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Veterinary Genetics: FAQ’s

Veterinary Genetics Frequently Asked Questions

What is the NC State Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Laboratory?

The Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab (VCGL) is located at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, North Carolina. We are just one of many laboratories on the CVM campus passionately trying to improve the health and welfare of animals. The NCSU VCGL is overseen by Dr. Kate Meurs, DVM, DACVIM (Cardiology).

What type of genetic testing does the NCSU VCGL offer?

The NCSU VCGL offers genetic testing for breed-specific genetic mutations that can increase the risk for a dog or cat to develop specific cardiac or neurological diseases. All the genetic mutations we test for at the NCSU VCGL were discovered by researchers here at NC State University. A complete list of all the genetic testing can be found at:

https://cvm.ncsu.edu/genetics/submit-dna-testing/

Each test is breed-specific and does not apply to other breeds.

Why should I test my pet?

Genetic testing is a wonderful resource for owners. It can be key to making breeding decisions as well as helpful in predicting your dog or cat’s risk for develop disease later in life. Please remember, genetic testing is only one component of your pet’s health, and it is important for all pets to be seen by a veterinarian annually. Any questions regarding your pet’s personal health outside of his or her genetic testing result should be directed to your regular veterinarian.

How can I test my pet?

You can test your pet(s) by mailing a DNA sample, the appropriate completed submission form, and payment to our laboratory. These should all be mailed together at the same time. Results will not be released for samples provided without payment.

What types of samples can I submit for testing?

Our lab accepts EDTA blood, buccal swabs, or semen. Swabs can be ordered at no cost from our website at: https://cvm.ncsu.edu/genetics/cheek-swab-request/

More information and instructions on sample submission can be found at:

https://cvm.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VCGL-Sample-Submission-Instructions.pdf

Please do not send any samples that do not fall within the acceptable sample guidelines. All samples MUST be labeled with the name identical to the name provided on the submission form.

Is one type of sample better or more accurate than another sample type?

All types of samples are equally accurate. We have full confidence in the results produced from swabs, blood, and semen. There is no need to submit more than one type of sample.

Who can submit a sample to test my pet?

It is absolutely fine for an owner, a breeder, or a veterinarian to submit a sample. There is no need to involve your veterinarian to submit swabs, but you are more than welcome to ask them for help if you would feel more comfortable. Blood draws must be done at a veterinary clinic. Results will be sent by email to the email address provided on the submission form.

What shipping carrier or speed should I use?

We have no preference of what shipping carrier is used to ship samples. There is also no requirement for the shipment speed you use. DNA stays very stable in blood and swabs, so there is no need to ship it priority overnight. If you are sending samples from outside of the United States, please check with your shipping carrier for information on any potential sample restrictions or required shipping documents. Once your sample has been received by the laboratory, you should receive an automatic email notifying you that your sample is being processed for testing.

How do I pay for genetic testing?

Payment can be made by check or online with a credit card. It is fine for individual payments or lump sum payments to be made when testing multiple animals. Checks need to be made out to NCSU Cardiac Genetics and can be stapled horizontally to the top left corner of the form. Online credit card payments can be made at https://controller.ofa.ncsu.edu/cash-services/non-student-credit-card-payments/ . Once on the website, please follow the instructions on the submission form. We do not take payment over the phone.

When can I expect results?

Results will be sent by email to the email address provided on the submission form within 3-5 business days of the sample’s arrival in our laboratory. All results are kept confidential and are not posted publicly. Please check your spam folder if you do not see results in your inbox. If you still cannot find any results in your email, please email or call the lab in case there may have been a typo in your email address.

What are the possible results for genetic testing?

Every animal has two copies of all their genes. One copy is inherited from the mother and one copy is inherited from the father. Our testing looks at the specific gene to figure out if either copy of that gene contains the mutation. We only sequence that small section of your pet’s DNA and not the whole genome. You will receive one of the following three results for any of our tests:

  • Negative – the animal has two normal, unmutated copies of the gene. These animals are sometimes referred to as “clear.”
  • Positive Heterozygous – the animal has one normal copy of the gene and one mutated copy, although it is not possible to know which parent the mutation could have been inherited from. These animals are sometimes referred to as “carriers.” It is recommended that these animals only be bred to a negative animal.
  • Positive Homozygous – the animal has two mutated copies of the gene. It is not recommended that these animals be bred.

Please see specific results form for more details regarding the animal’s disease risk and breeding recommendations.

Is there an age requirement for genetic testing?

There is NO age requirement for testing. As genetic results will never change, a dog or cat can be tested at any point in their life. However, submitting cheek swabs on nursing puppies or kittens is not recommended. Swabbing the cheek of a nursing puppy or kitten could result in swabbing the mother’s milk, which will not produce an accurate result for animals who have not been weaned. If submitting swabs from nursing animals, please wait at least an hour after nursing and rinse the animal’s mouth out with water before swabbing.

Should I ever retest my pet?

Genetic testing results will never change at any point in your pet’s life, so there is no need to retest your pet.

Does the NCSU VCGL offer any pricing discounts?

We are currently offering discounts for litters of five puppies or more! They must all be from the same litter. No exceptions will be made. Please refer to the test submission form for the current price for genetic testing.

Does my pet need to be OFA or AKC registered to be tested?

Your pet does NOT need to be registered to be tested and it is not necessary to provide a registration number on the submission form. We only provide results directly to the email address provided on the form and do not send any of our results to the OFA. Sending your pet’s genetic result to the OFA is the choice and responsibility of the owner.

Does the NCSU VCGL conduct genetic research studies?

We do! The NCSU VCGL is part of the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which is committed to learning more about illnesses that affect animals and how to improve animal welfare. We are always conducting several research studies at any given time. A list of our current studies as well as information on how to participate is provide at: https://cvm.ncsu.edu/genetics/ongoing-research/

What if I have a more complicated question regarding genetics or familial illness?

Dr. Kate Meurs is offering free online genetic consultations for veterinarians, breeders, or owners with complicated genetic questions regarding breeding or inherited disease. You are welcome to submit your questions at: https://cvm.ncsu.edu/genetic-testing-referral/

More basic questions regarding genetic testing results, pricing, sample submission, and current genetic studies can be asked by emailing vcgl@lists.ncsu.edu.

What is a Holter monitor and why is it relevant?

A Holter monitor is a 24 hour ECG device that a dog can wear using a light adhesive tape and a vest while he or she goes about having a typical day. These devices help us detect abnormal heart beats that may be early indicators of some cardiac diseases. Inherited diseases that associated with abnormal heart beats include: Boxer ARVC, Doberman DCM, and Rhodesian Ridgeback IVA. Because a dog who has tested positive for one of these mutations is at higher risk of developing heart disease, it is a good idea to proactively screen these dogs annually with a Holter monitor. The NC State University Holter Monitor Service offers Holter monitor rentals for breeders, owners, and veterinarians who want to screen dogs for breeding purposes or diagnostic purposes because they are exhibiting symptoms of potential heart disease. More information about the NC State Holter Monitor Service can be found at:

https://cvm.ncsu.edu/nc-state-vet-hospital/holter-monitor/

Please feel free to email vcgl@lists.ncsu.edu or call (919) 513-3314 with any other questions!