Mars Petcare forms new alliance to expand use of DNA testing in vet hospitals

Veterinary hospitals have been offering DNA testing for dogs for several years now, but mostly as a novelty item--a fun tool owners can use to discover, say, that a mutt's great-grandparent was a pure-bred Scottish terrier. Now Mars Veterinary, a division of Mars Petcare, wants to take that testing several steps further. So on May 6, Mars announced it has formed a partnership with a Finnish company called Genoscoper Laboratories, maker of the MyDogDNA comprehensive genomic test.

MyDogDNA is an all-in-one test that covers most inherited canine diseases, genetic diversity, and "conformational traits"--the physical details that define certain breeds. Genoscoper is working on DNA technologies that will allow veterinarians to provide "personalized and predictive healthcare," according to a press release announcing the deal.

"By combining our efforts, we will bring more advanced, accurate, and relevant DNA tests quicker across the globe, which ultimately means many more dogs and owners will have better relationships" with health providers, said Neale Fretwell, general manager of Mars Veterinary in the release. "We hope it will lead to global next-generation solutions for dogs, owners, veterinarians and breeders."

Veterinarians have become increasingly intrigued with the idea of using genomics to improve animal care. Scientists at the University of Missouri's veterinary college recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for a project aimed at sequencing the genomes of 99 cats. Their goal is to find genetic clues to inherited diseases that cause feline blindness. And the University of Washington in Seattle worked with the Broad Institute of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to sequence the ferret genome, which could lead to new treatments for lung diseases that affect both ferrets and people.

Genoscoper's MyDogDNA technology tests for known genetic mutations, while simultaneously recording chromosomal markers that can be used to locate previously unknown mutations associated with diseases. The company says it anticipates its partnership with Mars will give it access to 90% of veterinary clinics worldwide.

- here's the release