DNA for Dogs

Personal genomics is for man’s best friend, too

In my last blog post, I talked about personal genomic testing for people. It turns out these tests are also available for man’s best friend, as my family found out after welcoming a new puppy into our home a few months ago.

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The idea behind the test is the same, too. Using a fairly simple home kit, you can find out about everything from heritage to health risks.

At two weeks of age, in January, Grady was found wandering in front of the Animal Protective League (APL) of downtown Cleveland Fortunately, the winter was relatively mild, and an APL worker rescued him from the cold. He was so little when he was found — barely able to see, and not yet able to distinguish all noises. He was a furry black ball with a little spot of white on his chest. He looked like a tiny bear cub but eventually grew to look just like a black Labrador puppy.

Now, at 4 months of age, he is still full of energy and mouthy, like Lab puppies are. Grady has the otter-like tail and the physique of a black Labrador retriever, but the white spot on his chest and shape of his face suggest that he may not be a pure-bred Lab.

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My interest was piqued, so, out of curiosity, I decided to see what testing was available for dogs. Believe it or not, there are several companies offering DNA testing for dogs. According to the testing companies, DNA testing can be helpful for owners — and the list of benefits sounds a bit like the claims human personal genomic testing companies make:

  • To find out about “potential health risks,”
  • To “improve the health and wellness of your dog,”
  • To “customize medical, diet and exercise of your dog for a healthy long life,” and
  • To “understand your dog’s behavior and personality.”

We also thought that for $60, it would be fun to do, so we ordered a kit.

When the kit came in the mail, we followed the directions and swabbed Grady’s cheek, capped up the specimen, and mailed it back to the company — very similar to the process required by human personal genomic testing companies. About 3 weeks later, we got an email with the report. As expected, our dog is a mixed breed. Much to our surprise, the report indicated that he is 25 percent Siberian husky, 25 percent redbone coonhound, 10 percent golden retriever, and the rest, a mixture of American Eskimo dog, Chihuahua, white Swiss shepherd, and wire fox terrier.

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Now that we know Grady’s heritage, we also have more information from which to learn more about his health risks. We love our puppy no matter what, and now, for a very reasonable price, we have his genomic profile, a good laugh, and a great conversation piece — recreational genomics for dogs, entertainment for humans.

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Kathryn Teng, MD

Kathryn Teng, MD, is Director of the Center for Personalized Healthcare and leads Cleveland Clinic’s efforts to integrate personalized healthcare into standard practice.
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