Veterinarians always get the pets no one else wants. That’s how we ended up with Foxy, a little brown dog that looked like she was put together from spare critter parts. She had large, feathered ears like a Papillion and a beautiful, long, brown and tan coat. Her golden eyes were almost coyote-like while her reddish nose was sort of “piggy-looking” and her agile, lithe, eight-pound frame resembled a weasel.
But inquiring minds want to know, so we administered a canine heritage DNA test. It identified 38 breeds of dogs, from Afghan hound to Whippet, using a simple swab from the dog’s mouth.
Beyond simply satisfying curious dog owners, DNA testing also serves an important medical purpose. Since certain diseases seem to be more prevalent in some breeds, once the breed makeup is known, both the owner and the veterinarian can watch for signs of those diseases and become pro-active to prevent them.
When the results came back for 8-pound Foxy, it was no surprise that she was part Chihuahua, but I refused to believe she had a 70-pound Samoyed for a grandparent with a touch of beagle as well.
We tried again when a more sophisticated test became available. This one identified more than 130 AKC recognized breeds that may be present in mixed breed dogs.
Those results were even more startling. In addition to 8-pound Foxy having chihuahua, poodle and sheltie in her lineage, it also found traces of Irish wolfhound.
I called the geneticist who explained, “The test determines what’s in your dog, not what your dog is. Sometimes what’s in the genes may not show up as physical manifestations of that particular breed.”
So, if you decide to test the D-N-A of your D-O-G, be forewarned. Often what you see is not what you’re going to get.