DNA and Health Testing

Why do we do health testing?

The Maine Coon is a breed of cat developed through natural selection over the last 200 years in the cold, wet environment of the north east part of the United States.  Normally, they do not have more health issues than most cats.

Dedicated Maine Coon breeders will still test for health issues that are found in the breed, and have developed testing programs to ensure healthy cats are produced for generations to come.

It is impossible to guarantee the health of a cat throughout his or her life. By testing and working with unrelated cats, we hope to minimize the risk of illness for our kittens, and keep the lines healthy.

There are 5 major genetic defects we test for. 

HCM – Heart Disease

HCM is a heart disease that can be found in all cats, also house cats. We can DNA test for one important factor that can cause HCM, (A31P mutation in the MyBPC3 gene). Cats who have “double” of the affected gene (1 positive gene from each parent) have a very high risk of getting ill, and a slightly higher risk is also seen in those with one gene but these cats will typically stay healthy until at least 4-5 years old and those who get ill might not be as seriously affected.

Ultrasound screening (echocardiogram) of all breeding cats is strongly recommended, several times in the cat’s life.

  • Around 5-25 % of Maine Coons today carry a mutation that increases risk of getting HCM (HCM1-A31P)

  • Around 5-15 % of Maine Coons will develop HCM during their life

  • Offspring of tested lines have much lower risk than offspring of non-tested lines

 

SMA

 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, is a very rare disease among Maine Coons. Possibly only 1 in about 7000 cats get it. It is however quite serious for those animals who are affected, so to be on the safe side, our breeding animals are tested for the gene. Only cats with the double gene (homozygous positive) will get ill.

PK-deficiency

 (Pyruvat Kinase deficiency) is quite recently discovered in Maine Coons as well as a lot of other breeds. It seems around 15 % of all Maine Coons carry this mutation.

Testing for it is very easy, and only animals with “the double gene” (homozygous positive) are affected and will likely get ill. As long as breeders do not breed carrier to carrier, the animals will stay healthy. All our breeding animals are tested for this gene.

Blood type B

Most Maine Coons have blood type (blood group) A. Blood type B also exists, and it is a recessive trait. It means some cats with blood type A are carriers of B. Around 3 % of Maine Coons are B, whereas around 15 % are carriers of B and can produce B kittens if mated.

Blood type B is not a disease, but breeding queens with blood type B males can create huge problems for her kittens, so we do not wish to use B cats in our breeding.

All of our breeding cats have their blood type DNA tested.

Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is an dominant inherited condition in cats.  It is characterized by the development of cysts in the kidneys. The cysts increase in number and size over time and overwhelm the ability of the kidneys to function properly resulting in renal failure. Cysts may be present at birth in affected cats, but disease may not be clinically evident until later, typically before 7 years of age.

All of our breeding cats have been tested for PKD.

HD – Hip Dysplasia   CLICK HERE to read about a study on HD

HD is a hereditary disease causing problems with the hip joint. All large breeds of cats and dogs are at risk for Hip Dysplasia (HD).

Several cats have it in a mild form that the animal can live well with, but it should not be used for breeding. In severe form HD is a very painful and disabling disease, and in the worst cases lead to euthanasia.

What is known is that the risk of getting a cat with HD is much smaller if both parents have normal hips. This is no guarantee, but it betters the chances. HD is most probably recessive and polygenetic.

  • Approximately 10 % have moderate or severe HD and should not be used for breeding

  • Offspring from Normal-Normal combinations have much lower risk for serious HD.

  • Breeding cats should be scanned for HD at the age of 1 year old.  The retested once a year until they are 4 years old.