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FAQ on Genetic Profiling and Parentage Testing

    When considering integrating genetic profiling or parentage testing into a registration body, breed club, or breeding plan, it is helpful to start by reviewing the different genetic testing options that are available, and their capabilities and limitations.

    Genetic Profiling (DNA profile or “genetic fingerprint”)

    The genetic profile of a dog refers to the identification of a set of genetic markers that are specific to an individual dog. These markers remain unique to the dog throughout its life and can be used to unambiguously identify the dog. 

    Different panels of markers have been determined by the International Society of Animal Genetics (ISAG), and the American Kennel Club (AKC) for the purposes of genetic profiling. In addition, there are other test providers who use their own, unique panel.  For example,the ISAG and AKC panels use different markers, and they are not mutually compatible. (as of 2022)
    The benefits of genetic profiling an individual dog include:
    • Life-long, permanent ID that cannot be removed or changed
    • Parentage (depending on panel, and data availability)
    • Compare genetic “relatedness” (depending on panel, and data availability)

    Limitations of genetic profiling:

    • Genetic profiles are not universal. Different marker panels are not (usually) mutually compatible.
    • Marker panels are not back-compatible. E.g. ISAG panels from 2004, 2006, and 2020 are not interchangeable. 


    Parentage Profiling
    If a dog and its relatives have a genetic profile based on an ISAG panel, AKC panel, or some proprietary panels, it is normally possible to compare like-for-like panel results (e.g. ISAG 2020 with ISAG 2020) to determine parentage. Where a profile is missing, or the data is not compatible (e.g. ISAG 2020 vs AKC), it may at least be possible to exclude parents/relatives. To do this, the genetic profiles of the individual dogs must be collected in a database that allows imputation, AND the genetic profiles must be based off of the same panel of genetic markers. 

    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)


    Genetic Diversity/relatedness
    By analyzing the genetic profile of two (or more) dogs, it is possible to identify which markers are common between the dogs, and which differ. Some genetic profile test providers use the profile data to estimate a “diversity coefficient” which essentially compares any variability between genetic profiles – with the aim to select mating pairs that have the most genetic variability. It should be noted that there are a number of genetic tools specifically focused on genetic diversity, with many panels and markers very specific to estimating relatedness. There is currently no universally agreed or validated panel for genetic diversity/relatedness. 


    If you are integrating genetic profiling, and/or including parentage into a registration system, it is important to start by first determining why you want to include genetic profiling. This will help determine the database structures, policies, and consumer education you will need. For example, if your club decides to use the ISAG 2020 marker panel for genetic profiling and parentage, you will need to consider a policy to address dogs who are used internationally for mating who may have an AKC or other profile only. (e.g. a policy may require an ISAG profile be obtained before registration)

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Thanks Aimee!  This is great information and I am going to share it with a few colleagues along with a couple more articles you have placed on DogWellNet.  I just can't thank you enough for making these types of information available.  Great job!  You are appreciated!  

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