Health Testing: 4 Panel vs 6 Panel Clear

Dogs like French Bulldogs are incredibly popular worldwide, thanks to their unique appearance and personality traits. Some of these traits include being muscular but also having a short snout with bat ears.

Although, they’re among the most popular breeds worldwide, their most common health issues can be a real challenge. 

Before adopting or purchasing a French Bulldog puppy, you can determine whether they have any health issues. If you want to ensure that your French Bulldog is healthy and happy throughout it’s life, you can get some genetic tests done. 

These test will show which Frenchies might have genetically predisposed hereditary health issues and this can give you a clue into how much money you might have to spend on treatment if something goes wrong.

We’ve created this guide to help you understand your Frenchie’s genetic health concerns and how to clear them so you can enjoy your pup for years to come! Read on. 

4 Panel Health Clear vs. 6 Panel Health Clear

First things first: There are two types of genetic health clear tests offered for French Bulldogs. One is called 4 Panel Health Clear, and the other is 6 Panel Health Clear

We’ll break down these differences and explain why each is an excellent option for testing your pup’s overall health. Let’s discuss the two of them a bit in more detail. 

4 Panel Health Clear

The 4 Panel Health Clear is the entry-level test for your Frenchie puppy. 

This test is designed to screen French Bulldog puppies for the four most common diseases that can affect dogs with short lifespans. It checks for the most common degenerative myelopathy (DM), hyperuricosuria (HUU), juvenile hereditary cataracts (JHC), and canine multifocal retinopathy 1 (CMR1). 

  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DMDegenerative myelopathy (DM) is an inherited neurologic disorder of dogs characterized by gradual muscle wasting and loss of coordination typically beginning in the hind limbs.
  • Hyperuricosuria (HUU) : Hyperuricosuria is an inherited disorder characterized by elevated levels of uric acid in the urine that can lead to the formation of bladder/kidney stones.
  • Juvenile Hereditary Cataract (JHC) Juvenile hereditary cataracts are an inherited form of cataracts that commonly cause blindness in dogs by clouding the lens of the eye and affecting both eyes symmetrically. 
  • Canine Multifocal Retinopathy 1 (CMR1) Canine multifocal retinopathy 1 is an inherited eye disease characterized by areas of retinal detachment. The disease does not typically lead to blindness or vision deficits.

This test can be administrated at home. Animal Genetics offers a free in-home testing kit.

6 Panel Health Clear

6 Panel Health Clear, also known as “French Bulldog Test 1”, is precisely like the four-panel health test.

The 6-Panel Health Clear Test is the most advanced test. It also includes all of the same health test as the 4-Panel Health Clear Test, but it adds in more detailed testing than the liver function, kidney function, thyroid function, heart function, gastrointestinal health (GI), and skin health (SKH).

  • Chondrodysplasia (CDPA)The CDPA retrogene was first described in 2009 and was shown to be the cause of the short legs found in many, many breeds (Daschunds, Basset Hound, French Bulldog, etc.).
    • This mutation is dominant. Either one or two copies of the mutation result in the same short-legged phenotype. In many breeds all animals have two copies of this mutation.
  • Chondrodystrophy (CDDY and IVDD Risk)A second FGF4 retrogene (CDDY) was discovered and described by the Bannasch lab in 2017 that shows an effect on both leg length and more importantly an association with premature spinal disc degeneration (IVDD). IVDD is found in many short-legged breeds and is a painful disease with a relatively high mortality rate. This mutation shows a dominant mode of inheritance with respect to IVDD. Dogs with either one or two copies of the CDDY insertion are predisposed to IVDD. With respect to leg length, the mode of inheritance is semi-dominant. Within a given breed, dogs with one copy will have shorter legs than dogs with zero copies and dogs with two copies will have even shorter legs.

The two new tests are controversal but could be very important in your dog’s overall health. The price and test time would be almost the same as 4 Panel Health Care. 

