Should You Get Your Dog a DNA Blood Test? - Simply For Dogs
Dog DNA Blood Test

Should You Get Your Dog a DNA Blood Test?

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A few years ago, one of my fellow call center workers got an awful scare, brought on by alcohol, hormones and a lack of common sense. It all began on the night of the company Christmas party, which I attended, but where I refrained from drinking, reasoning that the temptation might become just a little too great to tell one particular manager exactly what I thought of him.

My buddy Davis didn’t exercise the same restraint, and in a move that he later came to regret, he went home with a female co-worker.

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From the title of this post, you probably know where this story is going. Right around Valentine’s Day (isn’t this really romantic so far?) the co-worker announced to Davis that she’d missed a period, taken a home pregnancy test, and based on the results, she figured they should maybe talk about their future together.

Now, this being just a hook-up, and not a relationship in any real sense of the word, Davis wasn’t exactly seeing being “together” with this co-worker as part of his future.

“What am I gonna do, Ash?” Davis said. “I was so loaded I can’t even remember what she looked like naked, and she’s talking about our future! I barely know her, never mind whether I want to be with her, and how in the name of God am I ever going to afford child support on what we make in this hellhole?”

“Davis,” I said, “Settle down. Did you bother to take a look at her ‘tramp stamp’ when you were doing her?”

He hadn’t, apparently, so I pointed out that our co-worker has a bit of a reputation, and every time she decides she’s “in love” with a guy, she has his name tattooed on her back. I figure it probably reads like the Chicago phone book. Then I said, “Davis, you dog, get a DNA blood test. If she is pregnant, it might not even be yours.”

Not Davis!

Davis really dodged a bullet. The co-worker was, indeed, pregnant, but the blood test proved that the baby wasn’t Davis’s. He dodged another bullet when his STD tests came back negative.

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What About Dog DNA Blood Tests?

I know, you’re wondering when I’d get around to the topic at hand. You know I Iove to tell stories, though, and I also have a tendency to digress, so nothing unusual here!

Why Would Anyone Want a dog DNA blood test?

For the same reason I told Davis to get a DNA test – it helps to prove, or disprove, lineage. If you want to find out what’s in your dog’s background, there are a number of tests that are available. Some, you can even buy online, do yourself, and send the samples off to a lab to be checked out. For the best results, though, you need a dog DNA blood test.

I would hope that no matter what your dog looks like, and what his background might be, you love him and you won’t care all that much about the results of a dog DNA blood test, or any other type of test. Still, sometimes it’s useful to know what sort of genetic material went into making up your best friend.

Back in the day, that wasn’t always possible, and we had to rely on what had been observed (i.e. were two dogs seen to be breeding?), the word of the person who owned the litter, and a whole lot of speculation. Often, when choosing a puppy, we’d hear things like “Well, you can see that the mother is a Lab. The father might have had some German Shepherd in him and maybe some Golden Retriever, but I can’t be really sure.”

Today, thanks to dog DNA blood tests and other testing methods, we can get a pretty accurate picture of a dog’s background.

Are Dog DNA Blood Tests Necessary?

Usually, it’s not necessary to have a dog DNA blood test, or any other type of DNA testing, done on your pet. Some people do it just because it’s fun to know what makes up their special mutt. Other times, people who have bought “designer dogs” want to make sure that the breeder has really given them a “Chorkie,” “Maltepoo,” “Pekatzu” or any other badly bred and horribly named animal (and for more on this, see Why You Should Walk Away From Teacup Dogs).

On a more serious level, a person might want to find out if there’s something in their dog’s breed mix that could lead to health problems down the road. Just to use an example, Rottweilers are very prone to many types of cancer. In fact, my friend Neila, who breeds Rottweilers, tells me that if you own a Rottweiler, you might as well accept that there’s a very high likelihood of your dog developing cancer around the age of 9 years. We used to think that “mixing” breeds would reduce the likelihood of breed-specific health issues occurring, but modern research seems to indicate that this isn’t the case.

