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Dog DNA Testing for Cobalamin Malabsorption

Dog DNA Testing for Cobalamin Malabsorption

Health & Safety

Cobalamin malabsorption is a hereditary canine health condition that causes the body to be unable to absorb and use vitamin B12 properly, which is required for proper cell development and the functions of the nervous system.

Cobalamin malabsorption occurs when the intestines, which absorb the appropriate level of vitamin B12 in healthy dogs, fails to develop the necessary binding receptor to process it properly. Whilst the condition is relatively rare, it is a hereditary condition that has been identified as a potential risk to various different pedigree dog breeds, and that can be passed on from parent dogs to their litter.

For this reason, The Kennel Club in association with the British Veterinary Association runs and oversees a screening and testing programme for cobalamin malabsorption in at-risk breeds, in order to allow breeders to find out the status of their breeding stock and so, make an informed decision about potential mating matches.

In this article, we will look at cobalamin malabsorption testing for dogs in more detail, including what sort of dog breed should be tested, what the test tells you, and how to get your dog screened. Read on to learn more.

More about cobalamin malabsorption

Cobalamin malabsorption is a hereditary health condition that can only be passed from dog to dog by means of inheritance, and cannot otherwise be caught or developed. The condition occurs in dogs whose intestines are lacking in the necessary binding receptors to take up and process vitamin B12 properly, which leads to a range of symptoms including failure to thrive, lethargy, and a low body weight and inability to gain weight and condition through the food.

The condition usually becomes apparent in affected dogs well before they reach their first birthday, sometimes as early as six weeks old but in some cases, as late as six months.

What sort of dogs are at risk for the condition?

In the UK, The Kennel Club monitors and assesses the hereditary health of pedigree dog breeds, in order to identify prevalent hereditary health conditions and work to establish testing protocols that enable breeders to ensure that only healthy dogs are used for breeding.

Cobalamin malabsorption testing in the UK is advised by The Kennel Club for the Beagle and the Border collie dog breeds, and The Kennel Club keeps a record of the test results of pedigree dogs of these two breeds in order to map and track the progress or decline of the condition in the wider gene pool of these two breeds.

How does the heredity of the condition work?

Cobalamin malabsorption in dogs is inherited by means of autosomal recessive heredity, which means that the status of any given dog when it comes to the disease depends on the combination of The condition is caused by a gene mutation that can cause a dog that has the mutation to be either a carrier of or affected by the condition, and the different pairings of status in the two parent dogs dictate the eventual health of their litter. Dogs are referred to as either clear, carrier or affected, and the more of inheritance for the condition is outlined below:

  • Two clear dogs will have clear puppies.
  • Two affected dogs will have affected puppies.
  • Two carriers will have a litter with mixed odds of 50% carriers, 25% clear and 25% affected.
  • A clear dog and an affected dog will have a litter of carriers.
  • A clear dog and a carrier will have a litter with mixed odds of 50% clear and 50% carrier.
  • A carrier and an affected dog will have a litter with mixed odds of 50% carriers and 50% affected.

Whilst carriers will not be affected by the condition themselves, carrier status can lead to the affected form of the condition in their offspring, depending on the status of the other parent dog.

This means that a carrier dog can potentially be bred from, but that they should only be bred to a clear dog, to ensure that the litter are not affected. However, it is important to note that some of the subsequent litter are still likely to be carriers, and so the same care must be taken when breeding subsequent generations of the bloodline.

How to get your dog tested

Cobalamin malabsorption testing for dogs is undertaken by means of a simple DNA test, which means that you just need to ask your vet to take a DNA sample from your dog in the form of a vial of blood or a cheek swab, which is then sent off to one of The Kennel Club’s approved laboratories.

The test result is then returned as either clear, carrier or affected, and for dogs of the two at-risk breeds mentioned above that are registered with The Kennel Club, a copy of their results is passed onto The Kennel Club too.