The Birman Heart Fund
Lois Wilkie did a talk at the Birman Cat Club Show in 2015 and you can download the recording below
A Scanning Day has been arranged by the RVC and Birman
owners, for people unable to travel to the RVC. It is to be held at†
Mappleborough Green Village Hall, on †20th
July 2016. Mappleborough Green is just south of the M42 and handy
for the Midlands and Birmingham areas.
Testing offer from our Researcher
We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in January.
The Birman Heart fund was started after the Birman Cat Club Committee received letters from breeders and owners about cardiac problems in the breed. The committee contacted Veterinary Specialists who confirmed that the problem was increasing within the breed.
At this time no one was raising awareness of the problem and no research was planned. The Birman committee voted to fund raise to remedy this. They have since been joined by the S & SW Birman Cat Club, the N. Birman Cat Club, and the Birman Welfare and Rescue. They have also received encouragement from the Birman BAC and the Cats Welfare Trust.
In order to protect breeders and the breed as a whole from unwelcome publicity the supporting clubs have concentrated on holding seminars, publishing information in the magazine, in leaflets and on their web sites. It was felt that a high profile campaign using public media would exaggerate the problem and give rise to acrimonious gossip. It could discourage sales and give the impression that the Birman Cat was less healthy than other breeds.
The money raised
The fund has raised over £3000 to date. Although this money is at present held in The Birman Heart Research Account, it is not Birman Cat Club money, but is held in trust on behalf of the donors until it can be handed over for research.
Some of the major donors have specified that the funds go direct to a UK college, and these conditions will have to be honoured. The RVA has been mentioned, as donors are aware that research into similar problems is already being done there, and it was intimated that they would be prepared to carry out research into the Birman cat.
Now that the RVA is in a position to begin research, having applied for a donation from the WINN Foundation, we are able to hand over funds to them for this research. Direct communication and steps are being taken with the RVA to do this without impacting the current WINN support or ongoing research plans.
The clubs will continue to fundraise for this cause, and look forward to help from members and Birman owners.
Birman cats are predisposed to heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), which can take a range of forms: hypertrophic (HCM), where the walls of the heart are too thick; restrictive (RCM), where the walls of the heart are too stiff; dilated (DCM) where there is thinning and weakening of the heart muscle and (arrhythmogenic) right ventricular (ARVC), where the right side of the heart may be replaced by fat and scar tissue. It is currently not clear whether HCM, RCM, DCM and ARVC represent different diseases with different causes, or whether these cardiomyopathies are part of the spectrum of one disease with one genetic cause.¬† This is a crucial question that must be answered before a genetic mutation can be identified.
We have been studying Birmans with cardiomyopathy using a combination of cardiac ultrasound (echocardiography), pathology and pedigree analysis, so that we can tease out the features of these heart muscle diseases. Since the start of the study we have screened 21 cats with echocardiography and had 3 cats presented for necropsy examination and pathology. We have also received DNA samples from one cat who was screened elsewhere and died of cardiomyopathy.
Pedigree analysis is underway and we have found families of Birmans with multiple members affected by more than one type of cardiomyopathy, therefore are gaining confidence that we are dealing with one disease. ¬†At the end of the July 2015 we have the opportunity to begin our first round of genetic testing, using Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS).¬† In order to do this, we recently made an appeal for Birmans 7 years or older (ideally 10 years or older) with no family history of cardiomyopathy that do not have high blood pressure (hypertension) or an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism). These older, normal cats will form our ‘control’ group with which we will compare the DNA of cats with cardiomyopathy in the hope of finding the genetic mutation(s) responsible for cardiomyopathy in this breed.
We continue to offer free of charge screening at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals in Hertfordshire, which includes:
You can book your cat in by emailing email@example.com
We are very grateful to everyone who has donated personally, through Breed Clubs, the Birman Heart Foundation and WINN.¬† Without you this research would not be possible!