What that means is simply this – if you think that the dog you’ve chosen has a lot of a disease-prone breed in his background, a dog DNA blood test will at least help you to be prepared for any health concerns that might occur later on.

So no, dog DNA blood tests aren’t necessary, but they can be useful.

If I Get My Dog a DNA Blood Test, What Will I Learn?

Pretty much everything. Keep in mind, though, that dog DNA blood tests can be expensive, and you might be able to find out what you want to know from a less costly test – even one that you can buy online.

If you’re just curious, you can actually buy a DNA test for your dog at Amazon for under $65. It’s easy to do – just take a cheek swab, send the sample off to the lab, in in a couple of weeks, you’ll know the breed mix of your dog. If your issue is just that you want to know you’ve bought a purebred, or you’ve gotten the mix you were promised, a home test can be every bit as valuable as a dog DNA blood test that your vet would do.

Home Test or Done By Vet?

If your concern is that your dog might be prone to certain illnesses, I’d recommend a dog DNA blood test over the “at home” variety. Home kits typically won’t give you the information you need, whereas a dog DNA blood test done with your vet will provide you with genetic health screening information.

Of course, as I’m always pointing out in my “Breed of the Week” posts, just because your dog is of a certain breed, or mix, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s ever going to develop any of the health issues that are common to the breed. It’s just something to keep in mind. In other words, it’s information that you might never have to use, but that can be valuable if health issues should develop.

How Can I Choose the Best Dog DNA Test?

As a general rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean, though, that an inexpensive test won’t give you the results you want – if all you care about is knowing the breed mix, then almost any test will do. Usually, though, the better at-home tests will range between $80-200.

Before you buy any at-home DNA test, as opposed to choosing a dog DNA blood test administered by your vet, check out the customer feedback. If a company has a lot of bad feedback, there’s probably a good reason.

What About Accuracy?

When your vet does a dog DNA blood test, you can be assured that the results will be very accurate. With home tests, the margin of error can be higher. This is simply because there aren’t enough breed profiles in the company’s database. Some companies don’t bother with comparatively rare breeds, so if there should happen to be something rare in your dog’s background, it won’t likely show up on the test results that the lab will deliver to you.

When you’re choosing a home test, you should make sure that the company providing the test can screen for at least the 155 breeds recognized by the AKC.

If you want to go “on the cheap,” though, a limited database can still be helpful. Even if the lab doesn’t have a particular breed in its database, it might have something similar. In other words, a company that doesn’t recognize the Parson Russell Terrier probably will recognize the Jack Russell Terrier. This means that you won’t get information that’s one hundred per cent accurate, but since the breed characteristics and health concerns are very similar, you’ll still get information that’s valuable.

Should I Get My Dog a DNA Blood Test?

Not necessarily. Again, if the issue is health concerns, you’re better off with a dog DNA blood test than you are with a “DIY” kit. If you just want to know, though, why your dog has black spots, or a curly tail, you’re probably just as well off with an at-home kit.

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The Final Word

I’ve never had to worry about dog DNA blood tests, for the simple reason that I’m an unapologetic dog snob – I’ve always had purebreds. Also, I’ve always bought from reputable breeders, and never doubted that when I was told I was getting “100% Boxer,” that was the truth.

If you have a mixed-breed dog, though, and you’ve always wanted to know what exactly is in there, then you could consider a dog DNA blood test, or one of the cheaper “at home” testing kits.

Before you spend the money, though, ask yourself “Does it matter?” If your dog’s genetic background might have something to do with potential health issues, then maybe it does matter. On the other hand, if you’re just curious as to your dog’s breed mix, it doesn’t.

That said, though, it’s okay if you want to know what your best friend is made up of, so if you want to have your dog DNA tested, then go for it. Then you’ll get to make up one of those crazy names like “Beagadorapoo” or “Labradoodlepom” or “Chirottietzu.” Sometimes, it’s just fun!

About the Author Ash

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