Understanding GSDIVA ...


What is GSDIVA?

German Shepherd Dog Inherited Ventricular Arrhythmia (GSDIVA) is an inherited heart condition that can cause sudden death in puppies. Other breeds (Shiloh Shepherd, Boxer, Greyhound, Beagle, Doberman) can be affected. The disease is inherited from one or both affected parents. Once the puppy reaches 24 months, he or she will outgrow the disease. The puppy that outgrows GSDIVA will not have residual heart problems and will typically go on to live a normal lifespan.

What are the symptoms?

There are no outward symptoms. What makes GSDIVA so heartbreaking is often the first and only indication of disease is the sudden loss of a seemingly normal puppy. The fact that the danger of the disease and the means to detect it disappear by the age of 2 has previously made it elusive to diagnose. Affected pups may outgrow the disease, but will always pass the GSDIVA gene on to their puppies. Several generations of puppies may go undiagnosed until an affected puppy dies with no warning.

If there are no outward symptoms, how do I know if my pup is at risk?

Although there are no outward signs, an affected pup experiences irregular heart beats. The severity of the disease depends on the frequency of the irregular heartbeats. A puppy may have a few irregular beats (Premature Ventricular Contractions) or many irregular beats in a row (Ventricular Tachycardia). When Ventricular Tachycardia occurs, the heart is unable to function properly and the heart may stop. Fortunately, there is a simple, non-invasive test that can reliably diagnose a puppy at risk.

How is GSDIVA diagnosed?

The only way to diagnose GSDIVA is with a Holter monitor test. The test is ideally performed between the ages of 6 - 11 months and requires a small cardiac monitor to be attached to the outside of the puppy's chest via plastic-coated wire leads. A vest resembling a T-shirt is then placed on the puppy to secure the leads and protect the monitor. The equipment is worn for at least 24 hours while the monitor takes a picture of every heartbeat. If the test shows frequent irregular heartbeats, the pup then has blood work done to rule out other potential causes before a diagnosis of GSDIVA is confirmed.

How can I obtain a Holter Monitor for my Shiloh Shepherd?

Contact your breeder. Many ISSR Shiloh Shepherd breeders have obtained or have access to the holtering equipment and will be happy to help you secure testing for your pup. Holter monitoring is also available through several University medical centers or specialized vet clinics. How ever you obtain the equipment, the results will be sent to a university or cardiac expert for assessment.

What is the treatment?

The is no cure for GSDIVA but the symptoms may be managed with medications.

How can we prevent GSDIVA?

Prevention is the only hope for elimination of the disease. If we require all breeding dogs to be certified clear from GSDIVA, we are effectively removing the chance for a puppy to inherit the disease. Current research indicates that two unaffected parents will not produce an affected pup therefore, it is vital that we test all potential breed quality puppies between the ages of 6 - 11 months. As of August 2012, the International Shiloh Shepherd Registry (ISSR) requires all potential breeding pups to be holter monitored.  If the pup is diagnosed with GSDIVA, the pup is removed from the breeding program ensuring they can not pass on the disease to a future generation of Shiloh Shepherds.

My pup is a pet and won't be bred - should I still test?

Absolutely - it is a relatively inexpensive procedure and the results may be life-saving. If we can identify those pups at risk and the lines which seem to produce problems, we can eventually secure a future for the Shiloh Shepherd that is free from this devastating disease.

Where do we go from here?

This is a very crucial time in the development of the Shiloh Shepherd breed. As breeders and involved owners, we bear the responsibility to protect the health of our Shiloh Shepherds. Working together we have a rare opportunity to eliminate this disease from our gene pool. Please do your part to help safeguard our Shilohs and protect our future generations.