PRIORITIZING GENE SELECTION Dale Malony: You said a few times while we’ve been talking here about what to select for, and in your book you’ve talked about priorities. How would you emphasize priorities and what a breeder should select for? Dr. Padgett: I would emphasize it very highly. Dale Malony: How would you pick which traits are going to be a higher priority than others? Say you’ve got 10 things that you think your dog might pass… Dr. Padgett: The highest priority to me is pain to the dog. What are we doing to the dog? Right? I would select against those first. The next priority of interest is what does it cost? What does the trait cost? Because you’re going to sell the dog, and the person that you sell it to is going to have to pay the price. So for me that’s second. Third would be a trait that appears in a puppy under sale age, which is 6 to 8 weeks. A trait that occurs before the puppy is placed as a pet is better than a trait that occurs after that. That’s my opinion, because you’re not going to sell that dog, and you can handle that. So those are the principle criteria. There are subcategories that you can go into, but it’s really the things that affect the dog and affect you personally. And then the people that buy from you. How does it affect them? We are not going to feel exactly the same about every disease. Some people really hate seizures because they look so scary. They sort of seem magic, you know, the dog will be healthy and then all of a sudden he’s got an epileptic seizure, on the floor, defecating, urinating, shaking…that’s scary. So a lot of how you select is how the disease affects you, personally. How it affects your clients-the people that buy from you and how it affects your dog. So traits that are easily correctable: umbilical hernias, crooked tails, intropion, and ectropion. Those traits, even though they’re genetic, are a very low priority in my opinion because I can correct them permanently. You can’t even tell most of the time. Dale Malony: Say we as a breed wanted to try to target certain diseases based on priorities that we make according to those criteria you just described. There could be several methods of doing that. Maybe Joanne sets her own priorities, and then after she made some progress she could cross with other dogs, helping other lines or maybe the whole breed? Dr. Padgett: Absolutely. That’s why you want to keep track of your dogs. They’ll go across. The more important question is how do the phenotypes match? Remember, every time you breed a dog you get a whole dog. So you can’t just breed eyes, and you can’t just breed lips, because you get a whole dog. You have to breed a whole dog at a time, and so she might have a dog that would protect the hips in your dog, but if the phenotypes don’t match, you’ll be going backwards. You will not produce what you want. You won’t be producing a winner. And no matter how we look at them, dogs are purpose bred. We want dogs to do something for us. To win in a show ring, to be good herders, to be good pets, to be good guard dogs, whatever they are, we have a purpose for that animal. If that animal doesn’t fulfill our purpose, and each one of your purposes may be different than the other one. If it doesn’t fulfill your purpose, you don’t really want that dog. So our goal is always to produce something that we recognize as useful, good, and desirable to us. And if you do that, then you’re producing a whole dog, all the time. Dale Malony: You mentioned the Bernese Mountain Dogs, and that the breed as a whole targeted Hip Dysplasia. I think there was another disease that they decided they were going to invest the money in and as a breed they were able to make significant inroads because they worked together …against that as a high priority. How much would that approach accelerate progress? Dr. Padgett: In the inherited cancers they’ve made good progress and the frequency of malignant histiocytosis is dropped in that breed by the process that they’re following. Any cancers belong on the undesirable category. Well, that’s not true of Fibromas, but most cancers belong in the undesirable category because they’re going to cost you a lot of money and you’re going to have to euthanise your dog. You’re either going to spend a lot of money or put them down, and those are our alternatives for most of them, and that makes them undesirable. There are cancers that you can still cure. We deal with them the same way that we do in people - we take it out. And if you get it in time, before it metastasizes, most often you’ve cured the dog. Melanoma’s we can cure, generally because they’re on the skin. You can see them, you watch them grow, you get them cut off, and generally speaking you’re all right if you get them before they metastasize. You’re in an area that’s really undesirable and it’s half genetic - maybe half or more non-genetic. So part of it you could deal with in your breeding program, but the other part you can’t, because how you breed doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter for fibro sarcoma - we know that. We know that it doesn’t matter for lympho-sarcoma. What we mostly do in dogs is to transfer data from one breed to the next. Whether that’s always accurate or not is debatable.
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