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The Relatedness of Breeds - A fun, interactive resource with some cautions
...see references below...
The Guardian has come out with an interactive tool for looking a the relatedness between breeds. Based on 'clades' (genetic groupings) research and genomic work by by Heidi Parker and Elaine Ostrander's team, it is an interesting resource. Click on your breed - see what others breeds it is related to. Fun!
But there are a couple of cautions that apply:
- This is great work - but the relatedness has changed to some extent with each new edition of the research, with the advancement of techniques, so this is not written in stone.
- Using gene patterns to determine relatedness is just that - it does not say that another breed was part of the development of your breed - or whether your breed has been used to develop the other one. They are simply 'related'.
- Difference in relatedness may be seen depending on how 'old' your breed is. Relationships that have occurred more recently may show up as stronger.
- This should not be confused with commercial tests that tell you the breed composition of your mixed breed dog. This is different technology and looks primarily at 'pedigree' dogs. To learn more about mixed breed testing see recent blogs: Ask Aimee: Can my dog's ancestry test tell me who its parents are? and HGTD This week: Guess my dog! Are breed/type genetic tests right for you?
- This is, however, a good reminder that what some people call 'purebred' dogs - what we generally call pedigree dogs (listed in an official registry as a specific breed) are not really 'pure'. Which is likely a good thing! A breed can approach 'pure' only through heavy inbreeding that leads to all sorts of other problems.
On the other hand, the work to assign dogs to related clades and to determine relationships among breeds is beneficial in terms of:
- It is simply interesting and informative.
- It may provide food for thought when selecting breeds for out-crosses when trying to improve the genetic diversity within a breed. This can go both ways, i.e. it is nice to find already related breeds, but using a breed closely related may not increase the diversity that much. And, as seen in our outtakes - the number of related breeds varies quite a lot.
- Expanding on comments by Dr. Ostrander... This type of research could have a lot of value to dog breeds (and other species) by having a deeper understanding of the genetic differences between breeds/varieties of dogs. Identifying these genetic differences may be fundamental to furthering research into many aspects of canine health and welfare - from better investigations of complex disease, to improving longevity and genetic diversity.
Anyway, check it out!
- Interactive: see how your favourite dog breeds are related to each other in The Guardian.
Genomic Analyses Reveal the Influence of Geographic Origin, Migration, and Hybridization on Modern Dog Breed Development authors Heidi G. Parker, Dayna L. Dreger,
Elaine A. Ostrander, the National Human Genome Research Institute. 2017.
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"Guess my dog's breed"... Maybe?
The popularity of breed identification tests has been increasing in parallel with the interest in human “ancestry” genetic tests. The technology is similar, as are the sometimes surprising results. We recently had contact from a friend of IPFD who put their dog Olive through three different breed identification tests – with some expected, and unexpected (and perhaps concerning) results. This blog explores some of the reasons for variation in results, as well as any benefits and risks to using these tests.
What is the purpose of these tests and what did you hope to gain?
For many people, breed estimation testing is mostly a fun experience, trying to put some named breeds behind the traits in a mixed or unknown breed dog. Different test providers will claim to provide information including estimated size, likely behaviors, physical traits, “relatedness”/family trees, and disease risks. No test provider currently indicates pedigree or breed “purity” as it relates to registration with a kennel or breed club.
Before undertaking any genetic testing, it is important to take some time to identify the purpose of testing, and what information you are wanting. There will be different priorities for different users, and not considering these early on will make selecting the right product(s) difficult. Those new to testing might want to review an article on what genetic test types are available.
