Selective breeding based on genetic testing of companion animals


Ratification Date: 23 Jul 2015


Selective breeding of companion animals based on genetic tests should only occur where there have been proven phenotypic outcomes which will improve an animal’s viability, conformation, health and welfare.

Companion animals should not be bred if they carry genetic disorders:

  • with a high heritability, that will be detrimental to the animal’s health or welfare, or
  • with a low heritability, but which may severely compromise an animal’s health or welfare.

Requests for genetic testing of companion animals should be directed through, and overseen by, the animal’s veterinarian, so that owners can be appropriately counselled on the results.


Genotype is the genetic constitution of an organism and determines that organism’s specific traits. Phenotype is the set of observable characteristics of an organism, including appearance, physiology and function, resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment. A genetic disorder is a heritable trait that adversely affects an organism’s appearance, physiology or function.

Genetic testing in animals is one of the newest and most sophisticated techniques used to identify genetic disorders. It involves the direct examination or sequencing of a section of an animal’s DNA through specialised techniques. The results of a genetic test can confirm or rule out suspected inherited disorders or help determine an animal's chance of developing or passing on a genetic disorder.

Since the beginning of the 1990’s, the number of genetic tests available in the veterinary field has increased on a yearly basis. They have become important tools to help veterinarians advise on the risk of an animal developing or passing on a heritable disorder, and for owners and breeders to select breeding stock after consideration of heritable traits.

As more tests become available, concerns lie in the clinical relevance of each genetic test, especially regarding relevance to likely phenotypic outcome(s). There are concerns that removing genes unnecessarily from a gene pool for traits that have a very low or rare phenotypic outcome will reduce the gene pool and may have implications for the future genetic health of that breed.

Where a genetic disorder is expected to have minimal health or welfare impacts, veterinary advice should be sought prior to the inclusion or exclusion of that individual from the breeding program.

Date of ratification by the AVA Board: 23 July 2015


Related policies Genetic defects in domestic animals