Researchers Say DNA Testing In Pedigree Dogs Not Enough

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For Harry Potter fans, we know it as mud-blood!  A derogatory term for the young sorcerers whose parents and grandparents were not pure wizards.  In human terms, it’s about having your dad’s big ears and your Aunt Shirley’s unruly locks. In the pet world, it’s a lack of “Pedigree” or designation that speaks to years and sometimes centuries of careful breeding to ensure the very best traits are passed down from one generation to the next.

But what if the genes being passed down aren’t always the “good” ones?

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This is the question posed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh whose job is to review the various approaches being taken to minimize defects in pedigree animals and who are concerned new DNA testing may be a risky approach if not combined with health screening and family history.

Because pedigree animals are bred for specific physical and behavioral characteristics, they often share closed familial lines and this means not only traits (think Aunt Shirley’s tresses) but diseases get passed on down the line. Definitely not the sort of inheritance you want!

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The solution? These Scottish researchers are recommending health screening before selecting animals to breed.  This has already helped to reduce incidences of some diseases and combined with the DNA tests it helps identify dogs carrying gene mutations that lead to severe illnesses. Quick fact:  did you know that almost half of all King Charles Cavalier Spaniels are affected by an inherited and potentially life-threatening heart murmur?

But they stress the importance of taking a holistic approach that includes not only the DNA testing but the aforementioned health screening and family history.  By nixing a dog for breeding solely on a failed DNA test you reduce the gene pool and make inbreeding more common.  This in turn can create the proverbial “breeding ground” for genetic disorders that just keep getting passed on down the line.

They are also suggesting that Sir Rover needs a break from his duties and the use of individual stud dogs should be limited in order to promote greater diversity in pedigree lines.

Sure to rankle some is the encouragement of cross-breeding to introduce even greater genetic diversity. Breeding the offspring from cross-breeds with the original pedigree for ten generations can produce animals that share 99.9 percent of purebreds’ genetic material… but without the genes that cause disease. Och, that’s brilliant!

[Source: Science Daily]