Category archives: The Veterinarian's Corner

Genetic Consultations for Veterinarians - A Free Service of Paw Print Genetics

Genetic Consultations for Veterinarians - A Free Service of Paw Print Genetics

With the rapid expansion of feline and canine genetic disease testing popularity over the past several years, today it is more common than ever for veterinarians to be asked to interpret genetic test results for their clients and offer recommendations based upon the results. However, the team at Paw Print Genetics (PPG) realizes that genetic counseling has not been a traditional part of veterinary education. For this reason, PPG offers no-cost genetic consultations for veterinarians and veterinary staff to assist their clients with genetic questions. Here we will discuss some of the many factors to be considered when assisting the veterinary team with interpreting genetic test results, assessing disease risk, and making breeding recommendations for the 300+ genetic tests offered at PPG.

Disease Inheritance

Understanding exactly how a specific disease is inherited by offspring can alter your assessment of disease risk and recommendations for breeding. The most common inheritance types discussed in animal genetics are autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant, and X-linked recessive inheritance. However, less common inheritance patterns may also be seen for some animal diseases. Disease risk in animals inheriting one copy of a disease-associated mutation varies based upon the specific mode of inheritance. For example, dogs carrying one ...

The Veterinarian’s Corner: New Canine Genetic Disease Tests at Paw Print Genetics

The Veterinarian’s Corner: New Canine Genetic Disease Tests at Paw Print Genetics

As of January 2021, Paw Print Genetics (PPG) is proud to offer 44 new inherited disease tests for the canine health and breeding community. While these new tests are associated with diseases identified in dozens of breeds, the population size of each breed and the relative frequency of these mutations in those populations mean that some of these diseases are much more likely to be seen in clinical veterinary practice than others. Here we will highlight five diseases from the recent PPG test additions that are among those most likely to be diagnosed in the veterinary hospital setting.

Cerebellar Degeneration- Old English Sheepdog and Gordon Setter1

A genetic mutation in the canine RAB24 gene is associated with a juvenile-onset, autosomal recessive form of cerebellar degeneration (CD) in two seemingly disparate breeds, the Old English Sheepdog (OES) and Gordon Setter (GS). Also referred to as hereditary ataxia or cerebellar abiotrophy (CA), CD presents between 6 months and 4 years of age with progressive neurological dysfunction due to degeneration of cerebellar neurons, especially Purkinje neurons. Coordinated movement becomes progressively more difficult as the disease progresses and can include intention tremors, ataxia, and a stiff, high-stepping gait (hypermetria). Affected dogs are often ...

Picking the Right Genetic Test for Canine Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Picking the Right Genetic Test for Canine Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Canine progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of inherited eye diseases which are among the most common causes of inherited blindness in domestic dogs. Extensive study and characterization of the various PRAs have led to the discovery of well over a dozen different genetic mutations in many different genes which can now be identified to help prevent, predict, or diagnose PRA in many breeds. However, complicated PRA naming schemes and the breed-specific nature of the PRA tests can make it challenging for dog breeders or veterinarians to select the correct test for the dog in front of them.  

Multiple Genes, Similar Clinical Findings

The known underlying mutations associated with the various forms of PRA are found in a wide variety of different genes. Thus, highlighting the complexity of the biological pathways involved in the development and ongoing maintenance of the eyes. PRAs are marked by the abnormal development and/or the gradual degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptor cells of the retina. Each type of PRA may display variation in the age of onset, speed of disease progression, and the relative rates at which each of the two photoreceptor types are destroyed. However, when it comes to clinical ...

Tissue Management Prior to Genetic Testing

Tissue Management Prior to Genetic Testing

Nothing brightens the schedule like seeing an 11:20am slot given to Mrs. Doe who is bringing in a three-day old litter for assessment, tails and dewclaws.  The whole clinic reminds you all morning that puppies are coming in.  Then the magic hour arrives and in comes Mrs. Doe with a laundry basket covered in a towel that is making a surprising level of grunts and squeals.  Wow! Thirteen little fuzzballs in varied states of activity from litter-surfing to dreamless slumber that makes you a little jealous.  You go through the exam; each one is fully formed with no gross congenital defects.  While prepping your tools for dewclaw removal and tail docking, Mrs. Doe asks that you save the remnants so she can have the litter tested with Paw Print Genetics for known disease-causing mutations in this breed.  Hmmm, what does this entail?

Typically, we recommend to clients who choose to submit cheek swabs to wait until they begin weening the pups off mom. This allows them to separate the puppies from their mother to reduce possible contamination by the mother’s milk that may remain in the puppies’ mouths.  Given that testing takes ...

