Give A Dog A Genome is a brand new initiative from the Animal Health Trust (AHT) to improve dog health. The AHT aim to sequence the entire genomes (all 2.4 billion letters of DNA) of at least 50 different dog breeds. The information will have profound effects on the ability to identify mutations which cause inherited diseases in purebred dogs, and the rate at which new DNA tests can be developed as tools for breeders. It costs around £2,000 to sequence the entire genome of an individual dog, and the AHT is fortunate enough to have received £50,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust (KCCT) for this purpose. The AHT invited all breeds to get involved in the project to collectively match the KCCT funding with £1,000 towards sequencing the genome of an individual dog of each breed. The breed clubs representing all 3 size Schnauzers, along with the GSHF, all agreed to put the ‘Schnauzer breed’ forward for genome sequencing.
At a seminar in February Cathryn Mellersh (CM) confirming that some 52 breeds had expressed a desire to take part and 26 had already presented the £1,000 for their breed. The AHT, in conjunction with breed clubs, will select a number of candidate dogs in a breed, with DNA collected via mouth swabs and one sample being chosen by the AHT for genome sequencing. This final selection is normally determined by the quality of the DNA sample, and the AHT are keen to make this as anonymous as possible. Ideally, candidate dog(s) should be ‘affected’ with a known hereditary condition but one for which the marker is unknown (thus a DNA test not yet available). Once the genome of all 50 selected dogs (breeds) has been sequenced, they will be used as comparisons in future research projects by the AHT, who will make the database available to other research bodies throughout the world. The process for a genome sequence takes approximately 1 week, so this project won’t be complete for at least a year or possibly longer. Continual feedback will be part of the project but CM (& AHT) urges caution in respect of the project being able, in itself, to identify a marker mutation for any particular condition.
CM confirmed that the joint KC/AHT initiative will be restricted to 50 ‘distinct’ breeds (one from the Dachshunds; Rough & Smooth Collie; Schnauzer family, etc.). If the other varieties or size wished to be sequenced then the total cost (£2,000 per dog) would have to be funded by that breed. The choice between Giant and Schnauzer (known by some as the ‘Standard’!) was discussed at the seminar. The Giant has a recognised hereditary condition (HC) without a DNA test: the Schnauzer has Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) and a DNA test exists, but no other ‘identified’ hereditary condition. Given the choice, for the current project, the AHT would prefer the DNA of an ‘HC-affected’ Giant, although would be equally keen to proceed with the Schnauzer if the breed could fund the whole cost of its GS.
All UK Giant clubs, backed by the Giant Schnauzer Health Fund, fully support this project and presented £1,000 to the AHT at Crufts on 12 March 2016 for genome sequencing of the Giant Schnauzer.
More information about the Give a Dog a Genome initiative can be found on the AHT website