The Great Ways We Can Use Doggie DNA

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The entire canine genome has been mapped. How cool is that? Somewhere around 24,000 genes and their respective locations have been identified on a dog’s 78 chromosomes. Even cooler: the many ways we've put this rich information to good use.

Breed Identification

This type of genetic testing has been all over the news in recent years. It beats me why people are so keen to know which breeds are responsible for their dogs’ inner beauty, but if it helps someone better understand her pet, I’m all for it.

Stool Identification

There are those of us who just aren't willing to handle our pets’ poop, which is how it ends up befouling our walkways and fancy kicks. As a result, some of these owners are being forced to submit their dogs to a cheek swab, so the DNA can be recorded. When stray poop happens, DNA in the stool is compared to logged samples and –– voila! –– the culprit can be identified, apprehended or fined. In one town in Israel and plenty of multidwelling complexes throughout the United States, this tool has been successful.

Parentage Testing

Dogs will be dogs. Owners who remain clueless (and happen to care) about which dog romanced their bitch just have to pony up $50 to $100 to find out the boy who is the baby daddy.

Trait Testing

Yes, you can find out the exact genes your dog carries, so you can predict whether your pup will bear babies of certain coat colors. Here’s an example from a Dachshund website:

“Longhair coat type — DDC Veterinary — $58 for 1-4 dogs, $48 for 5+ dogs. Done using swabs. If you need to find out if your wirehairs or shorthairs carry longhair, this is the test for you."

Genetic Disease Testing

This is really the future of canine genetics. Knowing what kind of hair your Dachshund will have is fun and all, but looking for (and eliminating!) disease is what we really care about, right?

Many organizations, companies and foundations offer information on disease testing for individual dog breeds, including the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Canine Genetic Diseases Network and the Dog Genome Project, to name a few.

Unfortunately, diseases that come about due to the expression of multiple genes — hip dysplasia, mitral valve disease, osteosarcoma — have proven rather difficult to identify using genetic tests. And since they’re more common, it’s clear we have a long way to go before we’ll eradicate all genetic diseases through testing alone.

In the meantime, here's a sampling of the genetic disease tests currently on offer:

Human Disease Investigation

Perhaps the most surprising bit of news that’s come from mapping the canine genome has been the ability to apply what we've learned about canine genetic diseases to human ailments — and vice versa. Dogs have been credited with many wins in human medicine that we’d never have secured if not for the ability to plumb the depths of doggie DNA, including diabetes and Battens disease.

And to think, before the canine genome was mapped, everyone thought it was just a vet vanity project. Hooray for doggie DNA!


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