Genetic Testing

We feel that genetic testing is very important for any breeding program to ensure that the breed is free of diseases and unwanted behaviour coat colour or anything else that can be tested genetically. This is a massive advantage of modern world that we believe that should be taken advantage of.

All our dogs are tested for genetic diseases that might affect the breed.

It is important to ensure that we do not intentionally breed two dogs that carry the gene or not use affected dogs in our breeding program either.

Below you can see how the inheritance works. Usually when the dog is a carrier of the disease it is not an issue as long as the dog we pair it with is clear.

The diseases we test our dogs are:

SDCA1 and SDCA2 – Spongy Degeneration with Cerebellar Ataxia is an inherited disease affecting the Belgian Shepherd breed. It is a severe neurodegenerative disease with monogenic autosomal recessive inheritance. The disease is characterised by rapidly progressing ataxia starting around the age of 5-8 weeks. Puppies are usually euthanised by the age of 8-12 weeks.

CJM – Cardiomyopathy and juvenile mortality is an inherited disease affecting the Belgian Shepherd breed. Affected puppies die at birth or at a maximum age of 6-8 weeks. In the latter case, puppies initially develop normally but then show unspecific symptoms like vomiting, uncoordinated movements, trembling or respiratory symptoms and die a few days after the first clinical signs, usually due to heart failure. The genetic analysis of CJM enables the selective mating of breeding dogs. Due to the autosomal recessive trait of inheritance, two copies of the mutation are required to cause the disease, and therefore dogs tested as carriers should not be removed from breeding but should only be bred with clear dogs to avoid having affected puppies.

CACA – Neurological disease called CNS atrophy and cerebellar ataxia in the breed Belgian Shepherd. Affected puppies show uncoordinated movements, intention tremor, short episodes of spastic fits, general elevated muscle tone and a reduced swallowing reflex. Moreover, affected puppies show less body weight increase as their unaffected littermates. First signs could be observed at the age of about 2 weeks. However, the severity of the signs are highly variable. Many affected puppies have to be euthanized a few weeks after the first signs whereas an affected dog with less intense symptoms has been reported to become up to 10 years old.

BP – new test – Adverse behaviours such as seizure, “glazing over”, episodic biting, and general loss of clarity, has been reported in the Belgian Malinois and attributed to certain genetic variants in the dopamine transporter gene.

The test detects certain genetic variants in the SLC6A3 gene which are known to be associated with behavioural issues in the Belgian Malinois. These polymorphisms have further been associated with increased aversive treatment of dogs by handlers, and increased stress in dogs in response to handlers. The association between these polymorphism(s) and behaviour/seizure has only been confirmed in the Belgian Malinois. Due to the complex nature of behaviour, it is possible that environmental factors such as stress may contribute to the expression of adverse owner-reported behaviours.

A mutation in the (SLC6A3) gene has been found to be more likely present in dogs which show this unpredictable aggression. Three possible variants of the gene have been identified: The A0 and A10 alleles are not associated with adverse behaviour, while the allele A22 is associated with undesirable aggression. Dogs that are heterozygous for A22 (A0/A22 or A10/A22) are reported to show behaviour considered by some owners to be adverse and/or potentially undesirable. However, dogs with the most extreme behaviour are more likely to have the homozygous genotype A22/A22.

Please note that behaviour is associated with many other factors that could influence or trigger aggressive behaviour (e.g. painful diseases, persistent environmental stress or inappropriate educational methods) besides to this genetic variant. Moreover, this test only provides information about a single genetic predisposition of the dog. This result does not allow any presumption about the actually trainability or communicative behaviour of the dog.

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