„Stress-induced laryngeal spasm“ in the Belgian Shepherd Dog
16.09.2022 19:26

There are Belgian Shepherds who develop a spasm of the larynx during a heavy exercise, especially during protection work, which can lead to sudden shortness of breath. Only a few dogs show this phenomenon, most Belgian Shepherds do not have any breathing problems at similar exercises.

It is possible that stress-induced laryngeal spasm is influenced by a genetic variant.

It is speculated that stress-induced laryngeal spasm is inherited as a monogenic trait, but the actual inheritance of this trait is unknown. If there is a monogenic inheritance, there is a realistic chance of elucidating the causal molecular genetics and, if necessary, to developing a genetic test which to stress-induced laryngeal spasm could be combated by breeding.

In a research project, the University of Bern would like to compare the genomes of affected dogs („cases“) with the genomes of unaffected dogs („controls“). For this purpose, a so-called genome-wide association study (GWAS) is carried out. For this we need samples from at least 20 cases and 20 controls.

Specifications for the Group „AFFECTED DOGS“ (CASES)

At the moment, for the cases, it would be enough if the owner confirms that the dog has developed a laryngeal spasm and severe breathing problems during training under intense stress. Of course, especially valuable for research are those cases in which the problem has occurred several times, which may even have had to be operated on because of this, and in which there are also surgical reports from ENT surgeons.

Specifications for the control Group „UNAFFECTED DOGS“ (CONTROLS)

Since the larynx spasms seems to be stress-induced, it is conceivable that dogs that are not in intensive training never show a larynx spasm, although they may have the genetic make-up for it.

Therefore we only need control dogs who are of a certain minimum age (> 5 years) and who have never shown laryngeal spasm even after years of intensive training.

Specifically, we need from each control dog:

• 5 ml EDTA blood (2 x 2 ml are also sufficient)

• Completed and signed submission form

• Copy of the pedigree

• If available: copies of surgery reports / relevant medical examinations

Please make a clear note on the submission form under diagnosis or comment: „stress-induced larynx spasm“ or „dog without breathing problems“

The submission form can be downloaded here:


If there is already blood from your dog in Bern, you don’t have to send in again. In this case, you need to inform the university that your dog had symptoms.

For the genome-wide association study, it does not matter how the individual dogs are related to each other. However, if there are actually families in which the problem occurs more frequently, it would be important to completely sample such families because other experiments can then also be carried out (coupling analyzes). The absolute preferred scenario would be a family in which two or more full siblings are affected and at the same time at least one other sibling is also active in dog sports and is certainly not affected. In such a case, samples from all available siblings and both parents would be very helpful. That would significantly increase the chances of success of genetic research!

It would be ideal if you could inform us at the mail: info@belgian-shepherd.de
if you send in samples on this topic so that we can support the university. We can only work with the data that was sent to us directly.


So nobody has to worry who sends results from sick dogs to the university that they will be made public!

We will carry out a relationship analysis and then send this evaluation to the University of Bern. Also deceased dogs with symptoms would be helpful here.

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