Genetic testing is a growing market. It is used to assess inherited diseases and the likelihood of a dog (or cat) developing a specific disease in the future.
Livescience.com reports the disturbing case of a 13-year-old pug, Petunia, who had health problems. The owners bought a $65 genetic test and were told that their dog carried a genetic mutation which could cause a serious illness: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The owners decided to euthanise their dog.
It transpires that they made a poor decision because the chances of developing the disease were low (1 in 100) and the dog’s symptoms indicated a treatable disorder concerning her spine. Being cynical as I am I wonder if they wanted to find an excuse to euthanise as they could foresee expensive treatments ahead.
Petunia’s case is not exceptional apparently. More people are using these tests to make life and death decisions regarding their pet.
The fact is, though, that genetic DNA testing for inherited diseases is a powerful but new tool for veterinary diagnostics and caution needs to be exercised in making decisions based in results.
These DNA tests cost less than $200 and can tell owners the risk of their pet developing one of more than 100 diseases.
For dogs it seems that the science is not backed up by sufficiently wide genetic testing studies to make test results more reliable and valid.
“Neither their accuracy nor their ability to predict health outcomes has been validated” (Dr Lisa Moses co-author of a study and a veterinarian at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center and a research fellow of bioethics at Harvard Medical School).
Standards in DNA testing need to be created. For cat and dog owners thinking about using DNA testing it is wise, the researchers concluded, to take the results with a pinch of salt. The results will provide an indication as to future health concerning genetic diseases but don’t make life-or-death decisions based on them.
Cat and dog breeding enhances the likelihood of recessive genetic diseases coming to the fore and affecting the animals. This is probably why purebred dogs and cats are less healthy than random breed animals.
Associated: Genetic diseases in purebred cats.
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