Why was Optimal Selection developed?
Many breeders are working extremely hard to make the best decisions they can for their breeding program but it is no secret that they are still having difficulty navigating through all of the health concerns that have arisen. Their goal is to produce healthy puppies with all their desired physical and behavioral traits, but it is becoming harder and harder to identify appropriate mates. Mars Veterinary understands these concerns and also has a lot of genetic knowledge for many of the breeds. This knowledge can be leveraged to better understand the genetics of each individual dog and how those genetics relate to other dogs in the breed for breeding purposes.
How was Optimal Selection developed?
Mars Veterinary has invested a lot of time and effort understanding the genetic structure within and across different dog breeds. We then considered the possibility of examining the genetic structure within individual dogs and how that information can be utilized to identify advantageous breeding matches. To test this hypothesis we conducted a pilot study with the help of the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of America and have seen very positive results in terms of average litter numbers and health. The breeders have also been happy with the conformation of the puppies produced using Optimal Selection.
What breeds does Optimal Selection cover?
Optimal Selection currently covers the 150+ breeds below. In a few breeds we have found some very strong sub-groups based on subtypes (Labrador) or varieties (Dachshund and Poodle) and therefore have chosen to separate these sub-groups; for these breeds, please designate which sub-group your dog would most likely breed within.
**If your breed is not currently included in Optimal Selection, please contact us at email@example.com
and we would be happy to discuss the requirements for breed inclusion.
Where is Optimal Selection available?
Optimal Selection is currently available for purchase online at www.OptimalSelectionDNA.com
. It does require a small whole blood sample (2 mls) drawn by a veterinary professional. It is currently available in the United States and Canada.
Why does Optimal Selection require a blood sample rather than a cheek swab sample?
A whole blood sample is the gold-standard for obtaining a large quantity of high quality DNA. As breeders will be making very important decisions based on the data obtained using Optimal Selection, we wanted to ensure the highest quality genetic analysis possible for each and every dog.
Why is diversity important to me as a dog breeder?
Diversity within a breeding population has been shown to be important in terms of the health of that population with fewer individuals affected with recessive diseases in particular, improved fertility, and, as noted in some cases, improved performance. Thus, it is important to maximize genetic diversity in your breeding program for the health of your puppies and your breed. Regardless of how you like to select your breeding pairs, Optimal Selection can provide you with information on each potential match to include the diversity of the puppies in your final breeding decisions.
Is diversity always "Good"?
Breeders spend a lot of time and effort working to fix or preserve particular physical and behavioral traits in their dogs. Thus, they are concerned that increasing the diversity in their litters will move them away from these goals. Optimal Selection will not generally be selecting for or against any one particular trait. In fact, you should be able to preserve all of the traits you are selecting for by carefully choosing your potential matches. If all the dogs you are considering have for example the head structure, topline, and working drive that you want, Optimal Selection should not have an influence on these traits any more than you would have had by breeding to them prior to Optimal Selection. Instead, Optimal Selection is allowing you to examine the diversity of the mates outside of the areas that you have already selected them for. Overall, you should be able to retain those traits while improving the general diversity and health of your puppies.
What makes the dogs "genetically compatible"?
Optimal Selection is examining the haplotypes, or genetic patterns, across each of the 25 chromosomes examined in your dog. We can then compare those chromosomal haplotypes to each of the potential mates that you have selected and identify areas of haplotype overlap.
Haplotype overlap occurs when both potential parents carry one or more of the same haplotypes on a chromosome and thus could produce puppies that have two copies of the same haplotype. We generally want to avoid this haplotype overlap in the puppies as it may lead to decreased diversity in the puppy and could have health effects as well.
What is a haplotype?
A haplotype is a distinct pattern of genetic markers on a specific chromosome. A genetic change at any one of the markers will create a new haplotype. For example, you have a set of four markers across a chromosome. If we used colors to represent the different possible variants available at each marker, we may find one haplotype represented as blue-white-red-green. Now if a mutation occurs at the first marker altering it from blue to purple, we will now see a slightly different second haplotype: purple-white-red-green to represent that change in the DNA.
What does a rare haplotype mean and why are they important?
When a haplotype is less common, or rare, in a breed, there are very few dogs that carry that haplotype and thus can past it on to future generations. If these haplotypes are not passed down, the underlying genetic material can be lost from the population forever and further limiting the diversity in the breed. It is much easier to maintain diversity than to create it within a breed. Thus, once a haplotype is lost, it can be extremely difficult and could take many generations to acquire a new haplotype in that region by natural mutation(s) and regain the level of diversity you had previously.
How does Optimal Selection compare to the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI)?
A Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) is a measure of the relatedness of the ancestors for the offspring in a littler. While a COI can be a useful tool, it is a relatively rough measure of genetic relatedness and has some limitations to keep in mind. A COI will be an average genetic relatedness for the entire litter, will vary depending on the number of generations considered and does not account for the relatedness of the dogs in the most distant generation included in the analysis.Additionally, within a litter, the puppies can vary widely in terms of the specific chromosomal haplotypes that each inherited from their parents. A tool like Optimal Selection which can evaluate each dog at the genetic level would give you significantly more information than an inbreeding coefficient alone.
I am selecting for certain traits in my dogs, will using Optimal Selection make those traits go away because of the increase in diversity in the puppies?
No. Since each breeder is selecting the specific dogs they would consider mating with based on all of their own personal selection criteria, they are still able to control those traits like they did before using Optimal Selection. Optimal Selection will give additional genetic information beyond what you can "see" by looking at the dog and the pedigree and allow breeders to maximize diversity in the areas of the genome that they are not selecting for.
