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Blog /Hearing Loss In Dogs
Breed and Genetics June 09, 2021

Why understanding hearing loss in Rottweilers is good for human ears

New research has identified a rare genetic variant associated with hearing loss in Rottweilers—providing a model for future research in veterinary medicine, as well as human health.

Our pets support our well-being in so many ways, from decreasing loneliness and anxiety to encouraging us to get out and burn a few calories. On occasion, they even help us better understand the genetics behind human health conditions—including hearing loss.

How exciting is that?

Listen up: How we identified hearing loss in Rottweilers

I’m proud to announce the publication of a landmark study on genetic hearing loss conducted in partnership with Professor Hannes Lohi’s team at the University of Helsinki.

The study—Missense variant in LOXHD1 is associated with canine nonsyndromic hearing loss—identifies the first-ever genetic variant for nonsyndromic (i.e., not associated with other signs and symptoms) hearing loss in Rottweilers. All thanks to genetic samples from the Wisdom Health Genetics database and medical records from Banfield Pet Hospital.

Our research team used homozygosity mapping and genome sequencing to identify a rare variant in the LOXHD1 gene, which is associated with nonsyndromic hearing loss in both humans and mice. We then studied more than 800,000 dogs tested with Wisdom Panel™ products at Banfield Pet Hospitals and found that the LOXHD1 variant was the most likely cause of hearing loss among affected dogs.

Pups of all breeds are commonly diagnosed with congenital and adult-onset hearing loss. But until now, the genetic cause has largely remained a mystery. In addition to being one of the largest published canine genotyping efforts to date, this study revealed the molecular genetics behind hearing loss.

How puppies are helping advance human healthcare

This remarkable discovery was only possible through our collaboration with Banfield Pet Hospital, who offered Wisdom Panel™ tests in the Optimum Wellness Plan, also known as the Puppy Plan. We worked closely with more than a thousand Banfield Pet Hospital clinicians to confirm the link between the LOXHD1 variant and hearing loss—referencing the clinicians’ observations in a medical record from 2019 to 2021. 

This study lays the groundwork for targeted genetic screenings (like those included in Wisdom Panel™ tests) for LOXHD1-related hearing disorder in Rottweilers, helping improve the overall health of breed populations. But it also offers insights for human healthcare.

The hearing loss characterized in this study is clinically and genetically similar to the condition in humans. That means the medical research community now has a new model for future study that will benefit both dogs and humans.

Without the collective effort of dedicated clinicians, pet parents, and geneticists, identifying and characterizing such a rare genetic variant wouldn’t have been possible. As our DNA database grows beyond 2.5 million dogs worldwide, we look forward to continuing our research in canine genetics and providing pet parents with the information they need to care smarter and love longer.

Dig into the science behind this discovery.

For more details on the study of genetic hearing loss in Rottweilers, check out the press release announcing the publication.

Read Press Release