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"Buddy, Jenny, Kiera" - Collies for Genetic Screening

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Buddy, Jenny, Kiera

Pedigree dogs have a large number of well documented genetic diseases. These are conditions which adversely affect the canine patient as a result of inheriting the particular gene or genes from their parents.

The most well recognised genetic disease in dogs is probably hip dysplasia. This condition can lead to severe osteoarthritis even in very young patients causing pain and limited function eventually necessitating new artificial hips.

The main method of controlling this problem has been to identify affected dogs with x-rays and avoid breeding from them. Some breeds such as the Otterhound or Clumber Spaniel are so commonly affected that it is very difficult to own this kind of dog without having the problem.

Most current research both in humans and animals involves trying to unravel the genetic code in the laboratory from blood samples taken from individual patients. If the affected gene or genes can be identified then that individual should be stopped from future breeding. Unfortunately, some diseases like hip dysplasia are very complex involving many genes. With a limited number of breeding stock available it may be that if you want to avoid a certain problem you have to stop breeding that particular breed of dog!

Some dog breeders are much more proactive than others in endeavouring to ensure that as far as possible their puppies are healthy and free from disease. The owner of collies Buddy, Jenny and Kiera is at the fore front of worldwide technology by having bloodsamples from her dogs sent to Australia to have their genetic code unravelled for such conditions as Collie Eye Anomaly and Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome.

Having recently returned from a visit to Auschwitz I can fully understand why genetic screening and selection is a very controversial topic in human medicine. However in animals it would appear to be a much more straight forward decision.

Terry Dunne BVMS, Cert SAO, MRCVS

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