fitzmaurice (in Woking) and Dr. Clare Rusbridge (in Wimbledon) will be in charge of the blood collection in the U.K. All reasonable costs will be covered by our research funds. Their addresses are below. Any of you can contact me any time, and I will do what I can to answer your questions, and help coordinate this effort. My full address is also below. 


Finally, do remember that the disease is much milder in the dogs. The dogs have an altogether normal life apart from the fits late as they age.


I thank you wholeheartedly,





Additional Information on Lafora's Disease

Berge A Minassian MD CM, FRCP(C)

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

Division of Neurology

Hospital for Sick Children

555 University Ave, Toronto


email :


Clare Rusbridge BVMS, DipECVN, MRCVS


Stone Lion Veterinary Centre

41 High Street

Wimbledon Common

London SW19 5AU

email :

Telephone 0208 946 4228

Susan Fitzmaurice BVMS, DipECVN, MRCVS

125-129 Chertsey Road

Woking Surrey GU 21 5BP

email :

Telephone 01483 729194

Wirehaired Dachshund Club UK

Laura Sexton email :

Fay Hutchings email :

Miniature Dachshund Club UK

Jack Boulger email :