How Testing Your Dog’s DNA Can Help With Their Future Health Care Costs
If you’re a pet parent to a dog that’s prone to certain health conditions, genetic testing kits can help you out. Certain dog breeds may be susceptible to developing particular medical conditions throughout their lifetime. That said, having pet insurance to help offset some of the veterinary costs is always a good idea. ODIE Pet insurance offers customizable health policies for your furry best friends in case of an unexpected illness or accident. These cover emergency care, pharmaceuticals, hospitalization, diagnostic testing and more!
When you opt for genetic testing, you’ll find out more about your dog’s ancestry, and because of the growing understanding of genetics and latest technology, genetic testing will help you understand your dog breed’s genetic makeup, and see what his health risks are for certain veterinary conditions.
Today, there is a huge variation in how much inbreeding exists in all dog breeds and mixed dog breeds. Genetic data allows for a more accurate and science-based therapy to correct genetic defects in our dogs. It also allows for more accurate preventative care!
Genetic Testing Kit Helps Breeding and Diagnostics
Most dog breeds do not share genetic determinants. There are over 400 domestic dog breeds that have very different genetic profiles. A recent study involving 161 dog breeds demonstrated that most dog breeds do not share large haplotypes. These are DNA signature sets of genetic determinants which can be found on a single chromosome.
The study adds that the haplotypes are not shared outside their clade, which is a group that has all evolutionary descendants of a common ancestor. Additionally, the researchers added that the dog breeds could also share them with one remote dog breed. The study concluded that there were 23 clades of dog breeds which represented dog breeds from thousands of years ago.
Another gene study “describes a novel myoclonic epilepsy syndrome in dogs for the first time and discovers its genetic cause at DIRAS1 gene. The affected dogs developed myoclonic seizures at young age -- on average 6 months old -- and seizures occur typically at rest. In some of the dogs the seizures could be triggered by light.”
The study concludes that “The results have implications for both veterinary diagnostics and breeding programs. We screened over 600 Rhodesian Ridgebacks and about 1000 epileptic dogs in other breeds, and found that the DIRAS1 defect was specific for juvenile myoclonic epilepsy in Rhodesian Ridgebacks so far, says MSc Sarviaho. With the help of the genetic test, veterinarians can diagnose this specific epilepsy in their canine patients while breeders will be able to identify carriers and revise the breeding plans to avoid future affected puppies. About 15% of the dogs in the breed carry the DIRAS1 mutation and dogs all over Europe and beyond are affected, says DVM Franziska Wieländer from LMU Munich,” via Science Daily.
Purebred Dog Breeds May Have More Recessive Diseases
The largest dog DNA study took place in 2018 and 2019 in which 100,000 mixed and pure bred dogs were checked for 152 genetic disease variants. This was the largest DNA study in dogs. The results concluded the following:
- 3% of the dogs in the study had a genetic disease
- 38% of dogs were carriers for a recessive genetic disease
- Mixed dog breeds were 1.4 more times as likely to carry a recessive disease
- Purebred dogs were 2.8 times as likely to be carriers of a recessive disease
Although a complex health condition that is common in dogs and people, it may be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are numerous studies that identify three dog breeds that are high-risk for this disease. The dog breeds are the following:
- The Gordon Setter
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) in Dogs
Genetic testing via Embark’s DNA kits allows for assessment of your dog’s risk for a certain health condition like IVDD. Embark says that “As for how DNA testing can help with future health care costs: For many of the health conditions included in the Embark Breed + Health Kit, there are changes you can make to help prevent the need for costly veterinary treatments. For example, in 2019, we added Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), commonly known as a slipped disc, to our test. This is common in "long and low" dog breeds like Dachshunds, Corgis, and Basset Hounds. However, genetic testing gives you a more accurate assessment of your dog's risk for IVDD than simply looking at their body shape or knowing their breed. If your dog is at risk of IVDD, you can help them avoid a slipped disc by preventing them from making large, erratic jumps. One way to do this to get doggy stairs or a ramp to help them get up on the bed or sofa without jumping,” via Embark.
