The SCWTCA Endowment, Inc. at Work

The Endowment had its origins in the 1995 establishment of the SCWTCA Health Fund. By 2001, the decision was made to create a separate non-profit which was incorporated in 2004 as the SCWTCA Endowment, Inc. The Endowment gained 501(c)3 status effective in 2004.

As of 2018, the Endowment has funded research and educational projects in the following areas:

PLE/PLN, IBD, Addison’s Disease, Renal Dysplasia (Juvenile Renal Disease)
Cancer and Infectious Disease Research
Vaccine Research
DNA Research
Educational Conferences
Other Support

PLE/PLN Research

While Protein losing enteropathy (PLE) and Protein losing nephropathy (PLN) are not unique to Wheatens (or canines), there is a higher incidence in Wheatens suggesting a hereditary factor. The SCWT Open Registry, which lists hundreds of SCWTs with PLN diagnosed since 1997, showed no limitation for age of onset nor evidence of predictive biologic markers and suggested a complex mode of inheritance. The Wheaten community has taken the lead in supporting research into these two diseases.

Fecal API Kit Program
Distribution points set throughout the US & Canada. The purpose of the invention of the Kit was to remove the middleman cost of a Vet submitting samples to the TAMU GI Lab on behalf of Wheaten owners and to insure the samples arrived frozen to the lab for accurate testing of intestinal protein loss. The Kit continues to be made available by the SCWTCA Endowment, Inc., at the manufacturer’s cost.
Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Distributed by the SCWTCA Endowment

AKC CHF Grant 2219:  Longitudinal Clinical Study, Mode of Inheritance and Therapeutic Trials for PLE/PLN in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers.
Researcher: Shelly Vaden DVM PhD DACVIM NCSU
Funding: $55,600.  Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Colony Dog Adopt a Colony Dog Fundraiser established.
Researcher: Shelly Vaden DVM PhD DACVIM NCSU
Coordinated fundraising campaign to individual sponsors and regional clubs for each colony dog living at North Carolina State University. The Colony Dogs were used in the Vaden Grant 2219 research.
Funding: $13,300 for expenses.  Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

AKC-CHF Grant 1485: Study of PLE/PLN (Protein-losing enteropathy/nephropathy) in Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers University of PA
Researcher: Meryl P. Littman, VMD, DACVIM
Funding: $38,800.  Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Informative Family Project, Geriatric Dog Project contributing to 1485
Researcher: Meryl P. Littman, VMD, DACVIM
Pelletizing DNA for Penn DNA Bank. Biopsies, shipping of samples, summer students, genetic testing DNA collection kits, AKC report fees for Penn on registration numbers, histopathology, testing expense and freezer expense. Summer students also helped with the Open Registry, with collection of DNA samples, and acquiring medical records for phenotypic information for dogs with PLE/PLN, IBD, Addison’s disease, and renal dysplasia.
Funding: $9,000.  Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Genome-wide Association Study of Protein-Losing Nephropathyin Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers - Genetic Testing for PLN-Associated Variant Genes 
Researchers: Claire A. Wiley, Meryl P. Littman, Michael G. Raducha, Paula S. Henthorn, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine

After years of research supported by hundreds of Wheatens and their owners and breeders, Dr. Meryl Littman and Dr. Paula Henthorn at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) identified mutations associated with PLN in two genes.
This project had implications throughout the Wheaten world, and many owners and breeders participated in this Research. Samples from the PennVet SCWT DNA Bank were used in a genome-wide association study (GWAS) using 177,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), of which 81,097 SNPs were informative. Control dogs (unaffected Wheatens aged 14–18) and affected dogs were studied, as were dogs of other breeds. PLN was found to be associated with changes in two genes responsible for encoding the proteins found in the podocyte slit diaphragm, a fundamental component of the glomerular filtration barrier in the kidney. For more information, please see a copy of the Research Abstract on the SCWTCA website as well as the peer-reviewed research published in Mammalian Genome in January 2013.
The research resulted in a DNA test, introduced to Wheaten owners in May 2012.  A simple cheek swab test (two swabs for each dog) is used to determine an individual dog’s DNA status. Litters can also be tested, as can frozen semen. DNA Collection Kits were made available for free worldwide to SCWT owners and breeders to assist Drs. Littman and Henthorn in gathering 1,000 SCWT DNA samples for a prevalence study between May and September 2012. The SCWTCA, Inc., SCWTCA Endowment, Genetic Research Fund combined efforts to finance this project. Testing information and information guides can be found on the DNA testing page of the SCWT Club of America website.
After the introduction of the test in 2012, the SCWTCA and the Endowment and Genetic Research Fund Boards issued the following Joint Statement:

