The Paw Print Genetics Blog

Paw Print Genetics: A new approach to canine inherited disease testing

Paw Print Genetics: A new approach to canine inherited disease testing

The pointing Labrador is just one of many exceptional dog breeds. Versatile in their ability to point, flush and retrieve, pointing Labradors may be the perfect hunting companion.  How a specific dog breed has so many desirable characteristics is not a mystery. All domesticated dogs were bred for specific behavioral or physical traits that were required for certain jobs – whether it was for chasing and catching varmints, retrieving the evening’s dinner, or bringing in the herd, dogs are the perfect species for a variety of tasks.  

All of these traits, behavioral and physical, have a genetic component and are determined by an accumulation of genes with modifications, or mutations, that result in some outcome. Whether the traits are pointing, coat color or skull structure, humans chose founding stock to create the various breeds and bred these dogs for the traits they desired.  However, undesirable, even harmful genetic mutations were carried along in these breeds. The most ancient mutations can be found in many breeds of dogs, whereas those mutations that arose more recently maybe found in only one or two breeds.

With the advent of molecular genetic technologies and the sequencing of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) genome, testing for genetic traits and diseases has become quite straightforward from a laboratory perspective and desired from a responsible breeder’s standpoint.  In addition, genetic testing has become a necessity from an ownership perspective.  Owning a dog is a time consuming, financial and emotional investment. How many hours of training have you put into your hunting dog? Many have done the same with their dogs, but were then forced to retire them early due to exercise induced collapse (EIC), blindness caused by one of the progressive retinal atrophies or one of the many other debilitating diseases. If these devastating diseases could be tested for and eliminated from breeding lines, why wouldn’t you do that?

One goal for Paw Print Genetics is to offer all known mutations that cause disease in specific breeds. For example, in Labrador retrievers, there are many changes in the DNA known to affect this breed; Paw Print Genetics currently offers 16.  Although some of these DNA changes are well known diseases or traits, others have not been discussed as much. Regardless, each of these has been documented in Labradors as causing medical problems, or an undesirable trait, and be a financial burden to the owner. A simple genetic screen will tell you if your dogs are at risk of producing puppies with any of these DNA changes.

The reasons for doing genetic testing are obvious: avoid or anticipate unwanted, harmful diseases in your dog and test before breeding or buying a puppy to eliminate any chance of known genetic diseases. At Paw Print Genetics, each of the genes tested are interrogated with two, independent molecular methods.  Testing each gene with two independent methods ensures that the results that you receive are 100% accurate and reliable.  You can read more about our rigorous validation process, that all tests must pass before being offered.

There are several other differences that make Paw Print Genetics unique in the industry. Founded by Lisa Shaffer, a successful business owner and genetics researcher, Paw Print Genetics is the only laboratory in the industry that has a geneticist board certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics. In addition, Dr. Shaffer has published more than 300 scholarly articles on various topics in genetics.  Her previous laboratory, Signature Genomic Laboratories, changed the way medical genetics practitioners approach the diagnostic work up of a child with developmental disabilities. With more than 20 years of experience in human genetics, Dr. Shaffer has brought that same innovation and skill in diagnostics to canine genetic testing.  

Paw Print Genetics’ panel approach to disease testing is unique in the industry. Because genetic mutations can lurk silently in breeding lines until a puppy is born with medical problems, the panel approach to testing in the dam and sire makes economic and scientific sense. Once the dam and sire have been screened and their genetics are known, the expected outcomes can be anticipated and decisions about breeding can be made with knowledge and understanding of your dogs’ genomes. Puppies need only to be tested for those diseases known from the dam and sire testing. If both are clear, the puppies do not need any further genetic (DNA-based) testing for these diseases.

In addition, all testing is done with cheek swabs, a noninvasive approach that can be done in the convenience of the breeders kennel or home. No longer do breeders need to haul their new litters to the veterinarian to have blood taken. This reduces the costs and increases the convenience for the customer. Additional conveniences include postage-paid swab kits included with each order and an easy to use, online ordering system that also functions to track your samples and securely retains your laboratory reports and Canine Genetic Health Certificates© for each dog.

Further, our laboratory employs two PhD geneticists and two DVMs (one of whom also has her PhD in genetics). All results are reviewed by, and reports are signed by, one PhD geneticist and one DVM. This is just another quality assurance step that ensures accurate results and reliable reporting. Finally, Paw Print Genetics has implemented standards found in human genetic testing laboratories (based on CLIA’88 regulations) that are not likely found in any other canine genetic testing laboratory. 

For additional information about how Paw Print Genetics is different, you can read more: For more differences, please read more from our blog page. 

Paw Print Genetics takes the testing of your dogs very seriously. We have implemented the highest medical and laboratory standards because we know that accurate and reliable testing is important to you, and frankly, it's the only way we know how to do business.  We look forward to working with you. Please do not hesitate to contact our staff if you have any questions at or (509) 483-5950.

Photo ‘Teal’ courtesy of Greg McCowan and Wandermere Pointing Labs