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Genetic testing may alleviate some of your concerns if you are worried about cancer risks associated with your specific dog or cat breed. A genetic test can help you make informed medical and lifestyle decisions for your pet, especially if you find out that your furry friend carries a mutation linked to hereditary cancer. However, there are some limitations to genetic testing that you should know.

The research and development of genetic testing methods for pets are still in their early stages compared to human testing. As a result, genetic tests may not provide a straightforward answer to the following:

    • Whether your pet will show the symptoms of cancer during their lifetime
    • How severe the symptoms of cancer might be
    • What the course of cancer progression may be over time

The results of a genetic test give you a risk analysis, determining whether your pet is at an increased risk of cancer. The test also provides the probability of passing cancer to an offspring.

It is important to remember that cancer is rarely caused by a single gene mutation. If your pet tests positive for a gene mutation associated with cancer risk, it does not guarantee your pet will develop cancer. However, it can help you as the pet owner be alert to different signs of cancer that might lead to early detection, which is critical to effective treatment and care. Further, if your pet receives a cancer diagnosis, it can help inform your vet about the appropriate treatment options. Identifying a gene mutation that is associated with cancer in your pet may help target the main cause of the cancer development, making it more likely that the treatment will be effective.

Identifying your pet’s cancer risk through genetic testing can help you make essential decisions about the care of your pet and can lead to many happy tomorrows together for you and your beloved pet.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Website Editorial team is comprised of veterinarians, veterinary oncologists, and veterinary technicians, as well as scientific writers and editors who have attained their PhD’s in the life sciences, along with general editors and research assistants. All content found in this section goes through an extensive process with multiple review stages, to ensure this extended resource provides pet families with the most up-to-date information publicly available.

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Last Updated: November 17, 2022

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page: 

Gershony, L & Oberbaue, A 2020, Review of the current state of genetic testing – a living resource viewed November 17, 2022,https://www.akcchf.org/educational-resources/library/articles/CANINE_GENETIC_TESTING_07-28-2020_FINAL_with-links.pdf

Lyons, LA & Buckley RM 2020, ‘Direct-to-consumer genetic testing for domestic cats’, Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 991-1000.

Rokhsar, JL, Canino, J, Raj, K, Yuhnke, S, Slutsky, J & Giger U 2021, ‘Web resource on available DNA variant tests for hereditary diseases and genetic predispositions in dogs and cats: an update,’ Hum Genet, vol. 140, no. 11, pp. 1505-1515.

Slutsky, J, Raj, K, Yuhnke, S, Bell, J, Fretwell, N, Hedhammar, A, Wade, C & Giger U 2013, ‘A web resource on DNA tests for canine and feline hereditary diseases’, Vet J, vol. 197, no. 2, pp. 182-187.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.