Articles Index/Health
Revised 03/08/06


Friends of Norfolk Terrier Donar Advised Fund

In May, 2001, ANTA members received a letter from Carol Falk and Nat LaMar, soliciting funds to establish a Donor Advised Fund with the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF). The goal was to raise $2000 to establish a fund specific for Mitral Valve Disease, and then to proceed with additional fund raising. Carol and Nat did this as private individuals.

Carol reports that each person who sent donations to Carol has received thank you notes from her in addition to a thank you from the CHF with a tax deductible charitable contribution statement. Carol says that she is more than excited to report that more than 100 Norfolk friends donated almost $15,000 to our Friends of Norfolk Terrier DAF. All of this money is specifically ear marked for MVD research in Norfolk Terriers.

In September, 2001, the CHF will be soliciting pre-grant proposals from researchers all over the country. They will be actively looking for someone interested in studying MVD in Norfolks.

In December, 2001, those researchers whose pre-proposals look promising will be asked to submit formal grant proposals. In June of 2002, after being evaluated by the CHF, many grants will be funded. Hopefully, a serious study on MVD in Norfolk Terriers will be a reality in 2002

If no grants are funded in 2002, the monies will remain in the DAF earning interest and continuing to grow with future donations until an appropriate study becomes a reality.

Carol Falk
adapted from a letter to the editor, ANTIC September, 2001



I have been in contact with the Canine Health Foundation many times over the summer. There have been some organizational changes within the Foundation, and they have moved their offices from Ohio to North Carolina. Unfortunately, they had no success in finding a researcher interested in studying MVD in Norfolk terriers. In the meantime, our Friends of Norfolk Terrier DAF has continued to grow and, as of September 1, 2003, it has $19,827.

Because things were moving more slowly than I had hoped, and because I am fortunate enough to have many veterinary contacts, I decided to undertake my own search. I am excited to report that I believe I have found the right person for our study. She is a cardiology resident at a major university veterinary school and is also studying for her PHD. We discussed the exciting new work being done with mitral valve replacement in dogs, but agreed that the thrust of our study should be to understand how this disease is inherited in order to reduce it's incidence in our breed population. She has indicated her willingness to submit a pre-grant proposal to the CHF as funds are released only through the CHF grant process.

I have spoken with Andrew Kramer, former NNTC health chairman, who, in addition to having a PHD in genetics, has thousands of Norfolk pedigrees his computer database. He has indicated his willingness to help with this study, as initially much emphasis will need to be placed on pedigree analysis.

Many NNTC and ANTA members responded not only to our MVD survey, but also to our request for funds. Hopefully, we will be contacting all of you in the not too distant future, as your continued input will be vital to the success of this undertaking. Although this is a long-term project, I believe together, we can make a difference.

Carol Falk


The American Kennel Club created the Canine Health Foundation (CHF) to raise money for canine health research. Through its Donor Advised Fund (DAF) program, it provides a means for collecting and administering funds for specific breeds and purposes. CHF is online at . Donations may be made online, by phone to 888-682-9696, or by sending checks to AKCCHF, 251 W Garfield Rd, Suite 160, Aurora, OH 44202-8856. Be sure to specify the DAF that you wish to receive your donation. On a check, you may do this by writing the name of the fund on the memo line. There are presently two funds of interest to Norfolks: Friends of Norfolk Health DAF, devoted specifically to research on mitral valve disease (MVD) in Norfolks, and The Norwich and Norfolk Club DAF for Norfolks, which is for general research to the benefit of Norfolk Terriers.



It has been a long, sometimes rocky road, but I am delighted to inform you that the Canine Health Foundation (CHF) has received a grant proposal to study mitral valve disease (MVD) in the Norfolk Terrier. I contacted Dr. Sunshine Lahmers of Washington State University last summer, and talked at length with her about the type of study we were looking for. About six weeks ago, I received a call from the grants administrator at the CHF informing me that Dr. Lahmers' proposal had been received. Although the study will need at least two years to complete, I have been assured that, by taking it one year at a time, we should be able to get approval for the first part of the study by May of this year.

