Westies Join Fight Against Fatal Lung Disease


Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a disease that kills approximately 40,000 Americans each year – a similar number die annually from breast cancer.

IPF occurs spontaneously and results in normal lung tissue being converted into scar tissue. It’s a progressive disease that gradually robs people of the ability to breathe. There are no known causes or treatments for IPF, and it’s usually fatal within three years of diagnosis.

West Highland White Terriers (Westies) are prone to a disease that is remarkably similar to IPF.

The symptoms in Westie’s are a shortness of breath and excessive panting, and the disease is usually fatal within eighteen months of diagnosis.

Pulmonary fibrosis tends to affects Westie’s when they are 7 to 9 years old; this is equivalent to 40 – 60 human years and is when IPF typically shows itself in humans.

Earlier this year veterinary and human medical researchers met to discuss and share information about IPF, and determine how they could work together to find the cause and a treatment for the disease.

For veterinarians the advantage of any collaboration is that they can learn from human research how to better diagnose and treat dogs that are dying from fibrotic lung disease.

As it’s believed that dogs age at a rate that is approximately seven times the human rate of aging, scientists would have the opportunity of studying the disease in ‘fast forward’, which may mean the cause and treatments can be found more quickly.

Cracking the IPF code is still a long way off, but hopefully it will become that much closer with this collaborative research.

Kudos to the Westie Foundation of America who initiated the conference, and to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation who both contributed additional funding.

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