Dogs face more risk for hereditary diseases than originally assumed: Report

Golden retrievers are far from the only breed susceptible to inherited diseases, a new study reveals.

A comprehensive, multinational study of hereditary canine disorders reveals that about one in 6 dogs carries a genetic variant predisposing them to any one of 100 genetic diseases. The study, led by the University of Helsinki and the University of Pennsylvania and published in the journal PLOS ONE, surveyed nearly 7,000 dogs of 230 breeds.

The dogs were tested for genetic variants associated with a wide range of diseases, including epilepsy, Factor VIII deficiency, skeletal dysplasia and a number of disorders associated with particular breeds, such as Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy. The researchers developed a custom genotyping microarray in conjunction with Genoscoper Laboratories, which validated the results using its genetic testing technology for dogs, MyDogDNA.

The study not only showed that disease-causing genes are more prevalent than widely assumed, it also revealed 15 disease-related variants in 34 breeds that had not been reported as being prone to those disorders before, according to the paper. For example, a genetic predisposition to familial nephropathy, which has been widely recognized in cocker spaniels, was also found in Welsh springer spaniels. To validate such findings, the scientists repeated their testing using a second gene-sequencing technology.

The technology available for sequencing canine genes has advanced in recent years. Last year, Mars Veterinary formed a partnership with Genoscoper aimed at making MyDogDNA tests more widely available to veterinarians. And several academic groups are using gene sequencing to study cancers in dogs, in the hopes of identifying genetic characteristics that might be targetable with drugs and that could help both dogs and humans with common forms of the disease.

The authors of the new study hope the information they uncovered will improve the health and breeding of purebred dogs, they said in a press release announcing the findings. They urge breeders to use the information in combination with best practices to “promote sustainable breeding.”

“Our study demonstrates the importance of collaboration between different contributors--academics, industry and dog fanciers--to reach novel resources that not only enable better understanding of canine genetic health across breeds but also provides viable solutions to improve [their] health,” said senior author Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki in the release.

- here’s the press release
- access the PLOS ONE article here

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