Top Reasons to Get Your Dog’s DNA Tested
Written by: Ashley Troutman
Dog; it’s the first word many of us learn and the first friend many of us have. Dogs are an integral part of our communities and lives, they represent a feeling of warmth, home and comfort to so many. While pets often become members of the family, many don’t know as much as they could about their furry friends.
Get to know your pup better than ever before by learning about his or her genetics and ancestry. A DNA test could even give you the ability to add years to your fur baby’s life. Get insights on your dog’s breed, family tree, health, and more with a simple cheek swab.
Here are the top three reasons to get your pup’s DNA checked right away:
Finding the Right Home
A dog DNA test unveils the breed or breeds of your dog. Knowing the breed of a puppy means it’s easier to know how big he or she will get, which makes finding the right home an easier job. If you wanted a big furball to cuddle with, adopting a Chihuahua wouldn’t be the way to go. And you wouldn’t want to add a German Shepherd to your family if you lived in a small apartment.
I spoke with Embark Vet’s Senior Veterinary Geneticist Erin Chu, who said that a DNA test can uncover estimated adult body size as well, so you can ensure a pup is in the right place.
“Some DNA tests, including Embark Vet, will give you an estimated adult body size. Depending on what test you use, this might be based on breed averages; Embark actually uses the genotypes at over seventeen genes known to impact body size in dogs. While you should always leave room for error (no predictive algorithm will be 100% accurate!), it’s definitely valuable to know what size your new family member might grow to,” Dr. Chu said. “We had a client who though she’d adopted a Miniature Poodle puppy, but the dog was actually a mix of two large breeds, with an estimated adult weight of over 60 pounds! Imagine if she’d bought a small dog bed or crate thinking that it’d work for her dog forever!”
Possible Health Risks
Testing your dog’s DNA can identify genetic health risks that may arise in the future. Finding out what illnesses your pup may encounter throughout his or her life can allow you to take preventative steps.
“One of the most common health risk variants that we see is hyperuricosuria and hyperuricemia, or HUU. This is exceedingly common in some dog breeds, like Dalmatians and the bully breeds. HUU dogs tend to develop urate crystals and stones in the kidneys and bladder, and are at higher risk for urinary tract infections and urinary obstruction, both of which can land your dog in the emergency room,” Dr. Chu said. “In fact, one of our very first Embark dogs was ‘At Risk’ for HUU; when I emailed the owner, she told me that the pup had just gotten back from the ER for a urinary obstruction. If she’d known earlier, she might’ve avoided that trip, as HUU responds pretty well to dietary and lifestyle management.”
A DNA test even has the power to save your dog’s life. If the results confirm that your dog is at risk for the MDR1 mutation, you should talk to your vet about which drug classes and drug dosages you should avoid. That simple test and conversation could save your dog from having a bad or even deadly reaction to medication.
Learning About Traits
A DNA test also reveals insights on traits. For example, if you don’t want a house full of fur, you may be intrigued by a shedding test. Trait tests also reveal insights on coat color, performance, genetic diversity, body size, and other body features.
“While I’d say that our largest audience for trait information are our dog breeders, there’s a lot to learn from genotypes that drive a breed-defining trait. We get a lot of folks who insist their dog is a black Lab mix because their hair is short and shiny and black,” Dr. Chu explained. “If I told you, though, that the ‘short hair’ allele is dominant, and so is the ‘black coat color’ allele (meaning you only need one copy of each allele to actually have a short black coat), and that both of those alleles are at high frequency in many dog breeds, it might be more plausible that your black Lab mix isn’t actually a Lab mix.”
With all of this to learn about your four-legged friend, why would you hesitate to try a dog DNA test?