The DNA database, important for dog breeder and owner !!!

In the last years, the DNA research has undergone a tremendous development. Within the foreseeable future, DNA testing will be a solution to many hereditary problems, including in our dog. Storage of tissue samples (blood) in a so-called DNA database can play an important role in this.

What is DNA?

As with all living organisms, the body of dogs is also made up of cells. Almost every cell has a nucleus containing chromosomes, the carriers of hereditary properties. Chromosomes are elongated thin molecules called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

In the DNA the hereditary code of each individual is recorded. This code determines which external characteristics the animal has, for example to which species and to what breed it belongs, but also which hereditary diseases and deviations the animal carries. In reproduction, each of the parents passes half of this code to each offspring. Using special laboratory techniques it is possible to make part of the hereditary code visible and to compare it with that of family members. Because, with the exception of identical twins, no two animals are the same, each animal has its own unique “DNA profile”.

What is a DNA database?

A DNA database is a storage (an archive) in which tissue samples from individuals are stored. Usually these are blood samples, sometimes saliva or hair samples, from which the DNA can be released as soon as necessary. These samples are collected according to a fixed protocol. It is of the utmost importance that the correct identity of the animal is determined. The veterinarian must carefully check everything during the sampling.

After the samples have been submitted to the DNA database, they are divided into two halves and stored at two different locations. This will prevent all material from being lost in the event of fire or another form of force majeure. The stored samples are kept for at least twenty-five years.

The importance of a DNA database

A DNA database can be used for a number of applications.

1. DNA profiles

By determining (a part of) the unique hereditary code of the dog – the so-called DNA profile – the identity of the dog can be determined irrefutably. In contrast to a chip or tattoo that can get lost or become illegible, the DNA profile remains unchangeable and verifiable. Even if only a small piece of tissue of the animal is available, the profile and thus the identity of the dog can still be determined. This can play a role in certain disputes (loss, theft, etc.). The owner is then able to show that the animal in question is really his property. More and more owners, therefore, for the reason mentioned above, take a DNA profile of their dog at the same time as the tissue sample is collected for the DNA database.

Breeders use the DNA profiles for their puppy buyers, who receive copies of the DNA profiles of the parent animals so that they can have the correctness of the pedigree of their puppy checked if they wish. This makes these breeders visible that they want to work completely reliably and controllably. This gives an extra piece of trust to the buyer.

Sometimes a lot of money is spent on the purchase of a dog from parents with special qualities or for a dog with an important pedigree. The buyer wants to have a guarantee in advance that he also gets the dog with the descent that was promised to him. A DNA profile can offer him that certainty.

2. Pedigree check

For breeding and selection policy, it is very important that breeders and breed clubs have reliable pedigree files. Pedigree data is used after all when deciding whether or not to breed with a particular dog. With the help of the DNA stored in the database, in case of doubt, the pedigree of the dog can be checked quickly and easily. The DNA is then compared with that of the parents and other relatives. This is especially important if there is selection against hereditary defects. If the pedigree is not correct, it can lead to serious damage, both for the selection programs that the breeders use and for the owners who wrongly use their breeding animals for breeding purposes.

3. Development and validation of new DNA tests

More and more DNA tests will become available in the future. These tests can be used to check whether your dog is free of a hereditary defect, whether he is a carrier (a carrier) or a sufferer. It is now the case that, as soon as a new DNA test for a hereditary defect is available somewhere in the world, it must first be extensively tested. In order to obtain sufficient DNA samples for this validation, the breeders and owners of eligible dogs (sufferers of the deviation and their family members) often have to be called upon. Because the samples usually have to be collected especially for this one purpose, it takes a lot of time and money. If these samples are available from a DNA database, this can be done much faster and much cheaper.

4. Practice screening for hereditary defects

After it has turned out that a new DNA test has proved suitable for use in a particular breed, the question is how this test should be fitted into the breeding and selection policy. For breeders it is very important to know as soon as possible what the hereditary status is of their dogs. They want to know if their breeding animal is or is not a carrier of the deviation. When tissue samples from the breeding animals are stored in the DNA database, this can be determined very quickly, without this entailing additional efforts and costs for sampling (blood collection). In this way the benefits of the new DNA test will benefit breeding as soon as possible. In addition, breeders are given the opportunity to check, even long after the relevant animals have died, whether their breeding animals were or were not carriers or sufferers for this deviation. In a number of cases this is important information for further choices in breeding.