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Dog Breed DNA Testing: Does It Work and How Do I Get Started? –

In the past, there was no way to identify the genetics of mixed breed dogs except by their markings and behavior. However, with the advent of dog breed DNA testing kits, owners can now solve the mystery of their pet's heritage.

Dog breed DNA tests can be ordered from many different companies and the reliability of the results may hinge on how many different dog breeds the companies have in their DNA database. For example, one company that charges $59.99 for their DNA test claims it can identify 63 breeds while another company can identify 225 breeds for $150.

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The higher end testing methods involve a blood sample drawn by a veterinarian while the lower end involve a skin cell swab taken from inside the dog's cheek. The samples are mailed in for laboratory analysis and results are generally returned within a few weeks.

The more mixed the breed however, the less likely the results will be accurate. Nathan Sutter, Ph.D. and assistant professor of medical genetics at Cornell University says, "if a dog is mixed breed and comes from a great many breeds, each with just a small contribution to the total, then the breed test may be unable to identify most or all of the breeds contributing to the dog,” reports WebMD.

The main reason that dog owners decide to invest in a dog breed DNA test is curiosity. Their dog may have been the focus of many a discussion about why it has a curly tail, white spots on the paws, a black tongue, or seasonal shedding patterns. With DNA technology just money away, owners can seek and find answers to those questions.

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There are other benefits to dog breed DNA testing beyond simply knowing the heritage of a family pet. For example, some breeds, such as boxer dogs, are more susceptible to specific health conditions. All Boxer Info reports that for the boxer breed, cancer is their primary health concern. Knowing that boxer is part of a mixed breed dog's DNA can alert owners to keep an eye out for early warning signs of cancer.

Dog breed DNA testing can also alert owners that their dog may have certain behavioral characteristics and nutritional needs. For example, terriers are very energetic, hounds are independent thinkers, and German shepherds are highly intelligent and protective. In addition, larger dog breeds like shepherds, mastiffs, and great Danes are more prone to arthritis and thus exercise and proper nutrition are critical to maintaining their joint health.

It is interesting to note that most dog breed DNA tests do not detect the presence of coyote or wolf in dogs. This is because the DNA databases are compiled of known domesticated dog breeds. However, the Veterinary Genetics Lab at UC Davis can attempt to make this determination using a coyote-hybrid test. In addition, test manufacturers are often asked if they can identify pit bull DNA. This is not possible because pit bulls are not a breed, but instead are mixes of many different dogs.

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