The Paw Print Genetics Blog

Canine Genetic Disease Testing Prior to Other Health Clearances- Why It Makes Sense

Canine Genetic Disease Testing Prior to Other Health Clearances- Why It Makes Sense

Once only a dream for dog lovers, technological advances in the sciences have now made testing for certain inherited diseases a mainstay of modern dog breeding. With knowledge of specific, disease-associated genetic mutations and an understanding of how these diseases are inherited, tests can be developed to identify dams and sires at risk of producing affected puppies. With this knowledge, informed decisions can be made in selecting mates which can safely be bred together.

As the Associate Medical Director at Paw Print Genetics, I have heard many different strategies employed by our clients to get required or recommended health clearances performed on their dogs prior to breeding. Some choose to break up the testing over time to spread out the cost and many choose one type of health clearance to be performed first with other testing to be completed upon the results of the first round of testing. For a variety of reasons, I propose that performing genetic testing on breeding dogs prior to other health clearances is a practical option that may be in the best interest for many breeders.

Test at Any Age

One advantage to performing genetic health testing prior to other clearances is that genetic testing ...

Muffin Tin, Muffin Tin, oh where did I put my Muffin Tin?

Muffin Tin, Muffin Tin, oh where did I put my Muffin Tin?
Illustration on how to use a muffin tin to dry your samples. On the left shows how to organize the cups and write important identifiers for each sample. On the right illustrates putting the samples into individual bags after they have dried.

Our Paw Print Genetics (PPG) clients frequently share with us some of the great ideas they utilize to help in their quest to produce happy and healthy litters. Recently, one of our wonderful clients (for this blog, I will call her Carol) gave me an awesome tip regarding her method for drying out umbilical cords, docked tails, or dew claws that she intends to send to PPG as samples for DNA extraction and genetic testing.

Carol’s method involves pulling out her old trusty muffin tin and using the paper liners typically used for baking. Carol prepares one paper liner for each puppy by writing the specific puppy’s name (most commonly corresponding to the puppy’s collar color)  as well as the Paw Print Genetics ID number that is generated on the PPG website when a dog is added to an account.  She then places each liner into one of the metal cups in the muffin tin.

As her veterinarian collects each sample, Carol carefully deposits each sample into the labeled liner corresponding to the correct puppy. To prevent DNA contamination between puppies, she requests that the veterinarian clean the tools and change gloves before collecting the sample on the next pup ...

Paw Print Genetics Leads the Pack for Standards and Guidelines for Canine Clinical Genetic Laboratories

Paw Print Genetics Leads the Pack for Standards and Guidelines for Canine Clinical Genetic Laboratories

When Paw Print Genetics (PPG) started our laboratory in 2012, we entered a rather mature market place with other canine genetic testing laboratories well established, some for over 20 years. However, we were shocked and disappointed to learn that there were no quality standards or guidelines in place for these laboratories to follow. As such, each lab was “doing their own thing” and it was very difficult for the breeder or dog owner to discern which laboratory was providing quality genetic testing that was accurate and could be trusted in their breeding program.

The founders of Paw Print Genetics, Lisa G. Shaffer, PhD, FACMG, CEO, Blake C. Ballif, PhD, Director of Operations, and Kyle Sundin, Senior Manager, Development and Laboratory Operations, worked together prior to starting PPG in a human genetics diagnostic laboratory. Human clinical genetics laboratories follow the Standards and Guidelines set forth by the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMGG). Because there were no standards in canine testing and our founders were used to working under the guidance of the ACMGG, we set up our laboratory, protocols, policies and procedures as if PPG was a human genetics diagnostic laboratory. As such, every gene mutation has been ...