“Responsible Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier breeders and stud dog owners breed for type, temperament, soundness and health. The recent introduction of the test for PLN-associated variant genes gives us an additional tool to use in the health assessment of breeding stock. Using this test should give Wheaten breeders the ability to reduce the incidence of dogs with these variant genes slowly and carefully while still maintaining genetic diversity.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America, Inc., the SCWTCA Endowment, Inc. and the SCWT Genetic Research Foundation, Inc. endorse testing for PLN-associated variant genes by breeders and stud dog owners as one tool in the assessment of breeding stock.

We strongly encourage all owners to become familiar with the test and to understand the meaning of the results and their use in breeding. Resources are available at The SCWTCA neither requires nor prohibits any form of breeding beyond what is currently in the Code of Ethics (

All Wheaten owners should remember that screening for health goes beyond performing this test. Members of the SCWTCA are reminded of the requirements of the Code of Ethics in regard to other testing and breeding requirements.”

In 2016, the membership of the SCWTCA voted to amend its Code of Ethics to require use of this test prior to breeding.

University of Pennsylvania, Paula Henthorn Protein Losing Enteropathy Research, 2016
Pilot association study of PLE/PLN in SCWTs
Researchers: Meryl P. Littman, Paula S. Henthorn

Nearly one hundred DNA samples have been chosen for initial analysis in the Section of Medical Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. These samples included DNA from both "affected" and "normal control" dogs, and will be subjected to a new technology that assays thousands of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) simultaneously. SNP refers to the situation where two different nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA that come in four different flavors, referred to as A, C, G, and T) can be found at exactly the same position along a particular chromosome among individuals within the species of interest. Within a single mammalian species (such as dogs or humans), there are millions of SNPs, and geneticists use them to find the locations of genes that cause various traits, including diseases. If the location can be determined, then it becomes possible (for a species that has had its genome sequence determined) to 1) examine genes in that region as candidates for involvement in the disease process, and 2) develop DNA-based genetic tests. While this sounds straight-forward in theory, it can be difficult to execute, particularly for a disease that is complex, as is PLE. PLE does not appear to be simply inherited, and may be influenced by environmental factors, making it much more difficult to study. We refer to our initial study as a pilot study because, due to the complexity of the disease, we cannot accurately predict how many dogs are actually needed to have a strong chance of success. In studies of complex genetic diseases in humans, tens of thousands of individuals are studied.
Funding: $9,000  Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Note: This is one of the studies for which the SCWTCA Endowment is raising money. The original pilot study is funded through the generosity of clients of Dr. Littman. Many of them are not Wheaten owners but have heard of her work with our dogs. Thanks to them for the $60,000 to pay for this genetic testing.


While some forms of cancer are more prevalent in certain breeds, any breed of dog can get cancer. Indeed, cancer is the leading cause of death among dogs. The Endowment has contributed to canine cancer research, knowing it affects our Wheatens.

AKC/CHF: Genetic Determinants of Malignant Melanoma
Researcher: Dr. Michael Kent, University of California, Davis
Funding: $1,000 Approved by SCWTCA, Inc,. Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

AKC CHF Grant 2519: Prevalence of Bartonella spp. Infection in Dogs with Cardiac and Splenic Hemangiosarcomas within and between Geographic Locations
Researchers: Edward B Breitschwerdt, DVM; Matthew Breen, PhD; North Carolina State University
Funding: $5,000  Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment and SCWTCA, Inc.

Vaccine Research

Dog owners and veterinarians have become more concerned about the use of vaccines. The Endowment has supported multibreed research in this area.

Investigation of Antigenic Causes of Vaccine-Associated Allergic Reactions in Dogs (2006)Dr. George Moore, Purdue University)

Rabies Challenge Charity Trust $500 Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

DNA Research

Because PLE and PLN have made the Wheaten community aware of the hereditary nature of disease, we understand the need to “bank” DNA for research. While the Endowment’s support of DNA projects was spurred by PLE/PLN, we know that the DNA stored today may lead to advances in the prevention of other conditions.

