Dog DNA testing takes off

Little Beagle dog take a brake during swim

Little Beagle dog take a brake during swim  

Stirs debate about standards, interpretation and limitations

As people peer into DNA for clues to health and heritage, man’s best friend is under the microscope, too.

Genetic testing for dogs has surged in recent years, fuelled by companies that echo popular at-home tests for humans, offering a deep dive into a pet’s genes with the swab of a canine cheek. More than a million dogs have been tested in little over a decade.

The tests’ rise has stirred debate about standards, interpretation and limitations. But to many dog owners, DNA is a way to get to know their companions better. “It put some pieces of the puzzle together,” said Lisa Topol, who recently tested her mixed-breed dogs Plop and Schmutzy. A test confirmed Ms. Topol’s guess that her high-octane pets are more Australian cattle dog than anything else.

Canine DNA testing for certain conditions and purposes goes back over two decades, but the industry took off after scientists mapped a full set of dog genes and published the results in 2005.

But qualms about the dog DNA boom spilled into the prestigious science journal Nature last year.

“Pet genetics must be reined in,” a Boston veterinarian and two other scientists wrote.

Their commentary opened with a troubling story- a pug being euthanized because her owners interpreted DNA results to mean she had a rare, degenerative neurological disorder, when in fact her ailment might have been something more treatable.

“The risk for overinterpretation is great,” but DNA testing can be useful along with other tools, said veterinarian Dr. Diane Brown.

Test companies say their work can help researchers address the unknowns and provides immediate useful information, such as whether a dog’s genes suggest bad reactions to certain medications.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 6:18:31 AM |

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