Is Dog Genetic Testing a Thing?

Definitely. Genetic testing.We’ve all heard of it at some point or another. We probably all know a person or two who has had it done. (23andMe was the first company to offer DNA testing directly to consumers that look for ancestry information. Now it has expanded to diseases, as well.) Perhaps you have done it yourself and now a thing or two more about your genetic blueprint. Maybe you now know your exact ancestry makeup or even what type of diseases you are at risk for?

So, people have been doing it, at least since 2007 when 23andMe became widely available. But what about dogs? What about our furry canines?Are they purebred dogs or mixed-breed dogs? Can we check for genetic diseases through a DNA test? If we love them as we love ourselves, wouldn’t we want the same for them as for ourselves, too? So, if we are curious about our genetic blueprint, why wouldn’t we feel the same about theirs?

To the dog owners among us, have you ever wondered about the genetic makeup of your furry best friend? Have you ever wondered about your dog’s chances of having a disease? Can you be 100% sure that you know your canine buddy inside and out? If the answer is yes to all of the above, you truly know your wet-nosedbud and you’re a champ! However, if you have stopped to think about any of the questions and are not sure, now you can be! You can, in fact, find out about your dog’s genetic makeup thanks to several companies that actually do that.

A company called Wisdom Panel offers two kits—a ‘Canine Breed Detection’ that offers identification for 250+ breeds, types and varieties and a ‘Canine Breed + Disease Detection’ that, in addition to the breeds, also offers screening for 150+ genetic health conditions. Their tagline, “Get to know your soul mutt even better”—all that is required is a pup’s cheek swab, an online kit activation,and prepaid shipping, and you’re on your way to unleashing yet another layer of your dog’s persona. Among the several things they offer, Wisdom Panel will provide you with a customized online report that has a genetic analysis of your dog’s ancestry, weight, physical traits and up to 150+ health conditions.

Embark is another such company

Embark is another such company that offers genetic testing services for dogs. However, they have a slightly different approach. According to their website, they are “the world leader in dog genetics” whose scientists have traveled the world to bring their clients a revolution in dog care. Embark is a research partner of Cornell University College of Veterinary medicine, and as such have a somewhat more academic or research approach—they use the information they obtain from clients for research purposes, too, to “expand the understanding and practical application of genetic knowledge in veterinary care and dog wellness generally.” They offer just one kit, the Embark Dog DNA Test, via which dog owners can find out their dog’s breed ID, genetic ancestry, over 160 diseases as well as traits such as coat color and altitude adaptation.

There are several other canine DNA companies out there that will screen your dog’s DNA and essentially offer insight into your dog’s past, present, and future.

In addition to dog owners finding out valuable information in regards to their dog’s genetic blueprint, this area has several other applications. In other words, it is not just for dog owners. Some companies offer forensic services for a growing discipline termed veterinary forensics. It is used in situations such as animal abuse, fraud, and criminal investigations and offers insight into law enforcement, Human Societies,and insurance companies, to name a few. And yet other companies offer services for dog breeders who wish to remain informed about the health risks of their specific breeds. Veterinarians also benefit from these services as they can offer their clients personalized pet medicine if they choose. This would enable them to have a medical angle to the DNA other than just being curious about their pet’s ancestry or disease background.

In addition, testing for dog DNA can also help future down owners—those who wish to either purchase a dog or adopt one. It would be helpful to not only know the breed breakdown but also what the potential disease risks are as well as how big the dogs will grow up to be and what their personality will be like; this can greatly facilitate adaptation of the owner to the dog and vice versa. Also, knowing the risks of disease upfront can save dog owners thousands of dollars down the line. Knowing that heart disease or cancer are potential risks before they happen is certainly an advantage. In other words, pet owners are prepared for the worst. DNA testing enables them to be ready, in addition to just being informed about the fact that their dog is a mutt/purebred/etc.

So, to get back to the question “Is dog genetic testing a thing?”the answer is a resounding yes. Once considered a new technology fueled by curiosity and only aimed to address the ‘just because,’ it has expanded to address several practical issues when it comes to pet genetics. But given all that, genetic information should still be taken with a grain of salt. It is not the end all be all—just because you have found out that your little furry friend has some cancer genes, it does not mean that he will have it for sure. That just means that there is a potential for it and now you know.

So, dog DNA testing is a thing, but that is not where the story ends. But you were probably able to predict that. Cat owners can benefit from these services as well. So, can horse owners!

Laura Day
 

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