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Genetic testing for dogs can help identify disease potential

Largest canine genetic study reveals which diseases mixed breed and purebred dogs are prone to develop.

May 2, 2018

3 Min Read
Genetic testing for dogs can help identify disease potential
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Results from the largest study of its kind show that genetic testing can predict if a dog is at risk for developing certain diseases. The study, "Frequency & Distribution of 152 Genetic Disease Variants in Over 100,000 Mixed Breed & Purebred Dogs," published in PLOS Genetics, was conducted by Wisdom Health and Genoscoper Laboratories.

This research is among the first to show which genetic diseases mixed-breed dogs are most likely to develop, an announcement said. The study also shows that fewer mixed-breed dogs than purebreds are affected by the most common disease-causing mutations tested in the study.

Knowing a dog's disease-related genetic make-up could enable owners, breeders and veterinarians to make more informed decisions about a dog's health. The research was based on genetic testing technology that can be used at home.

"There has been a long-standing perception that mixed-breed dogs are less disease-prone than purebred dogs. This DNA testing-based evidence shows that while mixed-breed dogs are, in fact, less likely than purebreds to develop the recessive disorders evaluated in the study, they may still be carriers. Importantly, it's now clear that all dogs can benefit from genetic testing," said Dr. Cindy Cole, general manager at Wisdom Health. "It's exciting that new diagnostic tools are now available to veterinarians, breeders and owners alike to enable them to make more informed decisions about overall care for dogs."

Genetic testing is key to understanding if a dog will be at risk of developing a genetic disease. According to the study, based on the 152 diseases tested:

* Approximately two out of 100 mixed-breed dogs are at risk of becoming affected, and 40 out of 100 are carriers for at least one of the diseases.

* Approximately five out of 100 purebred dogs are at risk of becoming affected, and 28 out of 100 are carriers for at least one of the diseases.

The research also showed that through healthy breeding practices, which often include genetic testing, some diseases appear to have been eradicated from breed pools, the announcement said. With the proactive management of inherited disorders through the use of DNA testing and sustainable breeding decisions, breeders and veterinarians can work to decrease the incidence of genetic diseases in dogs, the researchers said. For example, X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency, a mutation originally found in basset hounds, appears to have been eradicated.

"For owners, understanding for which genetic diseases their dog is at risk can help them and their veterinarians design a personalized care and wellness program for their dog," said Dr. Jonas Donner, chief scientific officer at Genoscoper. "More broadly, for veterinarians to understand which disorders are common across the overall population is extremely valuable information for the future of proactive medical care. Using genetic tools to further disease monitoring and eradication in different populations can, over time, have a positive effect on both purebred and mixed-breed dogs."

The study examined the DNA of more than 100,000 dogs -- including 18,000 purebreds representing 330 breeds, types and varieties and 83,000 mixed-breed dogs -- for the presence of 152 genetic disease mutations.

Some of the genetic disease mutations tested included: multiple forms of progressive retinal atrophy, hyperuricosuria, collie eye anomaly, multidrug sensitivity and multiple forms of von Willebrand's disease.

The study showed that testing is important to help owners know if their dog is at risk for one of the genetic diseases tested, such as exercise-induced collapse (a neuromuscular disorder), and to consult with their veterinarian about a preventative care plan.

Wisdom Health is a business unit of Mars Petcare. For more than a decade, Wisdom Health has developed state-of-the-art genetic tests for companion animals, revolutionizing personalized pet care. The Mars Inc. acquisition of Finnish technology company Genoscoper Laboratories in 2017 enabled Wisdom Health to double its research and development group and help facilitate advance product development for international markets.

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