Whippet Health Research Studies
On this page you will find information regarding health studies pertinent to Whippets. These studies are currently in progress and we encourage you to participate. Contact information for each study is provided. Please let us know if you are aware of any changes or additional contact information that should be changed or included.
Working Dog Brain Study
Sophie Barton, a graduate student at Harvard University in collaboration with the University of Georgia

I’m running a research study on the brains of working dogs. We are currently enrolling Whippets. I came across the Whippet Health Foundation, and I was wondering if any of your members might be interested in participating, or if you might have other suggestions about where I could recruit. Here is some brief info about the study:

We are investigating the neural and behavioral variation in working dog breeds. Particularly, we are interested in the relationship between individual variation in brain organization and predisposition to acquire new learned skills. Our methods include non-invasive MRI brain scanning, behavioral testing, and owner surveys. We are looking for dogs that are actively engaged in breed-specific behaviors (e.g., sighthounds that “hunt” naturalistic lures regularly). If possible, we are also looking for littermate or blood-relative “duds” who don’t show much skill at those same tasks. The study takes place at the veterinary teaching hospital at the University of Georgia under the supervision of a board-certified veterinary neurologist. The owners fill out some surveys about their dogs’ behavior while the dogs get a non-invasive MRI brain scan. The dogs also get a brief health exam and bloodwork to make sure they are safe for MRI. We normally start around 9am and are finished around lunch time, but we can be flexible with scheduling if needed. We can scan up to 2 dogs during a single appointment if necessary.

For more info, see the About page on our website at https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/caninebrains. I’d love to hear from you, even if it’s just to point me toward another contact person for recruitment. Feel free to email or call any time. Email is sbarton@g.harvard.edu and my phone number is 470-429-9904. If I’m unable to answer my phone, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Whippet Mitral Valve Disease Research Project
Dr. Joshua Stern, Assistant Professor, Medicine & Epidemiology, Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis

Dr. Joshua Stern submitted a research proposal to the Canine Health Foundation (CHF) on Whippet mitral valve disease. The proposal was forwarded to the Whippet Health Foundation (WHF) for funding consideration. The American Whippet Club was then contacted to see if they would be interested in contributing to this research proposal. It has been decided that both the WHF and AWC will fund the project.

Dr. Joshua Stern is leading a genetic investigation into mitral valve disease of Whippets. Dr. Stern has partnered with Dr. Rebecca Stepien and Virginia Luis Fuentes to investigate the genetic aspects of this condition, which the team has been studying for many years. This partnership has already led to great research progress. After the Whippet National in 2014, the group successfully identified chromosomal locations in the Whippet that may harbor mutations associated with development or progression of this condition. The team is now starting this newly funded study to complete whole genome sequencing of severely affected whippets along with normal Whippets to identify genetic differences that they hope will lead to development of a mutation screening test. This work aims to help reduce the prevalence and severity of mitral valve disease in the Whippet breed and it would not be possible without the support of the Whippet Health Foundation and the American Whippet Club. Dr. Stern’s research builds upon Dr. Rebecca Stepien's Whippet Cardiac Research Project, incorporating her results and specifically investigating the genetics of MMVD in Whippets.

Questions about the study can be directed to Dr. Stern (Joshua Stern, DVM, PHD, DACVIM; University of California Davis; 2108 Tupper Hall; One Shields Ave; Davis CA 95616; jstern@ucdavis.edu; 530-752-2475). For more information about Dr. Stern, go to https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/joshua-stern

Whippet Cardiac Health Project
Rebecca L. Stepien DVM, MS, DACVIM (Cardiology) University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine and Royal Veterinary College, London

Adult onset valvular heart disease is the most common form of heart disease in dogs and may account for up to 75-80% of canine heart disease. Mitral valve disease (MVD) is an adult onset abnormality of the mitral valve and is the most common type of valvular disease in dogs. Studies of Cavalier King Charles spaniels (CKCS) and dachshunds have suggested there is likely to be a genetic component in the etiology of MVD in these breeds. If MVD does have a heritable component in a given breed, identification of early forms of the disease in the breeding population may be valuable in decreasing the prevalence and severity of the disease in that breed. Whippets have been suggested to be at increased risk for MVD and are also an athletic breed.

In 2003, we undertook a study of outwardly healthy Whippets at the request and with the support of the Whippet Health Foundation. From 2004 to 2014, the Whippet Health Foundation has supported echocardiographic screening of healthy dogs submitted for examination at the National Specialty.

