Your dog enjoys chasing squirrels, is excellent at fetch, has a cute kink in her tail, and has copious quantities of long, thick hair that drapes over the floor and blankets the couch. You want to learn more about the breeds in her ancestry and if your dog is at risk of any hereditary health concerns. The shelter you got her from described her simply as an Australian Shepherd mix. But in this case, a thorough DNA analysis could be helpful.

In 2004, a $30 million effort to sequence the dog genome was started by the National Human Genome Research Institute in order to learn more about the genes behind different dog breeds, canine features, and health issues. Their research sparked a wave of at-home DNA test products that claim to provide details on anything from breed and heritage to the likelihood of developing certain diseases.

But knowing that these products exist, you might be curious about how dog DNA testing operates and how accurate it is before paying to learn if your Australian Shepherd is truly a Border Collie mix and whether she’s more likely to develop certain health issues.

Benefits of DNA Tests

Depending on what’s being detected, DNA tests can provide various types of important information. For instance, a DNA test may provide details on a dog’s genetic makeup at a precise point in the genome known to affect a certain inherited feature.

Canine genetic testing can determine if a dog has a greater chance of inheriting certain medical disorders. This DNA testing can be very helpful in better understanding and preparing for any health issues that your dog might experience in the future. Great Danes and bloating are a prime illustration. According to studies, Great Danes are three times more likely than control dogs to have a variation of a gene linked to bloating.

When your vet performs a DNA test, they’re probably searching for a particular genetic mutation that could shed some light on whether a hereditary condition is the cause of your dog’s ailment. To more accurately identify the blend of breed types that make up your dog, additional DNA testing can be performed. DNA testing can also be utilized to exclude disorders or check for phenotypic characteristics like coat color.

Consider it a canine wellness check, but keep in mind that genetic risk testing is just intended to offer information about risk, not to diagnose any illness.

Most DNA testing that’s now performed looks for mutations that result in “Mendelian” or genetically straightforward inherited illnesses. Several potential future outcomes for a dog can be predicted by genetic testing, including:

  • Having two healthy copies of a gene and being “clean” for hereditary illnesses
  • Having two copies of a gene — one healthy and the other mutated — making a dog a carrier of or predisposed to certain genetic disorders
  • Having two copies of a diseased gene or those that are impacted by one

DNA testing is increasingly becoming more widely accessible for determining hereditary risk factors. Genetic risk factors raise each pet’s chances of getting an illness or disease, but they don’t guarantee that the pet will get the associated ailment.

Hidden Benefits of DNA Tests

For fun, you might get a kit for genetic-testing dogs. Knowing which breeds went into making your ideal dog or if your Corgi has any royal connections could be intriguing. Additionally, there are specific justifications for DNA-testing your dog.

To identify whether a dog patient is a high-risk candidate for surgery, for instance, a DNA test could be performed. Since illness makes Dobermans bleed in dangerously large volumes, being aware of this breed in a dog’s background is essential before any surgical interventions.

Contrarily, many diseases are complicated and brought on by a number of mutations or by the interplay of genes and a dog’s environment. While helpful in these circumstances, DNA is simply one piece of the jigsaw that explains why certain dogs have a particular illness.

Further benefits of DNA testing include learnings that are related to:

  1. Fitness

One way that DNA tests can be helpful is by providing information about possible health hazards related to fitness. You can watch for symptoms that might aid in an early diagnosis and course of treatment if test results reveal that your dog is prone to a genetic illness that affects their physical shape. To determine if an inherited condition may be to blame for a particular set of clinical indications, your veterinarian may request a DNA test. A dog that exhibits extreme weariness after activity, for instance, may have its DNA examined for Exercise-Induced Collapse, a rare but hereditary illness.

  1. Behavior

Does your dog hunt tiny animals, bark excessively, or fear strangers? These habits can be influenced by their DNA, which might help you to address specific behavioral issues. DNA research revealed that Pit Bulls were more likely to tug on their leashes and that working dog breed types were more likely to experience separation anxiety. A DNA test may be able to shed some light on their actions and assist you (your professional dog trainer and your vet) in brainstorming potential fixes.

  1. Breeding

For the purpose of selecting which dogs in a lineage to breed, reputable breeders rely on DNA testing. Purebred dogs are more likely to have hereditary problems. Therefore, selecting mothers and sires free of such conditions can help the breed become healthier.

Based on the particular health concerns associated with distinct breeds, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and specific breed organizations advise genetic testing for specific conditions. This enables breeders to make breeding plans intelligently. You can be confident the puppy you select will have fewer breed-specific difficulties if you find a reputable breeder that regularly DNA-tests their pups.

  1. Tendencies

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that certain breeds were developed for specific purposes, such as the Great Pyrenees, which served as guard and herding dogs, and Alaskan Malamutes, which were bred to pull enormous weights.

Even though you might not require a livestock guardian dog or sled dog, having DNA results that reveal information about your dog’s ancestry can still be useful in helping you comprehend their behavior and provide for their needs based on what they were bred to do. 

Stay tuned for our second and final series on DNA Testing for dogs!