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Why is Genetic Testing Before Breeding Important?

Genetic testing is a straightforward approach for us to discover more about our dogs. The genetic coding of an individual contains a plethora of information (DNA). A variety of tests can be done on a sample of your pet’s DNA-containing cells, either individually or as part of a profile, to provide essential information about your pet’s genetic makeup.

Before breeding, genetic testing can determine whether potential dog parents have harmful variations that could be passed on to puppies. The genetic results can then be utilized to pair dogs to avoid creating at-risk puppies properly.

What is Responsible Breeding and Management of Genetic Disease?

Breeders of dogs and cats want to create the most significant results from their matings. Breeding has become more sophisticated in recent years, and more people with healthy dogs and cats are becoming “breeders.” Understanding breed characteristics, historical selection factors, and the ongoing progress of health testing were not as significant in the formation of today’s breeders. To promote healthy breeding methods for dogs and cats, all veterinarians, breeders, and breed groups must educate prospective breeders on these topics.

The expansion of intentional cross-breedings or designer breeds to create progeny adds to the complexity of breeding. This has recently become more of a factor in dog breeding than cat breeding, but it occurs in both. As a result, the debate is no longer between purebred and crossbred dogs but between purposefully bred and randomly bred dogs.

There is a widespread misperception that mixed-breed dogs and cats are intrinsically devoid of hereditary illness. This may be true for rare breed-related problems. However, prevalent genetic diseases seen in all breeds are seen with the same frequency in mixed breeds. A mixed-breed dog with hip arthritis has the same amount of hip dysplasia as a purebred dog. The only difference is that conscientious breeders evaluate and designate their pups as dysplastic before clinical indications appear. It didn’t detect a difference in the relative frequency of aged purebred dogs versus old mixed-breed dogs with hip arthritis that require arthritis pain medication.

Testing for hereditary hypothyroidism for thyroglobulin autoantibodies by Michigan State University reveals that 10.7% of 55,053 tested mixed-breed dogs are afflicted. The average percentage of afflicted dogs across all pure breeds is 7.5%. This does not imply that mixed-breed dogs are more susceptible to autoimmune thyroiditis: more mixed-breed dogs are examined based on clinical indicators. However, these findings indicate that this inherited condition is common in both purebred and mixed-breed dogs. 

To those who believe this condition is not genetic, we look into past breed predilections for the disorder. Breeds with the highest genetic predisposition for autoimmune thyroiditis stay high throughout time, for example, 31.4% of English Setters tested, whereas breeds with the lowest propensity remain low, for example, 1.1% of French Bulldogs tested. Thyroid testing-based selection and, in the future, direct genetic tests for liability genes should minimize the prevalence of this condition.

According to the AKC Canine Health Foundation, the most prevalent inherited problems for all dog breeds are cancer, eye disease, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, heart disease, autoimmune disease, allergies, patellar luxation, and renal dysplasia. Except for renal dysplasia, all of these hereditary diseases are common in mixed-breed dogs.

Some defective illness-causing genes mutated so long ago that the mutation and the disease it causes can be found in different evolutionary breeds. The progressive rod-cone degeneration (prcd) form of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is caused by the same autosomal recessive mutation found in the American Cocker Spaniel, American Eskimo Dog, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Chinese Crested Dog, English Cocker Spaniel, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, Finnish Lapphund, Golden Retriever, Kuvasz, Labrador Retriever, Lapponian Herder, Nova Scotia Duck Trolling Retriever, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, Spanish Water Dog, Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, and Swedish Lapphund. 

This list is growing as new breeds with the same faulty gene are uncovered. The question isn’t Which breeds carried this damaged gene during their development, but which breeds did not lose this defective gene during ancestral development?

It is also unsurprising that prcd-PRA-afflicted dogs have been detected in Labradoodles and Cockapoos. Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and hereditary Addison’s disease have also been diagnosed in Labradoodles, all documented illnesses in both parent breeds.

So, if breeders want to generate the best possible offspring from their matings, the fundamental question in dog and cat breeding becomes, who is a credible breeder? The breeders perform genetic testing for breed-susceptible illnesses in purposely-bred dogs and cats, both pure-breeding and mixed-breeding. Official test results should be made available to prospective breeders and the general public interested in purchasing pets and breeding stock. It makes no difference if a breeder is a major commercial breeder or only breeds once. Not testing for documented breed-related hereditary disorders is irresponsible breeding in today’s world.

Responsible breeding also entails understanding how to apply genetic testing results best. Concerns about the breadth of the accessible gene pool and genetic diversity in purebreds have been raised. Genetic test results should be used to improve breed health, not to limit it. 

What Do You Need to Know About Dog DNA Tests

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) comprises a series of molecules known as nucleotides. It contains the blueprint for every living organism, from the smallest microbe to humans. Genes are DNA segments that code for specific proteins essential in cells’ formation, maintenance, and reproduction.

Dogs have approximately 20,000 to 25,000 genes spread over 78 chromosomes, compared to 46 in humans. DNA testing is now utilized in the following ways:

Parentage Verification

Law enforcement agencies worldwide employ a technology known as genetic fingerprinting to identify crime suspects positively. The same method can create a DNA snapshot of any individual, human or canine. These profiles serve various purposes, including positive dog identification, accurate pedigree tracking, and parentage confirmation. 

This voluntary service offers value to breeding operations by allowing breeders to reduce parental concerns and inquiries. How does this function? Each gene has two copies, known as alleles. Each parent passes on one copy of each gene to their offspring. DNA tests employ other DNA sequences known as markers rather than actual genes to determine parentage. Because these are not functioning genes, the DNA profiles are only used to confirm genetic identification and paternity. They don’t tell you anything about your appearance, hereditary illnesses, or breed.

Enforcing Pet Waste Regulations

The same technology is used to track out poop-law violators. Since 2008, one company, PooPrints by BioPet Laboratories in Knoxville, Tennessee, has provided DNA profiling to managed communities. Landlords can register each tenant’s dog in a pet registry. If waste is discovered in an inappropriate location, a sample of cells recovered from the excrement can be compared to an individual in a database of genetic profiles of area dogs.

Identifying the Mixture in Mixed-Breed Dogs

Dog owners are most interested in learning what breeds make up their newly adopted dog. The DNA test findings include your dog’s breed mix by a percentage based on a library of up to 350 dog breeds. You can acquire more information on each breed for your puppy, including temperament, appearance, history, amusing facts, and related breed information.

You can also learn about your dog’s genealogy and family tree and what breeds their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were likely to be. This can confirm how far back their pedigree runs, even for purebred dogs.

Wolfiness or ancient genetic traits, maternal line, genetic age, and trait information are all available with specific kits. Color and length of coat, body size, shedding, eye color, genetic diversity, and even altitude tolerance are all factors.

Finding Inherited Disorders

Breeders are responsible for selecting sires and dams with the best probability of delivering sound, healthy puppies. Genetic testing is vital in alerting breeders to the possibility of a disease lurking in a dog’s DNA. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Inc., formed in 1966 as a control database for the orthopedic condition known as dysplasia, currently maintains voluntary canine health databases, some of which are based on X-Rays and others on genetic tests. According to an OFA monograph, knowledge of genotypic status is the breeder’s most powerful instrument for genetic disease elimination.

You can also find out if your dog has the MDR1 gene, also known as the multi-drug resistance gene, which can cause severe adverse responses to standard drugs.

You can be a more proactive owner if your dog tests positive for any of these diseases or mutations. As your dog ages, you’ll be more aware of symptoms to look for and can consult with your veterinarian for complete care.

Revealing Hidden Characteristics

There is also DNA testing available to detect coat color and type genes. A dog may appear to be one hue, yet he may carry the genes for another color, pattern, or texture that will manifest in his pups.

Why Do You Need To DNA Test Your Dogs Before Breeding?

One of the most acceptable methods to learn about dog breeding is to educate yourself on canine health. When making responsible decisions about a litter, numerous health tests and genetic test findings should be considered. Let’s look at the top five reasons why understanding your dog’s genetic health risk will help you care for him better and protect the future of your breed by lowering the danger of having puppies with specific health concerns.

Individual Health Risk

A healthy dam is required to produce healthy puppies. A genetic test to assist detect potential genetic concerns will allow for optimal care in addition to the individual physical assessment and accompanying blood work for pre-breeding health. DNA testing might reveal certain potential health issues for a particular animal. You can, for example, determine if your dog has a drug sensitivity or is at risk for a specific bleeding disease, which may be helpful before any surgical surgery. A DNA kit can also check for various genetic variations that might cause bladder stones or eye diseases like PRA, which can cause blindness. Discussing these measurements with your veterinarian can be a helpful tool when dealing with health issues or developing a proactive preventative care plan.

Breed-Related Health Issues

Before breeding, genetic testing can determine whether potential parents have harmful variations that could be passed on to their pups. The genetic results can then be utilized to pair dogs to avoid creating at-risk puppies properly. Understanding the fundamentals of gene health testing will help you evaluate your dog’s DNA results and make informed decisions. Knowing if your dog is free of a detrimental variant, a carrier of the variant, or at risk from the variant, as well as how to use DNA test results in a breed-specific manner, will help you determine how to proceed with your breeding program.

OFA Submission Report

Breeders should do many phenotypic health assessments on their canines before breeding. Depending on the dog breed, these veterinary-performed examinations may include eye exams, hip x-rays, and heart testing. A complete list, as recommended by significant breed associations, can be found at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). Specific DNA-based health tests are also required to obtain a CHIC registration number.

Coefficient of Inbreeding

Genetic diversity is essential in your breed and breeding program. Embark’s genetic Coefficient of Inbreeding is the most precise method for evaluating inbreeding, which can contribute to smaller litter sizes and lower lifespan (COI). Instead of pedigree-based COI estimates, genetic COI checks your dog’s DNA to see which fraction is identical, indicating the percentile of inbreeding. When compared to the most exhaustive pedigree analysis, genetic COI can uncover inbreeding by assessing over 230,000 genetic markers.

Traits Education

Before mating, consider your dog’s genotypes for attributes such as body size, other body features such as nose length, coat color, and other coat factors such as furnishings and performance. This valuable Traits List for Breeders reveals all of the genotypes available from Embark testing and how to interpret the results. Recording the sire and dam genotypes before breeding may help anticipate results such as the predicted coat color of your puppies. This is especially important to consider if you show dogs that must have specific coat colors and patterns according to breed standards. Learning about coat color genetics and their impact on phenotypic traits has the added benefit of assisting you in understanding what health issues may be associated with different colors or patterns, such as merle. Other coat color modifiers, such as white spotting, roan, and saddle tan, can be complicated to understand yet exciting and amusing to analyze.

What is OFA Testing?

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is an abbreviation for the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. The charity was founded in 1966. Several dogs of the same breed had developed similar abnormalities, and a man named John M. Olin discovered the issues could be traced back through a dog’s lineage and didn’t only happen to some of the pups.

Before the widespread availability of blood-based genetic testing, x-rays were the primary means of tracking orthopedic disorders in dogs. Instead of only examining individual dogs with their owners, the OFA Certification process began by compiling a database. The database had information on the dog, including the breeder, birth location, and familial ties.

The program is managed solely by the University of Missouri, with many connections to vets worldwide.

What Genetic Disorders Does It Address?

The OFA Certification was established initially to detect hip dysplasia in dogs and is currently the leading source for tracking hip abnormalities. The growth of DNA testing has resulted in the monitoring of various inherited diseases. Patellar Luxations are a condition that the OFA Certification monitors in dogs with poor knees.

The OFA Certification also monitors the spread of various cardiac disorders, and early detection can help prevent serious issues in the future. Genetic testing covers hypothyroidism as well. This illness can cause a hormonal imbalance in dogs, leading to problems later in life.

When Should My Dog Get OFA Certification?

Many hereditary illnesses may not manifest physically until years after the harm or treatment choices have become restricted. Ideally, test and certify your dog as soon as feasible. Hypothyroidism, for example, may be observable and curable in a dog from an early age.

Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain and blood sugar problems if a dog is not treated. A dog will earn a score based on chance related to past genetics due to genetic testing. The information could also aid results if the dog’s parents underwent the OFA certification process.

Genetics has so many intricate elements that not every solution is clear-cut. Particularly in the case of hip dysplasia, the range of genetic outcomes will often go from Excellent to Severe. An Excellent score indicates that your dog probably has no genetic markers for hip dysplasia. The worst genetic result is severe.

OFA certification’s primary objective is to support treating a dog’s health and stop the breeding of severe genetic illnesses in the future.

What Medical Treatments are Available?

Following the OFA certification process, numerous treatment choices are available based on the results. Vets can perform surgery on puppies with hip dysplasia to repair the hip joints early on and reduce future complications.

A total hip replacement is one of the major surgeries. However, your pet can also undergo triple pelvic osteotomy. The procedure can be performed when the dog is young, preventing many common hip disorders in the future. Once the OFA certification is received, you can consult a veterinarian to determine the best action.

While surgery is uncommon in other illnesses, the certification aids in preventative care. For example, suppose genetic tests reveal your dog’s suspected genetic heart problem. In that case, you should visit your veterinarian regularly for x-rays and blood work to monitor your dog’s heart status.

A prescription can often aid with treatment alternatives. Medication can assist in alleviating discomfort, reversing the consequences of inherited disorders, and maintaining hormonal balance. The OFA certification is the first stage in the process, and proper medical treatments can help your dog live a long and happy life.

Does the Dog Breed Affect Behavior?

Dog owners believed they were also passing on specific behavioral features within breeds, giving birth to stereotypes such as Golden Retrievers being affectionate and fun-loving, Rottweilers being confident and aggressive, and Chihuahuas being yappy and energetic.