Olive is a medium-sized dog from Canada, who is of unknown origins. Her owners decided to test Olive using 1 breed identification test from Canada, and 2 tests from the USA. The tests all claimed to estimate the likely breeds composing Olive, and to varying degrees provide some information about those breeds, and possible traits for Olive. The results of all three tests were provided to IPFD by the owner, as they were surprised by the differences in results. The two USA test results were fairly similar. Both use databases that are optimized for mixed-breed dogs, and not purebred/pedigree dogs, which by definition are more inbred and could skew the information. This is important to bear in mind if you have a purebred dog and are attempting to confirm its breed – with few exceptions, these tools are not designed to do that! The two USA test providers offered similar number of relevant markers, but each have different reference panels of dogs for those markers. Generally, the more markers the better, but it is also important that the selected markers are breed-relevant, and in many cases, population (e.g. country/continent) relevant. For Olive, the results estimated in the first few generations – e.g. her “closest” relatives, from both test providers were either the same breed/type or similar, mainly shepherds and herding breeds. There were, however, some wild suggestions (and fewer in common between the test providers) for dogs “further back” in Olive's family tree. This is likely due to the differences in markers being screened for, and the different reference panels used, and how they assign markers in defining specific breeds. For example, one provider set a threshold in their panel as Olive being German Shepherd dog and accounted for minor shepherd-like variations within a general mixed-breed term, whereas the other provider chose to specify Dutch, German, and White Swiss dog mix. Both are likely accounting for the same thing, genetically speaking. Practically speaking they are indicating similar degrees of precision about similar breed-related traits.
The wildcard was the Canadian test. These test results seemed to represent breeds they believed to be in very near generations – roughly parents (50%), grandparents (25%), and great-grandparents (12.5%). This, in principle, isn’t a bad approach. All test providers had information indicating that the breed-related information in near generations was likely to be the most relevant to Olive. What was curious about these results, however, was that they were not in keeping at all with the other test providers nor in correlation with any distinctive breed-related traits observed in Olive. The reasons are a bit of a mystery, but likely due to this provider using a smaller number of markers, and variations in their breed reference panel. While in this case unlikely to impact Olive, it is something to think about if your aim was to identify breed-associated risks or traits.
How much could precision matter?
If your primary interest is the novelty element of breed estimations, precision may be less of a concern. However, many people utilizing these tests are also looking for deeper information. In this case, choosing the test provider with the correct genetic tool for your priorities and level of precision is critical. If a test provider is using a relatively small number of markers, and if they are poorly associated with a wide variety of well-defined breeds, then the differences between test providers could be like comparing a microscope to a telescope. More markers aren't a guarantee of precision without a good reference panel, but there needs to be enough markers to have clear breed associations to make distinctions between breed and breed types.
Potential benefits to breed estimation:
- identification of potential breed-associated health risks (varies by product)
- early awareness of breed-associated risk factors may help owners choose preventative lifestyle changes, or catch health concerns earlier
- puppies or young dog traits such as size estimations might help in homing appropriately
- breed-associated behavioral traits may be useful for dogs with unknown origins
- "relatives" finders or related dogs on some products can be fun and contribute to human-animal relationship
These benefits could be helpful in preventative care, or in supplementing veterinary investigations. Dog shelters are keen to be able to provide whatever information they can on dogs with unknown breed origins – particularly size and behavior – which are derived from the breed typing, rather than specific associated genes.
Considerations and risks:
- with poor precision there is a risk of misdiagnosis, or inappropriate veterinary treatment for disease risks
- breed identification can bring challenges associated with the restriction or banning of certain breeds. Having a banned breed or breed-cross with “too much” wolf, bully, mastiff, etc. can impact the ability to get an apartment, find homes for shelter dogs, or in extreme cases, ownership may be illegal according to local policies
- test accuracy and information can vary dramatically between providers
- just like any genetic testing, breed testing isn't a guarantee of health or a health certificate
- these products do not determine if a dog is purebred or pedigree (nor do they claim to!)
If people are using any of these tests as a fun novelty of what breeds their dog is composed of, to play spot-the-trait in the suggested breeds, then the provider may not matter too much - as in human genetic ancestry tests, where everyone thinks they are Neanderthal or Cherokee.
However, if you are wanting to know about actual health risks or traits that could impact welfare, then it is worth doing some research to find a provider that is able to have the precision in breed/type estimation, and the tests for traits that are important to you and your dog. In most cases, breed-associated traits beyond 2-3 generations are less likely to be precise enough to be informative, particularly if you have a dog that is truly a mix.
