DNA Testing for Dogs – Does it really work?

DNA testing for dogs has been available for several years. The previously available Wisdom Panel was based on a cheek swab provided by the owner and had a reputation for providing questionable results.

Royal Canin recently retooled the Wisdom Panel and is now calling it a Genetic Health Analysis. The new test uses a blood sample and is available only through Veterinarians. It purports to offer a lot more bang for your buck, including:

  • Genealogy Findings – the most likely breeds in your dog, going back 3 generations
  • Breed Characteristics – an explanation of the history and traits of the breeds discovered
  • Genetic Markers – checks for 13 inherited diseases and 27 breed-specific mutations
  • Nutritional Recommendations – a projected adult weight and lifespan
  • Genetic Ancestry Certificate – a cute addition to your dog’s baby book

But does the DNA test really work?

We had to know before offering it to our clients, so we tested two of our own dogs.

Test #1 – Peanut

PeanutPeanutMy dog, Peanut was adopted from the OC shelter as a “Jack Russell mix.” Of course she looks a little bit like a chihuahua, like most dogs in the OC shelter. But she definitely has the personality traits of a terrier.

 

 

Geneology results:

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Initially I was disappointed. Especially when the report went further to identify 5 breeds “most likely” to make up the mixed breed portion (in order of likelihood): Anatolian Shepherd, Australian Terrier, Puli, Shar-Pei, and Miniature Poodle.  I don’t see any of those breeds, with the exception of the terrier.

But the more I thought about it, the Australian Shepherd made sense. The report provides a detailed profile of the breeds identified, and I was surprised to see many of her characteristics in the Australian Shepherd. I am now more forgiving of Peanut when she chases the cat – she’s just herding him!

Other parts of the report fit well – adult weight 9-22 pounds (she weighs 17). Age until seniority – 8 years – that’s good to know. She was negative for 13 disease causing mutations. And she tested negative for 3 inherited diseases of Australian Shepherds, 2 eye diseases and 1 drug sensitivity. That is to be expected in a mixed breed dog, but you never know.

Test #2: Butterscotch

ButtersButterscotchMayra also adopted Butters from the OC shelter where she was labeled an “Australian Kelpie.” She definitely  has the traits of a working dog, but no distinct breed really stands out in her looks.

 

Geneology Results:

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The Pit Bull was expected, the other two breeds not so much. However, the Brittany traits – easy to train, high energy – were a perfect match. And she can run like a greyhound. The 5 breeds most likely to make up the mixed breed portion were Collie, Bullmastiff, Bedlington Terrier, French Bulldog, and Swiss Mountain Dog. In the Veterinary report, no genetic mutations or breed-specific diseases were detected. And the size estimate (23-55 pounds) fit.

Was Mayra happy with the results? Sure! Anything that helps a dog owner know more about their dog is helpful – for training, exercising, feeding, and just keeping them happy. The predicted size would be especially of interest for new puppy owners.

Because mixed breed dogs are extremely unlikely to have inherited diseases, I think the Genetic Markers portion would be much more useful to purebred dog owners. If your Boxer was more at risk for cardiomyopathy or your Doberman more at risk for VonWillebrand’s Disease, would you want to know? More information about the Genetic Markers portion of the test is at Royal Canin’s Website.

We decided to make the test available to our clients, as long as they are aware that the “mixed breed” dog tag is likely to be included. The test costs $150.

And yes, in case you were wondering about legal issues, there is a disclaimer…

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