Breakthrough genetic test detects risk of canine cruciate ligament rupture

The American Veterinary Medical Association announced that a new genetic test is now available to detect dogs prone to canine cruciate ligament tears.

This screening test1— developed by researchers at the Comparative Genetics and Orthopedic Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine — is one of the first of its kind for this common canine disease and consists of just a cheek swab that can be taken at home or a small blood sample .

The screening test was made available for Labrador Retrievers in September because approximately 5% to 10% of these dogs will suffer a cruciate ligament rupture in their lifetime.1 Now the research team wants to expand the development of predictive genetic testing to other breeds that are at high risk of cruciate ligament tears, such as Rottweilers and Newfoundlands.

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“In dogs, ligament degeneration and progressive rupture of collagen fibers in ligament tissue leads to the development of knee joint instability over time,” shared Peter Muir, BVSc, MVetClinStud, PhD, DACVS, DECVS, FRCVS, co-lead of the lab and a professor in the department in Surgical Sciences at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, in an association release.2

According to the communication, genetic factors and other characteristics (e.g. physical health, body condition and castration) contribute to chronic ligament degeneration. Determining whether a dog is genetically predisposed to a cruciate ligament tear allows the owner and veterinarian to take preventative steps, including maintaining a healthy weight for the dog and ensuring they are aware of the signs of an oncoming injury.

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remarked Muir2 that the genetic markers for cruciate ligament tears are more complex than markers for other traits. Many genetic tests look for a specific DNA mutation to determine if a specific disease or trait is present. However, the predilection for cruciate ligament tears results from multiple gene variations throughout the dog’s genome.

The researchers used a method called array genotyping to identify genetic markers for more than 1,000 Labrador retrievers. By examining the DNA and gene variants in different samples, the team was able to uncover the small variants associated with cruciate ligament tears.

Researchers discovered that for any Labrador retriever who tears a cruciate ligament, about 62% of the risk is genetic.2 Based on the reference population, the predictive test has an accuracy of approximately 98% in predicting whether Labrador Retrievers will tear a cruciate ligament.

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In addition to encouraging a proactive approach, this test can help breeders reduce the incidence of cruciate ligament tears in Labrador Retrievers over time to improve the breed’s genetic health. The test costs $250 and results take 4 to 6 weeks.


  1. Comparative orthopedic research laboratory. University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. Accessed October 4, 2022.
  2. New genetic test identifies risk of cruciate ligament rupture in dogs American Veterinary Medical Association. October 3, 2022. Accessed October 4, 2022. headlines messages

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