Health Issues in the Vizsla: POLYMYOSITIS & Immune Mediated Illness

POLYMYOSITIS (Muscle Inflammation)

From about 2004 onwards observers began to note that a number of young Vizslas were succumbing to a swallowing disorder which had not previously been clinically recognised. “Myositis and Dysphagia in Hungarian Vizslas” is now attracting much veterinary interest & is the subject of a veterinary research project. In addition, two clinical research abstracts have now been presented to the relevant Congresses:

Haley et al, ACVIM 2009
Foale et al, BSAVA 2008

A recent breakthrough is that Polymyositis in the Vizsla has been fortunate to have attracted the interest of the great Clare Rusbridge & an enthusiasm for project collaboration has also been expressed by Professor Bill Ollier of CIGMR (Centre for Integrated Genomic Medical Research) where PM in the human is being studied.

The condition is still uncommon, & most Vizslas are unlikely to be affected by it, but for the purposes of the research project, all responsible owners should be aware of the signs to look out for - the disease is so unusual that many local vets may not recognise it!

What are the symptoms of Polymyositis?

Polymyositis usually occurs in adolescence or, maybe up to about 2/3 years of age. Auto-immune illness requires a trigger - & usually for these Polymyositis Vizslas it has been puberty (hormones) - hence the early presentation. There could be many other triggers in pre-disposed individuals i.e. vaccination, stress, diet, environmental factors.

The signs of this illness are problems with swallowing - both food & water - excessive drooling, & usually also muscle wasting around the head. Frequently there is an acute episode of retching, gagging, choking, dysphagia & hypersalivation. Sometimes the onset is more insidious with just inefficient, & messy, eating & drinking being noted. Often there is an initial diagnosis of megaoesophagus. Significantly elevated CK levels, fatigue, aspiration pneumonia & a stiffness of gait are other common findings. The illness is believed to be immune mediated & inheritable. With prompt diagnosis & treatment it can usually be well controlled.

For a full description of Polymyositis, including images & video footage of affected vizslas please visit:

All responsible breeders are including this fact sheet in their puppy packs. If anybody reading this knows of a Vizsla (past or present) to have been diagnosed with myositis/polymyositis – or to suffer from the clinical signs described then please could you contact those conducting the research.

What to do if you suspect Polymositis

Wherever Polymyositis might be suspected the FIRST thing an owner should do is to ask for a blood test to establish CK (Creatine Kinase) levels. These are accurate markers of muscle breakdown. Evelated levels may well be suggestive of this illness - not "diagnostic" though (muscle biopsy required). CK is not part of a routine screen but if you ask your vet to do the test then we are told it only costs about £14. NB This test MUST be undertaken before any intervention with steroids &/or anti-inflammatories - these drugs will skew the results.

Polymyositis Research

We are determined to find a test for Polymyositis &, to this end, a research project is underway. ALL owners can help.

The aim of the research is to develop a test to establish whether a Vizsla might be "affected", "clear" or a "carrier" of Polymyositis. For this to be possible, the scientists need to find & identify the "genetic marker" for Polymyositis i.e. the way in which the genetic profile of affected individuals (& their families) is "different" from that of healthy families.

To help achieve these research objectives DNA (saliva) samples are urgently needed from as many affected vizslas, their sires & dams, & siblings as possible. However, everything depends on the extent to which we manage to engage the support & help not just of those who own an affected vizsla but also that of their breeders (& the stud dog owners too)...every single sample will help & the more DNA samples we get the quicker success is likely to be. Our ultimate hope is that, one day, we will be able to free the Vizslas genetic pool from the scourge of this devastating & life-threatening illness.

Please visit the  Vizsla Health website for detailed instructions on sample collection & to read more about the DNA Collection Project. Basically, all that is required is a simple saliva sample - it's painless & easy to collect & Di Addicott will tell you how to get hold of the necessary paperwork. There's no cost involved (apart from postage) & all communications are completely confidential.

Please, please Di Addicott with your Vizslas registered name to find out if his/her contribution would be useful.

Toe Nails

There is another way for all Vizsla owners to take part in future health initiatives - there is a concurrent project to collect toe nail clippings. With ever advancing technology, there is great scope for their stable DNA to be hugely useful for future research in to ANY inheritable disease. Again, please visit this website to learn more.


Since early 2005 there has been research into our breed’s apparent predisposition to polymyositis. This is an immune mediated illness.

As the investigations unfolded we began to wonder at the incidence & relevance of other immune mediated disorders. Might there be a connection? We do not know & only by asking people to tell us of their experience can we begin to establish what might be a bigger picture. These other illnesses are described here:

For the purpose of this investigation we are also hoping to explore some less defined disorders & are particularly interested in allergies & intolerances (skin & food) & gastro-intestinal disease particularly. Of course we must also remember that chronic autoimmune disease is usually multi-factorial, meaning several things must happen for an individual to become ill. Very often a trigger is required and this is something that must also be investigated.

If your vizsla (or that of anyone you know) suffers from an immune related disorder PLEASE complete this online questionnaire in respect of ALL vizslas that you know to have had a problem. The further back that we can go the better. We need to hear from you again even if you have previously completed a general survey & submitted it to Sue Millson (the HVC breed health co-ordinator). For the sake of independence our databases are not interchangeable.

This survey is completely confidential.

Source of information: Di Addicott