In the last week or so I've heard a lot of anxiety about the new Genetic Diversity Test and the recently published research on Addison's and SA. Is the test "valid?" Is it a flash in the pan like some others have been? How can people be expected to use it when it's so complicated? Did we really learn anything new?
Sometimes when there are scientific advances there will be a few people who don't see the advances as positive, but rather as a kind of threat. It's true in many fields, about many ideas and inventions. All I can say about this for the Poodle Fancy is that there is nothing in this test that can hurt people, their poodles or their programs. No one has to use it. It is a tool designed to help.
Ten years ago there was a great deal of hostility toward using COIs as a breeding tool. Now they are widely used. This test is a much more accurate method of determining inbreeding and outcrossing than COI is. Consider the automobile vs. horse and buggy: they both work as modes of transportation, and they both have their pitfalls, but one just gets you places faster and makes life much easier.
People taking a wait-and-see position is perfectly legitimate. Standard Poodle breeders and fanciers have always been on the forefront of thinking about genetic diversity and can think for themselves. There's a reason we prefer such smart dogs. Skepticism is understandable and even welcome. Open discussion and reasoned debate are always positive.
The Standard Poodle Fancy has been waiting for years for more information on the inheritance of SA and Addison’s and here it finally is: funded research by the Poodle Club of America Foundation, done by a leading researcher who is also relatively conservative, AND it’s published in a highly respected peer reviewed journal. It's hard to have better credentials for new research.
All the legitimate, responsible breeders I know do everything they can to prevent lifelong diseases in the dogs they produce. They go to great lengths and expense to make perfect pairings and prove their dogs with health tests, titles or other criteria. This new tool can help breeders lower their risks for Addison's and SA, much as hip X-rays help lower risks for hip dysplasia.
I remember about 10 years ago, when I met an elderly breeder, close to age 90, who refused to test the hips of his line. "Why would I do that? My dogs have never had hip problems," he said. "Plus, doesn't everyone know that radiation is bad for you?!" There was no use arguing with him and he lived his whole life happily not testing the hips of the dogs he bred.
There will, likewise, certainly be those who will refuse to get a Genetic Diversity Profile done for their dogs, and they are absolutely within their rights to do so. They may even be so afraid of the change that they will advise against it. But think of it like hip X-rays; what you decide to do once you see what's there, once you have that information, that is entirely up to you. Its private and no one can share it without your permission. But you might really want to know.
So let me address some of the anxieties I’ve heard recently directly so you have correct information. I will do a few of these till all of the questions I get privately are addressed.
Question: Has the recent research actually found anything new?
Answer: Absolutely. The recent research proved, among other things:
that both Addison's and SA are in fact, categorically, indubitably genetic.
that both are so frequent in Standard Poodles due to significant historical inbreeding caused by a huge bottleneck.
that the major bottleneck predated Wycliffe and is based on ten dogs born from 1948 - 1953.
that while there is ample diversity in the breed, 70% of it is found in 30% of the dogs, while the majority, 70% of Standard Poodles, share only 30% of the diversity
that the minority 30% tends to be free of autoimmune disease
that SA affected Standard Poodles were significantly more inbred than healthy ones, indicating it likely has a recessive component to its mode of inheritance
that Addisonian dogs were as outbred as healthy dogs, indicating it is likely fixed in the main population of Standard Poodles
Question: Can Genetic Diversity Tests determine the quality of a dog?
Answer: No. Genetic Diversity Test results simply show which alleles a dog has at 33 different places on the DNA and which DLA haplotypes (a group of connected genes) a dog has at two different places. This information can tell certain things about a dog, but not quality.
Question: Don't Genetic Diversity Tests track genes that we know nothing about? Doesn't that mean we will be selecting for or against mystery traits? What if we are selecting against or for the wrong things?
Answer: The genes tracked by the test are not attached to any particular known trait. Many of them are the same ones used to establish parentage by the European FCI. These specific loci are chosen not for what the genes control, but rather as identifiers only. By selecting for certain ratios of rare alleles or common alleles, breeders are not selecting for any specific set of genes, but rather selecting for how unusual a dog is overall compared to the population or how common a dog is. This is the same general principle behind the IR calculation. There has been no recommendation to select for or against any specific alleles.
Questions? Comments? Please email them. More to come!!