The Latest in Collie Health Testing

What a wonderful and exciting time to be breeding dogs! Within the last couple of years, great advances have been made in the area of health screening tools or DNA tests.

Per the new Oxford dictionary, DNA means "the carrier of genetic information." Every dog's DNA is unique unto himself - it is his genetic blueprint or his genetic code.



(1) DERMATOMYOSITIS DNA test (DMS)- This is probably the most important test available for Collies!! DMS is a hereditary skin and muscle disorder. At one time thought to run in certain families, it was discovered by Dr. Leigh Anne Clark of Clemson University to be present in all Collies (thankfully it is not common). This test is invaluable for not only determining if a dog is at risk for DMS, but it's a particularly good tool to test breeding stock. There are three genes (plus environmental factors) for DMS. All Collies carry the one gene and the vast majority of Collies carry one or two of the other two lethal genes in varying degrees. That's why DMS has been so difficult to eradicate. Everyone who breeds Collies should be testing ALL THEIR breeding exceptions.The Collie Health Foundation offers a very generous rebate, so there is no excuse for not testing........The rebate is $65 and available to all CHF members. This test is done by cheek swab.  No limits on the number of rebates per household. Two Labs offer the test: Optigen and Vetgen.

(2) Drug Sensitivity Test- Due to a mutation in the multi-drug resistance gene (mdr1), some Collies have been known to have sensitivities to certain pharmaceuticals. For a nominal fee, Collies can now be tested for this sensitivity. No special training is required to collect the sample, obtained by brushing cells from the inside of the cheek. For more information, see Washington State University's website

For a list of drugs that can adversely affect Collies with the mutated MDR1 Gene, click here

3) There's a DNA test for "Gray Collie Syndrome" or as it's officially known......Canine Cyclic Neutropenia. A blood disorder that is present at birth, Gray Collies have been documented in many different bloodlines for more than 60 years and coincidentally the disease is also present in humans. Both sire and dam need to be carriers in order for the gene to present itself (autosomal recessive). However, it should be noted that carriers do not manifest the disease. A nominal fee is charged and the test requires a blood draw. Please see the
HealthGene website for information on testing your Collie:

4) The OptiGen Company offers a genetic test for Collie Eye Anomaly/Choroidal Hypoplasia. This genetic test can distinguish all three genetic states - normal, carrier and affected. This test also requires a blood draw done by a Veterinarian. By the way, this test should not take the place of annual eye exams....nor does it provide information on a dog's PRA or coloboma status

5) Canine Coat Color test - DNA testing for the "a" alleles in Collies that are sable or tricolor allows breeders to better predict the colors of pups from particular breedings. This test can be a blood draw or cheek swab. Check the Healthgene website for more information!

6) “ PRA”, or rod-cone dysplasia type 2 (rcd2), is a form of retinal degeneration that has been in collies for decades. In this disease, an abnormal development (dysplasia) of the rods and cones (the light sensitive cells in the eye) leads to an early onset of night blindness that is typically apparent by the time pups are 6 weeks of age. In most cases, the rcd2-Affected dog is completely blind by the time it is 1 year old.

Finally......rcd2 Mutation has been identified: After many years of study at Cornell University by scientists in the laboratory of Drs. Greg Acland and Gus Aguirre, the mutation causing rcd2 was identified and a manuscript describing the finding has been submitted for publication (Kukekova, Goldstein et al., 2008). The rcd2 DNA test (patent pending) is able to identify with complete accuracy whether a dog has no copy (is Normal), has 1 copy (is a Carrier) or has 2 copies of the mutation (is Affected). Please visit this website for more information on testing:

7) JRD - Canine Renal Dysplasia, also known as Juvenile Renal Disease - is a chronic disease that affects young dogs, causing one or both kidneys to fail. Through DOGenes $135 per kit (cheek swab). Please visit this website for more information on testing:

Researchers not only rely on dollars to finance their work, but they also need participation in their projects (ie, DNA from affected dogs, clear dogs, etc). So far DNA testing has not been forthcoming in some of the major health problems, but there are several projects in the works.

Some current research projects include:

1) Collie Health Foundation

2) Healthgene is researching epilepsy in Collies. Requires a blood draw of affected dogs.

3) The Canine Epilepsy Network - The Canine Epilepsy Project is a collaborative study into the causes of epilepsy in dogs. "Researchers need DNA samples from dogs that have experienced seizures, and immediate relatives, both normal and affected. If the affected dog has been bred, all offspring and mates should be sampled as well." Please e-mail:


Hopefully the years to come will bring even more available DNA tests and other reliable health screening tools. Please support these research projects because every test discovered will not only greatly benefit our breed, but will make each and every breeder's job easier! If anyone would like more information on any of these projects, drop me an email!

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