With the help of DNA testing, it is possible to get answers to a wide range of questions related to the health and appearance of an individual. These answers often raise even more questions and professional advice is needed for support. The amount of information received may seem daunting, even leading to questioning its necessity. However, when used correctly, the information can be harnessed to be an effective tool helping to solve many dog- or breed- related problems. Therefore, it is good to return to a most fundamental question: Why is canine genetic testing worthwhile? There are at least five good reasons:
1. HEALTH PROBLEMS
Man has had a very significant role in the development of our current dog breeds. Modern breeds were generally not formed from a random sample of dogs. A variety of genetic diseases are encountered; some often widespread because of the mating selections man has made. Man has thus played a role in the emergence of many health problems in dogs – now man can also prevent them from manifesting, with the help of genetic testing. About 600 canine hereditary diseases and characteristics have been identified, and a genetic test can be developed for about 180 of these. Until today, DNA information was not available to the general public on a large scale. Now it can finally be used to support breeding selections and control the transmission of inherited diseases.
2. RESPONSIBLE DOG BREEDING
Puppy mills raise a lot of emotions and debate. Puppy mills can best be resisted and avoided by ensuring that the puppy you purchase comes from a responsible breeder with practices that take into account the health and welfare of the parents, future generations, and the entire dog breed. Genetic testing is one of the tools of a responsible breeder. Taking certain hereditary diseases into consideration is specifically recognized in the breeding guidelines of pedigree dogs. The final consumer, i.e. the puppy buyer, should be aware of the DNA testing possibilities of the breed and the breeder’s responsibility in this regard: if a risk of inherited diseases has been established in the breed or breeding line, it is the breeder’s obligation to take this risk into account and use only mating combinations that do not contribute to the prevalence of diseases.
3. MAINTAINING GENETIC DIVERSITY
Genetic diversity refers to the extent of gene form variation in an individual’s genome. In other words, it is a measure of to what extent the dog has inherited mutually different gene forms from its dam and sire. The more similar gene forms inherited, the more likely that the dog will suffer from diseases or other problems caused by inbreeding. Today, genetic diversity can be monitored and maintained in a controlled way with DNA testing.
4. DOG IDENTIFICATION
A unique DNA profile for identification can be established for each dog, based on individual differences in the genome. Why is it worth getting one? First of all, this will help confirm the information provided by the pedigrees. Responsible breeders always want to announce the actual parents in the registers, but sometimes there may not be full certainty about the real father. DNA profiles enable comparison of the DNA of parents and offspring to one another and thus obtaining confirmation of their kinship. Second, there may be situations in which a dog needs to get identified with absolute certainty (for example missing dog or criminal offense cases). Microchips are replaceable, if so desired, so the only absolutely sure way to identify a dog is to acquire a DNA profile with a DNA test. In this respect DNA information is invaluable in its uniqueness.
5. IMPORTANCE OF MADE DISCOVERIES FOR HUMANS
The dog is a good subject for genetics research. The dog genome has been extensively studied, and disease causing mutations for many inherited diseases have been successfully identified. These findings not only benefit the dog as a species: findings in canine genetics can be the key to understanding the disease mechanisms for genetic diseases in humans as well, and help in finding ways to treat them. Canine DNA testing can thus help both man and his best friend.