Canine Genetics Lab - Dept. of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences & Dept. of Veterinary Clinical Sciences 

Pulmonary Fibrosis


In the past 15 years, a form of Pulmonary Fibrosis (lung scarring) has been recognized in dogs, almost exclusively in West Highland white terriers (WHWT). Signs of Pulmonary Fibrosis (PF) in dogs include cyanosis (bluish coloring and/or pale gums), lethargy, cough (nonproductive), shortness of breath, increased respiratory rate and effort, open-mouthed breathing, and exercise intolerance. The prognosis is guarded, with many dogs dying from progressive lung failure within 12–18 months. Currently, the underlying cause and genetics of PF in dogs is poorly understood, with only one published report investigating the possible causes. A genetic predisposition is strongly suspected because of the preponderance of WHWT reported to have confirmed PF.

Contact Us


Canine Genetics Lab
University of Minnesota
1988 Fitch Ave
AS/VM 295
St. Paul, MN 55108


Your dog may be able to help if he/she:


Your dog has a diagnosis of Pulmonary Fibrosis (any breed, any age); or WHWT with unexplained cough for 3 month or more


Your dog is a purebred West Highland white terrier who is at least 8 years old and has no history of persistent cough or other persistent respiratory signs

Dogs able to travel to the University of Minnesota


Two blood samples (equal to approximately ½ tablespoon each) will be collected for analysis. The blood will be obtained in a standard fashion from an artery and a vein on the leg or foot or neck. For dogs with low blood oxygen based on the blood analysis, chest radiographs (also called X-rays) will be also taken to see if there are signs of scarring (fibrosis) in the lungs.

If abnormalities are detected within the X-ray, up to 6 dogs may have a rapid high resolution CT scan performed. This typically takes about 5 minutes. We will place an IV catheter in your dog and gently restrain them during the scan. If they are unable to remain still during the scan, with your permission, we will administer a short acting (5-15 min) anesthetic.

Financial Obligations

The blood sample collection and possible chest X-rays and CT scan, will be performed at no cost to you. Our grant has insufficient funds to cover other medical or surgical costs associated with your dog’s care unrelated to the sample collection and analysis. However, we are available to assist you and your primary care veterinarian, if appropriate, with recommendations related to your dog’s medical care. 
To see if your dog meets eligibility requirements, and to arrange an appointment at the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital, please contact Dr. Ned Patterson or call 612–625–5799 or 612-626-8387.

Dogs residing outside of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area

Dogs unable to travel to the University of Minnesota may also be eligible to participate in our study by sending a completed Pulmonary Fibrosis Submission Form along with a small blood sample for DNA isolation. No financial compensation is currently available for dogs submitted from outside of the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital.

The diagnosis in dogs is usually made based on clinical signs, arterial blood gas analysis, and chest radiographs. The diagnosis is greatly improved by using High Resolution Computed Tomography (HR-CT). Currently there is no known specific treatment, and therapy is at best to relieve the symptoms but does not affect the progression of the disease.

The purpose of this study is to obtain blood DNA samples, and blood gas samples from dogs affected with pulmonary fibrosis, as well as from dogs aged 8 years and older that are not affected. We will obtain chest x-rays from dogs that have low blood oxygen and might be affected with pulmonary fibrosis. We will use the DNA samples to sequence the whole genome (all the DNA sequence) of some of the dogs, and later possibly to get DNA marker data for all the dogs enrolled. We will compare the DNA of affected dogs versus unaffected dogs to see if we can detect gene mutations that predispose dogs to develop pulmonary fibrosis. If gene mutations are found, and verified, they could be used as a test to diagnosis pulmonary fibrosis and also as a test to help breeding decisions to decrease the number of WHWT with pulmonary fibrosis. In addition, knowledge of the genes involved will hopefully lead to specific treatments being developed.