Novice breeders thoughts about DNA tests.

I breed Coton de Tulear dogs under the kennel name “Lighthouse Friend’s”. I got interested in DNA testing and in monitoring the test results in 2010 when my Breed Club organized health testing at our annual autumn event. Then, among other things, it was possible to test the dogs for a canine retinal disease (Canine Multifocal Retinopathy type 2 – CMR2), identified in the Coton de Tulear breed.

At that time, I had two females, mother and daughter Ninni and Nessi. I decided to test the mom Ninni for CMR2, as the daughter Nessi’s father had already been tested CMR2 clear and my (naive) assumption was that Ninni would also be clear for this mutation. My hopes were that with one testing, I would get results for Ninni and confirmation to my assumption about Nessi’s status. 

Haha… I really had been naïve! When I got Ninni’s test result, she turned out to be a carrier! I had to share the result with another breeder to make sure that I had understood correctly. This is where I really got interested, as I had to try to figure out, what this would mean for me in practice.

In 2011 Evira (Finnish Food Safety Authority) established a DNA test for Hyperoxaluria (PH1). I was involved in the test validation group with both my females. The results showed that both of my dogs were clear. During the same year I tested Nessi for CMR2 and was pleased to see that she was clear for the mutation, even though her mother was a carrier.

In the spring of 2014, the Breed Club tested Ninni’s father, a sire widely used in breeding,  with MyDogDNA and he turned out to be affected for CMR2, which means that in fact, all his descendants are at least CMR2 carriers! This is why I am even more pleased that Nessi is clear for CMR2, as her grandfather is affected! I also acknowledge that I am lucky that I “got rid” of the gene form that many breeders have in their lines.

One thing I’ve learned over these years is the importance of sharing information! Sharing the results of both dogs with clear and carrier statuses is extremely important. Fortunately, our Breed Club has been one of the pioneers in this and has kept a list of tested dogs on its website since the beginning of DNA testing. Everyone has had the possibility to make their dogs’ results public. The list is not perfect, as all dog owners have not announced their test results, but nonetheless, it is a good start. And it was very useful when I tried to find a CMR2 clear partner for Ninni in 2012!

I believe that MyDogDNA will open people’s minds about sharing DNA test results. The more results available, the less there fear for negative talk about carrier dogs. In essence, a carrier status typically only means that a dog carries one mutated copy of a gene in its genome and may pass it to its offspring (depending, of course, on the mode of inheritance of the disease), but that’s all. Hopefully testing will become more common now that MyDogDNA can give results for a variety of disease mutations with just one testing!

I had Nessi tested with MyDogDNA just out of interest although I already knew her status for 2/3 diseases relevant for the Cotons. It is a good thing that the MyDogDNA test results can be shared with others, and even publicly with all other MyDogDNA users! I have shared Nessi’s results with several people and many Coton owners have shared their dogs’ results with me. It is interesting to compare all these results. 

I am planning on testing Ninni at some point. I have also been given permission to test Nessi’s father who lives in Sweden. It will be very interesting. I will also test Nessi’s son Fred. At that time, I will have results of three successive generations and the fathers of my two dogs.

I personally organized a sampling event for the canine research group of the University of Helsinki during a match show organized by my friends and the event was successful in every way. We got samples from 8 Cotons and a total of 39 dogs. Inspired by this, and as an additional way to advance canine genetic research, I helped our Breeding Committee by organizing MyDogDNA sampling during our annual autumn event. The results provided our Breed Club with a lot of new information about the prevalence of both CMR2 and PH1 in our breed.

Now we’ll see what 2015 will bring along.

Michel Nabila’s Real A Dream Girl “Nessi” ja Michel Nabila’s Nightwish “Ninni”.

Ninni and her three little daughters.