UNRAVEL THE MYSTERY OF YOUR PET’S GENETIC CODE
Daniela Fink adopted her dog, Beans, from Fulton County Animal Services in October 2018, and questions from inquiring friends and strangers started almost immediately. “What breed is he?” they asked.
Beans had been found as a stray and labeled a pit mix, but Fink, an attorney at the Kuck Baxter Immigration law firm in Sandy Springs, wasn’t sure. “I was not convinced since he was very slender and had a very long nose,” she says. “I often take him to Fetch Dog Park, and everyone asks me what breed he is. Never knowing what to tell them, I decided to do a DNA test.”
There’s no shortage of doggy DNA test kits available today, and millions of Americans have turned to them for more reasons than simply curiosity. Knowing a dog’s genetic background can provide owners with important insights about their canine companion, including behavioral information and potential health risks.
Fink purchased an Embark DNA test kit, which tests for more than 250 different dog breeds and 170 genetic health conditions. What she learned surprised her. While Beans is nearly 50% American pit bull terrier, he also has a mix of breeds including German shepherd, boxer, chow chow and golden retriever.
Interested in learning more about your own pet’s genetic background? Numerous kits can be purchased online or at local pet stores and run from $80 to $150, depending on the kit’s features. To do the test, simply swab the inside of your pet’s mouth with the provided tester and mail the sample to the company. Depending on the service, you’ll receive your pet’s results in a few weeks to a few months.
These insightful tests aren’t limited to dogs—there are several feline focused DNA kits available, such as Basepaws, which reveals not only your cat’s genetic makeup by breed and health markers, but also a “wildcat index” that tells you which wildcats—such as lions, leopards and cheetahs—your feline friend genetically resembles most.
However, there is some debate about the accuracy of these test kits. “It’s hard to know how accurate they are,” Lisa Moses, a veterinarian and researcher with Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics, recently told NPR. “Different test companies use different methodologies as far as we know.”
Still, plenty of anecdotal evidence from dog owners supports that their test results seem accurate. And for many dog owners, gaining insight into their pet’s background is worth the cost of the kit and the time spent. “Getting to learn more about my dog’s history was a way for me to connect more to my dog and to get a glimpse into Beans’ past,” Fink says. “I am happy I did it and will happily tell anyone who asks that he is 50% pit bull and 100% perfect.”
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