Dr. Elinor Karlsson, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard states -
“There is so much research into DNA being done today, and the research is good, but there are all these caveats on it, and all of a sudden you realize people are using it in a way where they’re not taking those limitations into account, to make decisions about people’s pets.” What are those caveats? First and foremost, the research is still in its infancy. Scientists have been gathering information about which genes are associated with which conditions, but this is just the beginning of the process. Crucially, correlation doesn’t mean causation, so a gene that often occurs with a particular disease might not cause it. In order to establish causation, scientists need an awful lot of data - sometimes tens of thousands of test subjects. That’s difficult to achieve even in human medicine. In canine medicine, there’s less funding and more genetic variability because there are so many breeds and crossbreeds of dog, so the research lags even further. “If you get back a positive test meaning that your dog is carrying a genetic variant that has been in a study correlated or associated with a disease,” Dr. Karlsson says, “The one question that pet owners ask themselves is, What are the chances that my dog is going to have issues? And that’s not a question that we can actually answer yet.”
Then there’s the difficulty of interpreting the results. Because so many tests are out there, there is a need to help dog owners understand the complex information they’re presented with. For example, some conditions are associated with multiple genes, but genetic testing might only test for one of those genes. This might result in pet owners falsely believing their canine companions have the “all clear” from a certain condition or the opposite, receiving a negative result. What’s more, veterinarians may not have the expertise to interpret and act upon a panel of genetic tests. All this has very real consequences. There’s already been at least one case of pet owners having their dog put to sleep on the basis of genetic test results that might have been misinterpreted or over-interpreted. And that’s to say nothing of the unquantifiable level of worry, heartbreak, and sometimes false confidence these tests might stir. Geneticists are clear on one thing: They are on the cusp of a true treasure trove of genetic information about dogs and humans alike. Within ten years, Dr. Karlsson hopes that tests will be able to show which dogs are at high risk of developing serious conditions, allowing their owners to establish suitably healthy lifestyles and implement a regime of X-rays or other screening tests early, to optimize the dog’s chances of living a long and happy life.
But it’s important to remember that the science isn’t fully there yet.
Dr. Karlsson adds that, though canine genetic testing for health is important, it must currently be taken with a grain of salt. The study and research just isn’t there yet.
***The information above shared from the AKC page***
I have been doing a massive amount of research into DNA testing.
Did you know that blue, bi and parti-eyes (heterochromia) will show up as a recessive gene on a DNA test?
Do you know what eye color almost every wants in a Siberian Husky? -
Having blue eyes is considered a fault in the breed - in other words, it is an abnormality that can be, and in this breed, it is, passed to the off-spring of the dog.
Having a liver pigment and a ‘snow-nose’ is also a representation of a recessive gene and can be passed to the off-spring as well.
While it seems perfectly normal, to most people, that a Siberian Husky have these traits or ‘faults’, DNA testing cannot yet, be used conclusively to differentiate the recessive genes from others.
I have joined Dr. Karlsson’s ‘Darwin’s Ark’ project to understand even more about my breed and dogs.