The news is full of people checking out their ancestry and then sharing the results but you may have also noted that there are just as many people talking about their dog’s ancestry as well. How do they even know what is in the dog’s family tree especially if it is a rescue pup?
Dog DNA tests are not only pretty simple, they are becoming more and more common and more and more important as well. Some laws may even require these tests so that there is some sense of what kind of dog you have.
A Brief History of DNA Testing for Dogs
Human DNA testing has been standard for many years and becomes more and more sensitive as the science grows and becomes more sophisticated. This is the case with testing for dogs as well as the need and desire for more background information for our pets becomes more commonplace. The first test for dogs was developed and performed in 2007 by Mars Veterinary. Wisdom Panel, which is owned by Mars Veterinary, Inc. reports that more than 400,000 tests have been sold since then. (Fortune Magazine)
The testing itself looks at over 300 specific genetic markers and can deliver up to 90% accuracy in major breed of the dog as well as uncovering a list of other factors that are important to the dog owner.
Where to Get a Dog DNA Test
Many vets offer some form of DNA testing especially for certain types of diseases and genetic defects, however the cost may be higher in the vet’s office and there may be limitations.
Vets in smaller or rural areas may not provide this service directly but may help get the testing supplies and answer questions about the results for people who are afraid that the process will be too complex.
Another possible resource is through the many online companies (Here’s a good example of where to get a dog DNA test). The average cost of DNA tests from these sites can range from $35-70 and may depend on a number of factors such as:
- Shipping and handling fees
- The type of sample being sent in- blood or cheek swab
- Processing time
At the vet’s office the fee for the test alone can range from $40-100 with the added cost of the visit and any other procedures, medications or extras that were included that day.
Why Would You Need a DNA Test for Your Dog?
For most people there is always a little bit of curiosity about their dog’s heritage especially if he looks like one breed but has all of the personality traits of another. There are other reasons that you might need this testing though.
- Required at some dog shows to prove purity of the breed
- May be legally required when moving in to certain types of housing in some locations
- For optimal health of your pet
Some dog shows, especially the ones that are focused on “pure” bred dogs, are requiring certification via DNA testing that a dog is as pure as possible.
New laws are being written in certain cities around the country that may require this testing to prove that a dog is or is not allowed to live in the area or in certain buildings. Some areas have bans of certain breeds so even a small percentage of that breed in the history could keep you from living there with your dog.
Finally, there is the question of health. Just as human genetic testing watches for and identifies the risk factors for certain types of diseases and conditions, dogs can be tested to make sure that they are not a “carrier” for illnesses or that they are not at greater risk for conditions that could shorten their lives.
If your dog is identified to be at risk, there will be a number of steps that you can take to keep him as healthy as possible for as long as possible. These steps can include things like an improved diet, supplements, preventative medicines and even exercise routines.
When you test for more than common ailments and conditions the costs can become higher but if there is any risk of serious issues it is better to be prepared.
Be Prepared for Some Shocks
Most people have some clue of what breed their dog might be especially if they bought from a breeder. People who have rescued a dog from a shelter or adopted a foster care dog may have less idea and may only base their guesses on appearance. They could be completely wrong.
While the testing accuracy is pretty high, there are some chances of missed factors and there is always the chance that the frou-frou poodle that the breeder dotes on had a dalliance with the lab that hopped the back fence. Be ready for those little surprises.
The average dog lover will do anything they can to make sure that their dog is as healthy as possible up to and including getting him DNA tested. This allows them to make decisions about food, exercise and even supplements among other things to keep their dog happy for as long as possible.
It doesn’t matter if you are trying to prove that your dog is the pick of the litter as a purebred or trying to make sense of the mixed bag that is your shelter dog, DNA testing can answer tons of questions making it worth every penny that you spend.