Genetic testing in dogs and cats has opened the door on a new era of personalized patient care that accounts for the individual’s own genetic makeup. By learning about our patient’s genetics, both for breed ancestry and specific disease-causing mutations, veterinarians can consider the animal’s unique genetic characteristics when developing preventive care plans. With this information, the practitioner is best positioned to create a tailored therapy plan for the individual as well as provide owners with better counseling on what the pet may develop in the future, thereby creating plans that target an improved outcome.

With a focus on helping drive genetic science forward and enabling personalized care, Wisdom Health has published two landmark genetic studies recently that have helped further our understanding of the prevalence of diseases as well as physical trait mutations in our canine patient population. The first study, published in PLOS Genetics in April 2018, looked at over 100,000 purebred and mixed breed dogs to identify the genetic diseases each group of dogs is most likely to develop. The study’s findings support the frequently held belief that mixed breed dogs are less likely to be at risk for the most common disease-causing mutations tested in the study when compared to purebred dogs. It is worth noting, however, that mixed breed dogs were also identified as at risk of developing the genetic diseases tested and certain dominant mutations in particular were found at higher frequency in the mixed breed population than in purebreds because they are not actively selected against in random-bred dogs. Thus, genetic testing can be used to predict each dog’s risk of developing certain diseases.

However, because the genetic mutations behind many conditions are yet to be identified, veterinarians often rely on breed-specific disease associations (e.g. seizures in Cocker Spaniels) to inform care recommendations. In many cases though, a patient’s breed designation is based on someone’s best guess which often hinges on certain limited key physical traits (e.g. a black dog with white feet must represent Border Collie ancestry). But as Wisdom Health’s November 2019 study in PLOS ONE shows, many dog breeds carry gene variants for unexpected physical traits which could randomly appear in future generations. A relatively small number of mutations dictate a dog’s physical appearance, so broader distribution of these trait variants across breeds makes visual identification of a dog’s breed ancestry highly fallible. The potential result is that a random-bred dog could receive an incorrect breed assignment which in turn may have health implications. Hence, having genetically-informed breed ancestry information provides a basis upon which a practitioner can make patient-specific recommendations.

As we continue to move towards an evermore tailored and individualized level of care within the veterinary profession, genetics and genetic testing are bound to play a larger role in the clinical care setting. Wisdom Health, the world leader in canine genetic testing, looks forward to continued partnership with the profession and ongoing support of clinicians seeking to drive their patient care forward.