Vet performs a dog DNA test in Australia

Yes or No – Can Dog DNA Testing Prevent Hereditary Dog Diseases?


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Just like human DNA tests, the dog DNA test is fast becoming popular in Australia. But can dog genetic testing help prevent breed specific hereditary diseases in dogs? Let’s explore to celebrate today, 23 March, being National Puppy Day!

If you’re buying a purebred puppy this is a great question to ask. It helps guide a lot of your buying decisions. Like what to ask and expect from a dog breeder, for example. The more you check in on the specifics, the likelier you’ll get the healthy, happy companion canine your heart is set on.

In this article, PD unpacks how to do dog genetic testing. We also uncover some of the basics around hereditary dog diseases and list common breed specific hereditary diseases in dogs.

A geneticist examines results from a dog DNA test in Australia

Are DNA tests accurate for dogs?

Are DNA tests accurate for dogs? Just like human DNA tests (unless we’re talking really high end and done with a geneticist), you can’t guarantee 100% accuracy. Most dog DNA tests available in Australia claim to have around 98% accuracy.

But the real question of accuracy in this testing might depend on what you’re wanting to find out.

Reasons for dog DNA testing

There are several reasons for doing a dog DNA test in Australia. One of the popular reasons people get their pups tested is out of interest. It can be fun finding out what your furkid’s ancestral lineage is or if they’re purebred.

Another popular reason could be for health recommendations based on the breeds that appear to make up your dog. For example, are there diet, lifestyle and exercise recommendations that suit your breed? However, whether these results are accurate is a matter of question. After all the science is still being developed.

Probably the most important reason for doing a dog DNA test in Australia is identifying breed specific genetic diseases. This is most commonly done in pedigreed dog breeding as part of ethical breeding practices.

a women holds her dog who is her pride and joy

Breed specific genetic diseases in purebred dogs

Purebred dog breeds are more likely to be genetically predisposed to specific conditions based on their breed. According to the Institute of Canine Biology, dogs have 619 hereditary diseases (often breed specific). That’s more than any other domestic animal has.

For example, IVDD in Dachshunds is known to be a good bet and hip dysplasia is more common in breeds like the German Shepherd. Here are some useful resources about breed specific diseases in dogs:

In Australia, good dog breeders will do a dog DNA test on both parent dogs before breeding them. They won’t breed dogs that carry genetic disease so that the puppies stand a better chance of being in the clear. More on this further down.

What will a dog DNA test tell you about genetics?

Dog DNA tests might be able to say what breeds your dog is made up from. If your dog has Maltese or Rottweiler heritage for example, you can also look at where in the world they developed. Perhaps they have information that indicates whether your dog is likely to be purebred.

But as companion animal vet Dr Cath Watson explains in the video below, purebred dogs are often made up of different breeds in the first place. That’s why, assuming a dog DNA test is accurate, even then it can be tricky pinpointing what breed your dog is.

For example, Saint Bernards (among others) have been used as a component of the genetic profile in Newfoundland dogs. If you want to find out if your dog is a purebred Newfoundland your dog DNA test is probably going to show up a bunch of different dog breeds.

And that’s even if they’re a purebred Newfoundland!

A Newfoundland dog who's DNA test showed up Saint Bernard as part of the genetic mix

How to DNA test my dog at home in Australia

Anybody can do a dog DNA test in Australia. It’s easy to buy one online and have it delivered. The next step is taking a mouth swab from your dog and sending it to the lab address listed on that product.

Usually you also get an online profile from the dog DNA testing company. Once the results are ready they usually upload them to your profile with lots of interesting information. For example, what health conditions to safeguard your dog from based on its genetic makeup.

You might also get lifestyle, diet and exercise requirements, and even possible relatives that are your dog’s siblings, cousins etc!

Find out more about doing your own dog test at home.

A vet takes a mouth swab from a Labrador dog to check for a breed specific disease

Can a vet do a dog DNA test?

The best way to get dog genetic testing done to safeguard against hereditary dog diseases is with a vet.

As mentioned, many in-market dog DNA tests are geared towards people wanting to prove their dog is purebred or know what its ancestry is. However, vets don’t do dog DNA tests for this purpose – they’re doing it for animal health and longevity for future dog generations. They’re looking at detailed information from a different perspective.

DNA testing for dogs to prevent hereditary conditions being carried into new dog generations is far from broad or random. When a vet does a genetic dog test they’re looking at whether a dog is a carrier for a specific disease genetic disease.

They’re not looking at what range of possible diseases it might be prone to. After all, being prone to a condition doesn’t mean it will happen, just that it could.

In this PD Insurance pet care vlog, Dr Cath explains how DNA testing is done and why:

Genetic testing is part of ethical breeding

Good breeders work hard to ensure genetic diseases in dogs aren’t passed down.

Any ethical dog breeder will try to eliminate breed specific diseases from being passed onto new dog generations. In Australia, one of the top ways they do this is DNA testing for specific diseases in breeding dogs.

Ethical breeders use it to screen both breeding parents and those that carry hereditary dog diseases won’t be mated. This means new litters are more likely to lead happy, healthy lives.

This is just one of many reasons to buy your purebred dog from an ethical dog breeder! Another reason is that it helps you avoid puppy scams in Australia.

You can always ask a breeder for proof of dog DNA testing. It’s part of responsible pet buying and parenting.

a new litter of puppies from an ethical breeder who has done dog DNA testing on both dog parents to screen them for genetic diseases in dogs

Can dog DNA tests prevent hereditary dog diseases?

Dog DNA tests may not prevent hereditary diseases in dogs. But when they’re used to support breeding they can help you buy a healthy puppy that’s less likely to inherit and develop them. In other words, dog DNA tests can prevent hereditary dog diseases from continuing in new generations of dogs.

Read more about how to buy a puppy safely in Australia. Speaking of safety and your puppy, find out five reasons to get puppy insurance early. If hereditary dog diseases do crop up, treatment can cost a fortune. But thankfully your PD pet plan can help pay for diagnosis and treatment if the waiting period has passed.

Of course, pet insurance covers a range of illnesses and accidents so it’s a great way to protect your puppy and your pocket. When you buy your plan online, PD gives you one or more months of FREE pet insurance. Click below to get started today!

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