Have you considered genetic testing? - Veterinary Practice
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Have you considered genetic testing?

wonders why, with genetic testing no longer a niche activity, so few practices have taken up the DNA challenge…

WHEN was the last time you and
your team looked at the benefits that
genetic testing could offer to your
canine clients? If the answer is
never, then the question is, why not?

After the findings of the Bateson
report into breeding there is no time
like the present to revise your
knowledge of the hundreds of breed-
specific tests for inherited

Providing advance
notice of typically late
onset diseases such as
degenerative myelopathy,
which affects around 40 different
breeds, fulfils a number of crucial roles
in animal welfare, breed health and
owner education, while offering
practices a way to increase knowledge
and revenue.

Breeders are simply people who
want to breed from their dog after all
and while it may be hard to find out
that a dog is affected or perhaps a
carrier – meaning a 50% chance that
the condition will appear in a litter – it
indicates a clear path on healthcare
options and should be taken as an
opportunity to bond that owner to the practice.

Nurses to fore

There is a paucity of regular genetic
testing offered in UK practices. The
Kennel Club has only two in-practice
clinics on its records: Orchard
Veterinary Group in Somerset and Lakeview Veterinary Centre in Kent.
Both are run by nurses who are
breeders and passionate about breed

Michelle Chitty of Lakeview says
that beside regulation eye, hip and heart
schemes, DNA testing has been a
feature there for years. “I think most
vets price themselves out of it,” she
says. “We can’t believe the cost that
some practices charge for one single
test. We keep prices low so they are

Laboratories offering DNA tests
include OptiGen, Laboklin, VetGen and Idexx and Bill Lambert, Kennel Club
health and breeder services manager,
says “Laboratories work on volumes
and this is where vets can help because
if they can get more people doing it
they will receive discounts and pass
those on to pet owners. It is a win-win
situation really – more business for the
practice, cost savings for breeders and
more healthy puppies.”

Alongside commercial laboratories,
the Animal Health Trust (AHT) offers
around 30 well-known tests, working
with breed groups to identify breed-
specific conditions. Cathryn Mellersh of
the trust’s canine genetics research
group throws her weight behind
practice clinics. “There is an
attraction there because
the vet does the
paperwork,” she says.
“Anything that makes it
easier for an owner to
have the dog DNA tested
is better.”

Breed clubs have
bombarded the AHT with
information on possible
inherited conditions and
there appears to be real
appetite for genetic information.
Independent DNA testing websites, like
best-of-breeds.com are springing up to
help non-commercial dog breeders and
owners determine the genetic health of
their dogs.

Alongside this is the Kennel Club’s
Mate Select website offering health test
information and in-breeding co-
efficients. Electronic copies of a guide
to registered breeds and the common
diseases they are predisposed to are also
available on request.

Room for involvement

Talk of a Kennel Club “genetic health
week” has been floated, with a major
practice-led initiative, but details
promised since June 2012 remain fuzzy
with a post-Crufts statement all that it
can offer at this point in time.

A natural space now exists for
practice involvement, perhaps fitting in
around well-known BVA and Kennel
Club hip and elbow dysplasia schemes
or as part of a routine health check. It
simply involves taking a cheek swab or
blood sample at the same time for
DNA testing.

Setting up clinics is as expensive and
intimidating as creating a wall display in the waiting room to advertise to clients,
mailing service details out with booster
reminders or posting information to the
practice Facebook page and website.

Corresponding with local breed
societies about DNA testing can only
strengthen a practice’s standing and
would be a genuine novelty considering
the local absence of such clinics at

Start talking…

Dedicate nursing resource to your clinic
and start talking to the laboratories
offering DNA tests to arrange discounts
for volume. Client education may be the
slowest part of the process but increasing your
service range is a
valuable way of
increasing interest in
the practice, footfall
and sales of other
preventive treatments.

We are entering a
new era in animal
genetic healthcare. It
is already used
comprehensively in
large animal selection and the day when entire canine DNA
profiles are available cheaply and quickly
is not too far away. An increasing
number of feline tests are being
introduced and a mongrel DNA test
was unveiled two years ago.

Practices should also consider
registering with a scheme like the RVC’s
VetCompass, endorsed by The Kennel
Club, to provide better data on the
national incidence of conditions
affecting dogs in general and particular

Electronic patient record data hold
the key to its success and interested
parties can, in combination with the
right practice management software,
make use of specially developed
diagnostic codes to upload disease data
to the college.

In return practices get access to
health trends, disease reports,
vaccination reactions and perks like
CPD. Digging into canine DNA
through testing clinics offers the
promise of greater engagement with
clients and other professional

Right now it is not a question of
“why” you should investigate genetic
testing, but “when”.

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