DNA testing for pets can be fun, and many of us are utterly surprised to find out the breeds that actually make up our four-legged friend’s genealogy. You may have never imagined that your 10-pound lap dog had Great Dane ancestry, or your pooch who hates swimming has Poodle in their background!

And as a bonus, with just a cheek swab, some genetic testing panels can provide vital clues about your dog or cat’s current health, along with what you might expect as they age.

Basic Breed Tendencies

Your pet’s DNA test results can reveal how they got their fur color, ear shape, or leg length, but breed-specific information can be helpful when it comes to behavior and training, too. Not every dog lives up to their breed’s reputation, and when those breeds come together, you can’t necessarily predict whether the stereotypes of stubborn, intelligent, or playful will dominate. But certain dog breeds are generally more athletic or need more mental stimulation. So if you find out that your dog is part Australian Shepherd, you may consider some agility or herding classes, in addition to regular walks and play time, to keep your dog and your family fit and calm. Or, if you discover Golden Retriever in your pooch’s family tree, you may be more understanding when they seem to want more pets and snuggles than you expected.

While DNA testing has been developed for cats, the depth and breadth of breed profiles is not as vast as for dogs. But advances are happening in veterinary medicine all the time!

Inherited Health Conditions

As we’ve learned from the prevalence of family and health genetic testing for humans, DNA tests can give us lots of information to share with our medical care teams. While a genetic predisposition for a certain condition doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop an issue, your doctors can be on the lookout. The same is true for your pet’s veterinary care team.

The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine explains that, when it comes to seeking information about inherited health conditions, pet genetic testing looks for “markers that reveal if your dog will develop a genetic problem…” In other words, beyond recognizing the predispositions of breeds in your pet’s genetic makeup, your veterinary team can benefit from knowing if your pet carries a specific risk for problems such as blindness or medication sensitivity.

How Veterinarians Consider Genetics in Pet Health Care

Again, having a certain breed or genetic marker in DNA test results does not inevitably determine a pet’s health destiny. But here are some steps your veterinary team might take based on genetic testing results:

  • Dietary adjustment recommendations to help control weight or promote best organ function
  • Additional specific lab work to screen for certain illnesses or monitor for changes over time
  • X-rays or ultrasound to get a good physical look at joints, the heart, the kidneys, or other areas that can reflect the presence of disease

This would all depend on your specific pet and their specific results, and we at Androscoggin Animal Hospital are always interested in what’s best for your individual dog, cat, exotic, or pocket pet. Call us at (207) 729-4678 to set up a personalized veterinary visit today!