University of Missouri Canine Phenome Project 2007
Researcher: Dr. Gary Johnson
The purpose of the Canine Phenome Project is to establish a DNA bank with supporting data for use by researchers to identify the genes responsible for canine diseases and other characteristics. For Wheaten owners, it is an opportunity to store DNA from Wheatens for future use by researchers interested in finding the genetic cause of PLE, PLN, RD, Addison's, and/or other diseases. Includes Siblings Pair Study
Funding: $35,200 (includes blood draw clinics and SNP) Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment.

Freezer Storage University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine
Trustees of the Univ of PA (Purchase of a new freezer to store SCWT DNA samples $9,142)

Educational Conferences

The Endowment has provided modest support for representatives of the Wheaten community to attend important canine health conferences and share the information they learned.

4th Annual AKC CHF Canine Health Conference - Chicago, Il.,
attendees Elaine Azerolo and Susan McGee $5,000 Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

AKC CHF Conference
Jana Carraway $200 Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Tufts University Breeding & Genetics Conference
Deb Van De Ven $235 Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Other Support

Lifetime Health Survey (2008) National Institute of Health, Ostrander Canine Genomics Lab Canine Phenome Project

Student Researcher Professional Development Award -
Claire Wiley – Grant $560 Approved by SCWTCA, Inc., Funded by the SCWTCA Endowment

Purchase of Database and maintenance:
After a number of years of development, the SCWTCA Endowment, Inc. was excited to announce in 2018 the launch the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Database at This database was originally developed by the Berner-Garde Foundation 30 years ago and is in use by several other breeds in addition to Wheatens. Starting with San Jeffries’ database of 46,000 dogs, a team of volunteer data operators has added dogs; so we are debuting with records on nearly 60,000 Wheatens from around the world.

In furtherance of the Endowment’s mission, we believe the detailed collection of health and pedigree information in the database will help to identify, track, and reduce the incidence of health problems in the SCWT. Wheaten owners, breeders, and researchers can be used it to assist with decisions about the care and welfare of their dogs to make breeding decisions. We expect veterinarians and veterinary researchers working with Wheatens will find it a valuable data source.

The best way to appreciate the potential of the Database is to use it! It is accessible to all at once you’ve read and accepted the policies. Start by looking up your own dogs and seeing what the Database can do: from producing pedigrees to searching for dogs meeting specific criteria. (While the Database is easy to use, you’ll also find a link to a User’s Guide on the home page.) This will show you how you can help by submitting information on your own dogs to make the Database more robust. There are forms for sending information to add; and you can upload photos of your dog, both formal show shots and informal candids. $7,600

NEW Projects

Upcoming Projects:

February 17, 2017

Dear 'Endowers' and Friends,

I wanted you to know that I met with Dr. Paula Henthorn and she told me of several SCWT projects she'd like to work on. Both require funding, although I don't know how much. 

1. Paula would like to contact the owners of the dogs for which we have DNA and which tested homozygous positive (2-2) or heterozygous (1-2) for the PLN-associated variant alleles, to check on their health status. This would help us get prospective statistics, since our work thus far has given the prevalence of PLN in the genotype groups in retrospective studies. I recommend that we get a summer student to help contact the owners. Their contact information (email, phone, etc) is on the submission papers that owners sent in with the DNA samples. If there is time, we should probably also get follow-up health status on the homozygous negative (1-1) dogs too.

2. Paula would like to work on PLE more, and has more samples that can be sequenced (full genome sequencing) as well as geriatric samples. The material is in hand, but the interpretation will be arduous, partly because:
a) PLE can be caused by many environmental triggers, 
b) IBD/PLE may be masked by several factors, and
c) there are almost 200 genes (or maybe more now) associated with IBD/Crohn's in people, many interacting in complex inheritance patterns. So it won't be easy. But Paula has identified a genetics resident who may be interested in this topic for future PhD work, and we will reach out to collaborate with human doctors at HUP and CHOP (right down the street from the vet school) that work in this area. This is exciting!

Meryl P. Littman, VMD, DACVIM
Professor Emerita of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine