Why DNA testing is essential when choosing a Breeder.
Hello everyone, my name is Joe and I run a channel called Bean Creek Doodles. I wanted to talk to you today about the importance of DNA testing in breeding dogs. As someone who is passionate about breeding healthy, happy puppies, I believe that DNA testing is an essential tool for any responsible breeder.
One of the main reasons I believe DNA testing is so important is because it allows us to identify potential genetic issues before they become a problem. For example, degenerative myelopathy is a progressive degenerative disease of the spinal cord that affects dogs, causing weakness and paralysis in the hind legs. This disease can be difficult to diagnose and often goes undetected until the later stages, when the symptoms become more severe. Many times by the time the pup is symptomatic it’s already too late.
By testing for degenerative myelopathy, we can ensure that we are not breeding dogs that are affected by this condition. We’ll expand more on this in a bit, but suffice it to say that if you test for this condition you WILL NOT HAVE pups that inherit this condition! This not only helps to produce healthier puppies, but it also helps to reduce the risk of heartache and expense for the families that take these puppies into their homes.
Another genetic disease that DNA testing can help us identify is von Willebrand disease. This is a bleeding disorder that affects dogs, causing them to bleed excessively after injury or surgery. Von Willebrand disease is caused by a deficiency in von Willebrand factor, a protein that helps blood to clot. Dogs with this condition are at risk for bleeding disorders and may require special medical care and management. By testing for von Willebrand disease, we can avoid producing puppies that are prone to this condition and the potential complications and risks associated with it.
Progressive rod cone degeneration, also known as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), is a group of inherited diseases that cause the retina of the eye to degenerate, leading to vision loss and eventually blindness. PRA is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time, and it is not reversible. Dogs with PRA may have difficulty seeing in low light conditions and may eventually lose their vision entirely. By testing for PRA, we can identify and avoid breeding dogs that are at risk for this condition and the resulting vision loss.
Another important reason to consider DNA testing is to avoid the dangers of double merle breeding. Double merle is a term used to describe puppies that are born to two merle-colored parents. While Merle colored puppies can be absolutely adorable, they are also at a higher risk for serious health problems such as blindness and deafness. This is because the merle gene is a dominant gene that can cause problems when it is inherited in a double dose (each parent carrying at least one copy of the gene). By testing for the merle gene, we can avoid the risk of producing double merle puppies and instead focus on producing healthy, genetically diverse litters.
Again, I feel compelled to point out that ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE PREVENTABLE IF YOUR BREEDERR GENETIC TESTS THEIR PARENTS.
It’s important to note that these are just a few examples of the many genetic diseases that can affect dogs. Depending on the breed, there may be other genetic conditions that should be tested for. For example, some breeds may be prone to hip dysplasia, a common genetic disease that affects the hips and can cause pain, lameness, and difficulty moving. Other breeds may be at risk for cystinuria, a genetic disorder that affects the kidneys and urinary tract and can cause the formation of cystine stones. By testing for these and other genetic conditions, we can ensure that we are producing the healthiest puppies possible.
When it comes to genetic testing in dogs, there are three different categories of test results: affected, not affected, and carrier. Understanding the difference between these categories is important for breeders and potential pet owners alike. Let’s take a closer look at each of the categories and what they mean.
An affected dog is one that has the genetic condition and will likely display the associated symptoms. These dogs carry two copies of a mutated gene. For example, an affected dog with degenerative myelopathy will likely experience weakness and paralysis in the hind legs. An affected dog with von Willebrand disease may bleed excessively after injury or surgery. These dogs will typically require special medical care and management to manage their condition.
A ‘non-affected’ dog, on the other hand, does not have the genetic condition and will not display the associated symptoms. These dogs carry no copies of a mutated gene, and are not at risk for developing the condition. They can be considered healthy and free from the condition. These are typically what you would expect to find as ‘breeders’.
