If you’ve been at the dog park recently and heard, “What kind of dog is that?” you may be looking at your dog of mixed breed in a new light. And your cat may have a unique look that makes it fun to speculate just what breeds might make up her family tree. 

If you find yourself speculating and wanting to know exactly what breed your dog or cat really is, there’s a sure fire way to find out. The answers lie in your pet’s genes. 

Pet DNA testing is gaining in popularity, but it’s not just a fun way to learn about your pet’s heritage. Knowing your pet’s breed can also help you tailor her training to her breed tendencies. It can also allow you to be on the watch for breed specific diseases that might crop up. 

How Pet DNA Testing Works

Pet DNA test kits contain all you’ll need to collect DNA samples from your pet. In most cases, you’ll swab the inside of your pet’s cheek with special brushes to collect cells in saliva that contain DNA. Once your samples are collected, you’ll mail them back to the DNA testing laboratory where they will be analyzed. 

Once at the lab, your pet’s DNA will be extracted and then compared to other pet DNA in the laboratory’s breed database. All DNA tests on the market today have reference panels of breed pets covering most of the pet breeds in existence. But the accuracy of the finding has to do with the size of the laboratory’s breed reference as well as the number of genetic markers the test contains. 

For example, some reference panels may have only 50 or 60 breeds, while others have hundreds. Those tests with low numbers of breed panels will not be as accurate as those with a higher number.

Most tests take two to eight weeks to provide results. 

More Than Breed ID

Pet DNA testing can be fun when you find out that your enormous dog is related to a Westie, or that your cat has some of the markers of a Scottish Fold. But are there other reasons besides curiosity to consider pet DNA testing? 

Certainly identifying your pet’s breed traits is one advantage. Knowing how big your pet will get, if hair coat will be long or short, and any other breed related behavior and tendencies can be helpful when deciding on training methods, ways to keep your pet happy, and how to play to their strengths. If your dog has herding breed in her lineage, for example, you’ll know more about what exercise requirements she has. 

Although there are some diseases that have proven to be difficult to identify using pet DNA testing, certain genetic or breed related health conditions, can be. Some of them are: 

  • MDR1 sensitivity
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • von Willebrand disease
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy

Genetic disease screening can not only help you predict or rule out certain conditions, but may help you and your veterinarian avoid certain diseases before they start by knowing your pet is at risk and taking appropriate measures. 

To Test Or Not To Test?

All in all, if you are simply curious about your pet’s breed or are interested in mitigating future problems, pet DNA testing may be beneficial. It doesn’t take the place of regular diagnostic screening, however. And, results may not be 100% accurate, depending on the testing company and their database. Cost may also be a factor. 

Whatever the case, we can all agree that any mixed breed pet, lovingly referred to as a mutt, is a wonderful thing. If you’ve had the test done already and know the results, we’d be interested to know the results at your pet’s next visit. And as always, if you have any questions, please give Blue Valley Animal Hospital a call.