Who Offers These Test

Cystinuria Type 3

Cystinuria type 3 is an inherited disease affecting kidney function in dogs. Dogs with cystinuria are deficient of a specific protein the kidneys use to transport cystine. Normal kidneys reabsorb cystine so that only small amounts pass into the urine. Dogs with cystinuria fail to reabsorb cystine, allowing large amounts to pass into the urine. Excessive cystine can form crystals and/or stones in the urinary tract, which can block the ureters or Urethra and stop the normal flow of urine. Symptoms of disease include straining to urinate, blood in the urine, frequent urination of small volumes or inability to urinate. Dogs with cystinuria often have recurrent inflammation of the urinary tract and if not treated, urinary stones can cause urinary tract infections, kidney failure and even death. Affected males are also at increased risk for urinary obstruction due to anatomical differences.

This test examines the genome for a genetic Mutation in the SLC3A1 gene associated with cystinuria type 3 (Variant 2). This mutation is not the actual mutation responsible for the disorder. It is considered a “linked marker” for cystinuria type 3. Linked markers are present in close proximity to the disease-causing mutation and are predictably inherited along with it. Making a test for the genetic mutation in the SLC3A1 gene a useful tool to assess cystinuria risk. Dogs that inherit one copy of the SLC3A1 mutation are considered carriers of the disease and will not show clinical signs of cystinuria. Cystinuria type 3 is an androgen-dependent form of the disease. Therefore, only intact males (and not females) are at an increased risk. Male dogs which inherit two copies of the SLC3A1 mutation are considered affected with cystinuria type 3 and may develop clinical signs. Although, female dogs with the SLC3A1 mutations should not develop clinical signs, they can produce at-risk/affected male offspring if bred with a dog that has also inherited these mutations.

This test also examines the genome for a genetic mutation in the SLC7A9 gene speculatively associated with cystinuria type 3 (Variant 3). This mutation is not believed to be the actual mutation responsible for the disorder. However, it may be a “linked marker” for cystinuria type 3, meaning that this marker may be present in close proximity in the genome to the mutation responsible for cystinuria type 3 and may be inherited along with the mutation which causes this disease. However, it is unconfirmed at this time if one or two copies of the SLC7A9 mutation alone is associated with cystinuria type 3.

French Bulldog genetic health testing

OFA French Bulldog Certification 

OFA stands for Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, a program that offers individual health testing for dogs. The program tests include but not limited to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, cardiac evaluation, and more. The testing requires a radiograph that is reviewed by a radiologist. However, these test are known to be very subjective by the technician reviewing the results.

Ethical breeders submit their x-rays and testing results to the OFA database, making it easier to determine whether your dog needs more testing. If your dog has been tested and cleared by OFA, that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to be healthy forever! Dogs meeting these basic health screening requirements will be issued Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) numbers. This places your dog’s records on public domain via the CHIC number, which, you normally receive 1 to 2 weeks after the results have been registered. However, your dog must be at least 24 months old to be eligible for Elbow and Hip Certification. PennHip is a great alternative as they certify for hip dysplasia at 16 weeks old, these test are less subjective and known to be more accurate.

PennHip Vs. OFA

Quick ComparisonPennHIPOFA
Veterinarian certification required?YesNo
Anesthesia required?YesNo
Cost to client$200-$400$35 + radiograph, veterinarian fees
Earliest age of evaluation (for certified results)16 weeks2 years
Radiographs required31
Scoring systemQuantitative: Calculated Distraction Index 0-1 (0 is the best) evaluated by trained veterinarian Qualitative: 7-point system from excellent to severe, based on evaluation of three independent radiologists
Recognized by AKCNoYes
Year founded19931966

Conclusion on Health Testing

In the realm of canine health testing, the distinction between 4-panel and 6-panel health clearances is pivotal. While both panels aim to identify potential genetic disorders and ensure the overall health of breeding dogs, the 6-panel health clearance offers a more comprehensive evaluation. On the other hand, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) testing focuses on assessing specific hereditary disorders, primarily those affecting the joints. PennHip testing, a distinct methodology, evaluates the laxity of the hip joint to determine the risk of hip dysplasia. Collectively, these tests play a crucial role in promoting the health and longevity of dogs, especially for breeders aiming to produce healthy litters.

September 7, 2023

Sade Amor

Sade Amor is the Marketing Director of Frenchie FAQ. She is a huge dog lover and owner of a French Bulldog herself. Sade has many years of writing experience and first hand experience raising & training French Bulldogs!

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