In this day of high-tech television shows and movies, just about everyone has heard of DNA. It’s used to solve criminal cases, to prove or disprove paternity and also to indicate a possible problem with a serious genetic disease.
Prospective human mates and would-be parents who know they are carrying lethal genes may use DNA technology to avert disaster in their offspring. Likewise, dog breeders use DNA to keep their bloodlines pristine, strong and as free of genetic disease as possible.
They also use genetic information to select particular dog individuals for future litters. New breeds are sometimes created in this way, too.
Dog Genes and Dog Diseases
Many dog breeds are prone to serious genetic diseases. For example, Cairn terriers have a relatively high incidence of a type of heart disease involving the mitral valve.
Like humans, dogs have four-chambered hearts, and the mitral valve plays critical role in the heart’s ability to provide the body with enough blood for normal function.
The chow-chow is predisposed to hip dysplasia. The magnificent English springer spaniel’s genome carries defective genes that cause retinal, or eye, disease. They’re also prone to a type of metabolic problem called PFK.
The proud, beautiful, remarkable barkless Basenji dog breed has a tendency towards another type of metabolic problem called PK. A very serious kidney disease, known as Fanconi’s syndrome, also occurs in this breed at a relatively high rate.
There are many reasons why you may want to test your dog’s DNA. Dog pet parents should know that simple dog DNA tests are available at relatively affordable prices.
If you’d like to read more about genetic disease that is caused by faulty genes in canine breeds, you may go here.
What is DNA?
DNA is the abbreviation for a chemical compound known as deoxyribonucleic acid. It’s also called the Double Helix, which refers to its molecular shape. The DNA molecule looks something like a spiral staircase that has twisted around itself over and over.
It contains 4 nucleic acids which are always paired in a certain way. It’s the very basis for all life on Earth. The entire genetic code for a particular organism is known as its genome.
The acids form repeating patterns on structures known as chromosomes. The actual units containing genetic information are called genes. Genes are arranged in certain patterns on the chromosomes.
Body chromosomes always occur in pairs. Sex chromosomes are single. As the name implies, part of their function is to determine sex.
Humans have 23 body chromosome pairs, and they also have two more single ones, which are known as the X and the Y.
Dogs have about 19,000 genes arranged on 39 body chromosome pairs. Like humans, they also have an X and a Y, and these determine gender.
If the animal has a double XX, then she is female. An XY will produce males.
A female has only two X chromosomes. Therefore, only the biological father can determine the sex of its offspring.
DNA contains the information necessary in order to create a certain organism. Every single living thing on Earth, from viruses to violets, was created by DNA.
Therefore, your beloved pet dog was created from the biological protein information carried in his or her DNA. Even his or her personality and level of intelligence are at least partially determined or influenced by genes.
How Does Dog DNA Testing Work?
Dog DNA testing kits are simple to use. You simply use a special tool to gently scrape some cells from the inside of your pet’s cheek. This is painless for the animal.
Just a scrape or two is plenty. Follow the kit’s directions for preparing the sample. It’s not hard at all. When you’re done, simply ship it off and wait for the lab to prepare your dog’s karyotype.
Karyotype is the term for a type of diagram of your pet’s chromosomes.
Dog DNA can easily determine which breeds make up your pet’s genetic heritage. Sometimes this heritage is easy to see visually. However, that’s certainly not true in every case.
Canine DNA testing kits use something called breed markers. Breed markers are points along a particular breed’s genome that are specific for that breed.
When these unique points are seen, then that indicates the presence of genes for that breed.
Does your dog may have the muzzle beard that is typical of many terrier breeds? A DNA breed marker would be able to tell you which exact terrier breed it is.
The test will be able to distinguish between, say, a Jack Russell terrier from others. Now you would know that your dog has JRT genes and that they make up part of his or her mixed-breed heritage.
Companies that do canine DNA testing maintain huge inventories of breed markers. The more varied the breeds of DNA that your dog carries, the less influence each breed will have.
For example, purebred border collies have powerful herding instincts. They will even herd the pet cats and other animals in their household!
But a mixed-breed dog with 5% border collie genes will be highly unlikely to display this behavior. The same applies to known genetic health risks.
The more varied the breeds in a particular dog, the more dilute any health risks will be. It’s a major reason why mixed-breed dogs are generally healthier than purebred ones.
Some Final Thoughts
The more breed information markers that a DNA testing company maintains, the more information about your dog they will be able to provide. Dog DNA testing kits typically cost between $75 and $100.
Before purchasing one, be sure that the testing company has been in business for a reasonable amount of time. This would mean at least several years.
Don’t forget to have fun with your dog’s DNA profile. Frame and hang it on a wall. It looks great!