who are they ? Why check?

The Maine Coon is a very popular cat breed in France. Its beauty and pleasant personality are not for nothing! It is unfortunately subject to several genetic diseases including well-known HCM or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. These Maine Coon genetic diseases can be detected using available genetic tests.

Have you fallen in love with the Maine Coon? Chances are you won’t be disappointed as this gorgeous cat is as comfortable in an apartment as in a house with a garden. When it comes to health, you naturally question yourself. How to choose the right breed? How can I place the odds on my side to welcome an animal in great shape? Learning about the diseases that are specific to the Maine Coon breed is a good start.

What is the genetic disease in Maine Coon?

Diseases of genetic origin are the result of mutations in one or more genes. Genes are contained in the nucleus of the cell; they are made up of DNA and code for the various proteins that make up the cat’s body. If the code is wrong due to a mutation, the protein will be missing or faulty.

These diseases are passed from generation to generation in different ways:

  • Dominant mode: only one parent carrying the gene gives birth to a sick kitten with a probability of one in two in siblings.
  • Recessive mode: both parents must be carriers of the mutated gene. In the litter, one out of every four kittens (carrying the genes of both parents) will be affected by the disease.

But it’s not always that simple… There are also genetic diseases that depend on some genes, environment or sex… Furthermore, any animal that carries the disease will not necessarily develop the disease with intensity. same degree.

Vladimir Poylov / Shutterstock

In the Maine Coon, there are 4 main genetic diseases:

Maine Coon hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)

It is certainly the best known of the Maine Coon genetic diseases. This pathology is associated with an autosomal dominant mutation (on the non-sex chromosome) of the MYBPC gene.

It leads to an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle leading to heart failure at different ages (from 1 to 10 years). The cat will then show signs of fatigue and shortness of breath. When the veterinarian listens to the fetal heart, a murmur can often be heard. Accurate diagnosis is made on ultrasound. Medicines are available to slow the progression of heart failure.

There is a genetic test to determine if the cat is a carrier of the mutated gene. However, this test does not allow prediction of disease severity for this particular animal. On the other hand, there are other HCMs associated with other mutations or pathologies such as high blood pressure. Therefore, a negative test does not mean that your travel companion will never develop cardiomyopathy.

The frequency of this mutation in the Maine Coon population is estimated to be 27%.

Other genetic diseases of Main Coon

Autosomal recessive, which is a mutation in the PKLR gene. It causes a deficiency of the enzyme pyruvate kinase which is responsible for the rapid destruction of red blood cells. This leads to anemia that causes chronic fatigue. The severity of the disease varies from cat to cat.

The mutation frequency in French Maine Coons is not listed, but in the UK and US it is 12%.

Or spinal muscular atrophy. It occurs in kittens and leads to muscle weakness, walking and jumping difficulties associated with nerve cell loss. The kittens remain crippled for life. The mutation is an autosomal recessive gene and a gene related to LIX1.

The mutant gene is present in 1% of Maine Coons. Since both parents must be carriers of the mutation to produce a sick kitten (1/4 cases), this is a rare disease.

This is a common polycystic kidney disease in certain breeds of cats such as the Persian. It progresses to kidney failure. In the Maine Coon, the percentage of carriers of the mutation (dominant over the PKD1 gene) is less than 1%.

Maine Coon genetic diseases: what are they?  Why check?
Gelner Tivadar / Shutterstock

Genetic Testing in Maine Coon

Genetic (or DNA) testing is done on a sample of saliva or blood. They can determine whether the cat is a carrier of the mutated gene.

On farms, they are useful to rule out breeders who carry the mutation and risk passing it on to their offspring. Regarding the Maine Coon, the LOOF (Official Book of Cat Origins) recommends performing DNA testing for HCM, PKDef, and SMA. For some recessive diseases such as SMA or PKDef, the tests help to limit the risk by marrying a high-value heterozygous animal (carrying a single mutated gene) to a healthy cat; The kittens will not get sick, but half will carry the defective gene and will have to be permanently removed from the crossbreeding.

As an individual, and if its parents have not been tested, you can ask your veterinarian to take a sample from your animal for HCM, the most common genetic disease in Maine Coons.

Isabelle Vixege

Veterinarians

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