Akita Genetic Diversity test – project update

2015, Jul, 08 | -Research | 2 comments


The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) of the University of California, Davis, in collaboration with Dr Niels C. Pedersen, has started the research phase to develop a canine genetic diversity test for Akitas.

Genetic diversity project update

At the moment, our purpose is to collect samples from Japanese Akitas in Europe and other places to see how much genetic diversity they have. This test panel will also give information about genetic diversity of the major histocompatibility system (DLA) in these Akita lines.

The genetic test

A genetic diversity test is already available for Italian Greyhounds and Standard Poodles. The test for Akitas will be similar. It will include a panel of short tandem repeat (STR) markers that will tell us the genetic diversity across the Akita genome. It will also show what different haplotypes Akitas have in the DLA (Dog Leukocyte Antigen) class I and class II regions, which include several different genes responsible for the immune system.

Useful test for breeders regarding health issues

This test will be very useful to breeders who want to track and increase genetic diversity in Akitas. The biggest health issues in Akitas are the autoimmune diseases, and the only way now to fight these issues is to increase genetic diversity in the breed and especially to add diversity in the DLA regions to improve immune function. There are no current genetic tests for autoimmune diseases in Akitas.

How to participate; the mission

The mission in Europe is to collect samples from different Japanese Akita lines. We are currently compiling a list of dogs and their owners who would like to take part in developing this test. In this phase of research, the test will not cost anything to the owner of the dog, and the owner will get their dog’s test results as a certificate (see Poodle certificate in link below) for their own use. We hope to identify by the end of August about 50 Japanese Akitas from different lines in different countries in Europe to take part in this first research phase. Owners of the selected dogs will be sent a test kit with cheek swabs. If your dog is not chosen for this phase, you’ll be notified by e-mail or letter.

Dr. Pedersen

Dr. Pedersen has been doing research on autoimmune diseases in dogsfor many years. To help with his ongoing research, we are also collecting samples from Akitas who suffer autoimmune diseases. The main focus will be on collecting samples from SA (Sebaceous adenitis) and VKH (Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada) dogs.

We realize that finding entirely different Japanese Akita lines is almost impossible. We will instead focus on collecting dogs that do not have the same close relatives. When dogs are chosen forthe diversity test research phase, we will use the EVA program (see reference below) as a tool to calculate relationships between the dogs.

How to participate

If you want to take part with your dog, please answer the following questions and send them by email to Saija Tenhunen. Send your information before the end of August 2015.

  1. Name of the dog
  2. Name of the owner
  3. Link to dogs pedigree or copy of the pedigree
  4. Is your dog diagnosed with autoimmune disease?


If you have more questions, please contact Saija Tenhunen  or Terhi Luukkonen terhi.

The information obtained from the research phase of the Genetic Diversity Test may be shared with research collaborators outside of the University. If you wish to submit samples for confidential testing for a fee, please wait until the research phases are complete.

For more information

Akita test


Standard Poodles test


Italian Greyhound test


Alaskan Klee Kai test what is in second research phase


And how enrolling a breed works


EVA program





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  1. Hippietant

    We have now provided the first “step” to this project. Manuel’s information has been sent to Saija! /Charlotte and Mikael

  2. Saija

    Thank you Charlotte! I want to point out few things about the project. I know many are tired about new projects popping out and asking for samples etc and we never hear about them. But with this project I can assure you, there will be results and you will get information about what the results mean. Even if the result is “we are not much wiser even after this”. Dr Pedersen have always been very adamant on telling about the progress to those who take part and he have promised to me that Akita people who take part on this will know 🙂

    And the second thing what I wanted to point out is that if your dog is chosen for this first phase, the sample taking is VERY easy. We send you a brush kit and you can take the sample yourself and send back. No need to take your dog to vet or anything like that. All is very easy and simple. 🙂


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