If you’re curious about your background, where your great-great-grandma hailed from, and if your parents were correct about all those limbs in the family tree, maybe you’ve done DNA testing for yourself. It’s fun and, for many, it can be both a confirmation of all you’ve been told over the years but also a surprise when a country or region pops up on your report that you didn’t realize was connected to your family.
Most people take advantage of testing from Ancestry.com or other similar programs simply because they’re curious, but how about DNA testing for your dog? Do you really need to know what breeds are in his/her genes? Does your pooch’s genetic make-up connect to their health and well-being and why?
About Doggie DNA tests
DNA testing for your dog is about as easy as it is for humans. Most of them require just a cheek swab sampling and cost anywhere from about $60 to $100, also in line with the price of human DNA testing kits. A few require blood tests, which you would need to have done at your vet’s office, but most take just a few seconds to complete.
Just as with companies like Ancestry.com – which was the first human DNA test available to the masses – the more business the company has done, the wider its data base. That means if you go with a very popular doggie DNA test, they can generally identify the majority of breeds in the dogs make-up with pretty good accuracy. Remember, however, the most accurate and extensive results are likely associated with the more expensive tests. Also, this testing is best for mixed breeds. Other tests are available to confirm purebreds.
To get results, companies examine the DNA from the dog’s cells for literally thousands of genetic markers and then it is compared to the company’s breed database which – with the most reputable and largest companies – includes about 350-400 breeds. This allows geneticists to find a best match in terms of breed(s). Most of the tests can harken back to about the great-grandparent level, which owners often find quite fascinating.
Why opt for genetic breed testing?
So, is doggie genetic breed testing just something created to solve your curiosity about your rescue pup or the dog whose breed you just can’t figure out, or will it really benefit both you and your dog?
Most vets agree that for owners of mixed breeds, that DNA test can be advantageous…to some degree.
Makers of the test kits and veterinary geneticists who read the results say that it’s all about helping you to understand your dog’s behavior. Why do they act a certain way? Why do they look like they do? Why can’t you change a particular habit?
Angela Hughes, a geneticist with Mars Testing explains. “These kinds of insights can help us humans understand that ‘our dogs aren’t trying to irritate us, it’s just how they work,’ she quips. Hughes, who did the testing on her own dog, notes that when she found out that her pup was part Australian Cattle Dog, she then understood why he had herding tendencies and why he needed a lot of exercise.
DNA tests can also provide information on potential health problems associated with certain breeds. For example, you may find that your dog’s DNA indicates a high percentage of a certain breed that is troubled by heart conditions or a particular type of cancer. This is helpful information not only for you but for your veterinarian as well, especially when it comes to diagnosing a sick pet.
However, experts warn, because the tests aren’t regulated by industry-wide standards at this time, using only these results to diagnose or look for potential health issues could be problematic. In addition, a suggestion that a dog of a particular breed could develop a certain disease or disorder could result in misdiagnosis. Just because an animal is pre-disposed to a disease, it doesn’t mean he or she will get it. However, the DNA results could skew opinions and diagnoses towards these suggestions. And the last think you’d want to do is to treat your dog for the wrong diagnosis!
So, veterinarians suggest, use the DNA kits for fun, just as you would for yourself or your family members, remembering that there’s really no way to measure accuracy at this point in time. Should laws be passed that better regulate testing methodologies, that could certainly change in the future.
« More posts