The routine is now a familiar one: open the kit, swirl a cotton swab, dip it into the solution, and wait impatiently for the results. Only this time it’s not a test for Covid – it’s a DNA test for dogs.
Mainly used to learn about dog breeds, the kits first appeared about 15 years ago and since then their popularity has exploded in the United States, where nearly 40 percent of all families have at least one dog.
“If you have a dog and integrate them as a member of your family, you want to know where they come from,” said Mila Bartos, a Washington attorney.
One of the most popular test brands, Embark Vet, told AFP it experienced 235 percent growth from 2019 to 2020 alone. And the pandemic has only exacerbated the trend.
At about $100 to $200 a pop, the tests aren’t cheap. But in a country where dogs are king, price hasn’t been a great deterrent for many pet owners.
In 2020 alone, Americans spent nearly $104 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association, an amount equivalent to Slovakia’s GDP.
‘You want to know’
The tests are simple: A saliva sample is taken from a dog’s jaw and sent in the mail, with results usually coming back two weeks to a month later.
Sometimes when a new puppy parent has adopted a purebred dog, the purpose of the test is to verify that no error has been made in the lineage of one breed of dog.
But for shelter pet owners, the burning question is: What IS my dog?
Bartos, 51, adopted three dogs — Natty, Maisie and Mabel — and took DNA tests for each.
Natty, she discovered, is a mix of pit bull, beagle, chow-chow and German shepherd. The results showed that she even had a cousin who lived nearby in Baltimore.
With a luxurious shiny brown coat, Maisie turned out to be a descendant of a long line of show dogs.
Levi Novey, a 42-year-old consultant in the state of Virginia, said getting a test allowed him to better understand the behavior of his little dog Summer.
“For example, her athleticism, prey drive, interest in ball retrieval and selective choice in people she wants to be cuddly and sweet with were made easier to understand given her heritage,” he said of the little black pup, who weighs only 13 pounds. weighs. (six kilograms).
When New Jersey native Ashley Ternyila decided that the German Shepherd she adopted from a breeder looked a little too much like a wolf, she got a DNA test.
“He had quite a few wolf-like qualities, so for fun and to curb rumours, we had him tested,” Ternyila said.
Allen McConnell, a psychology professor who specializes in the relationship between humans and their pets, said, “The owner’s desire to understand, predict, and anticipate their dog’s actions makes it helpful to know something about the breed of their pet. the dog in the eyes of the owner.”
Dog breeds carry stereotypes — Labradors are good with children, pit bulls are aggressive watchdogs — which can often be inaccurate, but also help to better understand the animal, he explained.
In addition to revealing a dog’s breeds, DNA testing can also reveal predispositions to genetic diseases.
The most expensive tests allow users to examine their pet’s DNA for genes that cause heart defects, kidney disease, and premature deafness, among other things.
But beware, Washington vet Sarah Bowman warns, “Just because they have a genetic marker doesn’t mean they have the condition.”
The tests allow one to be aware of the risk and to exercise more caution, she said.
The American Veterinary Medical Association said it encourages owners “to consult their veterinarians before making decisions based on their pets’ test results.”
Pet parents should also consider possible consequences of finding out their dog’s breed. In many countries, certain breeds are seen as aggressive, such as pit bulls or Staffordshire terriers, and are banned from apartment buildings.
If the adoptee is half a pit bull “could be a problem” with a landlord, Bartos warned the lawyer.
“If you don’t want to know that information, you probably shouldn’t run race DNA on it,” Bartos said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)
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