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Are DNA tests for the dogs?
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Are DNA tests for the dogs?

Happy Monday!

The other day I was reading an article in the New York Times that expounded on the benefits of DNA tests for dogs.

In it, contributing Opinion writer and mixed-breed dog owner, Margaret Renkl, wrote that nailing down a dog’s breed could help explain certain behaviours or medical conditions, such as allergies or, say, disk disease.

Renkl claimed to be indifferent to finding out her terrier cross’s breed, but since she herself inherited a rare syndrome that almost certainly killed her paternal grandmother at 51 and accounted for her father’s cancer diagnosis in middle age, she suggests that despite unresolved ethical and cultural issues raised by DNA testing, its potential medical benefits are remarkable.

Piqued by curiosity, reassured by her own medical diagnosis, and spurred on by the heartbreaking loss of her beloved rescue dog from complications due to epilepsy, Renkl had her mutt’s DNA tested.

I was also indifferent to learning about Oliver’s breed when I sent a sample of his saliva to a canine genetic testing lab a few years ago.

After all, I was well aware of Oliver’s lineage when I adopted him and knew for certain his father was an American Eskimo and his mother was a Lhasa Apso.

The thing was, my good-natured pooch came with a handful of health conditions and a few alarming behaviours that really took my family of five off guard.

From the get-go, he suffered from painful ear infections and irritable, itchy skin, both of which were, and still are, managed with frequent shots of a monoclonal antibody therapy called Cytopoint.

On top of that, I discovered early that if prodded, my docile pooch possessed what one might call a vicious mean streak.

I first encountered it when, at about six months old, Oliver nearly ripped my husband Warren’s hand off after he attempted to take a sock from the dog's mouth. Oliver growled, sneered and lunged with such ferocity that Warren, fearing for his life, immediately backed away.

I was unnerved, to say the least, and thought if I could just understand where he might have inherited his ferociousness, I could learn how to control it; and maybe, if I was lucky, I could learn how to manage, or even eliminate, some of his recurring skin conditions.

So, like Renkl, I sent off my dog’s saliva sample, along with a picture and a cheque for $69, to DNA My Dog, a canine genetic testing company that claims to have an extensive database of certified dog breeds.

Their website, DNAmydog.com, indicates that approximately 2.3 per cent of all DNA canine testing will yield results that are inaccurate or cannot be interpreted because dogs have extremely high levels of oral bacteria that may result in degeneration of the sample before the DNA extraction process commences. Moreover, their database represents the most common breeds found in the North American mixed-breed population.

Still, I took my chances and when I received the breed determination report two weeks later, the DNA test results showed Oliver was more than just an American Eskimo cross.

It turns out he comes from a long line of Cocker spaniels (37 to 74 per cent), Pembroke Welsh corgis (20 to 36 per cent) and Brussels griffons (10 to 20 per cent). Interestingly, my Lhasa Apso cross’s genetic makeup includes only a tiny (one to nine per cent) portion of Lhasa Apso DNA.

The breed determination report also came with typical breed characteristics and interesting tidbits of information, most of which proved helpful in determining why Oliver has skin issues.

Apparently, Brussels griffons are generally a healthy breed but can be prone skin allergies. Also, according to the report, these dogs often get along well with other dogs and pets but may be irritable toward rowdy children.

For now, everything is pretty much the same since I tested his DNA four years ago. Oliver is still scratching and licking his itchy spots and can be bad-tempered at times.

The only difference since I received his bloodline is I’ve mastered the fine art of distraction and whenever he’s ornery, he gets a treat.

Have a great week, and let me know if you ever had your dog’s DNA tested. I’d love to hear about it!

Leesa Dahl

Leesa Dahl

Ready Pet Go

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