DNA Test for Dogs

by Tracey Sandilands
Genetic testing ensures puppies that exhibit the best attributes of their parents.

Genetic testing ensures puppies that exhibit the best attributes of their parents.

Black puppies image by diter from Fotolia.com

The creation of DNA profiles for dogs was originally offered only by the American Kennel Club and is a service available to breeders and owners and a requirement for various programs offered by the club. The purpose of profiling is to be able to validate the parentage of particular litters and individual puppies. Breeders of pedigreed dogs register litters with the AKC and receive a pedigree certificate for each puppy, which shows the dog’s lineage back to its grandparents. Puppies descended from champion parents or highly regarded stud dogs command high prices when sold to dog show participants and other breeders.

Sample Collection

AKC test kits can be ordered from the AKC or one of the companies offering this service. The owner swabs the inside of the dog’s cheek using a bristle brush to collect loose cells. The cell sample is inserted into the test kit, the person who collects the sample signs a statement affirming that he has personally identified the dog, and the kit is sent to the laboratory. It takes about six to eight weeks to get a DNA profile.

Parentage Profiling

The Frequently Used Sires program registers stud dogs that have sired seven litters or more during their lives, or three litters during a calendar year. The profiling verifies parentage and genetic identity but does not give information about the dog’s breed, genetic health or ability to succeed in conformation shows. The AKC also requires a genetic profile of dogs imported for breeding stock before registration of their first litter, as well as for stud dogs whose semen is frozen for future use.

Multiple Sire Registration

The AKC’s Multiple-Sired Litter registration program provides parental profiling for litters that have more than one sire, by identifying which stud dog is responsible for siring each puppy. When two or more sires of a single litter are related, the laboratory may request additional samples to be taken from the sires, the dams or the puppies to clearly identify the father of each puppy. Once the test results are obtained, the breeder can choose to use the information to self-identify the father of each puppy. Alternatively, he can submit an evaluation request form to the AKC, and the club’s experts use the DNA markers to perform the parental evaluation for a fee.

Heritage Breed Testing

DNA testing by the AKC does not attempt to identify breed heritage, but a number of other DNA profiling companies claim to be able to determine the breeds present in a mixed-breed dog. Heritage breed test kits can be ordered online or purchased in major pet stores. These tests compare the laboratory results of the sample against the 38 predominant dog breeds in the company’s database. If a match exists with any of the listed breeds, the owner receives a certificate verifying the identifiable breeds present in the dog. The AKC recognizes only certain of the tests performed by other laboratories, such as the parentage test offered by MMI Genomics, although it has partnered with MMI on the heritage breed test.

Gene Identification

Canine testing for the detection of disease genes in dogs enables breeders to avoid using dogs with defective genes. This helps to prevent puppies affected by inherited diseases common to their breed. Genetic testing can also identify recessive chromosomes that are not obvious but may influence the coat color of the puppies. For example, the testing can detect the presence or absence of the mutated gene that causes white coloring in all dogs whose breed lineage contains any of the retriever or pointer breeds. This helps the breeder avoid puppies of these breeds with significant quantities of white coat color, which is often associated with deafness.

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About the Author

Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.