FAQ - Ridgeback DNA Sample Collection

With the help and support of the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States ("RRCUS"), geneticists at the University of California at Davis ("UC Davis") are studying the inheritance of the ridge. This research is also expanding to explore health and behavioral traits. DNA samples from all Ridgebacks, ridged and not, are needed. Please read this FAQ (frequently asked questions) to learn how you can help -- or how to update your submission if you have already contributed.

Q. The researchers at the University of California at Davis are only looking for DNA from ridgeless dogs, right?

A. Wrong. Because the “ridge project” at UC Davis is studying how the ridge is inherited, we need samples from all Ridgebacks, whether they are ridged or ridgeless, whether their ridges are perfect or not. Indeed, once the marker for the ridge is found, researchers hope to explore the inheritance of other aspects of the ridge – including the length and number or crowns, as well as the relation to dermoid sinus. For this reason, we are also encouraging owners and breeders to submit DNA on dermoid dogs.

Q. What other traits are the researchers interested in studying?

A. Because of the large amount of Ridgeback DNA accumulated by UC Davis, the researchers there are willing to try and find markers for health issues in the breed that are believed to be simple recessives (such as megaesophagus, cataracts and hypothyroidism, as well as conformational issues (such as kinked or gay tails, and white markings).

In order to do this, they are especially interested in collecting DNA from families: affected and unaffected littermates, their parents and ideally all four grandparents. Generational samples such as these are invaluable for identifying the traits the geneticists are looking for.

Q. But what if I don’t have a family to contribute? What if I just have one or two dogs?

A. Please contribute their DNA as well. Any and all DNA is needed to create as large a DNA tapestry as possible. You might also tell your other Ridgeback friends about this study, and encourage them to contribute samples as well.

Q. I live abroad. Are the researchers interested in DNA from Ridgebacks outside of North America?

A. Absolutely. In fact, such samples are particularly helpful as they provide a great deal of genetic diversity to the project.

Q. Do I need a vet to help me collect the DNA?

A. No. The swabbing process is very simple: You just swirl a small brush-topped swab on the inside the dog’s cheeks for less than a minute, fill out a form giving some basic identification and health information on your dog, and return it to UC Davis in the postage-paid envelope provided. Owners are asked to contribute three swabs per dog.

Q. I already sent DNA in to the AKC. Isn’t this the same thing?

A. No. DNA swabs sent in to the AKC are for identification purposes only – i.e., to determine parentage. They cannot be used for health testing, and they are entirely separate from the UC Davis project.

Q. I already sent DNA to the UC Davis researchers. What more can I do?

A. In cooperation with RRCUS, the UC Davis researchers have recently expanded the questionnaire that accompanies each Ridgeback DNA submission. Ridgeback owners and breeders who have already submitted DNA are asked to download this additional page containing health information, fill it out with the dog’s AKC number on top, and send it into UC Davis at the address provided on the form. This additional information will be added to your dog’s profile in the DNA database.

Additionally, we encourage breeders and owners who whelp new litters, acquire new puppies or dogs, or adopt rescues to add their DNA to the database.

Q. Are the researchers interested in DNA from deceased stud dogs?

A. Yes, especially stud dogs that were used frequently or have had great influence in the breed. Spent straws from frozen semen breedings can be sent directly to the researchers after the implantation; there is no need for special preservation or refrigeration. In this way, the valuable DNA can be extracted without “wasting” any straws.

Q. I am a breeder who euthanizes my ridgeless, dermoid and/or megaesophagus puppies, and swabbing is not an option. I also sometimes get stillborn whelps, or newborns that die from fading. How can I contribute to this project?

A. A veterinarian can be asked to follow this procedure on the puppy after it has been humanely euthanized: A one-inch section of the tail tip is removed, placed in a plastic baggie, and mailed in to UC Davis. Again, there is no need for special preservation or refrigeration. DNA will be extracted from the sample.

Q. How do I request swabs or get more information about the UC Davis research?

A. Contact Denise Flaim, the Health & Genetics committee DNA chair at revodana@aol.com, or 516-676-3398. To download a copy of the DNA Sample Submission/Health Questionnaire Form, please click here.

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