In Olive's case, one health/welfare consideration where the breed testing may have helped is the identification of a number of shepherd and collie breeds that are likely part of her heritage. In her case, MDR-1 genetic testing might be prudent as there are multiple shepherd/collie breeds where this is a relevant test, and it is a risk that is important for the dog's welfare. Olive's veterinarian would also likely guess shepherd/collie breeds, and act accordingly... but what if she didn't have such distinctive, visible traits?
As for her breeds? Our guess is a shepherd-collie-very-good-girl.
For more information:
Searchable breed-specific genetic testing, and information on genetic test providers can be found via HGTD.
Title image with thanks to Brett Jordan via Pexels. Photos of Olive were kindly provided by her owners.
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Engdahl K, Hanson J, Bergström A, Bonnett B, Höglund O, Emanuelson U. Epidemiology of stifle joint disease in an insured Swedish dog population. Vet Rec. 2021;e197. https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.197
Background: Stifle joint diseases (SJD) are common in dogs and include a variety of diagnoses. The objective of the study was to provide an overview of the epidemiology of SJD in insured dogs.
Methods: An historical single cohort study of dogs insured in Agria Pet Insurance (2011–2016) in Sweden was performed. Incidence and relative risk (RR) of SJD was calculated for the whole dog population and for subgroups divided by breed, breed group and sex.
Results: The study population included almost 600,000 insured dogs (>1.7 million dog-years). Ninety-three different stifle joint diagnoses were reported in 9624 dogs, and the most common were cruciate ligament rupture and patellar luxation. The incidence of SJD was 55.4 cases per 10,000 dog-years at risk. Bulldog and boerboel had the highest RR of SJD. The breeds that accounted for the highest proportion of all SJD claimed dogs were mixed breed and Labrador retriever. Female dogs had a slightly increased RR compared with male dogs (RR 1.06, p = 0.006). The incidence increased yearly during the observation period.
Conclusion: The study demonstrates breed-specific differences in incidence of SJD in dogs, which may be of importance for breeders, dog owners and veterinarians.
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Recently we received a question from a Harmonization of Genetic Testing (HGTD) user, who had wanted to use an "Ancestry" genetic test to determine a puppy's likely sire. It is not uncommon, when trying to determine the right test for your purposes, to mistake "Ancestry" tests for parentage, or genetic identification tests. The information below talks about what ancestry, or breed mix genetic tests are, how they can be used, and some of the limitations.
What is an Ancestry/Breed Mix Genetic Test for dogs?
Ancestry/breed mix tests are a way to estimate what breeds compose your mixed-breed dog, or to help determine what breed(s) your dog of unknown origins might be. You can find more information about the different kinds of genetic tests available, here. It is not uncommon for people who use an ancestry/breed mix test to have some surprising results. Understanding how these tests generally work might make it easier to understand your results.
At its most basic, an ancestry/breed mix test compares specific sections of your dog’s DNA, known as markers, to a reference database of hundreds of dog breeds or types. A genetic marker is a DNA sequence with a known physical location on a chromosome. Genetic markers can help link an inherited disease or trait with the responsible gene. This data estimates the likely breed(s) that compose your dog, to a few generations back (e.g. grandparents). You can find genetic test providers offering these kinds of tests by searching for "Breed/Type/Variety test" on HGTD.
How precise these tests are is dependent on a number of factors, including:
- The size and scope of the reference library
- The number of specific areas (referred to as genetic markers) of DNA the test “looks” for in your dog
- How well understood the markers are, and how well they correlate with genetic markers associated with breed-specific traits
The size of the reference library, in terms of gene coverage and breed/types included is important to improve precision. Arguably even more important is having genetically well-defined breed samples, and knowledge of breed population-specific challenges such as breed population variations or genetic diversity. More markers doesn’t automatically mean “better” if the markers don’t associate well with specific breeds – though you also need a large enough number to differentiate between breeds/types.
