New Genetic Test Identifies Dogs’ Risk of Common Ligament Rupture

By looking at him, you might not know Thabiso had two ruptured cruciate ligaments. “He was a massive dog, 125 pounds,” Allison Smith says about her beloved Labrador retriever.

When Smith got Thabiso in 2010, he was three and a half years old with a slight limp. Smith didn’t think much of it until a visit to the veterinarian revealed Thabiso had two ruptured cruciate ligaments, which serve as a primary stabilizer in a dog’s knee. Thabiso’s knees had been injured so long that he had “learned to cope” with the pain, Smith says.

Thabiso isn’t alone. Cruciate ligament ruptures are one of the biggest health problems in the veterinary medical field of canine orthopedics.

However, there is now a way to help prevent this disabling disease through genetic testing. Researchers in the Comparative Genetics and Orthopaedic Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine have found a way to determine whether a dog is susceptible to the condition. The screening test, the first of its kind in companion animals, requires only a cheek swab that can be collected at home or a small blood sample.

The researchers made the screening test available for Labrador retrievers, the most popular dog breed in America, in September. The Labrador breed has a high risk of developing the disease; five to 10 percent of Labradors rupture a cruciate ligament within their lifetime.

The research team is now working to extend the development of predictive genetic testing to other breeds with a high risk of cruciate rupture, like the Rottweiler and Newfoundland.

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