DNA Testing for Dogs – A Useful Trend?
DNA tests for dogs have recently been advertised to determine dog breeds. This is especially interesting for owners of mixed-breed dogs, as they provide information about which dog breeds are in the four-legged friends. Here, various DNA test packages are offered on the Internet, with which pet owners can take saliva samples from their dogs themselves and send them to the responsible laboratory for evaluation. However, these genetic tests are not only used to determine the breed of dog, but have many other applications. For example, they make an essential contribution to the preventive health care of animals, in that hereditary diseases, genetic defects and other hereditary dispositions can be detected at an early stage. The tests are capable of detecting genetic health problems even before the first symptoms develop. DNA analysis is also used in professional breeding of pedigree dogs to prove their purity and perfect health. Another benefit of DNA testing is better placement of shelter dogs.
The best DNA tests for dogs
What does the DNA say about the dog?
DNA, also known as deoxyribonucleic acid, is the carrier of genetic information and provides information about the genetic characteristics of living organisms. These determine in the dog, for example, the coat color and the physique, but also the predispositions for diseases and other health problems. DNA is located in the chromosomes of the body’s cells, and a dog has a total of 39 pairs of chromosomes. As a component of chromosomes, DNA is in turn composed of smaller building blocks called nucleotides. Their arrangement occurs in specific, repeating DNA strands that dictate the structure of a cell. A dog’s genome contains over 2.5 billion nucleotides, with veterinary science focusing primarily on 200,000 of these nucleotides. Accordingly, genetic tests for dogs are specialized in analyzing the sequence of DNA strands.
How does a DNA test for dogs work?
At the beginning of a genetic examination of the dog is the collection of samples containing DNA. This can come from the blood or saliva of the dog. For DNA tests, which can be ordered online, all that is needed is a swab of the oral mucosa. Here, all the necessary tools for correct sample collection are already included in the packaging of the test package. The DNA sample taken is then sent to the relevant laboratory by the owner himself or the veterinarian. There, the dog’s DNA is extracted from the sample material via special procedures and amplified. Afterwards, the DNA material is compared with the genetic data pool of known dog breeds or disease genes. This involves searching for comparable patterns in the sequence of DNA strands. The evaluated DNA profile is then transmitted to the dog owner or the responsible veterinarian. When determining the breed of mixed breeds, the breakdown of test results is in the form of percentages. In addition, the respective percentages of the dog breeds contained in the mongrel are presented in the form of clear and easy-to-understand diagrams. In the case of health screening, the pet owner or veterinarian will be told if the dog is a carrier of hereditary diseases or if there are other health risks. In addition, it can be determined how high the probability of a disease outbreak is.
Accessibility and costs
DNA analysis is feasible for dogs of any breed and age. These can be requested to identify related dog breeds as well as the detection of genetically caused diseases. Many of the test packages available on the market offer a combination of both tests. Most DNA test kits can be ordered online from the respective supplier. However, genetic testing can also be done through the veterinarian, especially if a health check of the animal is desired. The price of the DNA tests offered varies and ranges from two to three digits. Pricing is largely based on the size of the database with which the dog’s DNA sample is to be compared. Some companies also offer longer-term storage of DNA material for further testing as an additional service. Due to the high demand for dog gene testing, test evaluation can take up to four weeks on average. In the case of a successful evaluation of the genetic material, a detailed breakdown for the correct interpretation is enclosed. In addition, if there are any uncertainties or questions about the results, it is possible to contact the respective laboratory.
On the accuracy of the tests
Since the accuracy of DNA tests for dogs depends on the size of the genetic databases of the laboratories, it must be noted that there are qualitative differences in the evaluation. Even though the technology of the tests is always evolving and the test results are becoming increasingly accurate, there is still no single provider that has comparative data on all 800 recognized dog breeds. Problems can arise in test evaluation especially when there is insufficient data to compare DNA samples. As a result, a small laboratory database containing the genetic information of fewer than 100 dog breeds may produce inaccurate results in the testing of DNA samples. As a dog owner, one should become suspicious at the latest when hardly any genetic matches were found for the breed determination of the mongrel or the test results make no sense at all. Therefore, when planning a DNA test, it is essential to choose a laboratory that has a large data collection of genetic information. With regard to the detection of diseases, there are also critical voices on the use of DNA tests. These indicate that genes associated with the emergence of diseases do not necessarily lead to their onset. Accordingly, genetic testing is not a sole tool for the diagnosis of canine hereditary diseases and thus should rather be understood as a complementary tool of veterinary diagnostics.
Security and data protection
When choosing a dog DNA testing provider, make sure they are reputable and work with appropriate veterinary laboratories. In principle, it is helpful to find out in advance about the privacy policies of the respective test providers. These can be found on the companies’ websites and provide information about what happens to one’s data when requesting and performing the genetic test. In addition, European providers of DNA analysis are encouraged to take into account the guidelines of the General Data Protection Regulation. For the order of a DNA test package, usually only that information is required which is necessary for the execution of the contract. This includes, for example, the billing and delivery address of the client. However, the transmission of important personal data takes place on a voluntary basis. Furthermore, the further processing of the own data will only be initiated if the autonomous consent has been given beforehand. Furthermore, the results obtained from the DNA test are purely for the personal information of the dog owner and are handled in strict confidence, so there is no need to fear that the test data will be passed on to offices or authorities.
