Bichon Health Research


BFCA has donated over $50,000 in the past to help fund research projects that are pertinent to the health and future of Bichons. Donations from owners or friends of Bichons are encouraged so this can continue. See our Donate/Memorial and Boutique areas for more details, or click the "Donate" button below. The BFCA health committee is very pleased that 4 of the top 5 diseases in Bichons are targeted in the studies below: skin problems/allergies, bladder stones, patellar luxation, dental disease, and cataracts. Liver disease is the #8 disease in Bichons, and diabetes the # 10 disease.

You too can contribute to the research of health of Bichons world wide. Just click the "Donate" button to use your Credit Card or PayPal account.

Completed studies to which BFCA has donated funds

  1. Juvenile cataracts:
    Dr. Kirk Gelatt at the University of Florida conducted Bichon cataract research for more than 10 years, including a search for the DNA marker for inherited cataracts. His published paper on his findings can be found on this web site at We accomplished some, but not all, of our goals. While we did not get a DNA marker out of our program, we did eliminate a lot of possible markers and did identify mode of inheritance and familial lines and - very important - we got the attention of Bichon breeders around the world. Remember that negative results are also results. We can exclude lots of possible markers in future research by virtue of those eliminated already. Unfortunately cataracts occur in several locations on the lens of the eye and therefore may have different markers for each type or location of cataract. This has probably made it more difficult to identify the DNA marker. Continued screening and avoidance of breeding affected dogs is a very positive method of eliminating disease. All breeders MUST continue to follow that practice in hopes of reducing incidence of cataracts in Bichons.

Current, ongoing studies to which BFCA has donated funds

  1. Patellar luxation:
    he first study is Patellar Luxation in Dogs, which is ongoing in The Netherlands by Dr. Herman Hazewinkel. Although his study is of Flatcoated Retrievers, the data can be transferred to other breeds now that the canine genome is mapped. His goal is to develop a DNA-screening test for patellar luxation, which would be of great value to Bichons.
  2. Allergies:
    Dr. Bruce Hammerberg at North Caroline State University is trying to develop an assay (blood test) for prediction of risk of atopic dermatitis (skin allergies) in dogs, a debilitating disease that is the #1 health problem in Bichons. The mast cells in the skin are mainly responsible for itching and skin damage seen in atopic dermatitis. Dr. Hammerberg has discovered that mast cells in atopic dogs release significantly more inflammatory mediators than the mast cells in normal dogs. He hopes to identify an inherited difference in atopic dogs, which can predict the risk of developing atopic dermatitis. Dr. Hammerberg is requesting our assistance in sending blood samples via your veterinarian from Bichons with a diagnosis of allergies and the parents, if possible. If you can help, contact him via email at or phone 919-513-7712 for more details.
  3. Rabies:
    Dr. W. Jean Dodds, world-renowned vaccine researcher and practicing veterinarian, and Kris L. Christine, a pet vaccine disclosure advocate, have established the Rabies Challenge Fund. The fund will support a 7-year and 10-year canine rabies vaccine challenge study in the US and a rabies vaccine adverse reaction reporting system. The goal is to prove that rabies vaccinations provide immunity for at least 7 years, and perhaps 10 years. Rabies vaccination is required by law in most states to be administered every 1-2 years, yet some studies indicate the one-year vaccine may be effective for at least 3 years. Researchers believe that the rabies vaccine causes the most frequent and severe adverse reactions in animals. See this web site for more information:
  4. Liver shunts:
    Dr. Sharon Center, the chief investigator at Cornell, is the top canine liver expert in the USA who is devoted to this research. Portosystemic vascular anomalies (PSVA) and microvascular dysplasia (MVD) are related genetic disorders of the liver circulation that afflict a number of small purebred dogs, including Bichons. This trait causes high serum bile acid (SBA) values. Their goal is to identify a genetic marker that will allow informed breeding strategies to significantly reduce trait frequency.
  5. Diabetes:
    Since 1992 the incidence of diabetes in Bichons has climbed from #22 to the #10 disease. The onset of diabetes is middle to older age Bichons, often after the breeding years. Dr. Rebecka Hess at the University of Pennsylvania is attempting to Identify possible genetic markers associated with diabetes in young, unaffected, breeding dogs that will enable breeders to determine which dogs should not be bred to one another years before the onset of diabetes.
  6. Skin disorders/allergies:
    Dr. Cheryl London at Ohio State University is researching the genetics behind mast cells that produce a substance as a response to allergens, eicosanoid, a powerful stimulator of inflammation. Disorders involving mast cells, allergic reactions and autoimmunity, are becoming increasingly more common in dogs. Humans have more mast cells in the respiratory tract and dogs more in the skin, which explains why humans exhibit more respiratory symptoms with allergic reactions, and dogs more commonly develop skin irritations. The goal is to find therapeutic interventions to inhibit the production of canine mast cell eicosanoid as a reaction to allergens.

Future research to which BFCA plans to donate funds

Another pertinent study that BFCA will donate funds toward, if CHF approves the grant, is regarding bladder stones by Dr. Joe Bartges at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has been involved in bladder stone research for many years, and now has interest in studying Bichons. He discovered that Bichons develop calcium oxalate stones at a younger age (sometimes as young as 1 year) compared to other breeds (usually 7-8 years of age), and that Bichons seem to be more difficult to treat. As you probably know, calcium oxalate stones are genetic and struvite stones are caused by diet and/or bladder infection, so are not genetic. Struvite stones can be dissolved with diet, antibiotics, and vitamin C supplements. Calcium oxalate stones cannot be dissolved so must be removed surgically, which is a hardship for the owners and the dogs that suffer with the pain and frequent bloody urination from the stones. His goals include discovering why Bichons develop these stones at a younger age (do bichons have a metabolic issue that causes this?), how we can improve prevention and treatment, and finding a DNA marker that could determine increased risk in forming these stones. Breeders would benefit by being able to eliminate from their breeding programs Bichons that have increased risk in forming calcium oxalate stones. Judging from the frequency of emails about Bichons with calcium oxalate stones that the BFCA Health Committee receives from our web site, some Bichons requiring multiple surgeries for the stones, there is great need to work toward preventing this disease that is the # 2 disease in Bichons.

Other research opportunites for Bichon owners who are willing to help

Canine Health Foundation
(list of ongoing research projects)
Mammary Tumors
Mast Cell Tumors