Epilepsy is the most prevalent chronic neurological disorder found in dogs. There are several different types of epilepsy; our research is primarily focused on idiopathic (cause unknown) epilepsy (IE). Many different dog breeds suffer from IE, although the age of onset and the type and pattern of the seizures can differ between breeds.

Our research aims to improve our understanding of the genetics underlying IE and the biological pathways that influence susceptibility to the disease across different dog breeds and we are continuing our successful collaboration with other research groups and clinicians to develop a vital resource for IE research in dogs. We hope that the knowledge gained through our studies will lead to the development of preventive tools and improved treatments for IE in dogs, which would improve the quality of life of both affected dogs and their owners.

Border Collies, Spinone and Labradors – our first focus breeds

From Beagles to Labradors

For several years we have been carrying out genetic investigations of IE in the Border Collie and Italian Spinone, and a University of Helsinki-led project in the Labrador Retriever. While this work is continuing, in 2024 we are embarking on an exciting new study to investigate the genetics of epilepsy in five new breeds – Beagles, English Springer Spaniels, Giant Schnauzers, Hungarian Vizslas and Irish Setters. This two-year study is a collaboration with Linnaeus, the University of Helsinki and other veterinarians/research groups within our field.

In 2024 we are extending our IE research to include five more breeds

Help us, help dogs!

Our research relies on the amazing support we receive from hundreds of dog owners, in the UK and across the world. If you have a dog that meets our criteria (see below), then your participation could greatly help future generations of dogs. Participants receive a DNA testing kit, which is used to take a simple and painless cheek swab sample from their canine companion(s).

We are particularly looking for Beagles, Border Collies, English Springer Spaniels, Giant Schnauzers, Hungarian Vizslas, Irish Setters, Italian Spinoni and Labrador Retrievers that:

… have been diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy, or

… are unaffected by epilepsy AND are over 8 years old (or over 7 years old for Italian Spinoni)

Please contact us on cgc-epilepsy@vet.cam.ac.uk if your dog meets either criterion.

Genomic technologies

We use whole genome sequencing (WGS) to examine both genes and non-coding DNA in the genomes of individual dogs, which allows us to simultaneously assess a wide range of DNA variants in large numbers of genes. We also use genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to identify genomic variants that are statistically associated with IE. This approach works by searching for variants that occur more frequently in dogs with IE, compared to those that do not have the disease.


We are currently collaborating with Linnaeus; the University of Helsinki; the University of Manchester, Utrecht University, the Royal Veterinary College and our clinical colleagues in Neurology to enable us to collect the large sample sets that we require to conduct genetic studies of IE in individual breeds.

Thanks for your support

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the clubs and societies of the breeds involved in our new study that have donated so far to help support our idiopathic epilepsy study co-ordinator Jim Johnson’s role and sample collection costs for their breed. Your support is hugely appreciated and will enable us to achieve our goal of generating a robust case-control set that will play an important part in the follow up and validation of any variants we find from our whole genome analysis.

For more information about our Epilepsy projects, or to submit a DNA sample, please contact us.