Want to know your dog's DNA? We tried the test.

Want to know your dog's DNA? We tried the test.

Testing your pet's genetic makeup is easier than you might think.

April 3, 2019

When Ryan Mullally and Leah Sonnichsen, a couple who live in Ottawa, got their dog Cooper, no one was certain of his breed. The staff at WOOF Rescue in Oka, Quebec, told them he was part of an unwanted litter and, at just a few weeks of age, guessed he must be a Labrador/German Shepherd mix. As the weeks went by, however, Cooper's appearance started to change—he got tall and his short black and white fur turned grey and grew long. He was so unique, in fact, that other dog owners would ask about his background. Finally, Ryan and Leah decided to investigate further and check Cooper's DNA.

“We decided to do the test because we were really curious as to what he might be. With so many people suggesting theories and breed mixes, we thought we'd turn to a professional company,” explained Ryan.

The process was straightforward, painless and rapid. The couple sent a DNA sample from Cooper—a quick cheek swab from a provided kit—along with a few photos to DNA My Dog, a Toronto-based company. They received the results within a couple of weeks.

The verdict?

According to the DNA test, Cooper's five most likely breeds were Poodle, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Irish Setter, and German Shepherd—or a combination thereof. At a cost of approximately $70, Ryan and his family were happy to get a better idea of their dog's background, even if it wasn't as precise as they'd hoped for. “I definitely expected to see Irish Wolfhound there, that was a bit disappointing,” explained Ryan. “I only found out later that the company didn't include that breed in its database at the time we did it, back in 2013!”

The good news? The animal genetic testing industry is in its infancy. Companies offering genetic services are constantly adapting to scientific advancements and expanding their databases of breeds. Case in point: DNA My Dog now includes Irish Wolfhounds! For Ryan and Leah, a future test may help explain the mystery of their big, beloved dog Cooper.

Do you want to know more about your pet's breed and their potential genetic predisposition to disease? Here's more information on genetic testing available for Canadian companion animals.

Who does it in Canada?: DNA My Dog
What animals do they test?: Dogs
What do they test for?: Breed, age, full health screening, full genetic screening, wolf-canid hybrids
How much does it cost?: From $68.99 to $188.99
How is it done?: Cheek swab

Who does it in Canada?: Easy DNA
What animals do they test?: Dogs, cats, birds and horses
What do they test for?: Breed, age, allergy, parentage, inherited diseases and traits, polycystic kidney disease (PKD) for cats, sex for birds, parenting and genotyping for horses
How much does it cost?: From $74 to $352
How is it done?: Cheek or mouth swab (for dogs and cats), blood and feather samples (for birds), hair sample (for horses)

Who does it in Canada?: Health Gene Molecular Diagnostic and Research Center
What animals do they test?: Dogs, cats and birds
What do they test for?: Parentage, coat colour and specific genetic disorders for dogs, genetic and specific infectious disease testing for cats, sex and infectious testing for birds
How much does it cost?: From $15 to $68
How is it done?: Cheek swab, blood collection (done by your vet), blood and feather samples (for birds).

Photo credit : Maryalice C. Mullally
Photo credit : personal collection

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