Researchers at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine have completed the largest genetic study of dogs to date.

The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is considered an excellent animal model for human disease, with more than 350 diseases in common.

The study, published on 22 January in Nature Communications, investigated 180,000 genetic markers that can help link an inherited disease with the responsible gene.

Shared diseases

The study has been hailed as a step towards efficiently mapping genes responsible for complex diseases in dogs and, eventually, humans.

Dogs share more than 350 diseases with humans – from hip dysplasia to lymphoma – and similar pathways and genes often underlie these shared diseases.

The researchers identified areas on the genome associated with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, idiopathic epilepsy, lymphoma, mast cell tumor and granulomatous colitis – and the genes that influence such traits as body size, fur length and shedding.

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