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Canine DNA Testing

DNA testing is available for dogs.

It may sound like an episode of CSI, but it's an accessible option for the everyday pet owner who wants to know the genetic makeup of their mixed breed dog: DNA testing.

You Can DNA Test a Dog?

Yes! Many people adopt dogs from shelters or find them as strays and wonder what breeds are in their genetic history. Asking your veterinarian, groomer, or neighbor to look at your dog and guess his ancestral lineage based on appearance may get you close in some instances, but there are other times when it just plain doesn't work. Think of the case of human relatives: sometimes siblings don't look anything alike.

Why Consider Canine DNA Testing?

Besides satisfying your curiosity, are there any reasons you should consider DNA testing your dog? There are actually a few good things that can come from having a genetic profile done on your canine pal:

  • Being aware of your dog's breed makeup can help your veterinarian foresee the possibility of certain medical problems.
  • Members of a breed have more of a tendency toward particular personality characteristics. These traits are usually diluted in mixed breed dogs, but knowing the primary breeds that contributed to your dog's genes can help you to better understand and accommodate his personality.
  • You may be able to learn the general area in which your puppy's adult weight and size will fall. This information can help you prepare for your puppy's growth.

Some shelters are beginning to test dogs in their care. Providing information about a dog's breed makeup can help get the dog placed in a home because it answers some questions for people about size and potential health conditions. People may also feel that certain breeds won't fit in well with their family, and they may steer away from a particular shelter dog because he looks like there may be some of that breed in his background. Having DNA test results can help some shelter dogs get placed into homes more quickly. (Learn why we think mixed breed dogs are wonderful in this slideshow article: "Mutts: Mixed Breed Dogs and Why They're Great.")

How Does Canine DNA Testing Work?

There are several companies that offer canine DNA testing. Wisdom Panel was the first to produce canine DNA tests and continues to be at the forefront of the technology. When you purchase a kit, you are provided with swabs to collect some of your dog's cheek cells and send them to the company. There are more than 250 breeds to which your dog's DNA is compared and matched.

There is also a test available to screen for MDR1 disease. This condition is a genetic mutation that causes affected dogs to be more susceptible to overdose by certain medications. These dogs are unable to clear the drug out of their systems normally, and it can be a dangerous condition. Australian shepherds and other herding breeds are most commonly affected by this condition. However, mixed breed dogs can have it, and these dogs aren't as easy to identify by sight. If your dog is one of these, you can share the results of the MDR1 test with your veterinarian so that he or she can avoid or use with caution the drugs that cause problems in these dogs. According to the Wisdom Panel website, these medications include:

  • Acepromazine
  • Butorphanol
  • Doxorubicin
  • Doramectin
  • Emodepside
  • Erythromycin
  • Ivermectin
  • Loperamide
  • Milbemycin
  • Moxidectin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Rifampin
  • Selamectin
  • Vinblastine
  • Vincristine

So, while canine DNA testing can be a fun thing to do when you want to know why your mixed breed dog has one floppy ear or a curly tail, it can also help safeguard his health.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Dog Adoption: What You Need to Know

Pet Stores Selling Shelter Dogs

Mutts: Mixed Breed Dogs and Why They're Great - Slideshow

Dog Neutering: Is Earlier Better?

How to Be Prepared for Your Dog's Veterinary Bills

How to Treat Fleas in Puppies

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

How to Prevent Separation Anxiety in Your New Dog

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