As our dogs’ are DNA contributors to genetic studies, we found this article about purebred dogs and their contribution to genetic studies very interesting and informing. (As a dog owner, you may, too!) Breeders are often reviled these days, but you should know, serious work is being performed to identify and eliminate bad genes from breeds and lines with testing. Genetic tests are being used by conscientious breeders to breed healthier dogs, whose offspring may lead to healthier pets for all someday. And what you may not know is that quite a bit of this research is quietly going on, at the expense of breeders, breed clubs, and universities.
First, the phrase purebred is not only offsetting, but also archaic from Victorian times. What breeders actually do is trait breed or selectively breed. There is no pure in a breed, just the expression or manifestation of desired traits. The trick is to balance desired traits with health, form, and function. a further complication is the fact physical and temperamental traits are intertwined. The Russian Silver Fox study is a fascinating example of this. Here’s a quick synopsis at Scienceblogs.org – Monday Pets: The Russian Fox Study by Dr. Jason G. Goldman.
Dog breeders should ask themselves: What is the purpose of a breed? What is its mission statement and how can I create a healthy example of that? Unfortunately, too many breeders never ask themselves these questions and are only interested in profit or experiencing a litter of puppies, and too many buyers are only interested in the novelty of the breed, don’t educate themselves, then get upset when they have a sick dog to care for or one they decide to abandon.
So it’s comforting to read an article detailing work on the improvement of canine genetics. (Work, which is also a stepping-stone to solving human health issues, too.) The possibility of gene therapy is exciting, but so is the continuous identification of genetic defects. These new genetic tests allow the conscientious breeder to continue to improve their lines, and is a way for the savvy buyer to determine whether a line is being bred for health, as well as, desirable breed traits.
Now onto the article!
This article describes on-going research at Ballard Labs at The University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The studies use genetic data collected from pedigreed dogs to find solutions for both canine and, ultimately, human afflictions.
Explaining the importance of using a specific breed of dog, in this case the Australian Cattle Dog, to pinpoint genetic disorders, it highlights how this study has already isolated a defective gene for a type of blindness in both canines and humans.
Curious about the total number of canine genetic disorders found world-wide? Check current results at this site: OMIA – Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals. As of this blog posting, 615 canine disorders have been found, 327 of which have potential as models for human disease. Only interested in available tests for a specific canine disease or breed? Pop over to PennVet and perform a quick search.
In the US, the National Human Genome Research Center Institute, Dog Genome Project is a major researcher of canine genetics. To learn more about the project, click Dog Genome Project for Owners.
Want to participate? As long as your dog is AKC registered, he/she can potentially contribute to the Dog Genome Project, even if they are spayed or neutered. Why must they be AKC registered? To prove your dog comes from an established gene pool with traceable ancestors. The researchers could care less that your dog has only titled in Snoring and Trash Can Dumping!
How is DNA collected for these genetic studies? Our guys have contributed to studies with blood samples (the gold standard) and cheek swabs. So you can see, no scary or objectionable lab dissection work is needed for these types of studies. It’s no worse than getting blood drawn for routine health lab work. (Which it technically is, only on a very large, very grand scale!) For a blood draw, expect to involve your vet.
Click on the link below for a list of AKC Registered and Foundation Stock Service Breeds the NHGRI needs for its studies. (Already checked for you. French Bulldogs are on the list!)
NHGRI Dog Genome Project Needed Breeds
Still interested in participating? More details from the Dog Genome Project site:
If you are interested in having your pedigreed dog participate in our research studies, please send an email inquiry to: [email protected]. Please provide your name, your dog’s registered name, your dog’s breed, any diagnosed diseases your dog has, age of your dog, and the best way to contact you.
Now your pooch will have bragging rights to: Snoring, Trash Can Dumping, and Breed Betterment and Improvement! Not bad for a day’s work.