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Posted originally 26 July 2018; UPDATED 30 July 2018 Congratulations to the authors (Lisa Moses, Steve Niemi and Elinor Karlsson) for their commentary in Nature (and pdf, below). In “Pet genomics medicine runs wild” these authors have done a great job describing the myriad challenges related to genetic testing in pets. In fact, their concerns reflect those underpinning the International Partnership for Dogs (IPFD) initiative - the Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD). The IPFD, together with an impressive team of Partners and Collaborators (national kennel clubs, animal industries, veterinary, academic, welfare and other organizations) and our Leadership Sponsor Genetic Test Providers (GTPs), is providing a practical and effective tool to support consumers, veterinarians and researchers. However, as we face these challenges, it is important to not lose sight of the phenomenal potential for genetic testing to support health, well-being and welfare in dogs, as well as aspects of human-dog interactions. Although the authors of the commentary justifiably call for this segment to have some controls, at the moment, there is no regulatory body that has the authority to impose standards on this burgeoning and unregulated industry - especially not on an international basis or in a timely fashion. Rather than waiting for consensus on controls, the IPFD (an independent, non-profit, registered in Sweden), together with our Partners, Collaborators and experts, as well as concerned GTPs, has created a platform that will provide the foundation to address many of the concerns raised in the Nature article.
The great juggling act...Ask any long time dog breeder and they'll tell you, exploring the subject of dog breeding and looking at how to define 'best practices' that lead to production of healthy, functional dogs is getting more complicated by the day! A COMPLEX BALANCE: What are You Measuring? How do you define and verify successes or failures? Health status (current or long-term) is but one part of a breeder's evaluation of a dog's suitability for breeding. Assessing a dog's health and any other quality or characteristic goes hand-in-hand with the breeder's goals and reasons for breeding/keeping dogs. A breeder's evaluation of the dog's conformation/structure, breed type, temperament, personality, working ability and serviceability is combined with health considerations at the time of breeding and beyond. Juggling all the different 'balls' of whether a dog is to to be included or excluded from a breeding program, a pairing is likely to produce quality offspring or developing a workable breeding strategy for an entire breed is an extremely difficult task. Screening for hips, elbows, heart and eye examinations by veterinarians, expert evaluators, and a myriad of schemes developed to govern those types of non-dna evaluations have long been considered by health-conscious breeders as essential components of quality breeding programs. Enter the explosion of research on DNA and the dog genome - scientists are in the process of examining the genetic components of everything - health conditions and diseases, predispositions to manifest diseases, physical characteristics, longevity, genetic diversity, behaviours - in people, dogs and other species. DNA tests and direct to consumer sales of DNA tests has opened up a whole new world of 'evaluation tools' for dog breeders. Understanding genetic testing and applying results of tests to breeding decisions and management of individual dogs and breeds is clearly no simple matter. The science is relatively new - but its effects are already widespread - for the better in some cases - but challenges exist. For insights... Check out Finnish Kennel club Breeding Experts, Taina Nygård and Katariina Mäki's writeup, Gene tests for consumer advice