Skye Terrier “Hepatitis”

Skye Terrier Hepatitis at the Kennel Club Genetics CentreSkye terrier ‘hepatitis’ was first reported in 1988 in nine related dogs (Haywood et al. 1988). It causes a relatively severe liver disease in young to middle aged dogs with scar tissue formation which progresses to cirrhosis in some cases. Dogs typically develop fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and often vomiting and diarrhoea. There is often accumulation of copper in the liver which differs from copper storage disease in other breeds in that it only builds up once the disease has started. The authors of the original report argued this was not a primary copper storage disease but instead that it was associated with reduced movement of bile within the liver.  There have been no further studies published on Skye terrier hepatitis since 1988 apart from a single case report from Glasgow in 2003 (McGrotty et al. 2003).

Skye terrier ‘hepatitis’ is most often recognised in young adult dogs; although dogs as old as 11 years of age have been reported with the disease. Affected dogs may have mild to severe symptoms. Typically, they show vomiting and diarrhoea, including passing black faeces, and can build up fluid in the abdomen (‘ascites’). In some dogs, the whites of the eyes become obviously yellow (‘jaundice’). Anecdotally, some dogs have had green teeth. Diagnosis can only be made definitively with a liver biopsy which shows a distinctive pattern under the microscope with scar tissue. Dogs can be very ill with this disease, but with careful diagnosis and treatment they can do well.

Our investigations to date suggest this is an inherited disease. We are now at a critical stage in our research: we have identified a gene of interest but need more work to decide if this is the cause of the disease. We are also working with human and veterinary pathologists to try to understand the disease mechanisms more to help us treat affected dogs more effectively. To progress our research, we would like to gather more clinical details from Skye terriers which already have DNA samples lodged with the Kennel Club Genetics Centre (now at Cambridge, previously at the Animal Health Trust) and from those who have not yet submitted DNA samples.

Questionnaire for Skye terrier owners.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge are investigating liver disease in Skye terriers (commonly known as ‘Skye Terrier hepatitis’) to try to understand the underlying cause and genetics of the condition. To help with their work, they would be very grateful if owners of pedigree Skye Terriers would complete this short questionnaire. Your answers can remain completely anonymous. However, you have the opportunity of giving us some more details at the end of the questionnaire to help further with our research.

Thank you for your time.

Complete the questionnaire here.