When you look at different test providers information online, you can usually find information on how many breeds are included in their reference panel, how they determined which dogs to reference, what kinds of genetic markers they are using for comparisons, etc. They should also be able to tell you how many “generations” they are including in your dog’s results and answer any questions when your results aren’t what you might be expecting.
How are Ancestry/Breed mix tests helpful?
If you have a dog of unknown origin, these tests can help give you some idea of the dog’s traits - such as size, temperament, and even potential health risks. Test packages vary, but in addition to breed estimation, often include some specific genetic tests for traits (like coat colour) and sometimes disease risks.
If you have a mixed or crossbreed dog you are considering using for breeding, the testing packages with breed or type-specific disease risk results can help in choosing suitable mates to reduce the risks of inherited diseases in subsequent generations of dogs.
What Ancestry/Breed tests do not do:
- It is not a way to confirm a pedigree breed, or refute pedigree papers.
- It is not for determining parentage.
- It is not necessarily for permanent ID*.
- It does not determine “health” nor determine all inherited disease risks. (e.g. there are many inherited diseases that cannot currently be genetically tested for).
So, what is a Parentage test?
A parentage test works by collecting DNA samples from the dam, sire, and offspring to determine each individual dog's unique genetic profile, based on a special group of genetic markers. This special group of markers might be called a "parentage panel" or "genetic profile panel" or by the technical type of reference panel used. There are 2 main reference panels for this purpose: ISAG (International Society for Animal Genetics) and the AKC (American Kennel Club) Panel. Each dog's unique genetic profile of markers is compared, and, much like in human parentage testing, if enough markers are in common, you can confirm parentage. Likewise, you can confidently exclude possible parents. In very rare cases, if the dogs are highly inbred, or the disputed parents are very closely related and inbred, it can be more challenging to absolutely determine parentage. You should expect your genetic test provider to have very specific protocols for sample collection for parentage.
Benefits of parentage profiling:
- Improves accuracy of pedigree data
- Confirms accuracy of hereditarily clear by decent genetic test results
Limitations of parentage profiling:
- Parentage can only be robustly confirmed when you have data from the dam, sire, and offspring
- You cannot normally “back-determine” parentage from other relatives data – e.g. you can’t use combinations of grandparents, siblings, half-siblings, etc.
- For highly related or inbred matings, there can be challenges in determining parentage
- You cannot determine parentage using incompatible marker panels (e.g. ISAG + AKC)
A breed ancestry or breed mix test estimates the likely breed(s) that make up an individual dog.
A parentage test identifies specific, related individuals: parents and offspring.
*different product packages may include options for including permanent ID
Cover photo: Eddie Galaxy via Pexels.
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National Kennel Clubs are major stakeholders in the governance and regulation of dog breeding. As such, they have been the targets of major criticism related to dog health issues. It is therefore interesting to investigate to what extent health and welfare is a priority for kennel clubs (KCs), and what are the capacities and actions implemented to deal with those issues.
A survey was sent in 2017 to 40 KCs with 15 answers received from 11 European (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK) and 4 non-European countries (Australia, Mexico, Uruguay, and the USA) aimed at describing and comparing information across countries in dog breed health management (Wang et al. 2018).
First, in order to determine the population of dogs under the responsibility of KC, the percentages of all dogs being registered as ‘pedigree’ dogs were estimated considering the 15 surveyed KCs, as well 35 other countries, using sources such as the FCI online statistics. Across countries, the average and median percentage of the entire dog population that were registered pedigree dogs, respectively was 20% and 14%. However, there was a large variation across countries, with European Nordic countries showing, in general, a larger proportion of pedigree dogs (see Figure 1). This aspect is of importance, since it is expected that the responsibility toward general dog health, as well as the capacity to improve the situation, relates to the proportion of dogs that are at least to some extent under the influence of the KCs.