For a Feb 2014 update on findings to date, please click the following link: WhippetCardiacHealthProjectUpdate_2014.pdf

Exercise-Induced Hyperthermia Study
University of Helsinki and the University of Minnesota

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University of Minnesota are collaborating to attempt to determine the genetic basis of the condition commonly known as exercise-induced hyperthermia (EIH). In this study DNA samples from both affected and normal Whippets are being examined with genetic markers to attempt to identify the region of the genome that contains the causative gene. You can help with this important research by completing our online questionnaire for affected dogs, and by submitting a blood sample and supplying medical information about your dog to either of the collaborating research groups. Samples are needed both from dogs with EIH and normal healthy dogs. Samples from older healthy racing or lure coursing dogs are particularly important.

For more information on the research and how to participate, please click the following link:


Cleft Lip and/or Palate in Whippets
Zena Wolf at the University of California, Davis

The Bannasch Laboratory in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis is conducting a study to identify the genes responsible for cleft lip and/ or cleft palate in Whippets. In order to identify the genes involved and to prevent these defects in future generations, our laboratory is in need of DNA samples from:

  • Cleft lip and/or palate affected dogs or puppies
  • Parents and littermates of cleft lip and/or palate affected dogs

For more information on the research and how to participate, please click here

The WHF will reimburse owners any expenses incurred that are not covered by the Cleft Lip and/or Palate study group. Those expenses could include the office visit related to collection of specimens and any expenses related to the sample collection and preparation for shipment. Reimbursement would be made upon presentation of the receipt for those services along with the information required to enter the dog(s) in the data base as a CP study participant. Acceptance of reimbursement implies permission to enter any results of the testing in the database if and when they are made available. Send receipts to WHF Treasurer, Susan Bolduc, 31 North St, Blandford, MA 01008.

Canine Birth Defect Study
Nili Karmi (DVM/PhD student), Dr. Noa Safra, Dr. Danika Bannasch

Researchers in the Bannasch Laboratory at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis are initiating a long term study on canine birth defects (CBD). This study is looking at some of the more common birth defects and how environmental influence may be related. The current birth defects they are currently targeting are cleft palate, umbilical hernia (requiring surgical correction) and cryptorchidism. This link will take breeders to a page where they can complete a survey and submit DNA data on puppies.


Dermal Hemangiosarcoma Study
Van Andel Research Institute Launches New Canine Cancer Studies

The Van Andel Research Institute (VARI), in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is pleased to share that we have received a "Grand Opportunities" (GO grant) from the National Institutes of Health. This is enabling the Institute to expand its canine cancer studies, which started with a project investigating hemangiosarcoma in Clumber spaniels 18 months ago, into a much broader research program. We are launching a new center of excellence in canine genetics and genomics. The first and most important program is the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium (CHCC), which is headed by Drs. Jeff Trent (TGen), Nick Duesbery (Van Andel Research Institute), and Paul Meltzer (National Cancer Institute/NIH). The program is an unprecedented alliance of scientists, veterinarians and physicians. Drs. Duesbery and Froman are intensely focused on recruiting canine cancer patients for the study through a variety of clinical outreach programs. Samples from canine patients will not only allow the researchers to identify genes responsible for breed-specific susceptibilities (such as hemangiosarcoma in Clumber spaniels and osteosarcoma in Greyhounds), but also to translate these discoveries into new and more precise diagnostics and therapeutics for both canine and human cancer patients. The CHCC has been developed to investigate five initial cancers in dogs, which also affect people.

Our first request in whippets is for dermal hemangiosarcoma, a form of malignant skin cancer. In order to move forward, we need your help. The Institute will be studying only naturally ocurring tumors, so we need the assistance of owners with dogs who develop either dermal hemangioma or hemangiosarcoma. We are requesting fresh (NOT in formalin) tumor samples when the dog has surgery, a biopsy or is euthanized. We also need 3 mls of blood in an EDTA (purple top) tube. If a tumor sample is not immediately available, (a dog who has had surgery, for example), a blood sample is still useful.

If your dog is scheduled for surgery, please contact VARI ahead of time so we can FedEx a tumor collection kit to your veterinarian. You can contact the CHCC at 616.234.5569. You may also email Dr. Froman at roe.froman@vai.org. Consent forms and more information for veterinarians can be accessed and downloaded from our website, www.vai.org/helpingdogs. In addition, we are collecting DNA samples from a wide variety of healthy, purebred dogs, for use as controls. Your help is greatly appreciated. Roe Froman, DVM