DNA testing in dog breeding
DNA analyses have versatile fields of application and are indispensable in the professional breeding of pedigree dogs. Their necessity is closely related to the history of the origin of dog breeds. The origin of individual breeds lies in the targeted breeding of animals, which were selected according to certain genetic characteristics. In order to enhance the desired traits in the character or appearance of the dogs, the mating of related animals was encouraged. According to this, most dog breeds were created by inbreeding, which means that the genetic material of purebred dogs has a higher risk of hereditary diseases than that of mixed breeds. Therefore, in modern pedigree dog breeding, DNA test is considered as a proof of good genetic material and proof of perfect health condition of the animals. Genetic testing is also used in the selection of breeding animals to ensure the transmission of healthy hereditary traits. Likewise, the genetic diversity of the breeding animals is to be guaranteed via the performance of DNA analyses. The focus of these genetic studies is to avoid breeding dogs that are related to each other. Thus, in the long run, the tests can improve the health of individual dog breeds and promote the reduction of dangerous genetic mutations. However, genetic analyses do not only benefit dog breeders, but also future owners of pedigree dogs. Here genetic tests are a proof that the entries in the pedigree of the animal are correct and actually a purebred dog is offered.
DNA testing in veterinary medicine
In addition to their successful use in dog breeding, DNA testing has proven useful in veterinary medicine, preventive health care, and early detection of genetic diseases. Therefore, they are an important complement in the diagnosis of health problems. There, they uncover DNA mutations that are linked to existing hereditary diseases and other genetic defects. The diseases passed on hereditarily can have a mild to severe impact on the health of the animals and, in the worst case, can lead to death. Particularly widespread in pedigree dogs are diseases of the musculoskeletal system such as the so-called “hip dysplasia”. Other breeds of dogs have a tendency to internal organ defects such as cardiac insufficiencies. Because of this fact, most veterinary laboratories work with genetic data from over 200 different canine diseases. In addition, the genetic analyses offered provide information on the immune system and metabolism, as well as on any drug intolerances. If genes associated with disease occurrence are discovered through DNA screening, veterinarians can develop a preventive treatment plan for their four-legged patients. This can delay or even prevent the possible onset of the disease. Thus, the quality of life of the dog can be increased in the long run, saving the animal and its owner a lot of suffering.
Many owners of mixed breed dogs wish to know the genetic origin of their pet. Thereby, the genetic make-up of a mixed breed dog can be composed of numerous dog breeds. Usually the dominant genetic traits, such as curly hair, are reflected in the dog’s appearance. Likewise, certain character traits of the mongrel are attributed to the relationship with other types of dogs. In addition, the presence of genes from certain pedigree dogs can also provide clues to potential disease risks. By identifying the dog breeds contained in the mongrel, pet owners hope to better understand their four-legged friend’s unique nature. Thus, if the test results indicate the large genetic component of a specific dog breed, this information may be helpful in planning the dog’s education. If the mixed-breed dog has a pronounced play instinct or urge to move, then this may be related to its direct relatives. Therefore, DNA testing can also help in making the right choice of employment for the dog. For example, if the dog has a predominant Border Collie breed gene, consideration should be given to engaging in dog sports such as agility, as this can have positive effects on the animal’s mental and physical exercise. By giving owners a greater understanding of their dog’s breed-specific needs, the bond with their own pet can be strengthened. This forms the basic prerequisite for a happy and fulfilled coexistence of man and animal.
Other advantages of canine DNA testing
Not only dog owners, but also animal shelters can benefit from DNA testing. This plays a role especially in animal placement when the genetic age and breed origin of a mixed breed dog is to be determined. Likewise, genes of so-called “list dogs” can be determined via genetic material testing. These dogs are considered problematic to keep due to their genetic origins, as they are commonly associated with aggressive behavior. If an animal is classified as a once-listed dog, its owner is subject to strict legal requirements regarding dog ownership. This fact makes it much more difficult for animal shelters to place these dogs. In the past, the categorization for listed dogs was mainly based on the assessment of external characteristics. However, this has changed with the advent of DNA analysis. Since then, the hereditary characteristics of the dog are also taken into account, which means that the dog is only classified as a list dog if the corresponding genes are present. In this way, it has already been possible to place many animals in new homes that were mistakenly considered to be list dogs because of their appearance.
So why should you do a canine DNA test?
Dog owners should consider DNA testing their beloved four-legged friend for several reasons. A major advantage of genetic analysis is its utility in canine health care. The examination of the genetic material is recommended especially when there is a suspicion of health problems. Here, the examination of genetic material, combined with other diagnostic procedures, can make significant contributions in the early detection of diseases. Thus, genetic testing supported the development of veterinary treatment strategies and potentially prevented the onset of severe disease, which is often associated with high treatment costs. In addition, the DNA test benefits all those who want to determine the ancestors of their own dog and get to the bottom of the uniqueness of their animal. Here, the knowledge of the genetic tuning of the dog can give deeper insights into the dog’s behavior. Likewise, the tests can provide possible explanations of specific traits in a mixed breed dog. Ultimately, this promotes a more comprehensive understanding of the dog’s individual needs, which has a positive impact on our interactions with animals and therefore their well-being.