When asked about the current challenges, KCs ranked exaggerated morphological features and inherited disorders as the most important issues, showing those two problems are now clearly identified as priorities (Figure 2). By contrast, issues such as economic constraints to breeding were rarely viewed as problematic for dog breeding. Kennel clubs also commented on challenges related to the difficulty to find balance between increased regulation and the risk of losing members; to achieve consensus and compliance of breeders and clubs toward breed health strategies; as well as lack of capacity regarding information provision and education.
Surveyed countries showed great diversity in terms of information management, implementation of breeding strategies, recommendations, requirement, restriction and tools. Most KCs indicated that information on genealogies, breed standards and dog shows were recorded in their data base for most, if not all breeds; however, health information (e.g. screening examinations, genetic tests) was more sparsely recorded and provided to the public, both for breeds within countries and across countries (Figure 3). For instance, KCs from Austria, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, the UK and the USA provided health information status on pedigrees and in online data bases, but in general, not all breeds were covered. When considering implementation of breeding strategies, six countries indicated that there were no breeding strategies implemented by any breed clubs, while in three countries (Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands) it was reported that each breed club had its breeding strategy.
Several countries indicated that they were planning to develop breeding tools and provide health information to users, and for instance, France and Belgium reported having ongoing work to develop tools to provide online pedigree with health information or estimate breeding values for complex disorders such as hip dysplasia.
Although limited by the relatively low number of countries considered, this survey showed that despite large differences in their approach to breeding policies and management, the awareness to improve breeding and health of pedigree dogs was strong among the surveyed Kennel Clubs. The dog breeding world is increasingly global in scope. The understanding of both the diversity of health initiatives and the potential for coordinated actions internationally is key to further efforts to promote dog health and welfare.
There is probably still a lot of progress to be made in term of information provision and collection, as well as planning breeding strategies considering dog health. In particular, finding a consensus in terms of constraints and priorities for breeding, is expected to be particularly challenging for Kennel Clubs and breed clubs in order to implement those strategies. Although the situations differ across countries, exchanges of experiences may surely help to find the most adequate solutions toward improvement of health and welfare.
Wang, S., Laloë, D., Missant, F. M., Malm, S., Lewis, T., Verrier, E., ... & Leroy, G. (2018). Breeding policies and management of pedigree dogs in 15 national kennel clubs. The Veterinary Journal. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tvjl.2018.02.018
Brenda’s blog gave a great overview of the American Kennel Club National Parent Club Canine Health Conference we attended earlier this month in St. Louis, Missouri. I am grateful for the sponsorship from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals provided to myself and the 31 other veterinary students in attendance.
This conference, like the 3rd International Dog Health Workshop, was an opportunity to learn more about cutting edge research that is improving dog health. Topics were varied and included tick borne disease, epilepsy, lymphoma, and reproductive health. It was exciting to see my Colorado State University (CSU) Immunology professor, Dr. Anne Avery, present on her lymphoma research.
Right: View from the top of the St. Louis Gateway Arch
After completing a CSU clinical orthopedics rotation a few weeks prior to the conference, it was especially interesting to hear what I had learned about Omega-3 fatty acids in my rotation be reiterated by presenter Dr. Wendy Baltzer from Massey University. Her Purina funded study described that a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids post-surgical correction of cranial cruciate ligament disease is helpful and results in less progression of arthritis and lameness.
I’m am looking forward to graduation in 9 months and continued involvement in dog health. The opportunities I have received since first starting my IPFD project have been endless and I am very thankful for the DogWellNet.com community!
Left: Veterinary Student Attendees at the AKC National Parent Club Health Conference
Well, it's been 10 weeks... and I've learned quite a lot. I hope you have, too! As my project comes to an end, Nina and I wanted to give our viewers a big thank you. I hope you enjoyed this blog series and feel more confident about what your role is in solving antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We would also like to extend a huge thank you to the Skippy Frank Fund who sponsored this entire project, and a thank you to Dr. Jason Stull and Dr. Brenda Bonnett for being wonderful mentors every step of the way.
