Understanding Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration in Rabbit Dogs

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    There is not much that is more hopeful than the birth of a litter of beagles. Seeing their little bodies squirm up close to their mother to suckle, it is hard not to envision them someday running about in a lush field chasing rabbits. In our minds, scenarios such as this play out on repeat as the big dreams we have for our pups begin to take shape.

    Anyone who breeds dogs should make it a point to breed for the betterment of the breed and elimination or at least reduction of flaws. The more well-rounded the rabbit dog offspring we produce, the better the future generations will be, hence putting in the effort to only breed the best of the best. Even though all puppies are cute, the fact of the matter is that some are just not worthy to go on to become breeding stock. In some cases it may take time to discover temperament and conformational flaws that need not be passed on to future offspring, but sometimes it is very apparent that a puppy has a major genetic issue pretty early on.

    An example of a genetic flaw that presents in puppyhood is Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration (NCCD). As soon as beagle puppies begin to open their eyes and start attempting to walk on their own, a puppy with Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration begins to stand out. The reason for this is one of the main identifiers of NCCD is a puppy who simply cannot walk correctly and falls over. Affected puppies display a lack of coordination known as ataxia, loss of balance, muscle tremors, and they sometimes adopt an odd or unusual stance in an attempt to stand. Symptoms materialize/are typically noticed around three weeks of age.

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    Photo: Pets 4 Homes

    NCCD is an inherited neurological degenerative disease that is unfortunately associated with the beagle breed although it is seen in other mammals as well. It is a recessive disease, meaning both parents must carry a copy of the genetic mutation that causes it and affected offspring will thus have two copies. This does not necessarily mean that both parents will display symptoms, however, and genetic testing is necessary to determine for certain whether or not a dog is a carrier. Testing can be done to determine whether parents are carriers, with results being as follows:

    1. N/N is a normal result in which the disease is not present and can be breed without incident as long as paired with a similarly unaffected dog.
    2. N/CCD indicates a carrier dog which has a single copy of the mutation. Breeding this type of dog is a roll of the dice as only 25% of offspring are expected to be fully free of the disease, be it affected or as a carrier. 50% of offspring will be carriers and 25% will produce affected puppies.
    2. CCD/CCD results indicated a dog has 2 copies of the disease. This dog will be affected physically and can pass the disease on to pups should he/she survive to breed.

    Though we discuss the breeding of affected dogs, the fact of the matter is that most physically affected dogs are euthanized as puppies due to the severity of symptoms. Some dogs can go on to live with their issues, provided those issues are minimal enough to allow them to function. Overall the disease is not treatable, however, so the best case scenario for physically affected dogs is that they have so few related issues that they are able to adapt.

    In order to be certain this disease does not pop up in future generations of rabbit dogs, testing prior to breeding is advised. If you have a dog you wish to breed, testing can be done through UC Davis. If you are looking to breed your own dog to an outside stud service, requesting proof that that dog has been tested prior to breeding will give you the best odds of healthy pups that can go on to live happy, productive lives free from the terrible disease that Neonatal Cerebellar Cortical Degeneration is known to be.

    Have you ever encountered a rabbit dog pup with NCCD? What was the outcome? Share your story with us in the comments.

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