Genetics 101 for Dog Breeders

Speaker: Dr. Danika Bannasch, DVM, PhD University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine

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During the last 10 years, major advances have been made in the understanding of the molecular basis for inherited diseases in dogs. These advances, in the form of DNA-based tests for breeding animals have changed the way breeders make breeding decisions. With the advent of genetic testing for dogs it is important to have a good understanding of the basics of genetics to make sound breeding decisions with the tools that are available today. 

During her talk the basics of canine genetics were covered in these areas:

  • the different modes of inheritance, or how genetic traits and diseases are transmitted from one generation to the next
  • the exceptions to the basic modes of inheritance
  • definitions for genetics terms that are relevant to genetic testing that is currently available for dogs
  • alternative breeding strategies based on the severity of the disease and how common it is in the breed

Genetic material is organized into strands of DNA called chromosomes. Dogs have 38 pairs and 2 sex chromosomes. The sequence of the order of the DNA bases will code for proteins that provide all the tools that cells and tissues need to perform their functions. One of each pair of chromosomes is inherited from the sire and the dam.

Learn More about Genetics

Dr. Bannasch earned her DVM degree from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and her PhD in mouse molecular genetics at Princeton University. She is currently a Professor in the Department of Population Health and Reproduction in the School of Veterinary Medicine and is the first faculty member to hold the prestigious Maxine Adler Endowed Chair in Genetics.

An accomplished veterinary geneticist, Dr. Bannasch focuses her research on the identification of the molecular causes of inherited diseases in dogs and horses. Her laboratory has identified the DNA changes responsible for multiple inherited conditions in both species. Important research findings have also led to animal models used for similar human diseases. By studying naturally occurring diseases in animals, the Bannasch Laboratory is discovering a triad of significant advances: the development of diagnostic tests to aid animal breeders; the identification of novel genes and pathways as candidates for human disease; and an understanding of basic molecular mechanisms of disease.



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