The Future Is Now: Why Pet DNA Testing Is So Interesting (and Problematic)
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a self-replicating string of instructions present in all living organisms. Responsible for carrying genetic information, DNA not only tells an individual story, but an ancestral one, too.
Human DNA testing continues to be popular, but now pet owners can easily test their cat or dog. Pet DNA testing helps pinpoint breed(s), and their percentage (particularly useful in mixed breed pets). However, when we go beyond ancestry to the potential identification of hereditary conditions, we are given a glimpse into an animal’s future health.
The Era of DIY DNA
Just like popular kits for people, pet DNA testing can be conducted through the mail. Most products are fairly easy to request, come with clear instructions and supplies to obtain a saliva sample from the inside of the cheek, and include packaging to mail the sample directly back to the manufacturer.
Depending on the company you choose, expect a price tag between $60 and $200.
Extraction & Analyzation
As you might expect, pet DNA testing is done in a lab. Once your pet’s sample is extracted and analyzed, their DNA is compared to other results in the company’s database.
Generally speaking, the more expensive a test is, the more accurate it will be. This can be explained by the higher number of breeds in the selection panel, the number of genetic markers available to compare/contrast with your pet’s, and a more sophisticated algorithm that generates precise results.
Is Pet DNA Testing Worth It?
Many pet owners are simply curious about their pet’s heritage. Pet DNA testing can certainly zero-in on which breed(s) an animal is comprised of, and the percentages. This can be incredibly helpful in a younger pet, if you’re wondering how large they might get, what energy level they’ll have, how much training they’ll benefit from, and other character traits, like protectiveness or even aggression.
Pet DNA testing can also shed light on what the future might hold regarding certain hereditary conditions. Some breeds are genetically predisposed to various health conditions that can compromise longevity and quality of life.
There are other tests available that help determine breed and ancestry. Instead of a saliva swab, a simple blood test can provide accurate, reliable values. Plus, when comparing DNA from blood samples, a much larger database of parents and relatives can be utilized.
Experts in the field of pet DNA testing and analyzation recognize the inherent value of connecting owners to the possibilities of preventing or treating disease. However, it is important to note that knowledge of certain genetic markers doesn’t automatically result in disease.
Grain of Salt
The bottom line is that, depending on the company you choose, results from pet DNA testing should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, just because a result shows a predisposition for certain health conditions it doesn’t mean a pet has them. Remember, pet DNA testing can be really fun!