Feline Genetic Health Screening with the CatScan- Benefits for Veterinary Practice

Feline Genetic Health Screening with the CatScan- Benefits for Veterinary Practice

The popularity of genetic health testing in domestic animals is rapidly increasing for a variety of different applications. Although genetic testing of dogs has been more widely recognized by the public than similar testing in cats, advancements in genetic testing are also becoming increasingly popular among those that have a special feline in their life. In order to address the genetic health concerns of our cat-loving friends and their wonderful felines, the team at Paw Print Genetics has developed the CatScan, a powerful genetic screening tool for inherited diseases and traits. Aside from its important use by feline breeders to make informed breeding decisions and to prevent the production of kittens with certain inherited diseases, the CatScan also has powerful applications in clinical veterinary medicine especially in cases where testing is performed early in a cat’s life or when the cat’s pedigree is unknown.  

Early Screening for Greatest Impact

From a technical perspective, the CatScan can be performed using cheek swabs from kittens of any age as long as it is possible to prevent contamination of their DNA sample with DNA from other cats or mother’s milk. However, testing kittens early (around the beginning of weaning) is a common ...

Paw Print Genetics Adds New Canine Genetic Disease Tests to Ever-Expanding Offerings

Paw Print Genetics Adds New Canine Genetic Disease Tests to Ever-Expanding Offerings

With the current, rapid pace of new genetic discoveries, inherited disease testing is quickly becoming a common part of clinical veterinary diagnostics. Paw Print Genetics is excited to announce the release of six new canine genetic disease tests, including highly anticipated tests for three diseases in retriever breeds; macular corneal dystrophy and congenital myasthenic syndrome in the Labrador retriever and neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis 5 in the golden retriever.

Macular Corneal Dystrophy

With an estimated mutation carrier rate of 3.3% in a 2015 study of the UK Labrador retrievers, macular corneal dystrophy (MCD) is an inherited eye disease that that is likely to be encountered at some point in a small animal veterinarian’s career1.

Inherited in a recessive manner, Labradors with two copies of the associated CHST6 gene mutation typically present in middle age with MCD-associated vision loss. Affected dogs display decreased activity of an enzyme known as corneal glucosamine N-acetyl-6-sulfotransferase (C-GlcNAc6ST), which results in decreased sulfation of the corneal glycosaminoglycan, keratin sulfate (KS). Decreased sulfation of KS reduces its solubility, thus preventing its full metabolism and allowing for deposition into the extracellular space of the corneal stroma and Desmet’s membrane, and intracellularly in keratinocytes and corneal epithelial cells ...

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

For The Veterinarian: 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.

Shortened Legs and Genetic Link to Intervertebral Disc Disease

Two genetic mutations associated with shorter limb length have been reported in domestic dogs2,4,5. Both mutations consist of a duplicated section of the canine FGF4 gene (called an FGF4-retrogene) which has been inserted into two aberrant locations of the genome; one copy has been inserted into a region on chromosome 12 (CFA12 FGF4 insertion) and the other copy has ...

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 ...

The Veterinarian's Corner: Incorrectly Recorded Canine Parentage and the Effect on Genetic Health

The Veterinarian's Corner: Incorrectly Recorded Canine Parentage and the Effect on Genetic Health

Over the past two decades, usage of genetic testing technologies has revolutionized the world of dog breeding. Once limited to selective breeding practices based upon the characteristics or disease states that could be physically observed in a dog, genetic testing has allowed dog breeders to uncover the inherited genetic variants (mutations) that are not being expressed in an individual but may be expressed in their offspring. By comparing the disease-associated mutations inherited by a dog to those of a prospective mate, informed breeding decisions can be made to avoid producing puppies with these diseases. However, despite the immense value of genetic disease testing in the production of healthy puppies, incorrect assumptions about the parentage of a litter can have disastrous consequences for the health of a kennel, even when parental genetic disease testing results are 100% accurate.

Clear by Parentage/Hereditary Clear

In ideal situations, potential dams and sires are tested for breed-specific, disease-associated genetic mutations prior to being bred. If both parents are found to be free of these mutations (often referred to as being “clear”), it can be assumed for practical purposes that the offspring are also clear of the same mutations. With this understanding, it is common ...

The Veterinarian’s Corner: Variable Disease Presentation and How Genetic Testing Can Help

The Veterinarian’s Corner: Variable Disease Presentation and How Genetic Testing Can Help

Every veterinarian leaves veterinary school with a mental laundry list of animal diseases and their textbook presentations. While this knowledge serves the young graduate well in most circumstances, with clinical experience and mentorship comes the ability for veterinarians to expand their mental notes about the various ways some diseases can present in the real world. For some inherited canine diseases, genetic testing has allowed the practitioner to correlate a broader set of clinical signs for dogs affected by identical underlying genetic mutations. This variability in disease phenotype, known as variable expressivity, is a result of the combined effect of all genetic and environmental factors influencing each individual and can add significant challenge to some diagnoses. However, supplementing a disease workup with genetic test results can prove invaluable in diagnosing inherited diseases that have the frustrating attribute of rarely presenting the same way twice.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Now known to occur in well over a dozen breeds, the recessively inherited collie eye anomaly or CEA (also known as choroidal hypoplasia) is a relatively common eye disease of dogs and a good example of a disorder which can have diagnostic challenges due to its phenotypic variability. CEA is caused by a deletion ...