Posted by: secondchancehumanesociety | October 26, 2010

Doggie DNA Testing – Solving Curiosity & More

Merlin the Mysterious

My name is Merlin, and I am a handsome “Lab mix” here at the Second Chance Shelter.  When I am introduced as such people often ask, “mixed with what?” The response carries the theme of, “your guess is as good as mine”.  So I decided to research a new option to “breed-guessing” which comes in the form of an easy genetic swab test that can reveal a dog’s breed and ancestral origins.  Below is what I have learned: 

 In 2006, a team of scientists at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York established a canine DNA bank in pursuit of creating a canine disease identification system by genetically mapping the gene(s) contributing to those diseases.  The intent was that this DNA bank would help with diagnosing varying canine diseases but it has led to low-cost and simple DNA testing and results for the general population.

 However, since there is a strong correlation between certain ailments and disease with particular breeds (for example, Labrador Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia and Collies are prone to blindness), once breeds are revealed from DNA testing, veterinarians can institute preventative care from a health maintenance and preventative perspective.

 Thus, DNA testing goes way beyond curiosity of breed identification. The information that DNA testing can provide can help in diagnostics of both behavioral and medical issues of dogs.  For example a local dog parent of a “Lab mix” who submitted a sample for DNA testing found out that her dog was a Dalmatian (among a few other things) – and not a Labrador Retriever at all which helped to explain some medical and behavioral anomalies that were specific to the Dalmatian breed.

 A representative of one of the world’s most experienced canine DNA laboratories, stated, “A dog can look one way but he is genetically a much different animal. In the same fashion, dogs can have the same genetic mix and look completely dissimilar. After years of doing this, it isn’t as black and white as some might think.”  Thus, dog parents who are submitting DNA tests for their dogs can find surprising results.

 Still, dog DNA research continues to maintain a focus upon identifying and finding treatments and cures for various canine diseases (and this research helps human DNA research, as we share many of the same genes and diseases).

 An article on this topic in a Fido Friendly magazine that I came across reports that much of this research integrates DNA testing and medical therapies, for example, finding that some dogs (but not others) respond to certain treatments depending on their DNA.  This suggests genetics plays a role in the development of many diseases, including cancer.  Those in the field of canine DNA testing are confident that they will eventually be able to identify those genetic tendencies that are responsible for the increased risk of specific cancers in certain breeds.

 But in the meantime, if your “mutt” is of mysterious heritage that you would be interested in discovering – for the purpose of gaining insight toward a medical or behavioral issue or simply out of plain curiosity – you can purchase a DNA test kit at the Second Chance Shelter for only $15.  After collecting a sample (simple swipe of the inside of their mouth) there is a fee of $60 for test results and shipping.

 As for me, I do strongly resemble a Black Lab, but as I have a white chest and white patches on my feet and an affinity toward counting sheep in my sleep, I am thinking I am closely related to the Turkish Akbash Dog  or maybe the Slovak Cuvac.  Regardless, I am really hoping to find a new home soon and most importantly I am athletic, loyal, and a bit lonely and ready for love.

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