We do not do genetic testing on our dogs.
It’s amusing, over the years, to see the “bandwagons” that people jump on – without doing any real research themselves; exclaiming in horror “Oh, you SHOULD do this!” or “Oh, you SHOULDN’T do that!” – based solely on what they have heard or read, and without researching anything themselves.
Many breeders are using "genetic testing" as way to manipulate a buyer's perception that the breeder (and their dogs) are better because of the genetic testing. They are trying to provide a very false sense of security by giving them the “warm and fuzzies.” It's not about "bettering the breed" - it's about going along with popular fads, getting pats on the head, getting more money for their puppies. It's just a sales tactic. All the genetic tests in the WORLD cannot guarantee a "genetically sound" puppy.
If breeders who test their breeding dogs for every test known to dog, actually believed all the conducted testing was going to provide their puppy buyers with a 100% genetically defective-free puppy, why then are they only providing a limited health guarantee to the buyers? If their dogs have been tested clear of all known problems - why don't they have lifetime guarantees against any inheritable disease?
Genetic testing is FULL of inconsistencies, uncertainties and inaccuracies. Dogs (and people) do not "inherit" diseases per se. They inherit a "susceptibility" to diseases - and whether or not they actually come down with them is anyone's guess. Genetic tests cannot predict if a dog will have symptoms of a particular disorder, the severity or whether it will be progressive.
I read a story on the net of a family who was trying to do genetic testing on a dog simply to find out what BREED he was. They were confused when different tests came up with different results. As explained to them: "Testing is still in its infancy, and the accuracy is dependent primarily on whether or not a particular test has 'markers' for the breeds that may be present in your dog. Some tests may have better markers for some breeds. It's virtually impossible to get these companies to reveal the genetic markers they're using — so as a result, it's almost impossible to say which tests are most accurate, and the accuracy may really vary from breed to breed. So ultimately, dog genetic tests put owners in the ballpark, but they're rarely conclusive."
Substitute "disease" for "breed" - and you can see why genetic testing is far from being trustworthy.
Almost ALL the canine genetic testing companies (of which there are many, nowadays) emphasize that "canine genetic testing is still in it's infancy" but it sure is a lucrative business. At best they can provide "potentials" and "predictions" - not factual information.
Believe it or not, the same holds true for human genetic testing – which is now being examined more closely and criticized.
"The results, as well as the interpretation of the results provided by the company, were "misleading and of little or no practical use to consumers," Kutz told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, noting that results from some companies directly contradicted those from others.
"Sixty-eight percent of the time our donors received different predictions for the same disease," Kutz told the subcommittee.
Nancy King, co-director of the Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society at Wake Forest University, says that it is not surprising that the results would be so varied given the lack of standards of interpretation for genetic testing:
"We're taking things that are very difficult to interpret. Except in extremely rare circumstances, when you're found to have a gene associated with [for example], a sort of cancer, that background risk is pretty low. What adding to that [risk] means, is really up for grabs."
Dr. Hope Northrup, a geneticist at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, said in defense of the test that many health conditions -- heart conditions included -- cannot be entirely chalked up to genetics alone. In other words, factors like lifestyle choices and environmental factors can play a strong hand. "It doesn't mean that the test was wrong, it simply means that the test gave a very small piece of information," she said.
One witness, Dr. James Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, agreed that people should have the choice to access a profile of their genes, but he said the current tests don't actually deliver the medical value that they promise.
"The value of the bulk of this information is extremely low," Evans told the panel. He used an example of a person discovering through a home genetic test that he has an increased risk to develop Crohn's disease.
In his testimony today, Kutz concluded that while genetic testing is a promising area of science, "consumers need to know that today, genetic testing for certain diseases appears to be more of an art than a science."
King echoed this concern, saying that these results "are being marketed as extremely significant information, and that is a problem.
[Consumers] have come to believe that genetic information is the most significant information about someone's health, and this is misguided," she says.
"Part of the problem for consumers is that when you hear genetic risk, it sounds formal and official, but the complexity is mind boggling even to the experts," agrees Susanne Haga, senior policy analyst at the Duke Institute of Genome Sciences & Policy.
As it is now, these tests will wrongly reassure and wrongly alarm consumers, as even with the best possible interpretation, there is so much room for error, King adds.