A carrier is a dog that has one copy of the genetic mutation but will never have the associated symptoms. These are typically what you would expect to find offered as pets. These dogs are not affected by the condition themselves, and never will be. They can pass the mutation on to their offspring, but at most they will only inherit one copy, and will also be non-affected. It is important for breeders to consider the genetic status of both the sire and dam when breeding to ensure that they are not producing affected puppies. A carrier may be used as a breeder without issue, but only if the pup it is being bred to does not carry any copies of the mutated gene.
Overall, understanding the genetic test results of a dog is an important factor to consider when breeding or choosing a pet. It can help to ensure the health and well-being of the dogs involved and reduce the risk of heartache and expense for the families that take these puppies into their homes.
It’s important to understand that a carrier dog can never inherit the disease or condition for which they are a carrier. This is because a carrier dog has only one copy of the mutated gene, and it is not enough to cause the condition.
To inherit a genetic condition, a dog must receive two copies of the mutated gene, one from each parent. This is known as being homozygous for the mutation. A carrier dog, on the other hand, is only heterozygous for the mutation, meaning that they have one copy of the mutated gene and one copy of the normal gene.
For example, let’s say that a carrier dog is bred with another carrier dog. There is a 50% chance that each puppy will inherit one copy of the mutated gene and be a carrier like their parents. However, there is also a 50% chance that each puppy will inherit two copies of the normal gene and be not affected by the condition.
In summary, a carrier dog can never inherit the disease or condition for which they are a carrier. They require two copies of the mutated gene to be affected, and as a carrier, they only have one copy of the mutated gene.
If a breeder is not performing genetic testing, it should be a giant red flag! It is the clearest indication that the breeder is not committed to producing the healthiest puppies possible or that they are not aware of the potential genetic issues that can affect their breed. I cannot stress this enough: If a breeder says they haven’t done any testing but that ‘the parents have always been healthy’ RUN! That is the standard line people use to put you at ease for their failure to test. Even if what they’re saying is true, it has no bearing on the pups as the combining of the parents is what can cause the disease!
In addition to the potential health concerns for the puppies, choosing a breeder who does not perform genetic testing can also be a large financial risk for potential pet owners! If a puppy is not tested for genetic conditions and is later found to be affected, the costs of treating and managing the condition can be significant, not to mention the heartbreak. By choosing a breeder who performs genetic testing, you can be more confident in the health of your puppy and avoid potential financial burdens in the future. You may pay a little more cost upfront, but you will save thousands in the long run and save your family a tremendous amount of heartache.
Overall, choosing a breeder who performs genetic testing is an important consideration for anyone looking to bring a new puppy into their home. It helps to ensure the health and well-being of the puppies and can reduce the risk of heartache and expense for the families that take these puppies into their homes.
One last point. I recently saw a post in one of the many Facebook puppy / dog groups that I’m in, and it’s what prompted the writing of this article. The poster posed a question to the group: “Is dna testing really that important? I’ve seen a lot of people mention it, but does anyone ever really run into those kinds of issues?” A lot of people replied, and an alarming amount of them said they never worried about health testing when they picked out their pup and they were just fine. This makes it appear as though genetic testing is really something you shouldn’t be concerned with. I think the reality however is much more sad. Because the reality is that the people who bought pups and lost them to a preventable genetic disease, they don’t end up joining those groups, because they no longer have a pup to share about. Equally bad is that when you consider diseases like DM that take years to show up, some of those folks likely do have pups that will be affected, they simply don’t know it yet. 🙁
So to sum up, DNA testing is an essential tool for any responsible breeder. It helps to identify potential genetic issues such as degenerative myelopathy, von Willebrand disease, and progressive rod cone degeneration, avoid the dangers of double merle breeding, and produce healthier, happier puppies. If you are considering bringing a new puppy into your home, please please please choose a breeder who is committed to performing genetic testing to ensure the health and well-being of their puppies! Your future self and your family and your pup will thank you!