An International Genetic Survey of Breed-Specific Diseases in Working Dogs from the United States, Israel, and Poland

Lisa G. Shaffer, Christina J. Ramirez, Patricia Phelps, Maya Aviram, Marta Walczak, Gila Kahila Bar-Gal, Blake C. Ballif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Genetic diseases occur in breeds used for law enforcement. As important team members, dogs are expected to operate at peak performance for several years and are significant investments for both the initial purchase and extensive, specialized training. Previous studies have not focused on causes for retirement or euthanasia as genetic (inherited) versus acquired (environmental). We performed direct mutational analysis for breed-specific conditions on samples from 304 dogs including 267 law enforcement (122 US, 87 Israeli, and 58 Polish) and 37 search and rescue dogs. Genetic testing identified 29% (n = 89) of the dogs tested to be carriers of a genetic mutation and 6% (n = 19) to be at risk for a debilitating inherited condition that may eventually impair the dog's ability to work. At-risk dogs included Labrador Retrievers (n = 4) with exercise-induced collapse, Bloodhounds (n = 2) with degenerative myelopathy (DM), and German Shepherd dogs with DM (n = 12) or leukocyte adhesion deficiency, type III (n = 1). A substantial number of working dogs were shown to be at risk for genetic conditions that may shorten the dog's career. The loss of dogs, due to early retirement or euthanasia, as a result of preventable genetic conditions has an emotional cost to handlers and financial cost to service organizations that can be avoided with genetic screening prior to breeding, buying, or training.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)198-204
Number of pages7
JournalCytogenetic and Genome Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 S. Karger AG, Basel.


  • Degenerative myelopathy
  • Genetic disease
  • Genetic testing
  • Inherited disease testing
  • Law enforcement
  • Service dogs
  • Working dogs


Dive into the research topics of 'An International Genetic Survey of Breed-Specific Diseases in Working Dogs from the United States, Israel, and Poland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this