Genetics itself is exceedingly complex: The nucleus of each cell contains DNA (short for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid). DNA is organized into long structures termed chromosomes. In dogs there are 78 chromosomes. As opposed to your dog, you have 46 chromosomes. Each one of your individual chromosomes is longer than those of your dog. However, you and your dog have approximately the same total quantity of DNA. Those 78 chromosomes of your dog contain 60,000 to 100,000 genes. Those 60,000 to 100,000 genes control every activity that every cell in every organ performs, including cell division. Traits and diseases are a complex MIX of genes and environment.
Did you know:
Re: Hip Dysplasia - Dogs cannot be x-rayed and certified until after 2 years old. Even if both parents are certified “excellent,” they can and do produce puppies with good, fair, or poor hips. A puppy can develop Hip Dysplasia no matter how the parents tested.
Re: Progressive Retinal Atrophy - PRA shows up in later years, beyond breeding age for most breeding dogs. If it does show up at that time, how will this affect the offspring that were produced when the dog was deemed “Clear”? This test is useless to dogs of breeding age, as it rarely shows up at that young.
Re: CERF Evaluation (the eye testing which is done for PRA) - The certification is only good for 12 months from the date of the exam and afterwards the dog must be re-examined and re-certified yearly to maintain it's registration with CERF. (So your puppy breeder proudly shows you a CERF certification which was done 13 months (or more) ago? Guess what? - It's WORTHLESS.) AND, besides that, did you know that CERF test results can change from month to month on a dog?
Re: von Willebrand's disease - If a female does not show excessive bleeding during her first heat, or if unless any puppy or adult dog show excessive bleeding for a minor abrasion or cut, it is very unlikely that he/she has this disease.
Re: Sebaceous Adenitis - If the biopsy samples are taken within of 3 inches from topical flea control product application sites, they can result in equivocal test results. The accuracy of this test is not 100% because of human error in getting the samples. If the breeder has raised their dog since birth up to breeding age, they would know if the dog has SA as there would be signs of skin problems and/or hair loss before breeding age.
Re: Autoimmune Thyroiditis - dogs will be tested "clear" until they actually have markers or clinical signs, which usually don’t show up until ages 3 to 5 years. Most breeders have this test done only once, when they are ready to begin breeding the dogs - which means the dogs are too young for the markers to show up.
The list goes on and on and on. Genetic screening is HARDLY an exact science – or even a reassurance.
In the 60's and 70's, breeders were convinced that CHD (canine hip dysplasia), was a simple recessive defect. Everyone rushed to vets for OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) X-rays. Vets rejoiced at the extra income and everyone was happy. Except for a couple of little details:
1.) OFA x-rays failed to reduce the percentage of hip dysplasia in most breeds.
2.) Readings were contradictory, i.e. a dysplastic x-ray could look good when done by another vet or when challenged and re-submitted.
In the mid-80's, Akita people rushed to test for VWD (von Willibrand's Disease) while accusing everyone else’s dog of having it. One breeder said: My vet said he would test my dogs if I wanted to waste the money but having cared for them for four generations, he figured we’d know if I had a bleeder. “What about a VWD carrier?” I asked. “What about it?” said he. “If you breed a carrier to a clear you might get a carrier. Might not. If you get a pup that bleeds when you do dewclaws, toe nails or crop the ears or tails, then you don’t breed either parent again.” “Oh.” He shrugged “But I’ll test if you want…..”
The below breeder has done her homework and has some fantastic facts on her website – in particular the section: Information Taken from the Testing Companies’ Own Web-Sites….
Puppies are like children, each and every one is special and deserves a wonderful life. And breeders should be knowledgeable about genetics and especially about their own breeding dogs, and not breed obvious faults or problems. But to expect "genetic perfection" is an unreasonable expectation with life - and I think one that leads down an unrealistic and uneasy path.
Applicants who contact me wanting a "guaranteed genetically pure puppy" will be offered a stuffed toy. And it will be GUARANTEED to live up to their unreasonable expectation of being genetically pure and perfect for it's entire existence. :-)
And I hope those applicants will follow through on their rigid philosophy and have THEMSELVES tested "genetically pure" before THEY breed.