Who To Test? - Canine Autosomal Recessive Genetic Diseases

Who To Test? - Canine Autosomal Recessive Genetic Diseases

Genetics play an enormous role in the health of dogs walking through the doors of any veterinary hospital. However, the treatment of an animal with an inherited disease rather than proactive testing of the genetic mutations responsible for disease has been the traditional role of the veterinarian. With an increase in the availability of canine genetic disease testing and great improvements in the ease and convenience of ordering genetic testing through Paw Print Genetics, more and more dog breeders and their clients are having genetic testing performed preemptively and learning the benefits of these powerful technologies. As a veterinarian, understanding the basics of genetic testing and how genetic test results can be used to prevent and diagnose disease will keep you current and prepared for your clients as these technologies inevitably become a more significant part of clinical veterinary practice.

One of the more challenging but important aspects of canine genetic testing is deciding what recommendations to make when a dog or one of its relatives are found to be at risk for (or affected with) an inherited disease. Appropriate testing recommendations for the relatives of affected dogs may be crucial for prevention of additional affected puppies and identification of ...

Keep Breed-Specific Thinking from Delaying Your Diagnosis

Keep Breed-Specific Thinking from Delaying Your Diagnosis

Discovery of disease-associated, canine genetic mutations has greatly increased over the past two decades. As a result, identification of these mutations through genetic testing has quickly become a useful tool for dog kennels and veterinary practices by allowing for the identification of asymptomatic disease carriers, diagnosis of affected dogs, and prevention of inherited diseases through informed breeding practices. However, because mutation discovery is often funded by specific breed clubs with interest in a breed-related disease concern, study investigators may not perform extensive, species-wide population studies for a newly discovered mutation. Therefore, in many cases, additional breeds inheriting the same mutation (and developing the same disease) may remain unknown for quite some time after the initial discovery.

As any modern veterinarian can attest, for better or worse, animal lovers have more veterinary medical information at their fingertips than ever before. Occasionally, at Paw Print Genetics, we are contacted by breeders or owners whose veterinarian had opted not to pursue a diagnosis that the client suspected because of the veterinarian’s historical understanding of a disease’s breed-specific distribution rather than the current knowledge. For veterinarians building a differential diagnosis list, keeping the mind open to a particular inherited disease manifesting in an unexpected ...

Paw Print Genetics Offers Tests for the Alaskan Malamute

Paw Print Genetics Offers Tests for the Alaskan Malamute

Genetic testing is important for any breed, for the dog’s individual health and wellbeing as well as for any breeding dogs to ensure healthy puppies in future generations. Paw Print Genetics offers genetic testing for three diseases known to occur in the Alaskan Malamute. Testing for these diseases provides you the information that you need to keep your dog healthy and to select appropriate breeding pairs to avoid producing affected puppies.

The first disease is the Alaskan Malamute Polyneuropathy. This disease is an inherited neuromuscular condition that affects dogs between the ages of 3 and 19 months of age. The first signs of this disease may be a change in their bark, noisy breathing, exercise intolerance and loss of hindlimb coordination. The disease is progressive resulting in muscle wasting, abnormal gait or inability to walk. Testing of this disease is required for CHIC and using results in your breeding program can eliminate producing affected pups.  This disease is inherited in a recessive manner meaning that two copies of the mutation are required to produce the symptoms of polyneuropathy. Dogs that have one copy of the mutation are carriers and are not affected. Breeding carriers to clear (normal) dogs will ...

New Test for Australian Shepherds and Related Breeds - Intestinal Cobalamin Malabsorption

New Test for Australian Shepherds and Related Breeds - Intestinal Cobalamin Malabsorption

Intestinal cobalamin malabsorption, also known as Amnionless Deficiency, Cobalamin Deficiency, Imerslund-Grasbeck Syndrome (IGS), and Vitamin B12 Deficiency, is an inherited disease found in the Australian Shepherd and related breeds (Miniature Australian Shepherd, Toy Australian Shepherd, Miniature American Shepherd). The disease is inherited in a recessive fashion and as such, dogs that inherit two copies of the mutation are at risk for the disease. The disease is caused by the inability to make adequate amounts of a protein that plays a role in absorption of certain nutrients from the intestinal tract and kidneys, including the B vitamin, cobalamin. Affected dogs have increased levels of methylmalonic acid in their urine (a sign of cobalamin deficiency) after weaning, but symptoms of disease may not be recognized by owners for months or years. Symptoms of disease include anorexia, lethargy, poor weight gain, poor muscle mass, and in rare circumstances, a severe neurological dysfunction called hepatic encephalopathy that can lead to altered mental state, seizures, coma and death. Affected dogs require treatment with cobalamin supplementation throughout their life.

