Part I – Where to Test (AKA the Lab)

Not all labs are alike.   Until we have universal standards, you as the breeder need to rely on someone you trust to tell you what testing agency might be right for your breed of dog.  Consider the following:

  1. You are getting ready to breed Lassie and feel you want to do the right thing, and get her heath tested. There are so many advertisements, why not just go with the cheapest?  Does it really matter?   Yes, it does, a lot more than you think.
  2. There are many good labs out there but since genetic health testing is a new frontier, there are a lot of bad labs out there too. How do you know which labs are good and which are bad?  That’s the hard part.  It takes research and asking a lot of questions.  Are the labs affiliated with universities, the best?  Sometimes, yes, they are, but they are not always the best fit for what you need.
  3. Does your breed have a health foundation that might have done this research for you? In your case the answer is yes.  Please read the article on page???, “Why Wisdom Health”.  Do you have to use Wisdom Health?  Of course not, it’s a free world.
  4. Make sure the lab you do use is a part of the International Partnership for Dogs, a group of labs that strive for harmonization in all genetic testing. They should also be accepted by OFA.  This does not mean OFA endorses all of these labs, only that they will accept their results in OFA’s data base.

Part II – What to Test For & Why

  1. Panel testing has given breeders a new cheaper way to access many more genetic test results than was possible even 5 years ago. Genetic testing 10 years ago was very expensive because it was very labor intensive for each lab.  Some tests, like the Dermatomyositis Risk Assessment test, are still labor intensive.  If we look at the Optimal Selection™ panel from Wisdom Health test you receive results for these genetic health tests:
    Multi Drug Resistance 1 (MDR1) / Cyclic Neutropenia (CN) / Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) / Collie Eye Anomaly CEA  )/
    and these genetic traits:
    Coat Length / Coat Colors & Markings / Genetic Diversity /

    1. MDR1 – It’s important for you and your puppy buyer to know the drug sensitivity your Collie has and can produce. MDR1 sensitivity just might be an issue in other diseases seen frequently in Collies that are mutant/mutant.  If your Collie ever needs special treatments and they are mutant/mutant or mutant/normal, it may mean life or death for them.  Shouldn’t we as breeders try to breed healthier Collies including lowering the percentage of collies that are affected with MDR1?
    2. Cyclic Neutropenia aka Gray Collie – This test helps us eliminate having lethal gray puppies.
    3. Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) – While this test may not be perfected yet for the Collie, I think it’s important to use it as part of our breeder’s toolbox. While not specifically tested for Collies, knowing your dog’s DM status at least hedges your bets for the future.  This is a horrible debilitating disease in older dogs.  By knowing who carriers are and not breeding them to other carriers, it will continue to keep the amount of DM cases we see low.
    4. Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) *– This disease still affects a very large portion of the Collie breed. The good news is many dogs are only mildly affected and have no vision issues.  There is other good news around the corner on the research front on the more severe afflictions, like colobomas and detached retinas.
    5. Coat Color and Length – Once just a test for those who had a real need to know, or a lot of money, this test is part of a panel test that gives us an insight to whether our Smooth bitch is Rough factored or whether one of the puppies is a Harlequin and carries the piebald marking. This is all helpful information when choosing potential mates.
    6. Genetic Diversity – Is this something breeders should care about. Absolutely!  Most of you know how closely related American Collies are.  Through the Optimal Selection™ Panel Test you now have an array of tools that will help you find your special breeding, but maybe help preserve the Collie breed too.
    7. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (Rcd2-PRA)* – Once a disease that brought many breeders to a sober moment because we did not have a genetic test. Of all the genetic diseases this brought fear to most of us.  I think this disease pushed the CCA leadership to become some of the founding fathers to create what is today is the Collie Health Foundation.  To clear a stud dog, dam, or a line of Collies, “test breeding” started and ended with heartbreak.  This simple recessive test is one of the gems in your arsenal and never take this one for granted!
    8. DMS Risk Assessment* – This is a risk assessment test and can help you determine choices of breeding partners just like all the other tests listed above. This is a disease that can lead to both skin and muscle involvement and in the worst cases, euthanasia is the best and kindest solution.  The development of this test has given Collie breeders the opportunity to not “throw out the baby with the bath water” for the first time.  We think there maybe environmental triggers, but these could be different in every Collie.  While DMS is still a guessing game, the odds have come closer to the breeder’s favor.
    9. Hips & Elbows, OFA and/or PennHIP* –in some breeds, checking all breeding stock for hip and elbow dysplasia is like taking Collies puppies in for their first eye checks. The bone structure of your dog will be a big part of how healthy and happy your dog lives his life.  Many breeds of dogs are required to be certified before they can be bred.  In the past, we were fortunate that Collies had a low penetrance or occurrences of hip dysplasia.  Breeders became complacent and like many health issues that crop up when we least expect it, so did hip dysplasia.  The inheritance of Hip Dysplasia is still not completely known, and studies continue.
  2. In the past, running these tests individually would have cost a fortune. While genetic health testing is still very expensive, in the long run it saves you thousands of dollars by breeding healthier and longer-lived puppies.
  3. As you learn more about all these health issues, you will be able to steer away from some, but others may come back out of the blue to bite you. Just ask me.  The important part is that you now have additional tools other than, pedigrees, flat skulls, great side gait, etc. to enhance your breeding program.

Part III – How to Educate Yourself

  1. Please take the time to go to: https://www.colliehealth.org/test-your-collie/health-videos/ .Take some time and watch these videos. You will learn something, I promise!
  2. Look at other articles on our website, some are older, but still worth reading, and read all the information you can get your hands on.
  3. Knowledge is power!

In the next series, I will talk a little bit about how you can use health testing to diversify your family of Collies.  I will go over some of the important research projects the Collie Health Foundation is part of and may need your help on.

I would like to answer some of your questions.  Please send your questions to Gail Currie at currierg51@yahoo.com.  She will sort them for me and I will answer, or find answers for as many as I can as part of Collie Health Testing 301.

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