Category archives: All Things Dog

Resources and information for the dog owner or breeder.

COVID 19 and Your Pets

COVID 19 and Your Pets

By Robert Westra

With the COVID -19 Pandemic creating many challenges today, we thought we would provide information to help you understand the condition and reduce any risk to you or your furry family members.

A novel coronavirus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong reported on March 4th, 2020 a pet dog had repeatedly tested weak positive for SARS-CoV-2.  This is consistent with a low level of infection.  The transmission was most likely human to animal, as the dog lived with a human that tested positive for the virus.  The pet was quarantined for 14 days and never developed clinical signs. Sadly, the pet passed away shortly after its quarantine from unrelated causes. 

Although this case is concerning, we don’t really know if SARS-CoV-2 can infect dogs, cats and other animals.  The World Health Organization stated there is no evidence at present that dogs and cats can be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 ...

The Genetics of Shortened Limbs and the Association with Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

The Genetics of Shortened Limbs and the Association with Canine Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Shortened legs are a major defining feature for some of today’s most popular domestic dog breeds. Although dogs with extreme shortening of the limbs likely come to mind when pondering this trait (such as dachshunds or basset hounds), many other breeds also display a more subtle or moderate limb shortening (e.g. West Highland white terrier, Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever, beagle). Unfortunately, in some breeds, dogs with shortened legs have also been found to be at an increased risk for early-onset intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). However, over the past several years, genetic discoveries and development of genetic testing have made it possible to better understand the short-legged appearance of some dog breeds and the genetic underpinnings which make some of these dogs more likely to develop IVDD.

Intervertebral Discs and the Spinal Cord

In order to understand IVDD, we must first understand the role, location, and structure of the intervertebral discs (IVDs) and their anatomical relationship to the spinal cord. IVDs play a crucial role as cartilaginous ‘shock absorbers’ for the spine and allow for spinal flexibility. IVDs are often compared to a ‘jelly doughnut’ sitting between the vertebrae as they are composed of an outer ring of tough ...

Genetic Health Screening, the Canine HealthCheck, and Benefits for Veterinary Practice

Genetic Health Screening, the Canine HealthCheck, and Benefits for Veterinary Practice

The impact of canine genetic testing on veterinary medicine continues to grow as dog owners become increasingly interested in the genetic factors underlying their dogs’ health and how knowledge of these factors may improve the lives of their furry companions. Genetic screening tools which test for large numbers of deleterious genetic mutations, such as the Canine HealthCheck (CHC) developed by Paw Print Genetics (PPG), are particularly useful when performed on a young dog to identify specific inherited health concerns; especially in cases where the lineage of the dog is unknown.

Early Screening, Faster Diagnosis

Among the tests performed on the CHC are disease tests which may prove invaluable in decreasing client costs associated with diagnosis, increasing speed of diagnosis, or improving medical outcomes. For example, many tests included on the CHC, such as the test for the neurological disease, degenerative myelopathy (DM) are adult-onset conditions which may not be observed in a dog until it has reached late adulthood. DM is a progressive disease caused by a genetic mutation in the canine SOD1 gene which can only be definitively diagnosed after death through histologic examination of the spinal cord because antemortem diagnostic methods fail to yield pathognomonic results. In addition ...

Merging Science and Art: Using Genetic Testing to Produce the Seven Standard Great Dane Coat Colors and Patterns

Merging Science and Art: Using Genetic Testing to Produce the Seven Standard Great Dane Coat Colors and Patterns

Canine coat color and traits are determined by the interaction of multiple genes, each responsible for a specific inherited trait or characteristic. The development of genetic testing for these traits has resulted in a significant paradigm shift from historical breeding practices for the dog breeding community. With a few exceptions for colors or patterns that cannot yet be tested for, genetic coat color testing has eliminated the need to perform test breedings or to make assumptions when it comes to determining what coat colors and traits might be produced by a specific breeding pair.

Genetic Coat Color Testing Basics

Despite its power, the use of genetic testing does not eliminate the artistry of dog breeding or the advantages that come from experience. Instead, genetic testing assists in eliminating some of the challenges that biology presents. Regardless of a breeder’s experience level, colors or traits that are inherited in a recessive fashion can present significant challenges when it comes to predicting potential coat color breeding outcomes. Recessive traits are those that require a dog to inherit two copies of the associated genetic variant (one from each parent) in order to display that trait. The challenge with recessive traits is that dogs ...

New Test for Golden Retrievers - Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 5 (NCL5)

New Test for Golden Retrievers - Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 5 (NCL5)

As part of our commitment to raising the standard in canine genetic disease testing, the team at Paw Print Genetics works hard to assess the validity of genetic mutations published in the medical literature and to develop new disease tests based upon this information. The most recent test to be added to our extensive disease testing menu is for a disease known to be inherited in golden retrievers called   neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 5.

What is neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 5?

Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL) is an inherited neurological disease belonging to a group of diseases called lysosomal storage diseases. There are multiple types of NCL, each given a number designation based upon the specific gene in which the associated genetic mutation is found. For example, dogs diagnosed with neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 5 (NCL5) have inherited a genetic mutation in the canine CLN5 gene. Although there are multiple dog breeds known to inherit NCL5 due to mutations in this gene, the specific mutation responsible for this disease in golden retrievers has only been found in this breed; thus, making testing for NCL5 in golden retrievers breed-specific.

What do the symptoms include?

Dogs affected with NCL5 are born with a deficiency of a ...

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 ...

The Labrador Retriever Copper Toxicosis Test- Interpretation, Breeding Strategy, and Monitoring

The Labrador Retriever Copper Toxicosis Test- Interpretation, Breeding Strategy, and Monitoring

The liver disease, copper toxicosis (CT) has become a hot topic among Labrador retriever breeders and dog owners with the arrival of a new genetic test which identifies two recently described mutations found in Labradors associated with opposite effects on the amount of dietary copper stored in the liver. As with all new canine genetic tests, questions and concerns may arise from breeders about how to interpret their dog’s test results, how to use this information to maintain the health of their dog, and how to use the information for their breeding program.

What is liver copper toxicosis?

Copper toxicosis is an inherited metabolic disease affecting Labrador retrievers and other breeds, which can result in chronic liver failure. Dogs with copper toxicosis have a decreased ability to excrete dietary copper from the body resulting in excessive copper storage in tissues and organs, including the liver, which can result in liver damage, subsequent cirrhosis and the inability of the liver to function properly. Though the age of onset and speed of disease progression are variable, most affected dogs will present in middle age with non-specific signs of liver dysfunction including weight loss, lethargy, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In late ...

What’s the Deal with von Willebrand Disease II? - An Important Update for the Boykin Spaniel

What’s the Deal with von Willebrand Disease II? - An Important Update for the Boykin Spaniel

The clotting disorder known as von Willebrand disease (vWD) is a relatively common and potentially lethal disease of dogs. Three general types of vWD (types I, II, and III) have been described based upon the specific genetic cause and level of deficiency in a protein known as von Willebrand factor (vWF), which plays an important role in blood coagulation. Dogs deficient in vWF protein are at risk of potentially life-threatening bleeding episodes when undergoing surgical procedures or as a result of traumatic injury. Therefore, when a relatively high frequency of Boykin spaniels was identified in the Paw Print Genetics (PPG) laboratory to carry a mutation in the VWF gene previously associated with vWDII in German shorthaired and wirehaired pointers (Kramer and colleagues), Boykin spaniel lovers and our team at Paw Print Genetics (PPG) were understandably concerned.

Concern turned to confusion as Boykins expected to be at risk for vWDII (based upon their genetic testing results) failed to show any signs of a clinical clotting disorder. In addition, results of additional blood tests looking at the product produced by the gene on several “at-risk” dogs showed no deficiency in vWF protein and no increase in blood clotting times. At that time ...

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Inherited Disease - Preventing Blindness Through Genetic Testing

Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Inherited Disease - Preventing Blindness Through Genetic Testing

Since we started working with the Boykin Spaniel Society (BSS), both Paw Print Genetics (PPG) and the BSS have learned much about the genetic disease concerns of these wonderful, little brown dogs. By using the founder breeds of the Boykin as a guide, PPG developed the first Boykin spaniel inherited disease testing panel in 2014. Based upon the results collected over two years of testing Boykins, in September 2016, the original disease testing panel was split into two panels; the Boykin spaniel essential panel (containing the most clinically important and/or common diseases) and the supplemental panel (containing diseases of less clinical importance and/or lower incidence).

Two of the four diseases on the Boykin spaniel essential panel are inherited diseases of the eye. Diseases resulting in vision loss or blindness are among some of the most life-altering and troublesome non-lethal diseases of dogs. However, with knowledge of a specific genetic mutation resulting in blindness as well as an understanding of how that specific eye disease is inherited, blindness caused by the mutation can be prevented through the use of genetic testing and informed selective breeding practices based upon test results. Two eye diseases known to be inherited in the ...

Genetic Disease Testing and the Hunting Labrador- Protecting Your Investment

Genetic Disease Testing and the Hunting Labrador- Protecting Your Investment

You’ve spent a small fortune and an immense amount of time selecting, purchasing, socializing, and training your young Labrador retriever, Charlie, for the big hunt. It’s the first hunt of his career and he’s amped! As you are getting everything out of your truck, you let Charlie out of his crate to run around and explore a little. He disappears for several minutes as you are getting your gear and you call him back to you. However, when he returns, you notice that Charlie seems wobbly in his rear end and eventually his hind limbs collapse. He attempts to keep running, but drags his hind limbs for a short distance before giving up and lying down. Uncharacteristic for Charlie, he won’t get up when you call him and he no longer seems to be as interested in the hunt. After comforting Charlie for several minutes, he gets back up on his feet, though you can still see that he is a little wobbly. After several more minutes, Charlie is back to his jovial self with little indication that anything was wrong.

Unfortunately, the scenario described here is not a terribly uncommon story among Labrador owners and those that hunt with ...