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Cairn Terrier Ocular Melanosis Project (U of W)
University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine

The Comparative Genetics Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School is beginning a new project investigating ocular melanosis in Cairn Terriers.

We are interested in what specific genetic component of Cairn Terriers in this breed makes the condition so prevalent. We are actively writing grants for this work, and need to start collecting samples so when funding becomes available, we can start on Day 1!

Cairn Terrier Ocular Melanosis Project
Ocular Melanosis (OM)/Secondary Glaucoma
(Formerly referred to as Pigmentary Glaucoma)

Ocular Melanosis is an inherited condition that occurs predominantly in Cairn Terriers, although there are some unconfirmed reports of a similar condition in other breeds. Pigment deposits accumulate and decrease the eyes’ ability to drain fluid out of the anterior chamber. This fluid accumulation leads to an increase in pressure in the eye known as secondary glaucoma. The condition generally affects both eyes. If the elevated pressure goes undiagnosed and/or untreated, the dog will not only go blind, but also suffer from pain because of increased pressure in the eye.

We are Looking to Collect:
Saliva and blood samples from a select number of dogs: pedigrees of any Cairn Terrier

Studying diseases in rare breeds is difficult, but new technologies are providing opportunities to investigate the genetic basis of diseases with fewer dogs that have historically been needed. We are looking to collect saliva and blood samples from a select number of dogs. These saliva/blood samples need to be collected specifically for this study due to the advanced technology that we will be using for this work. We are seeking pedigrees of any Cairn Terrier.

Cairn Terrier Ocular Melanosis Project
Specifically, we are seeking:
  1. Purebred Cairn Terriers who have developed ocular melanosis.

  2. Purebred Cairn Terriers over 12 years of age who have not developed ocular melanosis.

Cairn Terrier Ocular Melanosis Project

We can have samples shipped to our laboratory, so you are not required to come to the University of Wisconsin for participation.

Participation is free, and we are not asking for monetary donations. For owners/animals not able to come to UW-Madison, we cover all costs associated with sending saliva swab kits and blood packages.

We would be grateful if you have a dog or know of dogs/litters that could participate in this work. All identification will remain confidential, as we understand this can be a sensitive issue.

The best way to contact us is through email: or by phone: 608-265-5828. Alternatively, you can contact us through our Facebook page at

Please consider joining our Team as we start to investigate the genetic basis of ocular melanosis in Cairn Terrier!

The Foundation of the CTCA believes participation in the Ocular Melanosis Project is an important  opportunity to learn more about the genetics of this condition that is prevalent in our breed. Your Cairn Terrier is needed!
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