DNA tests for humans have been around for awhile and now it seems nearly everyone is comfortable sending a saliva sample into such companies as Ancestry.com or 23andMe. So it’s not so surprising that when startup companies began to offer dog DNA tests, many dog owners jumped on the bandwagon.
But what about these dog DNA tests? Are they accurate? Should you consider using one of these companies?
These tests are particularly attractive to people who have mixed breed or rescued dogs whose breed and genetic heritage are often unclear.
Some dog DNA companies, such as The Wisdom Panel by Mars Petcare, look not only at what mix of breeds your dog might be, they also look for markers of potential health problems.
But according to a recent article in the journal Nature these companies are completely unregulated and the science behind these tests is very weak. The authors caution that “making treatment decisions based on misleading DNA results” can be harmful, resulting in unnecessary testing at best and at worst expensive and possibly invasive tests.
And there are ethical concerns as well. Are these companies going to sell your dog’s data? Could breed information possibly be used to discriminate against you and your dog when it comes to an apartment rental for example if they knew your dog was a pit bull mix?
For now, it seems that care is required before rushing to have your dog’s DNA profile done. Eventually, science, along with responsible regulation of the industry, will catch up and DNA testing will become a boon for dogs, their owners and veterinarians. Until then, proceed with caution!