The Paw Print Genetics Blog

Integrating Genetic Testing Into Veterinary Practice- Mixed Breed or Pure Bred Pet Dogs

Integrating Genetic Testing Into Veterinary Practice- Mixed Breed or Pure Bred Pet Dogs

For many years, an extensive physical exam, fecal sample testing, vaccinations, and deworming have been the mainstays of new puppy veterinary visits. While all of these tried and true steps are crucial in making sure that a puppy is healthy and stays that way, advances in genetic testing technologies are now revolutionizing the veterinarian’s approach to addressing and anticipating potential health issues in young dogs. Though inherited diseases are seen by veterinarians on a frequent basis, many veterinarians do not realize that genetic testing for diseases is available or understand how clinically helpful testing puppies at their first visit can be. How often do you discuss puppy genetic testing with your clients?

How Can Genetic Testing Improve Veterinary Practice?

The implications that genetic testing results can have for a dog’s veterinary care vary by a specific disease’s age of onset, progression, and clinical signs. Early diagnosis of late-onset inherited diseases allows for your clients to become educated about what to expect and in some cases, take preventative measures and plan for life changes. Knowledge that a dog is at-risk for a particular late-onset disease also allows for early diagnosis and implementation of early treatment when possible. In some cases, clients can prevent spending hundreds or thousands of dollars in diagnostics trying to diagnose an inherited disease. This is particularly true in diseases like degenerative myelopathy (now identified in over 100 breeds) that cannot be definitively diagnosed prior to death and are instead diagnosed by exclusion of other diseases. Armed with genetic testing results, there is no reason to run a menagerie of diagnostics when that dog begins to show classic clinical signs of the disease for which it is already known to be at-risk.

In some cases, inherited diseases have clinical signs that, when present, are considered an emergency. In primary lens luxation for instance, early intervention to remove the luxated lens is crucial in preventing glaucoma related retinal damage and subsequent vision loss. Knowledge that a dog is at-risk for this type of disease allows your clients to anticipate emergencies and get veterinary care quickly when clinical signs are seen. In late 2013, this very scenario played out for a rat terrier named Rickie Roo, the roving reporter for the United States Dog Agility Association and friend of Paw Print Genetics. Thanks to genetic testing, Rickie’s owner knew exactly what to do when she noticed Rickie’s luxated lens. Her quick action spared Rickie’s vision.  

Genetic testing can also help modify the approach to therapy. Genetic testing for multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) in puppies of at-risk herding breeds for example, prevents accidental adverse drug events and can allow for earlier treatment with a drug that would concerning in an affected dog. For instance, a dog found to be free of MDR1 can be started immediately on ivermectin without needing to wait for MDR1 test results to be obtained, thus improving the dog’s quality of life as soon as possible without fear of causing drug related morbidity or death.

Lastly, genetic testing can also improve surgical care and safety. Dozens of inherited blood clotting disorders are known to exist in dogs. Obtaining knowledge that a dog is affected with a clotting disorder allows for you to take necessary precautions to obtain necessary blood products and medications or to refer affected patients to a facility better equipped to handle surgery in a dog with hemostatic issues.

In general, genetic health testing allows veterinarians to diagnose inherited diseases for their clients earlier, begin treatment sooner, anticipate emergencies, take precautions to avoid surgical disasters, and/or prepare for future life changes related to the disease; all with the goal of improving the affected dog’s quality of life and clinical outcome.

How Do I Perform Genetic Testing On My Patients Through Paw Print Genetics?

There are two general ways that genetic testing can be performed at Paw Print Genetics. First, pure bred dogs or dogs of known mixed breeds can be tested by using breed-specific disease test panels that have been designed by Paw Print Genetics, based upon peer-reviewed scientific literature describing the disease associated mutations. For every test ordered in this manner, two independent testing methods are used to confirm the results and maintain the highest accuracy and reliability in the industry. Breed-specific test results are provided through a comprehensive laboratory report with interpretation of results and recommendations related to the findings. In addition, clients will also receive a Canine Genetic Health Certificate™ which is a cumulative, historical record of breed-specific genetic testing results obtained at Paw Print Genetics. The veterinary clinic can create a user account on the Paw Print Genetics website and place orders for clients.  The results from the genetic testing are uploaded into the veterinary clinic’s account, allowing the veterinarian to present the data to their clients.

The other testing methodology employed by Paw Print Genetics is canine genetic health screening, through the use of the Canine HealthCheck (CHC). CHC is a genetic screening test of more than 150 different mutations responsible for various inherited diseases and traits of the dog. For less than $1 per test, screening the canine genome in this manner is the most cost effective method to get a snapshot of any dog’s genetic health. Though just as useful in pure bred pet dogs, CHC is particularly helpful in mixed breed dogs in which the breeds are unknown, thereby making selection of breed-specific tests impossible. This method of testing has also been used to identify disease associated mutations in rare dog breeds that have not previously been studied. Results found on the Canine HealthCheck will be posted in the client’s secure Canine HealthCheck account or the veterinarian’s account where they can filter the tests by breed, clinical signs, or organ system. Individual testing kits can be purchased on the Canine HealthCheck website. However, multiple kits can also be purchased for sale by the veterinarian in the clinical setting by contacting Paw Print Genetics.

If you are a veterinarian or a veterinary staff member and would like to discuss how canine genetic health testing could be implemented in your practice, please contact Paw Print Genetics at or give our medical staff a call at 509-483-5950 (Mon. through Fri.; 8am to 5pm Pacific).