Watch the news or read the paper and you are sure to come across a story where genetic testing plays a role, such as these stories:
- Genetic testing lies at the root of precision medicine where genetic testing characterizes disease and identifies treatments.
- Genetic testing helps to identify diseases, allowing people to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of disease.
- Genetic testing will prevent the need for amniocentesis in some expectant mothers.
But what about dogs? Has science advanced to the point of genetic testing for dogs?
Several companies provide a test like “23andMe” for dogs, except dogs have 39 pairs of chromosomes – 16 more pairs than we do! These tests can tell you about the genetic background of your dog and suggest what breeds lie behind that fuzzy face or those flopped over ears. Some tests report on traits like coat color or expected adult body size. Think of this type of test as the dog version of PBS’s “Finding our Roots” minus Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates.
Finding Law Breakers
Most cities have laws requiring dog owners to pick up dog waste. To enforce those rules, some neighborhoods require residents to keep a genetic “fingerprint” of their dog on file. If dog waste is not removed, the DNA contained in the feces can be analyzed and matched to the DNA of resident dogs. Owners are then fined based on the DNA analysis. Reports indicate this type of program improves neighborhood hygiene.
Possibly most important to dog families is the health of their furry member. Veterinarians use a variety of different genetic tests in daily practice. Australian shepherds, Collies and Border Collies (to name a few) have a genetic mutation resulting in increased sensitivity to certain drugs. These breeds can be tested for the mutation and the dangerous drugs avoided in dogs with the mutation. I use genetic testing on certain tumors where mutations in genes help identify the exact diagnosis or determine the course of treatment. Genetic testing can also be used to determine if bladder stones are due to an inherited predisposition. Other genetic tests can be performed in dogs used for breeding to decrease the transmission of inherited disorders of the eyes or hemophilia.
Genetic testing can even help you with your last-minute holiday shopping. The Wisdom Panel, Pawprint Genetics, and Embark are having holiday promotions for their canine DNA tests. Might be the perfect gift for your favorite dog.