How do I know which haplotypes are good or bad on the specific chromosome if they are common in the breed (or not)?
The haplotypes identified in each breed have not been associated with any specific trait or disease. However, as breeders develop haplotype data across large groups of dogs, they may be able to see trends where one or two particular haplotypes on a chromosome may be associated with a particular trait or disease and thus could be monitored moving forward. Initially, it would be recommended to strive to maintain as many haplotypes in the breed as possible and for limited haplotype overlap (haplotype homozygosity) until specific trait-associated haplotypes are identified and thus can be targeted for inclusion (good traits) or exclusion (bad traits).
Are the chromosomal haplotypes always measuring a recessive trait?
No. However, many diseases are likely to be recessively inherited (two copies of the allele required to be affected) due to the structure of dog breeds since most are based on closed population with close family lines and the mutations can be hidden and passed on by carrier animals. Thus, limiting haplotype overlap in the puppies may continue to keep a recessive trait hidden in the population, but it will limit the number of affected offspring produced. Once the mutation has been identified, then the dogs can be tested and more targeted breeding recommendations can be made.
Limiting haplotype overlap will not alter the inheritance of dominant traits where only one copy of the allele is required to express the trait. Breeders should continue to assess the dogs for dominant traits as you do presently.
Many traits and diseases are the result of a number of genes working together; examples of polygenic diseases would be hip dysplasia and atopy (allergies). These diseases are also influenced by the dog’s environment (e.g. excess weight, diet, and local allergens). Genetic studies are on-going to identify the genetic causes of these polygenic traits and how breeders can avoid them. While the research is continuing, it is again recommended that breeders continue to assess the dogs in their breeding programs for these conditions as you do presently.
What is an acceptable range of breeding scores for a specific breed?
The overall breeding score sums up this risk of haplotype overlap for all of the chromosomes and ranges between 0 and 25. Higher overall breeding scores suggest greater risk of puppies inheriting two copies of the same haplotype on the same chromosome. The degree of acceptable overlap will depend on the breed and how each breeder has set-up their breeding program. The overall goal is to select breedings with lower breeding scores to limit the risk of overlap in the individual puppies and encourage keeping a wider variety of chromosomal haplotypes generally available in the breed. As each breeder uses Optimal Selection, they will likely find what range of breeding scores they are most comfortable with.
What diseases and traits have been identified on the chromosomes analyzed by Optimal Selection?
What are the results of the Optimal Selection study in the pilot breed?
To prove the effectiveness of Optimal Selection, Mars Veterinary has spent over two years conducting a pilot study with the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of America. The Dandie breeders are extremely dedicated to preserving this wonderful breed and have been very helpful in the course of this study. We first performed an extensive analysis of the breed’s chromosomal haplotypes to better understand their current genetic state and found that there are chromosomes with a large degree of heterozygosity and others that have lower diversity which may be related to traits that breeders have "fixed" in the breed as they are the features that are breed-defining such as coat texture and leg length. To date, nearly the entire Dandie breeding population in the US has been included with over 200 dogs entered in the study. Using the data from these samples, breeders can perform Optimal Selection virtual matings for the dogs that they were considering to help determine final mate selection. Dandie breeders have been using this tool with great success to date and they have increased their average number of puppies produced in Optimal Selection litters to over 4.0 compared to the breed average of 2.75 puppies per litter. These Dandies puppies all appear sound and some are doing very well competitively. Many additional litters are in progress and all the litters are being followed to collect data on soundness, temperament, health, competition, and reproduction over the course of their lives.
Preliminary results of this pilot study have been presented at the 5th international conference on "Advances in Canine and Feline Genomics and Inherited Diseases" in Baltimore, Maryland in September, 2010 and will be presented at the 5th annual Tufts’ Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference in Boston in September, 2011. It has also been featured in the May, 2011 issue of the AKC Gazette. A manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal is in preparation.
What is the purpose for having to provide a Sample ID code for a specific dog in order to obtain a match?
Each dog’s genetic data is assigned a unique Sample ID code in the Mars Veterinary system. This code is used to track the sample through the laboratory using barcode scanners to prevent sample mix-ups. It is also used so that the owner can retrieve their dog’s report(s) on the Optimal Selection website.
If you are interested in breeding your dog with one of two other dogs, you need to ask each of those breeders if their dogs have been analyzed with Optimal Selection and what their Sample ID codes are. These codes can then be entered in conjunction with your dog’s Sample ID code to request match reports at www.Optimal SelectionDNA.com. Each match will be analyzed separately. The owners of both dogs included in each match will receive notification when a match request has been submitted and when the match report is completed.
Is the Individual Report part of the Match Report?
No. The Individual Report and the Match Report are two separate pdf documents. The data included in the Individual Report for each dog is considered confidential and is only provided to the owner of that dog, however, they may chose to share that information with other breeders. The Match Report will only show the combined analysis of both dogs for the predicted litter. If multiple match reports are requested at the same time, separate reports will be created for each match and shared only with the owners of both dogs involved in each match.
Why does Optimal Selection only examine 25 of the 38 autosomal, or non-sex, chromosomes in the dog?
The Optimal Selection genetic analysis uses a set of markers that currently cover 25 chromosomes which provides very good global coverage of the genome at a reasonable cost. Research is on-going and as the cost of technology improves, Optimal Selection will expand to include all 38 autosomes.
Does the blood sample need to be refrigerated?
Not if the sample is mailed immediately as DNA is very hardy and can survive the shipping process without issue. If a sample needs to be stored for several days before mailing, it should be refrigerated.