Medium-Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase (MCAD) Deficiency in Cavaliers

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Raising Your Pets, Dogs and Cats Naturally


Today, I’m writing to you about a new health condition that was recently brought to my attention.  As a dedicated Cavalier mom, I constantly strive to provide Dexter with the best care, and his health is always a concern. Recently, an unexpected discovery prompted me to delve deeper into his health journey.

These delightful dogs possess a charm that’s hard to resist, but they also have more than their fair of health conditions like Chiari malformation and syringomyelia, mitral valve disease, Primary secretory otitis media, and episodic falling syndrome, just to name a few.

Now, we are learning about another condition that is popping up, Medium-Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency. MCFAs are types of fats with a specific length of carbon atoms. In humans, MCAD deficiency is a genetic disorder that hinders the proper breakdown of MCFAs for energy. It leads to energy-related problems and various health challenges.

A recent study delved into the link between MCAD deficiency and seizures, lethargy, and other health issues observed in CKCS dogs.

A 3-year-old neutered male Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS) was experiencing seizures and tiredness, so researchers wanted to figure out what was causing it. They looked at the dog’s blood and urine and found increased medium-chain fatty acids and together with the clinical findings suggested a diagnosis of medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency.

The researchers sequenced the dog’s genome and examined a gene called ACADM, linked to MCAD deficiency. Their investigation unveiled a specific change in the ACADM gene that might be contributing to the dog’s condition. This change resulted in an alteration in the protein structure, which could potentially impact how the body processes MCFAs.

The researchers went a step further and tested the genetic variant in 162 CKCS dogs. They discovered that this genetic variant was quite prevalent within the breed. In the study, it was found that about 23.5% of the tested Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) carried the mutated gene associated with the condition. Biochemical tests conducted on these dogs demonstrated higher levels of specific molecules in their blood, further confirming their difficulties in breaking down MCFAs.

This groundbreaking study holds profound implications. It suggests that this genetic variant found in CKCS dogs could potentially trigger a condition like MCAD deficiency in humans. This revelation could provide insights into the seizures and other symptoms often observed in CKCS dogs.

Here are some symptoms to watch out for:

  • Seizures: Seizures or convulsions can be a significant indicator of potential MCAD deficiency. If your CKCS experiences seizures, it’s important to consult a veterinarian for proper evaluation.
  • Lethargy: Unexplained and prolonged lethargy or weakness can be a sign of an underlying health issue, including metabolic disorders like MCAD deficiency.
  • Episodic Illness: These episodes can include vomiting, decreased energy levels, and more severe symptoms like seizures.
  • Unsteady Gait: Difficulty walking, balance issues, or uncoordinated movements might be observed during episodes of illness.
  • Loss of Appetite: If your CKCS suddenly loses interest in food or experiences a decreased appetite, it could be a symptom of an underlying condition.
  • Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia): MCAD deficiency can lead to hypoglycemia, which may cause weakness, shakiness, disorientation, and even seizures.
  • Abnormal Behavior: Changes in behavior, such as increased irritability or confusion, can sometimes be indicative of a metabolic disorder.
  • Respiratory Distress: In severe cases, dogs might experience difficulty breathing or rapid breathing during an episode.
  • Recurrent Infections: Some dogs with MCAD deficiency may have a higher susceptibility to infections.
  • Neurological Symptoms: Dogs with MCAD deficiency may exhibit neurological symptoms during episodes, such as circling, head pressing, or lack of coordination.

Of course, our Cavaliers can show a lot of those signs for other reasons as well.

For Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) that may be at risk for Medium-Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase (MCAD) deficiency, it’s important to consider their diet carefully. According to the study, Cavaliers at risk should avoid certain foods. MCAD deficiency is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s ability to break down certain fats for energy.

While medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are present in foods like coconut oil and certain dairy products, there are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Foods High in Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs): Since the study suggests that CKCS dogs with certain genetic variants might have difficulty processing medium-chain fatty acids, it could be wise to limit their intake of foods rich in MCFAs. MCFAs are commonly found in coconut oil and other coconut-derived products. Avoiding or moderating these foods might be beneficial
  • High-Fat Diets: Dogs with potential genetic susceptibility to MCAD deficiency might benefit from a diet that’s not excessively high in fats. A balanced and appropriate diet is crucial for their overall health and well-being.
  • Dairy: Some dairy products contain small amounts of MCFAs, but they are not typically a significant source in a dog’s diet.

The journey doesn’t end here. Further research is essential to fully understand what is going on, how prevalent it truly is, and how to stop it in its tracks. This is where we Cavalier families and the amazing breeders out there come into play.

The research needs more Cavaliers tested!  It’s a simple swab that you can order from this UK lab, swab your Cavalier, and send the swab back to the lab. There are also a group of fabulous Cavalier breeders that are testing their dogs, keeping track of the results, and only breeding appropriate dogs, so they can wipe this mutation out of the line.

I ordered Dexter’s test kit and will update this blog when I have his results.  I also joined this Facebook group that is staying up to date on the latest research and tracking results.

Let’s stay informed and ensure the best care for our furry family members! 🐾📚~Tonya

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Medium-Chain Acyl-CoA Dehydrogenase (MCAD) Deficiency in Cavaliers

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