The Paw Print Genetics Blog

The Best Vet Schools

The Best Vet Schools

At some point in time, almost all animal-loving children want to be a veterinarian when they grow up. When they grow older and the reality that being a veterinarian isn’t just about loving animals (although most vets do), and more about years and years of schooling, which includes biology, chemistry, physiology and anatomy, as well as steep financial debts, they usually find a new line of work to study.

For those that continue on their quest to provide care, comfort and cures for pets and their owners, selecting the best vet school they can get accepted to (and afford) is of utmost importance. To that end, U.S. News and World Report ranks the best veterinarian schools in the country each year.

Consistently among the best-ranked vet schools are: Cornell University, University of California – Davis, Colorado State University, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and University of Pennsylvania.

Not only do these schools provide cutting-edge education to future generations of veterinarians, they also offer local residents a plethora of information and consultation when it comes to identifying and treating animals that carry debilitating disorders.

Washington State University, another consistently top-ranked vet school, which is near Paw Print Genetics ...

Valid Canine Genetic Testing or "Accuracy" of Canine Genetic Testing

Valid Canine Genetic Testing or "Accuracy" of Canine Genetic Testing

There is a trend in the dog world for people to create a list of health clearances on their dogs as long as their arm. There is certainly nothing wrong with a long list of health clearances if those health clearance are valid for the breed - and that is a big if.

I spoke in a previous blog about the fact that not all diseases that appear to be the same are the same. An extremely involved genetic disorder can appear to be identical in two affected individuals, yet can actually have extremely different causes. More specifically, it can be caused by different gene mutations or even two entirely different genes. In the previous blog we discussed the different types of PRA that have been found in different breeds.

With a slightly different focus I want to discuss specifically how this affects the "accuracy" of genetic testing. We all know genetic testing is "very accurate." But that assumes you are testing for the right thing and that the specific gene test is informative. One example is the melanophilin gene. Two different mutations related to this gene have been identified to be associated with dilute coat color (called blue or the ...

Understanding the Genetics of Disease in Your Dog

Understanding the Genetics of Disease in Your Dog

Many people have misconceptions about genetic terms and what these terms mean related to the inheritance of a health issue in a dog, a family of dogs or a breed. I wanted to take a moment to step back and discuss some of these commonly used terms to help people understand them more clearly.

Most genes (and the genes that will be tested for at Paw Print Genetics ) are located on the chromosomes contained in the nucleus found in most cells. Chromosomes come in 39 pairs (and thus, the genes come in pairs). One through 38 are the numbered pairs (called autosomes) the 39th pair are the sex chromosomes; females have two X chromosomes and males have an X and a Y chromosome. The X is larger and has more genes. Because males have only one copy of the X chromosome (and therefore only one copy of many genes found on the X chromosome), they are at risk of having certain diseases that are unlikely to affect females.
Autosomal conditions are found on one of the numbered chromosomes and X-linked conditions are found on the X chromosome. Each gene has a particular location on the chromosome called a locus. Different ...

A New Way to Neuter Dogs

A New Way to Neuter Dogs

A new procedure called Zeuterin offers an alternative to the standard method of neutering male dogs. It’s a non-surgical, chemical treatment that calls for the injection of a zinc gluconate solution into the testicles. The chemical reaction that occurs sterilizes a male dog by destroying already-present sperm and creating scar tissue throughout the tubes that sperm use to travel during reproduction. The injection is about as non-invasive as possible, consisting of a single injection into each testicle.

The ramifications of this innovation are huge: it could be healthier for our pets because they don’t have to undergo the rigors of surgery or anesthesia, which eases both physical and psychological stressors. It also holds the potential of an affordable means of quickly and easily sterilizing shelter animals, as well as still allowing the testes to produce hormones at about half the rate of an untreated dog (old-fashioned castration obliterates any hormone production).

Beyond those benefits, and because Zeuterin leaves the testicles of the animal intact, it also allows responsible dog owners and breeders to compete in the show ring with an animal that might meet conformation standards but otherwise not be ideal for breeding.

While developing a bloodline of ...

Predicting Genetic Disease in Your Dog

Predicting Genetic Disease in Your Dog

Continuing the series on "when genes don't make sense," let’s talk about probabilities. Many people will hear that if a condition is recessive that one in four puppies will be affected or, if it is dominant, that 50% of the puppies will exhibit the trait or be affected with a condition. They will subsequently declare that because the outcome in their litter is different than these exact percentages, it therefore must not be… recessive, dominant or genetic at all.

On the other hand, many people in dogs will say things like "they need to breed a male in order to determine if he produces males or females."

These are different errors in reasoning relating to the same type of probability.

In the first case, people are expecting the actual results to be exactly what is predicted based on possible results or probabilities. In the second case, people are assigning meaning to the random variation that is usually observed (and actually expected) compared to what is predicted based on probability.

To start with the second scenario, millions of sperm are swimming as hard as they can to fertilize the eggs. Roughly 50% of these sperm carry an X chromosome ...

