by Kerry McKinney, DVM
Veterinarians get that question a lot, and we can usually offer an educated guess about the parentage of an adult dog. But sometimes it’s tricky to look at a five pound ball of fur and make a definitive statement, even if it was sold for a considerable sum as a “purebred golden labrakitabernadoodle border retriever.”
If you’ve ever wondered what dog breeds your favorite Heinz 57 canine can claim as ancestors, you’re not alone. The expansion of genomic testing has allowed identification of over 1800 canine breed markers and over 250 specific breeds; a good quality cheek swab (and about $85) will tell you the major breeds contributing to the appearance of your favorite lovable mutt.
That information can be interesting, satisfy some curiosity, and even win prizes. (AAAH Director David Caddell held a contest among employees a few years ago before submitting a sample from his “Is-he-ever-going-to-stop-growing?” buddy, Mordecai, who somewhat surprisingly turned out to have a higher percentage of American Bulldog than Shetland pony in his background.) However, what’s most exciting from a veterinary and health perspective is that genetic testing has also identified disease markers which can help guide responsible breeding, identify medication sensitivities to prevent adverse reactions, and identify which dogs would benefit from health monitoring and early dietary or medical intervention.
If you’re interested in knowing more about your dog’s ancestry or researching inherited diseases associated with your dog’s breed(s), the following links are a good place to start: