DNA Testing in Dogs
31 Jul 2020
By Margaret Kraeling, PT, CCRT
Lately there has been an increased interest in DNA testing both for people and animals. Several of my friends have done the “23 and Me” testing in an attempt to find out more about their origins. We also hear about more dog breeders as well as pet owners following some sort of DNA tests. Pet owners want to find out more information about the origins of their mixed breed dog and breeders want to try to identify potential health concerns so that they can perfect their breeding program. As canine rehab practitioners we sometimes have discussions with a client particularly regarding the DNA testing for degenerative myelopathy (DM).
Although DNA testing can obviously have some very useful applications, we also must take care not to get too enthusiastic. Regarding the DNA test for degenerative myelopathy it has been shown that the specific gene pattern typical of DM has been identified in 175 breeds. However only 32 breeds have been histologically shown to develop DM. So, although a DNA test for a French Bulldog may come back as “at risk” of DM there has never been a case of the disease identified in this breed. Most cases of degenerative myelopathy identified are in one of the following breeds: Boxer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi and Rhodesian Ridgeback.
Genetic tests are a very significant advance in animal health testing, but it is important to keep things in perspective. We must keep in mind that there are other conditions that can exhibit similar symptoms initially such as intervertebral disc disease. If we focus too much on DNA testing only, we may fail to consider other options as the cause of the symptoms and in some cases may even fail to initiate a more appropriate treatment plan.