Click here to learn more.
In 2007, canine geneticists threw veterinarians and dog owners an unexpected bone. After spending years mapping the entire canine genome, they’d arrived at a novel application for their findings. They’d make use of their accumulated knowledge of the specific genes that served as markers in particular breeds of dogs to help suss out the true purebred provenance of even the motliest of mutts.
These so-called “mutt tests,” officially termed dog breed identification genetic tests, were the very first of their breed. Which is probably why the results seemed a bit sketchy. I mean, it was hard to look at a long-legged, short-nosed dog and consider Chihuahua and Beagle an acceptable solution to the problem of questionable parentage.
It was this kind of off-the-wall answer that left dog owners feeling fleeced and veterinarians scratching their heads.
Fast-forward five years and the landscape’s changed. The tests have been continually refined for greater accuracy. Apparently, more purebred testing leads to more genetic markers, which translates into more credible results.
Now, that doesn’t mean the tests are perfect, and it certainly doesn’t mean the results won’t shock, dismay or confound you. Indeed, the theoretically vast variability in looks in just one litter out of two different purebreds would truly amaze you. Despite the still-prevalent doubt, these tests are getting a whole lot closer to the truth… more so every day.
Which is why veterinarians like me are starting to look at them in a whole new light.
While I never doubted the fundamental science behind the tests, I confess to having once been a devout skeptic of their relevance. I mean, who cares if it’s a Cocker Spaniel, Poodle, or Portuguese Water Dog? What difference does it make except to potentially perpetuate the notion that mixes are in need of definition and, by inference, that purebreds are preferable?
But now I believe I’ve been mistaken to disdain the utility of greater genetic certainty. After all, it’s good for at least three things:
1. Assessing the risk of specific genetic diseases known to afflict the purebreds in a mixed breed’s ancestry can be very helpful to veterinarians hoping to direct pet owners toward appropriate screening tests and diagnose illnesses more efficiently.
2. Knowing which breed or class of breeds a mixed dog hails from can help head off big behavior issues by channeling his drive in a more natural and effective direction. Doing so might just save him from shelter relinquishment or even untimely euthanasia.
3. Breed specific legislation (BSL) remains a hot topic in many municipalities around the world. Despite the science supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing no evidence of any breed’s inherent propensity for violence, thousands of dogs are put to death every year for the sin of semi-resembling a specific breed the community deems problematic.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
An adorable black and white cat parked
himself right in the way of one of the
holes on a mini-golf course.
Vets performed a two-hour surgery to try to
save the leg of a Maltese struck
by a stolen van during a police chase.
You may be more familiar with the black-and-white variety of panda, but the red panda
had the name first.
Nocturne: Creatures of the Night, by Traer
Scott, showcases night-loving animals like
owls, moths and raccoons.
At this point in your dog's life, he's likely
beginning to show the signs of his age
and is not as active or…
With 40,000 animals poached each year
for the ivory trade, it might not be long
before elephants disappear…
When she's not curled in your lap, the affectionate and elegant Birman will gladly play fetch or chase a ball.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.