All Color Boston Terrier Club

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Health Testing Information

Boston Terriers, Colored and Traditional, can suffer from Deafness, Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts, Patellar Luxation, Other Eye Disorders, Hemivertebrae, Elongated Soft Palate, Stenotic Nares.  There are tests for various disorders including but not limited to:
Cardiac Assessment, BAER hearing testing, CERF Eye Testing, Spinal Assessment, Patellar Luxation, DNA for Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts.  For more information on Health Testing see our articles below and visit these sites:

Health Testing Resources: Can find info on BAER, CERF, JHC, Patellar Luxation, Congenital Cardiac Disease, Hemivertebrae, etc. and RESULTS for tested dogs.  



Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts in Boston Terriers

by Boston Terriers of Color on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at 8:39pm
Cataracts are one of the most common health problems within the canine species. There are several types and causes, however this article will center on Early Onset Cataracts, more commonly known as Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts (JHC). Below you will find a detailed description of how and why the cataracts develop, explanation of treatment and recovery, as well as measures that can be taken by responsible breeders to ensure that puppies are not born with the affected gene. Take care not to miss the photographs and testing facilities linked at the end of this article which are vital in fully understanding the importance of eradicating the JHC gene from Boston Terrier genealogy.



Diagram of the Canine Eye



     Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts were first found by K.C. Barnett in a Boston Terrier’s eyes the year of 1978. The lens in the eye focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye so a canine may see clearly. Cataracts occur when the normally transparent lens becomes clouded.  Able to be seen as early as 8 weeks of age, the cataracts begin as small white flecks viewable when the pupil is dilated. By the age of 9 months the cataracts take on a form much like that of crushed-ice in appearance. A JHC is fully developed by the age of 4.



Photo of a Boston Terrier affected with fully developed Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts



     The Juvenile Cataract gene possess’ an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance which means that for a Boston to be affected with JHCs it must inherit two copies of the gene (one from each parent). A Boston Terrier carrying one copy of the JHC gene and one copy of the normal gene is referred to as a carrier. Carriers show no signs of impaired vision as carrying one copy has no affect on their vision. A carrier Boston and a clear Boston can be bred together to produce a litter with no affecteds, however 50% of the litter will be carriers.  Two carrier dogs, although not having impaired vision themselves, bred together can result in 50% carriers, 25% clear, and 25% affecteds.  This is how two Boston Terriers who are visibly fine, can produce puppies that will become blind. 

 Dr. Cathryn Mellersh and her research group at Animal Health Trust (AHT) in England were able to map and identify the mutated gene responsible for Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts, entitled the ‘heat shock transcription factor’ gene or HSF4. This gene is responsible for JHCs in Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers. Because of the success of Dr. Mellersh and her research group, a DNA test was developed in Feb 2006 and began being offered by AHT to the public at $116 a test, results typically provided in 3-4 weeks.



Actual AHT JHC Test Certificate



There are now two more facilities also offering JHC testing in the States and are more cost and time effective. VetGen Services is offering tests at $95 for one test, $80.75 for 2-7 tests, and $66.50 for 8 or more tests, results typically provided in 3 weeks.



Actual VetGen Test Certificate



Animal Genetics is offering tests for the most inexpensive rate of $45 per test with results typically within 1-2 weeks. The test is a simple three swab kit, some are small bristles brushes like baby bottle cleaners and others are q-tips, both require the swabbing of the inner cheek walls for 15 seconds.  Though it may be a bit of an annoyance to the canine, it is painless and can be completed rather quickly.



Actual Animal Genetics Test Certificate



There is also another avenue of health testing to identify Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts and that is CERF certification. CERF stands for Canine Eye Registration Foundation. Only a CERF certified ophthalmologist's result can be registered with the OFA, Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. However, there is only two ways a carrier can be confirmed. One is being born to an affected parent or the other is to be DNA tested with one of the three JHC testing facilities. Carriers can not be determined by CERF certified ophthalmologist. 



CERF Ophthalmologist looking into the eyes of a Havanese



     Treatment for Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts is limited to only one option, surgical removal of the cataracts. This surgery requires a veterinarian certified and specializing in small animal ophthalmic surgery and this is a surgery that is expensive ranging in price from $1500-$3000 per eye.  General anesthesia is given and the defective lens is meticulously replaced with an Intraocular Lens (IOL).  The cornea is responsible for 2/3 or the focusing of the eye, in a successful surgery the vision is restored to almost perfect sight.  Typically canines are allowed to go home after surgery and this is when the recovery work really starts requiring a significant amount of an owner’s time. After surgery canines need to be kept calm and quiet, with as little action as possible which is hard for a Boston Terrier. Elizabethan collars should be worn for up to 3 weeks after surgery to help protect the eyes of the Boston which are already so susceptible to injury. All grooming and vaccination appointments should be canceled for up to 6 weeks.  Drops will be given by the veterinarian to aid in the eyes healing process. These drops will need to be administered several times a day for up to 6 months. As always, report any changes to the veterinarian who performed the procedure.  Vision improves most times within the first few days, but sometimes it can take up to 3 weeks to notice any improvement.  It has been found that in 10% of cases the IOL does not take to the eye and the surgery is unsuccessful.  Reasons for this can be countless, but sometimes the cataracts have adhered to the eye and it is impossible to remove them and restore all, if any, vision. If surgery is not an option for whatever reason it can be said that Boston Terriers can live comfortably affected with JHCs however it is not without issue as a blind canine is much like a blind person in that they will be needing assistance for their life.



Cataract Surgery Before and After



     Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts are rampant in the Boston Terrier breed, every color having been affected by them from black/white to lilac/white.  Before 2006 there was no way for a breeder to test their canines to see if their lines were carrying the gene.  Thankfully the test was developed and as science has advanced the test has become more available to the public with prices for the test lowering with each new facility that begins testing for JHCs.  An excuse by breeders of “we have never had an issue with sight in our bloodlines” should never be accepted when carriers are so easily found in the Boston Terrier breed. Furthermore an excuse of “it is too expensive to test” should never be accepted as quite honestly, it is more costly to the breed as a whole not to test for Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts.



"Penelope" showing off her lovely deep brown cataract free eyes. Owner Sarah Wight


 For more information on Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts and test kit ordering please see the links below.

 We hope that you all have enjoyed this article and have found it useful.  This article is copywritten and is property of the Boston Terriers of Color Facebook team and is not to be used without our permission. If you would like to link to it, you are more than welcome as long as credit is given to the owner of the article. Thank you.

 Animal Health Trust Website

 VetGen Services Website

 Animal Genetics Website

Info Taken from the Boston Terriers of Color Facebook Page