A recent genetic study suggests that a dog’s breed may account for as little as 9% of its behavioral features.

Instead, all dogs appear to share a wide range of behaviors that evolved over the 10,000 years they’ve spent with humans, particularly in the last couple of millennia when they were assigned specialized tasks like guarding or herding, according to the study.

The study revealed that modern breeding is good at changing how dogs look but not necessarily how individual canines would behave.

Researchers discovered that German Shorthaired pointers were slightly more likely to point, Golden Retrievers were somewhat more likely to retrieve, and Siberian Huskies were more likely to howl than the overall dog population. Because these characteristics predate breeds, they notice them in other breeds and dogs that are not limited to those breeds.

The researchers discovered that aggression, how easily frightening or uncomfortable stimuli trigger a dog, is nearly wholly unaffected by breed.

What Tests Do Reputable Breeders Perform?

Reputable purebred dog breeders recognize the importance of adhering to the AKC breed requirements for health testing. Early diagnosis of inherited disorders in breeding pairs and household pets is critical because it allows for early surgical intervention, weight and exercise management regimens, or treatment plans to control a problem if/when it arises.

The following are some of the more generally recommended tests for various breeds. There are more tests than we can readily cover here, but if you seek a purebred dog, we encourage you to educate yourself on breed-specific exams. For the same reasons – early signs of potential sickness or curable disorders – these tests are frequently suggested for rescues and non-pure-bred canines.

Before Breeding: Breeding Pair and Puppy Tests

Both parents should have undergone all required breed-specific examinations. The American Kennel Club website provides a list of suggested testing by breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) manages the records database. In general, they are classified as follows:

  • Hip scoring
  • Elbow grading
  • Eye testing
  • Hearing tests
  • Thyroid tests
  • Heart testing
  • DNA testing

Before Breeding, Both Parents Should Receive the Following Tests

  • Testing for Brucellosis (a bacterial sexually transmitted disease).
  • Adults should have routine “wellness” tests performed annually or as their veterinarian indicates.
  • Before she may be bred, the mother must have received all of her vaccines.

Before Adoption: Pre-Adoption Medical Exams for Puppies

  • Fecal testing is commonly performed between the ages of 4-6 weeks.
  • A veterinarian should have inspected puppies before being placed in new homes.
  • Before sale/adoption, most puppies have undergone at least one deworming and, depending on age, may or may not have gotten any vaccines.

AKC and Lifestyle Tests

There are two types of tests: AKC-recommended tests that relate to known hereditary issues of the breed and lifestyle tests that relate to the actual life and activities your specific dog is participating in. According to the AKC, dogs should have the following veterinarian evaluations:

  • Hip evaluation
  • Elbow evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cardiac exam
  • Cone degeneration DNA test

Temperament Test

These tests determine a dog’s personality (shyness, outgoingness, aggressive tendencies). They are not standardized and vary based on the test’s aim.

  • Breeders of specific breeds may do Schutzhund training or therapy dog testing to assess their dogs’ career prospects.
  • Shelters and breeders assess how well a dog will interact with other pets and, in different circumstances, choose permanent home placements. These tests determine shyness, aggressive or friendly behavior, energy levels, and a dog’s overall interest in other living things such as children, men, cats, bunnies, other dogs, and so on.

Temperament testing can help determine what kind of lifestyle, family, and environment your dog will thrive in. A dog that enjoys running should not be given to someone who self-identifies as a “couch potato.” A boisterous dog (one that barks a lot) may not be suitable for an apartment-dwelling family, and a clingy, non-independent dog may not be ideal as a solitary pet in a family that spends long days away from home.

Baer Test

The Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) is a hearing test for dogs older than 35 days. Each ear is evaluated separately. In people, the test is the same; headphones play waveforms that, when considered, reveal whether or not the hearing circuits are functioning. Sedation is not required in peaceful puppies; however, minor sedation may be needed in more rambunctious puppies.

The test is performed by inserting tiny electrodes beneath the scalp’s epidermis and foam earbuds into the pet’s ears. A computer sends noises into the dog or cat’s ear via headphones, and electrodes record electrical activity associated with a hearing response. The speed and intensity with which they move are assessed, and the outcome evaluates hearing capacity.

Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC) DNA Test

The AKC recommends EIC DNA tests for Labrador Retrievers, among other breeds. These tests look for a neuromuscular condition that causes muscle weakness, lack of coordination, and potentially fatal collapse after vigorous exertion. Affected canines may exhibit symptoms as young as five months of age. While this is a potentially deadly ailment, knowing a dog’s DNA can assist an owner spot triggers and providing suitable exercise for their dog if they test positive for this recessive gene.

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