Can DNA testing help to diagnose certain canine diseases?

Can DNA testing help to diagnose certain canine diseases?

Health & Safety

Getting an accurate diagnosis of a health condition in dogs can be potentially complicated, and even more complex is trying to predict the possibility of a particular dog developing certain conditions later in life, when they are not currently displaying any obvious markers of ill health or a problem in the making.

However, as our understanding of dogs and their health and heredity’s impact on it has developed, vets and dog experts are ever more commonly using a new tool in their arsenal for early illness detection and identifying the markers of future conditions: DNA testing.

DNA testing for dogs can be undertaken for a variety of different reasons, including simple curiosity about the ancestry and breed makeup of your pet, something that an increasing number of dog owners are keen to find out for sure. But one of the most important applications of DNA testing in the canine world involves using DNA testing to detect the early signs and markers of diseases or future diseases, as well as determining ancestral markers by breed and health as well!

Today, your vet can take a simple cheek swab of your dog’s cells, send it away for analysis, and return to you information including your dog’s DNA genotype, their breed and parentage, and markers for certain hereditary diseases. This service is widely utilised by professional breeders of pedigree dogs, and dog owners who want to develop a full picture of their dog’s genetic health as well.

In this article, we will look at how DNA testing can help to diagnose canine diseases, and what sort of dogs this can help. Read on to learn more!

Screening for hereditary health conditions

DNA testing can be undertaken on dogs to identify the markers that may mean that the dog will be predisposed to developing certain hereditary health conditions, so that plans can be made accordingly. This may mean simply remaining vigilant for the early signs of the development of a potential condition, or that dogs that might be intended for breeding can be tested before going ahead, to avoid passing on hereditary health conditions to their puppies.

There are a wide range of diseases that DNA testing can help to identify, and some of these are breed-specific, or occur within certain breeds of dogs with a much higher rate of regularity than others.

Some of the most commonly undertaken DNA health tests for dogs, including those aimed at specific breeds, include:

  • Screening for centronuclear myopathy in the Labrador retriever; this condition is a hereditary illness that leads to muscle weakness and a poor tolerance for exercise, and occurs due to an inherited autosomal recessive gene.
  • Screening for cystinuria, a metabolic disorder that can lead to the development of urine stones in the Newfoundland dog breed.
  • Phosphofructokinase deficiency in the Cocker spaniel and Springer spaniel, a metabolic problem that prevents the body from being able to turn glucose into energy efficiently, which can lead to anaemia and muscle wastage.
  • Pyruvate kinase deficiency in the West Highland terrier, which is a condition of the red blood cells that causes anaemia and potential liver failure.
  • Fucosidosis, a condition that may affect the Springer spaniel, leading to a deterioration of the central nervous system, causing behavioural changes and potentially, deafness and blindness.
  • Exercise-induced collapse, a hereditary condition that can affect various breeds and that leads to weakness of the legs and ultimate collapse shortly after beginning strenuous exercise.

Using DNA genotyping to predict health

DNA genotyping is the form of testing that allows your vet to develop a clear picture of the relevant DNA markers for possible diseases in your dog. It involves screening a DNA sample of a specific dog to identify mutations and genetic errors that lead to an elevated chance of a health problem developing. It can also be used to confirm the parentage, breed and ancestry of a dog, as well as being viable for the testing of cats, rabbits and other pets as well.

DNA testing of pedigree dogs can help to improve the health of the breed line, by providing breeders with the information that they need to make an informed decision on the future health and wellness of the potential puppies.

DNA genotyping to confirm parentage

Just as DNA testing is commonly used to resolve paternity disputes for children, so too can be it used to definitively prove or rule out the parents of a specific given dog. In order for such results to be considered as factual and relevant in law, if needed, swabbing of the dog in question and its potential parent(s) needs to be undertaken by your vet.

This can be useful when required for Kennel Club verification of a dog’s parentage in order to register them, or if it is possible that a dam has produced a litter with two or more potential sires.



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