“What breed is my dog?” That's a question I've asked myself a few times. We've always adopted our dogs from shelters and rescue organizations. They've all been of mixed breeds, so we've never been quite sure of their ancestry. When we rescued our current dog, the rescue informed us he was a mix of Labrador Retriever and Basset Hound. We called him a bassador. For years, we wondered if there wasn't something else thrown in there. Plus, we were curious as to what health risks he might face due to his ancestry.
So, during his last vet visit, while we were discussing what possible breeds he could be with our vet, we decided to get a dog DNA test done. Our vet was confident he had some Labrador retriever, but bet he had some Corgi too. My husband bet he was indeed a Labrador and Basset Hound mix. He shared so many traits with both.
The lab that tested our samples was Mars Veterinary. I think they handle most dog DNA testing in the US. When we got the results, we couldn't have been more surprised! It turns out that our dog (not pictured here) was NOT a bassador. No bassa- and no -dor. He had no basset hound or labrador retriever DNA at all! He was a mix of 7 different breeds, Treeing Walker Coonhound accounting for 25% (the majority) of that. The rest, in varying degrees, were Golden Retriever, White Swiss Shepherd, Chow Chow, Whippet, Parson Russell Terrier, and Siberian Husky. Wow. His Chow Chow genes must've been masquerading as basset all this time. Either that or he grew up around bassets and picked up their traits before we rescued him.
In some of the dog-related groups we're members of on Facebook, there have been some equally surprising dog DNA test results. The biggest surprises were with mixes no one ever would have guessed! We're now wondering if our beaglador might've actually been a Beagle/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix as we somewhat suspected. The whole process was eye-opening, to say the least.
Discovering Your Dog's Health Risks
There is another component to these dog DNA tests that are even more important, the health aspect. For all the genetic markers they test for, our dog tested negative, meaning it is highly unlikely he will ever deal with those diseases. We found out just how important this was recently when we took our dog to the vet due to a limp tail and slight hind end weakness. We knew it couldn't be “swimmer's tail” because he's not a swimmer, doesn't even like water. Our biggest fear was degenerative myelopathy, an incurable disease that results in paralysis of the back legs.
After swimmer's tail was ruled out, back/tail injury, spinal stenosis, and degenerative myelopathy were the possible diagnoses she was left working with. We reminded her we had the DNA test done, which she consulted. Troy tested negative for the SOD1 gene which indicates he's not at risk for degenerative myelopathy. What a relief! The likely suspect now is inflammation either due to injury or stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). He was prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and his limp little tail is now flagging and wagging on the road to recovery.
I can't tell you how glad we were that we went ahead and got our dog DNA tested. We've vowed to do it for all our rescues from now on. We may not win the genetic lottery every time and may find out our dog's at risk for certain health problems, but we'll be better prepared to deal with it. And besides, it's neat to be able to look at certain behaviors and say “Ah, that makes sense now! That's totally his coonhound heritage coming out.”
How to DNA Test Your Dog
There are two ways you can get your dog DNA tested, at your vet or do-it-yourself. Many vets now offer dog DNA testing. They will either draw blood (ours did) or do a cheek swab. You can also purchase a do-it-yourself kit from WisdomPanel (Mars Veterinary). When it arrives, just swab the inside of your dog's cheek, activate the kit online, and ship it off to them using the pre-paid packaging. It's very simple and much like the genealogical DNA testing for humans offered online.
In a few weeks, you'll receive a report detailing your dog's genetic ancestry. If you opt for the additional health screening, they'll also provide a report that will let you know what health issues they're at risk for, what gene mutations they're a carrier of, and what diseases you don't have to worry about.
If you're interested in a do-it-yourself dog DNA test kit, click this link for more information at Wisdom Panel.
And if you DO get your dog DNA tested, we'd love to hear about your experience!
Last, but not least, below is Troy. Our Treeing Walker Coonhound, Golden Retriever, Siberian Husky, Chow Chow, Whippet, Parson Russell Terrier, White Swiss Shepherd Mix. Can't you tell? 🙂