In the past, not too many people considered doing dog DNA testing. However, with the advancements in veterinary medicine, knowing about genetic conditions or health issues early can be helpful. A dog DNA test can help with determining if a dog will need special care sooner than symptoms show up. The tests can also show if a genetic issue could be passed to future generations if the dog is bred. There are also many other benefits of doing this type of testing for a furry family member.
DNA in Dogs
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is what every person, dog, and any other living organism has in their body. It is composed of substances known as nucleotides. Every living organism’s DNA sequence is different.
A dog has between 20,000 and 25,000 genes that are all located within 78 chromosomes. To put this in perspective, humans only have 46 chromosomes.
The Dog DNA Test
When you decide you want to do dog DNA testing, you must purchase a kit. The dog DNA test kit is simple to use. You simply swab the inside of your dog’s mouth to get cells from their cheeks. You send the swab to the lab, where the test is run. The DNA results are then entered into the computer and sent to you via email.
Depending on how much information you are requesting, you may also need to provide a blood sample. This may not be as simple as the swab. Therefore, you may need to visit your vet to obtain the blood from your dog.
Dog DNA Testing Benefits
There may be times where your dog becomes pregnant, and you have no idea who the father is. Or another dog owner believes your dog is the father of their dog’s babies. When that happens, you can do a dog DNA test to figure it out.
Technology is used to create a DNA snapshot of both adult dogs and the puppies. Those snapshots can then be compared to see who the parents of the puppies are.
The profiles can also be used to positively identify a dog and track the dog’s pedigree.
The American Kennel Club currently has a DNA Profiles Service. This service records the genetic identification of dogs. This program is used to help add value to breeding programs. Breeders can alleviate their concerns, as well as questions about parentage.
Through the AKC DNA Profiles Service, each gene is present as two copies. Those two copies are called alleles. Puppies receive one copy of each gene from both their parents.
The dog DNA tests used to confirm parentage do not use actual genes. They use other DNA sequences that are referred to as markers. The markers are not functional genes. Therefore, parentage DNA profiles are only used for that or genetic identity.
This is why you must know in advance what you want to test for when doing a dog DNA test. If you simply request parentage confirmation, you won’t receive any information about breed, appearance, or genetic diseases.
Determining the Mix of Mixed Breed Dogs
Determining the mix of a mixed breed dog can be difficult. This is especially true if there are multiple breeds in one dog. However, as an owner, you may want to know about your dog’s breed. Being aware of what breeds your dog is can allow you to be proactive when it comes to healthcare and even training.
Of course, knowing what types of breeds your dog is made up of can also help you understand how big your dog will be when they are full grown.
Revealing a Hidden Trait
Genes are funny. Sometimes a dog may have a certain color fur, but they have a gene for another color in their DNA. If a breeder isn’t aware of that hidden gene, they may be surprised when a litter of puppies is born with different colored fur than expected.
If you are a breeder, you may want to do a dog DNA test to determine what genes your dog has for coat color, fur texture, and coat pattern.
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Determining Inherited Diseases
PennGen is a genetic testing facility at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. According to PennGen, there are more than 900 inherited disorders that have been discovered in dogs.
If you want to know if your dog has inherited any health issues from their parents, dog DNA testing is the answer. While you won’t be able to learn about all 900+ disorders mentioned above, you can learn if your dog will have one of the more common issues.
Some of the common issues that can be discovered through dog DNA testing include cancer, allergies, and heart disease. Learning about health issues before symptoms begin can help you take the appropriate steps to keep your dog healthy. Plus, you will be more aware of what you should be looking for when symptoms do begin to show.
It can also be helpful to know whether your dog is a carrier for any inherited diseases if you plan to breed them. Since breeders have the responsibility of producing healthy puppies with no health issues, they use dog DNA tests regularly when breeding new dogs.
Accuracy of Dog DNA Testing
Dog DNA tests can be quite accurate. However, there are many factors that could skew the results you receive. Accidentally swabbing the mouths of two dogs could provide unexpected results. You may think this would never happen, but there are times when the person doing the swabbing gets confused with which swab they just used. So, keep that in mind when you are doing a DNA test on your dog.
Environmental factors or immune factors of a dog could also produce results that are not as accurate as they should be.
Dog DNA testing works best in purebred dogs. Mixed breeds testing can result in false positive results concerning certain breeds. This happens most often when there are multiple breeds within a single dog’s genetic makeup.
Safety Concerns of Dog DNA Tests
Since a dog DNA test is a simple swab of cells or blood draw, there are no concerns of performing the test. However, caution should be used once you receive the results. If the test shows an inherited disease, you may be ready to put your dog on certain medications immediately. This is not something that is recommended.
You should check with your dog’s vet before adding any medication to your dog’s daily schedule. Dog DNA tests are only designed to work as a supplemental tool for now. Your dog’s vet can offer guidance of what you should look for and consider when it comes to the future potential health concern.
Dog DNA testing may seem new to many people, but it has been around for a long time. If you have never done a dog DNA test on any of your dogs before, it might be something to consider. You may learn something about your dog. They may not be the breed you thought they were or maybe they are susceptible to a health issue in the future. And even if you don’t discover anything new, you will at least have their DNA profile if you ever need it.