Heritability estimations for diseases, coat color, body weight, and height in a birth cohort of Boxers

Angelique L. J. Nielen Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Luc L. G. Janss ID-Lelystad Institute for Animal Science and Health, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands.

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Bart W. Knol Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Utrecht, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands.

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Abstract

Objective—To obtain heritability estimates for diseases and characteristics in Boxers.

Animals—Birth cohort of 2,929 purebred Boxers from 414 litters.

Procedure—Heritability estimates were determined for cheiloschisis-palatoschisis, cryptorchidism, epilepsy, stifle disorders, cardiac disorders, coat color, birth weight, and adult weight, and height. Binary traits were analyzed by use of a mixed-effects probit model. Some traits also were analyzed by use of a model that postulated monogenic inheritance. Full pedigree analyses were performed. Variation in incidences of disease among clusters of related dogs was evaluated.

Results—Heritability estimates were virtually zero for cardiac disorders, medium (0.17 to 0.36) for most other traits, and high (> 0.55) for coat color, birth weight, and adult height. Litter effects and risk factors affected cheiloschisis-palatoschisis, heart murmur, coat color, broadly defined epilepsy, and adult weight. Litter effects may be attributable to common environmental effects for littermates but also may be attributable to dominance variation caused by a recessive gene. Heritability estimates increased when stricter definitions for epilepsy and stifle disorders were used. The monogenic model did not reveal higher heritability estimates for 6 traits analyzed. Incidences for white coat differed significantly for 10 familial clusters, confirming high heritability and effects of familial lineage.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that genetic improvement of most traits should be feasible, except for cardiac disorders. However, because most traits are influenced by environmental effects as well as genetic effects, genetic counseling based on polygenic inheritance and use of familial information rather than strict exclusion of parents is preferred. (Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1198–1206)

Abstract

Objective—To obtain heritability estimates for diseases and characteristics in Boxers.

Animals—Birth cohort of 2,929 purebred Boxers from 414 litters.

Procedure—Heritability estimates were determined for cheiloschisis-palatoschisis, cryptorchidism, epilepsy, stifle disorders, cardiac disorders, coat color, birth weight, and adult weight, and height. Binary traits were analyzed by use of a mixed-effects probit model. Some traits also were analyzed by use of a model that postulated monogenic inheritance. Full pedigree analyses were performed. Variation in incidences of disease among clusters of related dogs was evaluated.

Results—Heritability estimates were virtually zero for cardiac disorders, medium (0.17 to 0.36) for most other traits, and high (> 0.55) for coat color, birth weight, and adult height. Litter effects and risk factors affected cheiloschisis-palatoschisis, heart murmur, coat color, broadly defined epilepsy, and adult weight. Litter effects may be attributable to common environmental effects for littermates but also may be attributable to dominance variation caused by a recessive gene. Heritability estimates increased when stricter definitions for epilepsy and stifle disorders were used. The monogenic model did not reveal higher heritability estimates for 6 traits analyzed. Incidences for white coat differed significantly for 10 familial clusters, confirming high heritability and effects of familial lineage.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicate that genetic improvement of most traits should be feasible, except for cardiac disorders. However, because most traits are influenced by environmental effects as well as genetic effects, genetic counseling based on polygenic inheritance and use of familial information rather than strict exclusion of parents is preferred. (Am J Vet Res 2001;62:1198–1206)

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