Screening for health problems in domestic cats

Screening of health problems in domestic cat normally concerns cat breeders who need to remove from their breeding lines inherited deleterious genes. However, these tests should be useful to all cat owners. It is said that the cat world has lagged behind dogs in terms of screening for health problems. DNA testing is an ideal way to test. Some health problems such as hip dysplasia involve multiple genes which makes DNA testing impractical. However, for hip dysplasia X-rays are used to diagnose and evaluate. Genetic testing is specific for each cat breed. Certain laboratories carry out these tests and they provide a certificate of the results which are available to the public “at least for normal cats and often for all cat screened” (Cat Owners home veterinary Handbook third edition page 402). As this is an advancing field of science the list below will not be comprehensive but useful nonetheless.

A testing laboratory. This is generic and not one of the labs listed

A testing laboratory. This is generic and not one of the labs listed. Photo: Pixabay.

Screening tests for health problems:

  • Hip dysplasia is screened using x-rays and in America the institution carrying out these tests are: OFA and PennHIP. “OFA” stands for Orthopaedic Foundation of Animals, which is a non-profit organisation. They say that they test dogs but I guess they also test cats.
  • Elbow dysplasia tested by x-ray at the OFA
  • Patella luxation tested by palpation at the OFA
  • Cardiac abnormalities which is screen using echocardiography and auscultation at the OFA
  • Cardiac abnormalities screened using DNA for Maine Coons and Ragdolls at the Veterinary Cardiac Genetic Laboratory, Washington State University
  • Polycystic kidney disease screened through DNA at VetGen (Veterinary Genetic Services)
  • Metabolic Defects Screened Using DNA at PennGen
  • Spinal muscular atrophy screened using DNA for Maine Coons at the Laboratory of Comparative Medical Genetics, Michigan State University

Breeds with available health screening tests are as follows and tested at OFA:

  • American Shorthair – cardiac abnormalities
  • Bengal – cardiac abnormalities, patella luxation
  • British Shorthair – hip dysplasia
  • Maine Coon – hip dysplasia, cardiac abnormalities, elbow dysplasia, patella luxation
  • Ragdoll – cardiac abnormalities
  • Siamese – hip dysplasia
  • Somali – elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia
  • Sphynx – cardiac abnormalities
  • Turkish Angora – cardiac abnormalities

Breed health screening at VetGen:

  • Persian, Persian crosses – polycystic kidney disease

Testing cat breeds at PennGen as follows:

  • Norwegian Forest Cat – glycogenolysis type IV
  • Persian, domestic shorthair – mannosidosis
  • Siamese, domestic shorthair – mucopolysaccharidosis VI
  • Domestic Shorthair – mucopolysaccharidosis VII
  • Abyssinian, Somali, domestic shorthair – pyruvate kinase

Testing at Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Laboratory at Washington State University:

  • Maine Coon Cat, Ragdoll – cardiac abnormalities

Testing at Laboratory of Comparative Medical Genetics, Michigan State University:

  • Maine Coon Cat – spinal muscular atrophy
Maine Coon kitten with the tallest biggest ears and lynx tips you'll see

Maine Coon kitten with the tallest biggest ears and lynx tips you’ll see. Photo: Cattery Marvel Forest in Russia.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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