DNA dog breed testing: Fun and useful, too

December 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

QuoraDNAThe owners of my patients are always bringing me a newly adopted dog of unknown ancestry and asking me, “So, doctor, what kind of dog is he?”

I used to just look wise and knowledgeable and give my best guess, which was probably about as reliable as throwing a dart at that nifty breed chart the pet food companies give us to hang on our exam room walls.

Today, I can offer them a simple DNA test that will give them the scientific lowdown on their mutt’s background.

Now, knowing what breeds make up your mixed-breed dog won’t make you love him any more. It won’t make it easier to scoop up after him, either. But it can help owners of a new pet make a better guess about his potential behavior issues and traits, and it can also put them on the lookout for possible breed-related health problems.

Of course, for most pet owners, the main appeal of these new DNA tests is finding out if their guess is right. I know when Wisdom Panel asked me to be their spokesperson last year, I couldn’t wait to test my dog Quixote, who we’d been told was a mix of Papillon, Poodle, and Yorkie.

As Pet Connection readers might remember, whoever told us that was wrong. Turns out his DNA came from a Pomeranian, a Chihuahua and a Yorkie. In other words, a Porkahuahua.

ublBut I enjoyed the guessing game so much I decided to do it again, this time on my own dime. We’re waiting on the results of a DNA test for our dog Quora, pictured above. None of our readers got it right for Quixote — although Christie almost did, guessing Pomeranian and Chihuahua – but we’ll give a signed copy of  any of the “Ultimate” books Gina and I have written including our latest, “The Ultimate Bird-Lover,” which the winner will get before it hits stores in February.

To help you guess, let me tell you a little bit about her. She is 5 years old. We got her at age 3 from a Petsmart Adoptathon. She weighs 16 pounds. She loves to be held and lies very still. She doesn’t bark excessively, but has a rather shrill bark. She does have separation anxiety and is on medication for it (Reconcile).

She loves to chew up shoes. So much so that  one of her nicknames is Imelda Barkos. She also sheds like crazy, leading to the nickname the Hairy Handgrenade.

Post your guesses in the comments section any time before Sunday, December 27 at 11:59 PM Pacific (California) time, and I’ll announce the DNA test results, and the winners, on Tuesday, December 29.

And on the more serious side, sure, it’s fun to know the breed makeup of a mixed breed dog and be able to respond with authority when somebody asks of your Heinz 57, “What kind of dog is that anyway?”

But as a veterinarian, the real value for me is knowing about some breed-related health risks. For example, if the dog is part Scottish Terrier, he could be more prone to bladder cancer from lawn chemicals and needs to be protected.

If she is part Collie, then we need to keep her away from oral compounds that contain Ivermectin (common in many parasite and heartworm products). Part Pug? We’ll need to watch for retained teeth that are only seen on a dental x-ray.

Understanding the dog’s makeup also allows us to understand, then modify, certain behaviors. Terriers, for instance, gotta dig, so knowing our shelter mutt’s part Terrier means we can provide a tantalizing digging zone in a location of our choosing, and head problems off at the pass.

Think you might want to test your dog? The tests run anywhere from $75 to $150 dollars (more in Manhattan and less in Memphis).

Some DNA tests are done with cheek swabs and can be done by pet owners with a kit, while others require a blood sample and are only done through veterinarians. Check with your vet and see which he recommends for your pet. And let us know how close you came to guessing on your own — and don’t forget to guess about Quora!

Update from Gina: We’re going to have a lot of people guessing the same thing, judging from the early guesses. So if we’ll draw for THREE winners from all the people who get it right, and each will get a signed book.  I upped the ante because I had to change “the rules” a little! And obviously, if you want to get the book, please use your real e-mail addy so we can contact you if you’re the winner.

http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2009/12/…

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DNA dog breed testing: Fun and useful, too DNA dog breed testing: Fun and useful, too

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