It is important to keep in mind that science is an ever-changing field that is constantly updated with new material. For example there's a new study that just came out suggesting that not finishing a course of antibiotics may not cause resistance, which is contrary to the current belief. Here is the link to this article if you would like to read more about it. Even though this blog is over, I hope that you continue your AMR education as new scientific data arises.
To complete my summer project, I have constructed a poster that I will be presenting at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine's Research Day.
Take a look!
Here is the downloadable PDF version:
Be sure to keep checking www.DogWellNet.com for more information on dog health and wellness!
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The Finnish Kennel Club (FKC) has finished the protocol and the instructions for fitness (walk) testing of breeding dogs in brachycephalic breeds. The test is similar to the one used by the Dutch Kennel Club.
Finnish test instructions have been developed by veterinarians doing research on BOAS. Their results concerning the Bulldog have already been published. The researchers are still continuing their research and testing Pugs and French Bulldogs, whose results will be published later.
According to the Finnish guidelines, a dog gets an approved walk test result if he/she walks 1000 meters in 12 minutes or less, and recovers sufficiently from the walk within the recovery time. In the future, it is also possible to have different time limits for different breeds. The test result is failed if
The FKC arranged the first pilot test in February, and the second pilot will be arranged in May. Also orientation for veterinarians will be held at that second pilot. After that, breed clubs are able to arrange the tests by their own. The tests have to be carried out in accordance with the FKC's Guideline for walk tests, in order to get the test result recorded in the FKC breeding database.
The FKC is following the development and use of different tests in other countries. It is also having close collaboration with the other Nordic Kennel Clubs on this subject. The aim is, in the long run, and with the help of accumulated experience, to develop the test further, to be as appropriate as possible.
All the information on the Finnish walk test can be found here.
The walk test is meant for short-muzzled (brachycephalic) breeds that have symptoms caused by upper respiratory tract disorders. These breeds include Pug, English Bulldog and French Bulldog. The dog's exercise tolerance and the ability to breathe normally are evaluated in the walk test and the clinical examination included in it. In the walk test, the dog must walk a certain distance in a defined maximum time and recover from the exercise within a defined time frame."
Updated 2-18-2021 - See the 2-8-2019 FKC article
IPFD Board Member Dr. Patricia Olson was the keynote speaker at the Inaugural One Health Program at Midwestern University on October 8, 2015 (Downer’s Grove, Illinois).
Midwestern University also has one of the newest veterinary schools in the U.S. (Phoenix, Arizona). Physicians were paired with veterinarians to deliver lectures on obesity, pneumonia, osteochondritis dissecans and epilepsy. Dr. Olson’s lecture was on collaborative research, using the clues from animals to help advance both human and animal health/welfare.
See the pdf of her thought-provoking talk here:
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Recent EntriesLatest Entry
Once a year, in October, the SKK Breeding Committee organizes a weekend course for
breeding officials based on the book Dog breeding in theory and practice by Sofia Malm (SKK genetic expert) and Åsa Lindholm.
The Genetic Expert and The Breeding Consultant of the SKK Department for Breeding and Health are in charge of the course.
The aim is to give breed clubs education and tools they need to work with breeding plans and breed-specific strategies.
The contents of the course include basic genetics and guidance in how to conduct work at club level.
There’s also a certain amount of self-directed studies.
Every other year, in April, this education is held specifically directed to hunting dog breed clubs.
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On the podium:
1st : Meisterhaus Signet Higher'N Higer ; Breed: Basenji ; Owner: Lise DURLOT and Dimitri HEBERT ; Breeder: Brenda CASSELL and Tad BOOKS
2nd : Fall In Love Forest Ohara Of Bloom White ; Breed : Samoyede ; Owner: Mira MITKOVA ; Breeder: Elisabeth FAUCON
3rd : Eternal Drago Of Nordic Forest ; Breed : Siberian Husky ; Owner and breeder: Valérie CHARNEAU
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The contents of these blogs are for informational purposes only and represent the opinion of the author(s), and not that of the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD). This is not intended to be a substitute for professional, expert or veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on, or linked to from these blogs.