Why are puppies in my litter weak, trembling and stumbling? Is it Dungd?

Photo by Silvia Timmermann
Photo courtesy Silvia Timmermann

You’re breathing a sigh of relief and finally getting a good night’s sleep after making it through those first couple of touch and go weeks following the birth of your Gordon Setter litter. Then, somewhere between three and five weeks of age you notice some puppies may be weak, stumbling, trembling or stiff at times. They may fall over and not be able to get up, they could be walking backwards or bumping into things and they may be crying constantly for what appears to be no reason. You could be dealing with a rare but fatal neonatal disease first referred to by Gordon Setter breeders (who began the push to identify and research this disease) as DUNGd (Darned Unnamed New Genetic Disease). Because of the responsible and persistent reaction of those breeders further research is underway at the University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine where some evidence is reported that DUNGd may be an inborn error of metabolism called an organic aciduria.

Your part in this as a Gordon Setter breeder is to be aware that though rare, DUNGd does exist and could present itself in any litter. If by some chance you face the horror of dealing with this disease the breed needs you to act responsibly to contact those conducting research to help us eradicate DUNGd in Gordon Setters.

Dennis O’Brien DVM PHD, Professor of Neurology, University of Missouri, College of Veterinary Medicine is conducting research and has the following to say about how you can help: “If you have a litter with a pup you believe might be affected, please contact us. We can help you in determining whether or not this is the problem in your pup. In return, we would ask your help in collecting the samples and information necessary to continue searching for the gene responsible for this disease. This work has been generously supported by the Gordon Setter Club and the Canine Health Foundation. Your continuing support will be necessary to achieve our goal. Any information provided to us will be kept strictly confidential.”

The links included at the end of this article will provide much more detail around DUNGd and the ongoing research. We urge you to read them and familiarize yourself with the disease. As always, we encourage you to share your questions or comments.

(This article contains photos that are not intended nor do they relate to the content of the article.)

Contact Information DUNGd research:

Liz Hansen

Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory




Dr. Dennis O’Brien

Department of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery




Links for additional information:

DUNGd: A Fatal, Neonatal Disease in Gordon Setters

DUNGd: Results of the 2007 – 2008 Acorn Grant

GSCA Health Resources DUNGd

GSCA Health Survey 2004



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