GENETIC HEALTH TESTING
Healthy Puppies Start With Healthy Parents
All of our adults have been DNA screened through Paw Prints Genetics for the following diseases/gene mutations unless cleared by parentage.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA or CH)
Cone Degeneration (CD)
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
Hereditary Cataracts (HC)
Intestinal Cobalamin Malabsorption (IGS)
Multidrug Resistance 1 (MDR1)
Multifocal Retinopathy 1 (CMR1)
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 6 (NCL6)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy/PRCD (PRA)
This allows us to be aware of their genetic status for several diseases and we can make the best informed pairing decisions. That being said, some of this information is more useful than others. We also have to rely on scientific studies and research to help us best leverage the information we learn. For example, MDR1 was a gene originally linked with a drug sensitivity issue long associated with Aussies and other herding breeds. However, since this gene was identified veterinarians and Australian Shepherd owners have found unfortunately "clear" or not carrying a mutant variant of the gene does not mean they are safe from the deadly effects of certain medications. Even though the MDR1 gene test isn't a guarantee to prevent the issue, we still consider the test results when pairing. We also treat all of our dogs like they are "affected" for this disorder regardless if they are "clear" or a carrier for MDR1. It seems to be a breed related issue rather than one clearly linked to a simple dominant/recessive genetic disorder. It is also something that is easily managed by avoiding the problematic medication there are several alternatives for. It's just like asking for a different antibiotic because you are allergic to Penicillin. We ask that our puppy families do the same and avoid the false sense of security based on their puppies MDR1 test results.
What exactly is MDR1?
Multi-Drug Resistance 1 is a mutation which causes sensitivity to a number of drugs and medications. A typical dose of a variety of these medications may cause a reaction. This issue is caused by a transport defect—the drug goes in to their brains, fails to be transported out, and builds up to toxic levels. Which then causes serious neurological problems including seizures and even death.
If a dog that is affected consumes feces from horses or livestock that have recently been dosed with Ivermectin or related worming products, they may suffer a reaction which could be lethal. It isn’t clear how long Ivermectin and related medications persist after excretion but reported reactions have been linked to feces from horses and sheep that had been treated days prior to the incident.
Another test that sometimes is dismissed is the DM gene. This test is part of a Full Aussie panel because labs have been able to "identify" the particular gene associated with the disease in other breeds. However, the original lab that developed the DM test does not recommend the Australian Shepherd as a breed of concern because they cannot identify the disease as an issue even though the gene appears to be present. Therefore, this disease does not appear to affect Australian Shepherds, but we still consider the results of their DM tests when making pairing decisions.
Importance of Canine Genetic Testing Anytime You Breed
Many people with a "cute little dog" who are going to breed it to their friend's "cute little dog" and sell the puppies will say, "I don't need to do genetic testing on the dogs/parents, I am not a breeder." If you plan a litter of puppies, you are a breeder.
Other people will say, "There is nothing wrong with the mother and father, they are perfectly healthy. I do not need to do genetic testing." Carriers of genetic problems are often invisible and without testing; you cannot predict whether your litter will be at risk for disease.
Some people will say, "I am only breeding pets and I have never seen any issues in the puppies I produce. I do not need to do genetic testing." Pets are just as likely to get the genetic diseases associated with their breed as show or working dogs and in any scenario, people are quite obviously emotionally attached to their pets. $53.33 billion was spent in the US last year on pets with $13.67 billion of that spent on veterinary care alone (source). Many genetic issues do not get diagnosed as a genetic issue or may develop years after you have bred that dog. Health and genetic screening on the parents is important to minimize the chance that these issues will occur. It is just as important for pet owners, as it is to serious show dog owners, to have the healthiest dog possible. Health issues are health issues and often heartbreaking and expensive. Every measure possible should be taken to avoid health issues especially when genetic testing is as cost effective and readily available as it is from Paw Print Genetics™.
Some people will say, "I am only buying a pet. I do not need to get my puppy from a responsible breeder." A responsible breeder being one who does, among other things, health screens and genetic testing on their breeding dogs as indicated based on the family history and breed in order to ensure that they produce the healthiest puppies possible. Most often these potential buyers are saying this because they want to spend less on the purchase price of the puppy and feel that puppies from a "responsible breeder" cost too much. They are often failing to look at the long-term financial and emotional costs potentially involved in having a dog with health issues. Many of these people will not think twice about spending thousands on veterinary care, training, and grooming, but will balk at the purchase price of the puppy.
At the same time, high purchase price does not necessarily mean that the puppy is well bred or that genetic testing has been done. It is important for potential puppy buyers to look at the pedigree (genetic family history) of their new puppy, ask questions, and see documentation on health and genetic testing that has been done on the parents such as the Canine Genetic Health Certificate© that is offered by Paw Print Genetics™. Prospective buyers should ask questions, research, and learn about the issues for which their puppy may be at risk. In some cases (especially if considering breeding their dog in the future) they may wish to have genetic testing done before they purchase the puppy. Because Paw Print Genetics can screen for multiple genetic diseases with simple cheek swabs, this testing is easily done on puppies at relatively early ages. If the puppy purchased is not intended for breeding, the buyer may still be concerned that their new dog may develop an inherited condition. If the buyer intends on breeding the new puppy, remember that all living creatures carry gene mutations and non-working genes that have a potential to be an issue if they are bred with another carrier. However, from a health perspective, carriers should not be symptomatic (should not have the disease) and will make great pets. They may not be suitable under certain breeding circumstances to produce litters but being identified as a carrier of a recessive disorder in no way affects their suitability as a pet.
If you are producing puppies, those puppies have a risk for genetic disease. If you are producing puppies, you are a breeder. "Not being a breeder" does not remove the potential risk of genetic disease that comes with reproduction. This risk is why every expectant couple says "We want a boy (or "we want a girl)...but we do not care as long as the baby is healthy". By breeding purebred dogs, dogs of known heritage or intentionally bred dogs, there is an opportunity to screen for diseases to reduce the risk for genetic health issues as much as possible. By purchasing a puppy of known heritage, you have the opportunity to determine if testing has been done for diseases for which they are at risk based on their breed(s). With genetic testing you can avoid the diseases for which you tested. Although it will not exclude all possible inherited and acquired diseases, this is your best available option to increase the odds of having a healthy dog. With disease like ichthyosis, hyperoxaluria, severe combined immune deficiency and the many others that have genetic testing available, knowing this information could be critical to your puppy’s success and health.
We are committed to producing the highest quality Aussies we can. That means using all the tools and information we have available to the best of our ability. Our goal is to ultimately best preserve and better our breed. Genetic health testing is not the end of it, but it plays a big part!