Canine Genetic Tests Thumbs Up (and Down)
The same day we had Clover spayed, I asked our veterinary hospital to run genetic tests too. My primary goal was to learn Clover’s MDR1 status (multi-drug sensitivity gene). Depending upon the genetic test you choose, you can also find out your dog’s breed heritage and whether or not your dog tests positive for other kinds of possible disease-causing genetic markers. The good news is that Clover is indeed 100% border collie (cute family tree graphic ahead), and she tested NEGATIVE for all 90 genetic markers. The bad news is that the testing company won’t tell me what all 90 of those markers are, which makes me really crabby.
Canine Genetic Test Results – Breed
As you may recall from The Story of Clover and other details about her background before we adopted her from a border collie rescue group in Virginia, Clover was bred on purpose (from good lines as far as we can tell), but she ended up in rescue along with her 9 littermates and puppies from 2 older litters from a hoarding situation.
The genetic tests reveal that Clover is 100% border collie, going back 3 generations.
I know it’s really more of a gee-whiz thing to know Clover’s genetic make up, but I’m glad to have it. Even though we really did know in advance what it would say.
There is even a certificate at the back of the canine genetic test report, attesting to the fact that Clover is a border collie that I guess I can use when it comes time to get her AKC Purebred Alternative Listing so that she can compete at AKC agility trials. It’s different than having a regular AKC-registered dog.
The funny part, though, is that the canine genetic test report says that border collies who compete in SHOWS weigh 33-44 pounds, but that those who are PETS weigh 31-53 pounds. I understand that different dogs can be built differently, but this seems to imply that it’s OK for PET border collies to be fat.
Canine Genetic Test Results – MDR1 Status
This is good news. It meas Clover is not at a greater risk of having an adverse reaction to certain veterinary and other drugs.
And, she is spayed, of course, but it also means that *if* she had been bred, then she would NOT have passed along the mutation to her puppies.
Canine Genetic Test Results – Everything Else
I paid $129 for Clover’s Royal Canin Genetic Health Analysis.
Her test results report says, “Clover was also tested for more than 90 other genetic health indicators. We have reported all the genetic marker findings including these MDR1 results to your veterinarian.”
The bulk of Clover’s canine genetic test results (10 pages) were fluff.
I wanted details, so I asked my veterinary hospital for the results given to them. It helped a little, but not much. It reads in part, “Clover was tested for over 90 disease-causing mutations — all results were negative.”
That is SUPER good news. Yes!
BUT, I still wanted to know what those 90 tests were. Even the veterinary report, however, only lists 15 of them. Not all 90.
I looked on the Royal Canine Genetic Health Analysis website. No luck. Even the FAQ doesn’t list all the tests. I tried looking at the website for Genoscoper Laboratories who helped develop these tests. Nothing!
In November 2015, I contacted the company’s media relations folks (both for this blog post and a veterinary trade magazine article I wrote a while back about canine genetic tests), but after 3 weeks of stringing me along, like they were going to answer my questions, I got back a reply that said … “Unfortunately, Royal Canin is going to have to pass at this point. We appreciate the opportunity and apologize for being unable to fulfill your request.”
With all my heart, I do NOT believe it is TOO much to ask what the 90+ tests are. If those tests really *are* ran (something it’s hard not to doubt, at this point), then the list should be openly available.
Even if I was NOT a professional journalist asking a legitimate question of a major veterinary company, I should have gotten an answer. At the very least, I’m a highly engaged and interested veterinary customer. The fact that I actually am a veteran reporter who was asking a media “relations” contact for factual information … means I should have gotten an answer, for sure.
So, I’m very, very glad that Clover tested negative for “everything,” but I don’t know what everything is … so I feel duped and frustrated.
I tried one last time in December 2015, asking if there was ANY way someone could *just* tell me what the 90 tests were, and I got back a note that said in part that Royal Canin was “unable to provide responses.”
Oh, how I miss writing for newspapers, including pieces for The New York Times. Back then, people (for the most part) answered my questions. I did get one really hilarious “No comment” that made me and my NYT editor giggle. Once upon a time, companies were happy when a journalist wanted to write about their products or services.
Canine Genetic Tests – Round 2, Tori
We plan to have genetic tests done on Tori as well, and I very likely will choose a different test from a different company. The Wisdom Panel, perhaps.
Thankfully, for the magazine article I was writing, another thought-leader in the veterinary profession who was a very early adapter of breed-specific healthcare and genetic screening called me back the same day that Royal Canin’s media team blew me off. This other expert partners with Paw Prints Genetics and gave me some great input for that article, so it all worked out, but not getting my questions answered put a negative cast on my first experience with canine genetic testing.