A Breeder’s thoughts on MyDogDNA

I am a Coton de Tulear –breeder and also a member of our breed club’s breeding committee. Genetic tests became familiar to us breeders a few years ago. We started testing for an inherited eye disease, CMR (Canine Multifocal Retinopathy) that follows an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. Samples were collected during our club’s annual Spring and Autumn Days. In addition, many breeders had their dogs analysed on their own. I got pretty soon involved in the process also as a sample taker because of my veterinarian background. Some of my own dogs were tested already then as well.

In 2011, Evira (Finnish Food Safety Authority) conducted a study on a metabolic disorder in Coton de Tulears called Hyperoxaluria that has effects on renal function and causes puppy deaths before the age of adoption. The disease was also found to follow an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance. Based on the study, the disease prevalence was estimated at 7-8 % in the Finnish Coton de Tulear population. Two of my own dogs were tested carriers during the study. As a result of Evira’s project, a genetic test was developed, but at first testing could be carried out only abroad.

When MyDogDNA appeared last year, it was a huge relief for those Coton de Tulear breeders that were interested in genetic testing. Both of the tests mentioned above could now be done in Finland. Initially, the test panel included also a third disorder that occurs in our breed. At present, it isn’t included but apparently returning soon in the test panel. This would be very important to us Coton owners, as this disease, fortunately not yet encountered in Finland, is very severe, and ultimately results in death of sick puppies.

I became interested in MyDogDNA particularly because, in addition to the test results for genetic disorders, it provides also other useful information. I started searching actively for information on MyDogDNA. Little by little I have established a really good collaboration with Genoscoper Laboratories. I also got some owners of male dogs interested in testing their dogs and received more and more fascinating results. A small group among us breed enthusiasts started sharing our dogs’ test results to each other, and now we have a lot of information available to all of us. Recently, we have learned more about genetic diversity in our breed, and the situation seems to be much better than what we had believed based on the breed’s history. By far, genetic diversity level for Coton de Tulear has been higher than average, though one wouldn’t believe that when looking at the appearance of the dogs. The sample size is still small, bit over 40 dogs, but the median level of heterozygosity is 32.9 %, while the median for all tested dogs is 28.9 %. This is absolutely great!

Our breeding committee wrote new breeding recommendations last winter. During the process, it became clear that we had been over-using some males that can truly be called popular sires. We suspected that there might be CMR carriers or even affected dogs among these males, and managed to get two dogs tested with MyDogDNA at the breed club’s expense, with the consent of the dog owners. One was tested carrier, other affected for the disease. The amount of their descendants is quite large, so there are a lot of carriers in the population.

Personally, MyDogDNA has brought me both joy and sadness. Thanks to testing, I know now that one of my dogs unfortunately carries CMR in its genome. This female is a descendant for the affected popular sire in the third generation. Luckily the same dog doesn’t carry Hyperoxaluria! However, now, as genetic testing is becoming more common in our breed, I have the opportunity to find suitable males for both my females, males that don’t carry either of these diseases. MyDogDNA Breeder –tool may be of help in this. Therefore, I can continue using my dogs for breeding. In the future, I hope I will be able to have no more carriers for the mentioned diseases in my lineages, but at this stage it is still not possible. However, now I feel like I have very good tools to continue my work!