Because of the severity of this condition and the fact that it is treatable, this test has been added to the breed-specific panels for Australian Shepherds and related breeds ...

Paw Print Genetics - Setting the Bar for Standards in Canine Genetic Testing

Paw Print Genetics - Setting the Bar for Standards in Canine Genetic Testing

Paw Print Genetics is special and I am not just saying that because I am the CEO. There is no other canine genetics laboratory like PPG. Seriously!  Paw Print Genetics is the only laboratory that has implemented human-based testing standards. What does this mean?  It means that PPG tests each mutation region twice with two different methods to ensure the highest accuracy possible. No laboratory can boast 100% accuracy, but PPG achieves 99.9% accuracy each and every day. This means that you can trust your results and use them confidently in your breeding program. In addition, PPG employs both PhD Geneticists and licensed Veterinarians on staff, in our offices, that oversee the testing and report the results. You can also call and speak to them if you have any questions or concerns. Finally, I am the only board certified geneticist in the canine field; I am board certified by the American Board of Medical Genetics. These three aspects - the 'double check testing', having geneticists and veterinarians on staff, and having a board certified geneticist on staff - are equivalent to the requirements found in human genetic testing laboratories.

In addition to our high testing standards and customer access ...

If a cavalier King Charles spaniel falls in the woods and no one’s around, is it episodic falling syndrome?

If a cavalier King Charles spaniel falls in the woods and no one’s around, is it episodic falling syndrome?

There aren’t many things sweeter in life than a cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS). From their friendly, outgoing demeanor to their adorable, pouty eyes, they have definitely become one of my favorite breeds over the years. It appears that others understand my enthusiasm for the breed as well. In the fifteen years from 2002 to 2017, CKCS have moved up from 40th place to 19th place on the AKC’s registration statistics and are one of the most popular breeds in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, like other popular dog breeds, cavaliers have their share of inherited diseases that can potentially reduce their quality and quantity of life. At Paw Print Genetics, we strive to control these diseases for our canine companions.

One interesting yet, debilitating disease unique to the CKCS is an inherited neurological condition first reported in 19831, known as episodic falling syndrome (EFS). Affected dogs begin showing signs of spastic muscle contractions of the limbs and trunk between 14 weeks and 4 years of age particularly during exertion, excitement, or frustration. As an episode starts, affected dogs most commonly develop rigid hind limb extension, a convex bending of the spine (“roach backed”), and hold their head near the floor ...

Why is a Dam’s Sample Needed for Parentage Testing?

Why is a Dam’s Sample Needed for Parentage Testing?
Example for marker “A”: Pup is 1,3, Mother is 1,1 and Father is 2,3. The pup inherited allele 1 from the mother and allele 3 from the father.

At Paw Print Genetics, we are often asked this question: “Why do I need to send in a sample on the dam if I just want to know the father of my pups?”. The simple answer is because we need to compare the DNA of the pup to both parents in order to confidently confirm or exclude a potential sire.  Here is an example that helps explain why we need both parents for parentage testing. Keep in mind that a pup receives half of its DNA from its mom and half of its DNA from its dad, so for every marker that we examine, the pup has one allele (gene copy) from mom and one allele (gene copy) from dad.

For parentage (paternity) testing, we use a set of 99 informative markers to confirm or exclude a potential sire. For each marker, we get two results because the pup has two sets of DNA, one from the mom and one from the dad. The two alleles are each assigned a number based on their DNA sequence.  For example, for marker “A”, the pup might be 1,3; one allele has sequence 1 and the other allele has ...