Canine Genetic Disease and DNA Health Screening.
This Holidays4Dogs article will consider the importance of health tests in the pet dog population. Health screening is crucial for detecting inherited diseases in dogs and they are readily available for an increasing number of breeds. Canine medicine has advanced particularly swiftly with regard to the identification of dysfunctional genes. This can only have a positive impact on the reduction, or eradication, of some canine genetic diseases. Read our Holidays4Dogs article to find out more.
Reputable breeders of pedigree dogs will carry out relevant health testing on their dogs. The UK kennel club supports research into canine diseases and also runs a joint health scheme with the British Veterinary Association. The BVA screen a vast number of dogs each year and publish the results on-line.
Health testing is often a stipulation of becoming a member of the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme which promotes the breeding of healthy puppies. Although anyone can join this scheme, it does show some indication and commitment from breeders prepared to abide by good breeding practice.
Purchasers of pedigree puppies should always ensure they are buying from health tested stock.
What are genes and DNA?
Almost all organisms contain long molecules of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). This the hereditary material containing instructions for making an individual. DNA molecules are divided into pairs of strands called chromosomes. Dogs have 39 pairs of chromosomes, compared to humans who have just 23 pairs. Chromosomes are organised into shorter segments of DNA called genes. Each gene provides information for cell function and the expression of specific traits. Thus, various cells in the body produce proteins that work together to produce physical, or behavioural, characteristics.
Sometimes, genes can undergo a change – (mutation). As a result, there can be either, a missing, extra, or irregular section of DNA. Very often these changes do not result in any kind of dysfunction of the organism. However, where a crucial protein involving sight is lacking, for example, this can result in PRA – (progressive retinal atrophy).
Furthermore, infected dogs can pass on these mutant genes to some of their offspring. Mutated genes can either be dominant, or recessive. A dominant gene will always result in disease. Recessive genes generally mean the dog will appear normal but is a carrier of the disease.
Genetic screening means abnormal genes can be discovered and carriers of particular inherited diseases can be recognised. Prospective purchasers of pedigree puppies can search the Kennel Club database to find out what inherited diseases are prevalent in certain breeds. It also provides information on tests available.
The UK Animal Health Trust is an animal charity dedicated to the welfare of domestic and companion animals. Profits go towards further research to develop more DNA tests which will benefit the health of animals on an international scale. They provide a list of DNA tests available for relevant breeds of dog.
The genetic health of dogs relies very much on a collective response from breeders, owners, veterinary professionals and other canine institutions such as the Kennel Club.
Despite critics of the scheme , the Kennel Club’s, ‘fit for function’ campaign goes some way at least to encouraging the breeding of dogs without exaggerated characteristics.
This, along with identifying breed specific diseases, goes some way to preserving the strength and good health of some of our much loved dog breeds.
If you are considering a pedigree dog, please make sure you are aware of the tests available for your chosen breed. Only buy from people who have carried out the relevant screening on all of their breeding stock.