why dna test your dog?
DNA testing your dog prior to breeding, and checking the DNA status of suitable mates, can have huge positive health implications for both your prospective puppies and potentially the health and welfare of the breed as a whole. Inherited diseases, passed from one generation of dog to the next, can cause terrible suffering - many conditions have symptoms distressing for both the dog and the owner, are untreatable and frequently shorten the life span of the dog.
These hereditary canine diseases are caused by mutations, changes to the DNA, which prevent the gene from working normally and lead to the onset of the disease in affected dogs. These mutations arise spontaneously, but, once in the population, will be passed down the generations like any other region of DNA.
However, with responsible breeding and efficient DNA testing, the prevalence of these hereditary diseases can be greatly reduced, or in some cases, eradicated completely from a breed; meaning fewer dogs need suffer from painful neurological conditions or hereditary blindness, to give just a few examples of the types of hereditary diseases we frequently investigate at the Animal Health Trust.
Many of these diseases show a recessive mode of inheritance; where two copies of the faulty gene, one inherited from each parent, need to be present for a dog to be affected with the disorder. Dogs with only one copy of the faulty gene (and one copy of the normal, working, gene) will not show symptoms but will pass the faulty gene to around 50% of their pups. When two of these "carriers" are mated affected pups may be born who have two copies of the faulty gene. In practice, the most effective way to control a recessive disease is with DNA testing.
When should you DNA test?
If you are a breeder DNA testing gives you a tool with which to eradicate inherited conditions from your breed. Testing will tell you exactly which dogs carry the mutation. This is vital information you can use when planning your breeding to prevent any affected pups being born. Matings of two clear dogs, one carrier and one clear dog, or one affected and one clear dog, will never produce affected pups.
Carriers for recessive diseases will generally not show any signs of the condition and can be homed as pets - only pups used for breeding need to be DNA tested to determine their status. Pups born to two clear parents will be hereditarily clear and will not need testing.
We recommend that you use DNA testing to eliminate the faulty gene from your breed gradually, making use of any matings listed above which do not produce affected pups. Whilst eliminating the faulty gene is important, you need to be careful not to risk lowering the genetic diversity of your breed, or of your lines, which could cause more problems by restricting the gene pool further - or by inadvertently increasing the prevalence of other faulty genes which may be present in the breed.
We are happy to advise clubs on the best way to use the DNA tests for their breed. Breeds may differ in the best strategy to use depending on factors such as other genetic conditions known in the breed (which there may or may not be a current DNA test for) and estimates of the prevalence of the mutation being tested for.
Making the results available to other breeders
Elimination of a genetic condition from a breed depends on the relevant information being available to all breeders - so we recommend that breed clubs arrange for testing results to be publicly available through a website.
Many clubs have opted for the Kennel Club to display results on their website, and the Animal Health Trust will update the Kennel Club monthly with test results if requested to do so by breed clubs.
Discounts for Breed Clubs
We realise that DNA Testing can add another cost to breeding pups, however,once a stock of hereditarily clear dogs is identified in the breed the need for DNA testing litters will become less and less over time.
To help breeders we offer a 10% discount scheme through our DNA Testing Service to breed clubs. The discount is available for one month at a time, and the only condition is that 20 or more tests are ordered during that month.