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Whether we call them mixed-breed, mutts, or Heinz 57 hounds, Healthy Paws pet parents love their dogs of uncertain ancestry, based on the responses to a social media post asking them to share results of their DNA tests on their dogs.
Deoxyribonucleic acid, better known as DNA, is a material present in nearly all living organisms and is the main ingredient of chromosomes and the carrier of a unique genetic code. Tests for humans to learn about their lineage have been available for years and increasingly, people are having their pets tested as well.
While most people have their pets tested out of curiosity or just for fun, it can be quite useful to know your dog’s breed composite.
For example, certain breeds have specific medical vulnerabilities, so if you know the primary breed makeup of your canine, you can anticipate and be on the lookout for certain ailments. It also allows you to do more research on your pet’s personality, lifespan, proper weight, and behaviors, which can help to provide more specialized care for your pet.
There are many DNA pet test brands to choose from, including Wisdom Panel, Embark, and DNA My Dog for dogs. While less useful for cats as there is less genetic diversity, there’s also a number options for our feline friends too: Basepaws, Orivet Feline DNA Testing Kit and Neogen GeneSeek Operations Lab. The kits range in cost from $70 to $150.
Accuracy of DNA testing
While human DNA tests are considered highly accurate, there’s more room for error with pet DNA tests, and some results are inconclusive, experts say. There’s not much oversight of the companies. Some use the designation of “supermutt” as an identified breed, which is not particularly helpful to pet parents.
“It’s hard to know how accurate they are. Different test companies use different methodologies as far as we know, ” Lisa Moses, a veterinarian and a researcher with Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, told National Public Radio (NPR).
Most customers who responded to our unscientific poll expressed some surprise at the breeds the tests were said to reveal, and a high percentage found that their dog supposedly had Australian Cattle Dog (#55 in popularity in the U.S.) and Chow Chow (#77 in popularity), neither of which are among the most common breeds, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).