Understanding DNA Testing Options for Dogs
Published: Sep. 21, 2009
Subject: Unraveling the Mutt Mystery
Category: More Bones to Chew On
It’s hard to imagine that the fuzzy monster who tracked mud through the kitchen might actually hail from a long line of purebred perfection. But we’re here to tell you it’s entirely possible. Thanks to a handful of new DNA testing programs, you may even be able to prove it, or at the least learn what breeds dominate your dog’s family tree. Dog people across the country are plunking down up to $125 a pop to finally get definitive answers to the one question they hear everyday at the dog park – "cute dog, what kind is it?"
As if curiosity wasn’t enough, some folks spring for the tests to help explain canine behaviors such as rooting around after moles (Terrier?) or even a propensity for congenital conditions such as hip dysplasia (German Shepherd?). But with up to four competing DNA companies who promise to analyze doggie cheek cell swabs or blood samples, the Woof Report wondered, how do you choose which test is most accurate? That’s where the The Wall Street Journal comes in.
Paula Szuchman, the author of last week’s WSJ article on this topic had her pup’s DNA tested with four popular dog DNA services: BioPet’s DNA Breed Identification, MetaMorphix’s Canine Heritage Breed Test, Mars Veterinary’s Wisdom Panel MX Mixed Breed Analysis and DDC Veterinary’s Dog DNA Breed Analysis. The results? All four services offered different results. To view Szuchman’s full article and see her helpful chart on how the tests compare, see the link below. In the meantime, here are the highlights from Szuchman’s experience:
DNA Is So Random. Canine genetics is a new field of scientific study. Isolating specific genetic breed markers such as ones for body type requires samples from purebred dogs. If the breed is more common, hundreds of samples can be collected versus just a few for less common breeds. This can present limits on DNA testing. In fact, Szuchman notes that the Mars testing company database featured information for up to 157 breeds over DDC’s meager 63. That said, check the breed list before you choose a company to see that it includes the breeds you suspect your pup to be.
Looks Can Be Deceiving. Szuchman also found that some of the results did not match up to her dog’s appearance. One company explained away this concern stating that because dogs receive DNA randomly from both parents, they present differently in each dog. This variation is what makes every dog unique, a concept that was also confirmed by animal geneticists.
You can take the dog out of Europe, but you can’t take… Distant doggie relatives of the same breed share similar DNA, but the code can vary from country to country. With up 400 dog breeds around the world, and only about 160 recognized in the US, it’s simply not possible to analyze each breed for its unique genetics.
Read the full article from Paula Szuchman in the The Wall Street Journal, "Beagle or Bichon: Can Dog Drool Provide Insight?"
Thank you to our Woof Report Friend Gracie for the photo.
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