Iowa State University Researchers Examine Genetic Cause of Dog Disorder

July 9th, 2013

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University animal scientist Max Rothschild hopes a recent American Kennel Club podcast helps raise interest in his research for the organization.

He and his colleagues have been working on the genetic component of canine cryptorchidism, a disorder in which one or both testicles fail to descend after birth. The podcast, produced by the AKC Canine Health Foundation, gives dog owners the latest information on the research.

“In some breeds it’s a big problem. If it’s a purebred, you can’t register the male if only one testicle descends. And if it’s not caught, the testicle remains in the body cavity and can lead to testicular cancer,” Rothschild, a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said.

Rothschild’s lab has been studying cryptorchidism in Siberian huskies, a breed that has one of the highest incidence rates at about 15 percent.

The scientists have studied samples from 205 huskies for genetic factors associated with the condition. The ultimate goal would be to develop a genetic test so breeders could select animals that would have lower incidence.

“We have some reasonable ideas about which regions in the genome that could be associated with it,” he said, but the project has reached a stopping point because the researchers have run out informative samples.

Samples come from Siberian husky breeders and Rothschild hopes the podcast increases awareness to provide more.

“We are limited in that we don’t have access to screen thousands of dogs,” he said. “And we want to stick with one breed because the genetic factors might differ by breed. Husky breeders have been great to work with, but huskies aren’t an enormous breed as far as registered numbers, so we’re kind of at the mercy of dog owners to get enough samples.”

Samples are easy to take and don’t hurt the dogs. A brush inside the dog’s cheek is all that is needed, he said.

The podcast is available on the AKC Canine Health Foundation’s website:


Max Rothschild, Animal Science, (515) 294-6202,
Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, (515) 294-2314,