The new MyDogDNA genome-wide testing program is a major step forward in making comprehensive health screening an affordable reality for dog breeders

Prior to now there was one major obstacle to widespread disease testing for dogs: cost. It is very expensive to have your breeding stock tested for genetic diseases one test at a time.

Many tests require blood draws which must be taken by a Veterinarian requiring an office visit and specialized collection tubes which are expensive to ship given how quickly they perish. Some laboratories do not provide collection kits at all requiring breeders to buy materials in inefficient quantities from medical supply companies or through their Vet which increases the cost of the visit. You're also left to figure out how to ship the samples safely which can entail special packaging, cooling packs, and official paperwork specific to the country of origin and destination.

Multiple tests either compound this cost with repeat trips to the Vet and shipping samples off the multiple labs across the globe or are taxing on the dog if you try and get them all done at once. When you're testing puppies, you have to wait until they're old enough to safely provide a blood sample. Very few labs offer many tests per breed so taking advantage of multiple-test discounts can be tricky.

The MyDogDNA Pass provided by Genoscoper Laboratories tackles these problems. They provide the buccal brush sampling kit which can be used by anyone in their own home, no needles and no blood. If you elect for certified results you can have a Veterinarian perform the sample collection, but this step is optional for breeders who just want the information. For breeders who are interested in publishing their results through Breed Clubs and Registries where fraud might be a concern, Genoscoper will certify that the results match the dog in question when samples are collected by a licensed Veterinarian and matched to a microchip number to verify the dog's identity. The buccale brushes are easy to use and are shipped back to Genoscoper Laboratories in the same package they arrived in at no additional cost or hassle.

There's another reason that single gene tests are expensive: no economies of scale. Most existing are marketed only to one breed and breeders select tests based upon the probability that they'll get a negative result, testing only for diseases that are known in their breed. This limits the market for individual tests and drives up costs. It also makes it simply too expensive for breeders to test for diseases that are not currently known to exist in their breed or are thought too rare to be worth the cost of testing. But as more dogs are tested we're finding out that several diseases that were previously known in only one breed are present in several breeds and some rare diseases are actually carried by many more dogs that previously believed.

Just as advancements in genetic science are allowing physicians to make customized treatment plans for their human patients, Genoscoper's Head of Research and Development, Dr. Jonas Donner, explains how genetic testing is allowing veterinarians to tailor their services to animals through awareness of drug sensivity and drug sensitivity and disease risk information garnered from DNA tests.

Because Genoscoper tests every dog for every disease in their extensive list, their streamlined process allows them to test for over one hundred diseases for a cost that is competitive with two or three traditional tests.

For example, MyDogDNA Pass includes a test for Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS), a disease which is known to exist within my breed, Border Collies. Only a few years ago there was no DNA test for this disease at all and little recognition that it was even an inherited condition: breeders might share with each other news that some of their puppies failed to thrive or faded in health. Because the disease prevents immune function, affected puppies die of bacterial or viral infections normal puppies would easily defend against, and often do so before they're old enough to go to their new homes. Instead of recognizing this as an inherited condition, fading puppies were most often thought of as runts who didn't make it, victims of Parvo or another infection that struck before vaccines kicked in, or having an undiagnosed birth defect.

The cost of testing for TNS is $88 AUD for blood samples or $100 AUD for swabs. Although it's less expensive to test blood, EDTA tubes sent overseas to Australia (where the test was first developed) require courier service which incurs an import fee from customs ranging between $37-76 AUD and adds extensive delays. That lab offers an add-on test for Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL) for an additional $55 AUD. Thus it can cost a breeder $231 AUD plus shipping plus Vet fees for just two tests.

Recently an American lab has licensed the tests for TNS and NCL, but they don't provide test kits or shipping and blood draws require an office visit with a Veterinarian (Mine charges $53 USD for a visit and an additional $10 USD for a blood draw). The lab costs for TNS is $95 USD and the cost for NCL testing is also $95 USD. If you have both tests done at the same time for the same dog, the combined lab cost is $152 USD. Add in the vet visit and the shipping and your costs are well over $200 USD.

For 199 EUR ($280 AUD or $265 USD) and no additional shipping or Vet fees, a breeder can have their dog tested through Genoscoper which includes both TNS and several forms of NCL testing and have access to a hundred additional tests for diseases, genetic diversity compared with their breed and with all breeds, and conformation phenotypes. They also have discounts if you order through your breed club.

A year ago, when considering another round of a la carte disease testing for a potential dog to add to my breeding program, I wrote: "My personal hope is not for a few more single-gene DNA tests, but for a cheap DNA profiling for dogs similar to what is currently available for humans. One test, a near complete gene sequencing that can be used to look at all currently known disease markers."

Genoscoper's MyDogDNA Pass is the most robust answer to my query to date.