If you’ve ever wanted to know more about your furry family member and where they came from, a dog DNA testing kit could help.
“We adopted Luna, and she was such a unique looking dog,” said pet owner Amanda Olafsoon. “We had never seen a dog that looked like her, and we wanted to see what she was made of.”
Olafsoon had Luna and her dog Roxie’s DNA tested. She said she paid about $75 for tests that were focused on breed history, and several weeks later got some interesting results.
“We knew she had the Cattle Dog coat, and we knew she had some Small Terrier in her, but we also learned other breeds that she was mixed with, so she also has some Lab and Mini Poodle, which totally surprised us,” Olafsoon said.
Roxie turned out to be a mix as well.
“It turns out she is Cattle Dog, Treeing Walker Coonhound and Chihuahua. Treeing Walker Coonhounds are 70 pound Hounds, but it’s the Chihuahua in her that’s making her small,” Olafsoon said.
Embark Veterinary is a Boston based company that produces one of the top-selling dog DNA test kits. The company has provided tens of thousands of dog owners with their pets genetic make-up.
“We can tell you really what your dog is down to a T,” said Ashley Troutman of Embark Veterinary. “We can give you back 7 percent of a certain breed. People are having dog DNA reveal parties, almost like a gender reveal party, so it’s really catching on like wildfire.”
Dog owners order the kit, and swab the cheek of their dog for the DNA sample and mail it in. Embark says its canine DNA scientists use over 200,000 genetic markers to determine your dog’s family tree, and run over 175 genetic health and trait tests on your pet.
“We can tell you how big your dog is going to get, and we also do trait tests, like shedding for example, if you don’t want a house full of fur, you would probably be intrigued by the result for that test,” Troutman said.
“We also test for health results. we test for over 165 genetic health tests, so we can tell you if a dog is going to have something pop up later in life, and you may be able to prevent it.”
“I think from the two major companies who have done the panel tests and have done their homework, it’s a good product,” said Dr. Jerold Bell, adjunct professor of clinical genetics at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.
But as more and more companies offer tests that assess the risk for genetic diseases, Bell warns consumers could end up with an inaccurate interpretation of the test results, and false information about their pets likelihood to develop disease.
“I think that any results you get you need to talk to your veterinarian about, as well as contact the company, and make sure that you understand what these results mean, and the impact may or may not have on your dog,” Bell said. “Therefore, do your homework. It’s not just a black and white answer.”
Luna and Roxie are smaller than their DNA reports predicted they would be, but Olafsoon thinks the genetic lineage results are pretty spot on.
“You don’t know all the things they are going to do based on the DNA tests, but you can see what breeds they are made of, and associate that with the things they do around the house, and that is really fun,” Olafsoon said.
Three veterinary genetics experts published an opinion piece in the Journal Nature last month calling for standards and guidelines as pet genetic testing becomes more popular. They also advocate for the education of pet genetic counselors who can provide support and advice to pet owners after they have the testing done.