Trick or treat, or a genetic diversity test?
A company whose candy you’ll probably be handing out next week announced the introduction today of a genetic diversity test, aimed at allowing dog breeders to lessen the chances of bringing unhealthy pups into the world.
“Optimal Selection,” despite its somewhat eugenic-sounding name, is a first-of-its-kind tool that actually seeks to broaden the gene pool of various breeds, and thereby avoid the kind of purebred health problems that have become too common as a result of inbreeding closely related dogs.
With the new test from Mars Veterinary, a division of Mars Inc., breeders will be able to select the physical and behavioral traits that are important to them, then, through a DNA test on the blood of potential mates, compare chromosomal similarities and differences.
Based on those results, Mars said in a press release, “the breeder is given the opportunity to diversify the genetic makeup of their puppies and reduce the risk of recessive medical conditions.”
A story (written by me) on those risks and problems, and how, as an issue, they’ve never seemed to reach a tipping point in the American public consciousness, appears in the current issue of The Bark.
Pet products and tests are not new ground for Mars. In addition to pet foods (Pedigree, Whiskas, Sheba, Cesar and Royal Canin), Mars Veterinary was one of the pioneers in doggie DNA testing, coming out with a test to determine what breeds are in a dog, and later with tests to verify the heritage of purebreds and designer dogs.
For mutts, Mars Veterinary offers both a swab-based mixed breed test, called Wisdom Panel Insights, and a blood based test, Wisdom Panel Professional. The company says those tests can help predict a dog’s future health problems, based upon the breeds that are in him.
With the Optimal Selection test, though, Mars seems to have stepped beyond appeasing dog owner curiosity to actually addressing the kind of health problems that inbreeding has led to — from bulldogs with heads too big to be born naturally to spaniels whose brains outgrow their skulls.
“For centuries, dedicated breeders have worked to improve the temperament, conformation, and health of their purebred dogs,” their press release says. “However, this can cause a decrease in genetic diversity leaving the breeding community to contend with concerns such as smaller litter size, puppy mortality, and other health issues, in addition to a negative consumer perception around breeding practices.”
The analysis provided by Optimal Selection ($95) uses a scoring system based on the compatibility of the chromosomes of potential mates.
“We have leveraged our extensive knowledge of the genetic structures across breeds to closely examine the DNA of dogs within each breed and help owners take their breeding programs to the next level,” said Dr. Angela Hughes, Veterinary Genetics Research Manager at Mars Veterinary.
“Optimal Selection has the potential to transform dog breeding so that the genetic diversity within a breed or family line can be protected and maximized,” she added.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 24th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeders, canine, chromosomes, designer dogs, diseases, diversity, dna, dogs, genetic, health, health problems, hybrids, inbreeding, linebreeding, mars, mars veterinary, mates, mating, maximize, mixed breeds, mutts, optimal selection, pets, practices, product, purebred, test, wisdom panel