Von Willebrand Disease
Embark also said: “Another example is von Willebrand Disease, a blood clotting disorder. Affected dogs are at risk for excessive bleeding during veterinary procedures, so it's important that your vet be informed about the risk and be prepared before the procedure. You should also avoid giving affected dogs certain medications that can cause a bleeding crisis, including NSAIDs and antihistamines. In an emergency, dogs at risk for von Willebrand Disease may require a blood transfusion.”
There are also plenty of other health conditions that affect all dog breeds, and that have been linked to genetics. These include the following, but are not limited to:
- Epilepsy with the Belgian Shepherd,
- Von Willebrand disease. Type 1 with the Doberman Pinscher & Type #2 with the German Wirehaired Pointer. Type #3 Scottish Terrier
- Addison’s Disease with numerous dog breeds, mostly though with the Poodle and Portuguese Water Dog
- Inherited Cataracts with many dog breeds, but mostly the Cocker Spaniel and Toy and Miniature Poodle breeds.
- Vitamin B12 Deficiency with the Giant Schnauzer
- Canine Leukocyte Adhesion Deficiency (CLAD) with the Irish Setter
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy with the Standard Poodle and many other dog breeds
Genetic Factors and Canine Cancer
Statistics on canine cancer demonstrate that hereditary risk factors play an important role in the occurrence of cancer in pets. There are some dog breeds that are more likely to develop cancer. These include, but are not limited to:
- Golden Retriever
- Bernese Mountain Dog
Today there’s an increased cancer risk among our furry best friends due to a combination of genes or from a single gene.
Genetic Testing Laboratory Services for Pets
Using genetic testing, you’ll learn more about your dog’s breed, ancestry, relatives, health and much more. Additionally, some tests, like Embark’s, allow you to see whether your dog is a carrier or at risk for a certain disease. This will allow you to take preventative measures, and to gear veterinary health checks towards those conditions, whether it be treating them or trying to avoid them.
With dog DNA testing, you’ll now be able to explore the genetics behind your dog to check for potential health vulnerabilities like cataracts or PRA. You’ll get the exact breed breakdown and in some cases, with a family tree. Breeds like the Golden Retriever that are prone to cancer need to have special health checks for cancer.
What Does Genetic Testing Offer You?
- Identify the breed of an adopted or rescue dog
- You’ll understand why your dog behaves the way he does
- You’ll be able to check your dog’s weight and see if his weight matches breed expectations
- Allows vets to give patients better advice regarding nutrition and behavior
- By being able to take preventative health measures, you can extend your dog’s lifespan and help him to live a long and happy life.
- Catch diseases early on or prevent them by being aware of your dog’s genetic makeup.
Embark Veterinary Offers 2 Types of Testing Kits
- The Breed Identification Kit at $129
- The Breed & Health Kit at $199
There are a number of dog DNA tests on the market. Embark Veterinary, Inc. offers two highly rated kits available online at www.embarkvet.com. The first is the Breed Identification Kit, $129, which will help you discover your dog's breed, their ancestry and even identify any nearby relatives. The second is the Breed + Health Kit, $199, and offers a more complete picture of your dogs breed and genetic health. The second kit tests over 250 dog breeds, 175 genetic health conditions and 20 traits.
Embark’s DNA kit was developed by veterinarians to understand the genetic basis for canine diseases and traits. As new data comes in all the time, the best veterinary health care for your dog is also updated, so that dogs can receive the best health care. That said, if your dog is a mixed breed, then you won’t know what his ancestral makeup consists of.
Opting for genetic testing together with affordable pet health insurance like ODIE Pet Insurance will give you plenty of answers as to which health issues your dog may be prone to. You’ll be able to afford regular veterinary care for your furry best friend, and take the necessary steps to prevent or slow down the progression of a medical condition.
What are you waiting for? Get your questions answered and take care of your pet.
Claudia Bensimoun is a freelance journalist in W.P who specializes in veterinary & pharmaceutical digital content. She's also a longtime contributor to The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA), Animal Wellness, and Fido Friendly magazine.