What are the health benefits for cats and people in decoding feline DNA?

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DNA tests of cats can reveal the parentage of purebred cats, the breeds included in mixed-breed cats, underlying health problems and definitive identification of traits such as Siamese color points.

Nearly everything about people and cats is determined by a molecule called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Because members of a breed are closely related, genetically based diseases are often first identified in a family of purebred cats.

DNA and Disease

Ragdoll and Maine Coon cats may both develop cardiomyopathy, a disorder of the heart muscle causing the muscle to become very thick and resulting in heart failure. Analysis of the DNA in these two breeds has identified mutations associated with the development of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Breeders often use this test to help select the healthiest cats to parent future litters of kittens. The AMC’s Cardiology Service does not use this test to predict the development of cardiomyopathy because all cats with the mutation do not go on to develop this type of heart disease.

The red blood cells of the Abyssinian cat and its cousin, the Somali, are affected by a genetic disease called pyruvate kinase deficiency. The enzyme pyruvate kinase can be found in the biochemical pathway responsible for providing the red blood cell with energy. Cats lacking this enzyme have weak red blood cells. The shortened survival of these weakened red blood cells renders affected cats sick and anemic. Domestic cats have also been diagnosed with this genetic disease.

Chronic upper respiratory infections and chronic diarrhea result from infection with a variety of organisms. DNA testing can be used to determine the cause. DNA testing identifies the presence of DNA belonging to a disease-causing virus, bacteria, parasite or mycoplasm, thus determining the cause of infection and directing therapy.

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