Bark About! Blog

A puppy pile of dog information and stories

To Test or Not to Test?

Published November 28, 2023
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With advances in human medicine, we often see advances in animal medicine as well, which is great, because we want the best for our furry (or scaly or feathered) companions. One interesting capability that has grown in popularity over the last decade is pet DNA testing, particularly for dogs.

But if you’re considering a DNA test for your pup, what are the benefits and drawbacks?

Pros

One of the most obvious benefits of a DNA test is the purported ability to tell you just what breed, or breeds, a dog is. Understanding your dog’s breed(s) could provide insight into specific health risks or behavior concerns, but could also just help you “get” their personality quirks!

One study showed that 87.5% of dogs identified by an adoption agency as having specific breeds in their ancestry did not in fact have all of those breeds detected by DNA analysis. Since more dog owners are choosing to adopt dogs from shelters or rescues, knowing a dog’s breed mix could help adoption coordinators better match dogs with owners based on certain breed traits, leading to more successful pairings.

When it comes to the health of our pets, we want to provide the highest level of care possible. One company offers services to help create a personalized health care plan for your dog based on their test results.

Some DNA tests can help identify a dog’s closest puppy cousins, which is important for people who breed purebred dogs. Tests like these can help ensure that dogs who are too closely related won’t be bred together ensuring future generations will be healthier.

Cons

The science behind DNA testing for dogs is not exact, since there are not specific genetic sequences for each breed. Breed is determined more by how a dog looks than anything else. Even with a DNA test kit, the resulting list of breeds cannot determine which traits will manifest themselves in the dog, or to what degree.

Also, according to Wisdom Panel, each pet DNA testing company has its own reference populations, meaning the samples one company has collected may not be as robust as another company’s, making their test likely to return different results. One consumer actually sent in a sample of her own human DNA and she received test results identifying her as a mix of 3 different breeds!

Dog owners could become unnecessarily concerned with a non-existent medical concern based on test results, such as fear of bloat in a dog who may be part Great Dane, or epilepsy for a dog who may be part Cocker Spaniel. It’s always best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian on an annual basis so they can perform a standard exam and make recommendations for additional testing based on their observations.

We love them just the same

Just as with humans, DNA testing is a personal choice. At the end of the day, we love our pets regardless of what breeds a DNA test might tell us they are.

However, if you have opted to DNA test your dog (purebred or mixed-breed), what was your experience with the results? Did they seem accurate or outlandish? Let us know in the comments below!

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