Heritable Diseases

Heritability is a term associated with breeding and is an indication of the likelihood that a particular characteristic will be passed from one generation to the next. Individual differences are important, it makes us who we are, but why do we consider heritability in regards to animal breeding?

In animals (and people), genetics can influence the chance of developing some diseases. Selective breeding in animals can influence the chance of certain characteristics being present, and over time this can change the population as a whole. This is how breeds of dogs can look very different to those seen historically. Heritability can influence both positive and negative characteristics of a breed.

Some characteristics are more influenced by genetics than others, and these have a higher heritability value. These characteristics, if associated with disease, are easier to improve, and can eventually reduce the severity of the disease across a breed. Common genetic diseases affecting dogs are hip dysplasia, allergic skin disease, brachycephalic obstructive airway disease (breathing), and mitral valve disease (heart). Treatment for such genetic diseases can be expensive, and affect the quality of your dogs’ life.

So how can I reduce the chance of my new puppy getting a genetic disease? Once your puppy is born there is nothing you can do to change its genetics, although there are treatments for some diseases. However, selecting a puppy with parents who have had good results in various genetic tests, will greatly improve your chances of a healthier dog. Recommended genetic tests depends on the breed of dog. If you have individual questions regarding genetic testing feel free to contact Levin and Horowhenua Vets.