Evolution of the Canine

Evolution of the Canine

At least 33,000 years ago, humans began the process of domesticating certain members of the gray wolf species. Since that process began, humans have genetically manipulated canines to fill various roles – beginning with tasks that increased means of survival and later to simply serve as companions. Those evolutionary changes have been a benefit to humans, but have caused health issues within many dogs – because as we’ve bred for desired physical traits, detrimental genetic mutations have also been passed along within many breeds.

The consistent selective breeding of canines has led to hundreds of breeds with standard and predictable attributes, or traits.

For example, the short-legged, long-bodied dachshunds allowed them to easily enter underground tunnels and burrows of badgers and other small animals; long-eared, keen-smelling bloodhounds were bred to trail deer, wild boar and later humans; some of the oldest breeds, the sight hounds, which include greyhounds, whippets and saluki, were selectively bred for long legs, strong aerobic endurance, sharp eyesight and the desire to chase feathered and furred game.

These consistent traits were brought about by mixing several different canines that possessed desired attributes (i.e., flat-coated retrievers were likely a combination of St. John’s Water Dogs ...

The Best Guard Dog Breeds

The Best Guard Dog Breeds

Throughout the evolution of the modern canine, one of the most important symbiotic relationships with humans has been as the role of protector by the dog.

Those wolves that stuck close to humans in hopes of scavenging leftovers, and which slowly evolved into modern canines, provided early man with advanced warning systems and protection when other wild creatures in nature provided a much greater threat than they do today.

However, not much has changed in tens of thousands of years. Today’s dogs are used by the military, businesses and in homes throughout the country (and world), for protection and guard duty.

In fact, the right dog in a home can be a greater deterrent for criminals than the presence of a firearm. In a study that involved 589 convicted property offenders, the question was asked: “How effective is each of the following likely to be in preventing burglary, breaking and entering and grand theft?”

The results were:

0: not effective; 1: somewhat effective; 2: very effective

Monitored burglar alarms: 1.51
Electronic sensors in windows: 1.35
Closed circuit TV cameras in stores: 1.31
Private security patrols: 1.14
DOG IN HOUSE: 1.11
Weapons in home: 1 ...

Paw Print Genetics, a Family Endeavor

Paw Print Genetics, a Family Endeavor

Paw Print Genetics is a clinical laboratory dedicated to screening and diagnosis of genetic diseases and carrier states for all dogs. In deciding to start my second company, I engaged the help of my family members. My husband needed to be agreeable to investing (emotionally and financially) in another (yes, another) clinical laboratory. But this time, it would be ours and we could make the decisions, good or bad; we would be responsible for its successes and possible failures. After convincing him that Paw Print Genetics is a great idea, we started doing our homework. It is important to know the market. Our market is dog lovers; not a small market. They include owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians and all the dogs that they breed, train and sell. Every dog deserves optimal genetic health.

Next came the science. Our staff spent months identifying the known genetic mutations in dogs and developing tests to accurately identify whether a dog is normal, a carrier or affected with these diseases. Some may ask “What does a human geneticist know about canine genetics?” Compared to the human medical literature, I was surprised how little is known about canine genetic diseases. The opportunities to make a ...

How does that work?

How does that work?

Another non-intuitive but common behavior of genes is that one gene can have different but apparently unrelated effects. This is somewhat the opposite of different genes having the same effect (discussed in my previous blog). Making it even more confusing, the same condition could have both at work!

One gene may create a specific appearance but can also cause issues that would not necessarily appear to be related. In scientific terms the word pleiotropy is used to refer to the phenomenon "when one allele or pair of alleles has different effects - particularly when these effects appear unrelated."

Many examples of this phenomenon exist in the dog world. With on-going research, more will no-doubt be identified.

The gene causing Merle color pattern increases the chance for deafness and eye defects. Certain "white" dogs also have increased risk of deafness related to being white. In other breeds, very white appearing dogs (due to other genes) and dogs with albinism have no associated risk for hearing loss. In the case of the Merle and "white piebald" associations the effect begins on cells derived from the neural crest affecting both pigment, auditory and potentially other neural-derived cells, but not all Merles, double merles and ...

Popular Sire Syndrome: When Winning Results in Losing

Popular Sire Syndrome: When Winning Results in Losing

A phenomenon in canine competition circles known as popular sire syndrome can produce strong, competitive and intelligent puppies that go on to become, and produce, champions. The occurrence can also produce puppies that fill the breeding pool with genetic maladies.

When a male dog wins a prestigious championship, he obviously has what it takes to win at the highest levels. The effect is that his value as a stud dog skyrockets as breeders with females hope to produce puppies that can replicate their father’s accomplishments.

Often that trendy stud dog is bred with many female dogs throughout the country. When this happens, you can see that male dog show up in pedigrees from previously unrelated lines. In a large breeding pool, say with Labradors, the effects aren’t as profound as in a smaller population, but they’re still present and can cause issues for future generations regardless of population size. If that popular stud dog has any genetic disorders in his DNA, his puppies will likely harbor those mutations – at best becoming carriers and at worst being affected with the related disorder – and can continue to contaminate the breeding pool.

Even in a large breeding population, the bottleneck ...