The Benefits of DNA Testing for Dogs

September 18, 2016


Most of you have probably heard about DNA testing for your dog.  You adopted your dog and he is a member of the family, and now it would be so cool to be able to confirm the curiosity you have about whether he could be part Labrador Retriever? German Shepherd? and what about that cute scruffy face? Airedale?


  These tests can also be important diagnostic tools for veterinarians.  Many ailments and conditions stem from genetics passed down in the bloodlines of breeds and some sets of DNA complicate a dog's reaction to medications.  Much research is being done in human medicine on the gene level so it follows that our 4-legged friends should also be able to benefit by this research.  


The results of the DNA test will give breed identities which can help your veterinarian identify potential disease-causing mutations.  The breed make-up may point to an increased likelihood of particular conditions developing in the future.  And even though these tests may not be definitive, some of the over the counter dog DNA test kits are now able to predict some specific genetic mutations.


"It may not be a bad idea to test for known mutations that cause diseases that require additional care for owners," says Anna Kukekova, an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Department of Animal Sciences.  "Some breeds have unique mutations".


Kukekova  goes on to give the example of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an irreversible, largely untreatable genetic disease that causes blindness.  This disease has been documented in more than 100 breeds, but is more common in some.  Detecting the mutation that causes PRA can be a valuable step in predicting what the future holds for a particular dog.


"Knowing a dog's combinations of breeds can spur the need to be aware of disease conditions known to affect a particular breed," says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a Los Angeles-based veterinarian and blogger.


Dr. Mahaney uses the example of herding breeds, like shepherds and collies, often carry a defect in the multi-drug resistance gene.  This yields an increased likelihood of adverse reactions to some commonly prescribed medications.  "From a standpoint of care provision, knowing if my patient had a defect in this gene would lend valuable insight as to the potential for adverse reactions," says Mahaney.


Dog DNA Kits:

These kits are sold online and in pet stores and they range in price from about $60 to $90.  Some manufacturers of the more expensive kits justify their pricing by explaining that the affiliated laboratories include tests for common disease-causing genetic mutations and/or they supposedly have more dog breeds on file, which allows them to identify genes from breeds that are obscure in the U.S.


A great use for  DNA testing has to do with  a study published recently in The Veterinary Journal which found that half the "Pit Bulls" in Florida shelters actually had no DNA related to Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers or any other breeds lumped into the Pit Bull category of breeds.  Since the perceptions of Pit Bull Terriers can be touchy and complicated, this DNA test result information will help shelters to replace a negative label for these tested dogs who are often in an uphill struggle for adoption.


Nice to know that having a DNA test done on your dog, either by your veterinarian or via an over the counter kit, provides some very significant information that can really benefit the dog.




credit:  Nick Keppler,











































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