Our "Friends of Norfolk Terrier Donor Advised Fund" now has a balance of about $20,000. Dr. Lahmers has asked for $12,000 to fund the first year of the study. Half of this money will come from our fund, and the remaining $6,000 will be matched by the CHF. Following is a summary of Dr. Lahmers' proposed research:

"Although breeders, owners and veterinarians who work with Norfolk Terriers are suspicious that an early onset form of mitral valve disease exists in this breed, there have been no published studies to characterize MVD in the Norfolk. The goal of the proposed study is to investigate the incidence, pattern of inheritance, progression, pathology and potentially the genetic basis of mitral valve disease in the Norfolk Terrier. This information will benefit the breeder, veterinarian and pet owner by providing the information necessary to make informed medical and breeding decisions. In addition, this study proposes the development of a canine gene array. This array has the potential to increase our understanding about a variety of cardiac disorders by providing a screening tool for expression of a subset of cardiac genes."

Dr. Lahmers has three specific aims for the first year of the study:

Aim 1: Determine the incidence, progression and type of mitral valve disease in the Norfolk Terrier by echocardiography.
Aim 2: Determine the histopathology of mitral valve disease in the Norfolk Terrier.
Aim 3: Determine if a pattern of inheritance for mitral disease is identifiable in the Norfolk Terrier.

The third effort will require extensive pedigree analysis. Dr. Lahmers' random labeling system will allow her to maintain anonymity of all enrolled dogs (and their ancestors) and should allay the fears of anyone concerned about specific dogs being "labeled".
If things move along as planned for the first year of the study, Aim 4 will be attacked during the second year.

Aim 4: Look for gene defects in 10 candidate genes in Norfolk Terriers with mitral valve disease by PCR (polymerize chain reaction) and by development of a canine cardiac gene microarray.

I shall try to keep you updated on Dr. Lahmers' progress, and am hopeful that our Norfolk community will provide her with whatever help and information she may need.

Editor's Note: We will keep ANTA members informed as to how they may help Dr. Lahmers conduct her research efforts. We will notify you when, how, and where to send information that will be helpful in this exciting endeavor. Thank you, Carol Falk and Nat LaMar for your untiring efforts!

Carol Falk
ANTIC, June, 2004


Carol Falk (Ben Kelev) and Lori Pelletier (Avalon) presented an overview of Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) at this year's Fall Festival.

The most common cause of heart failure in small dogs, the earliest sign of a leaking heart valve is a heart murmur. A murmur is produced by the turbulence created when some of the blood goes backward through the leaking valve and into the left atrium.

According to the presentation, MVD is diagnosed by:

A. Auscultation locating the murmur with a stethoscope.
B. Chest x-rays viewing the size and shape of the heart.
C. EKG (electrocardiogram) -- assesses the electrical activity of the heart.
D. Ultrasound (Doppler) gives the best look at the size of each heart chamber and permits visualization of the heart valves.

The good news is that the disease causing the leaky mitral valve is due to valve degeneration, which is common and usually slowly progressing in many small breed, older dogs.

The vast majority of Norfolks with the disease have heart murmurs and therefore can be identified by a skilled veterinarian.

None of the dogs tested in one study involving Norfolks was severely affected yet at eight years of age.

The not-so-good news is that, in general, this is a late-onset disease (average eight years) and breeders cannot screen for the late onset form of the disease during a dog's normal breeding years.

A subset of young Norfolks (less than five years of age) has been identified.

The very early stages of MVD are hard to detect by routine methods. So far, with few large scale studies to compare, 60% of Norfolks screened have been affected by MVD.

It is important to realize that significant research on this disease in Norfolks is in its infancy. The recommendations are:

A. Annual OFA (cardiac) screening during each year a dog is used for breeding. Keep in mind that dogs with the late onset form of the disease will not be identified.
B. Annual physical exams of breeding stock.
C. Once a murmur is detected, then a cardiac ultrasound should be performed by a cardiologist to confirm the diagnosis.

Currently, Dr. Sunshine M. Lahmers, DVM, at Washington State University is studying this disease in Norfolks. The goal of her study is to investigate the incidence, pattern of inheritance, progression, pathology and potentially the genetic basis of MVD in the Norfolk Terrier.

It is hoped that one of the long-term results of Dr. Lahmers' study will be the development of a screening tool to identify carriers of MVD.

Contributions to Dr. Lahmers' donor advised study can be made through the AKC's Canine Health Foundation (CHF). The grant number is 357-A.

To contact the CHF, visit or write: PO Box 37941, Raleigh, NC 27627-7941.



Getting To The "Heart" Of The Matter

The Time Has Come To Support Needed Research



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