Thursday, August 21, 2014
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For the dog lover who has everything: A DNA test

Looking for a last minute gift for the dog lover in your life who has everything, or not?

For the dog lover who has everything: A DNA test

Looking for a last minute gift for the dog lover in your life who has everything, or not?

How about a DNA test?

If you've ever looked at your Heinz 57 pup and said, "I wonder what Max is made of?" you will find the $74.99 well spent to get answers.

Understand your mutt or your purebred dog's genetic roots and trace their lineage back to their great grandparents. Help understand their look and their traits, design your exercise and nutrition program and determine their predisposition for disease.

All that and more with just a swab of saliva.

The company my sister and a friend used was Wisdom Panel run by Mars Veterinary, a division of Mars Incorporated, pet food producers. They send a kit with testing materials and instructions. You swab the inside of your dog;s mouth (not such an easy proposition for some dogs), put it in the envelope and send it back to the company. And wait.

The company also offers kits for so-called "designer" dogs - defined as true hybrid of two purebred dogs - and for purebred dogs.

Owners of purebred dogs might want to run a DNA test to determine if breed is in fact as pure as they were told by the person who sold the dog to them.

The Morning Call of Allentown newspaper used DNA tests several years ago as a reporting tool to look into allegations against a notorious puppy mill operator. the tests showed that several of the alleged "designer" dogs sold by Derbe Eckhart, now a convicted animal abuser, who ran Almost Heaven kennel in Lehigh County, were not in fact the breeds that were stated on their sales documents.

As the Wisdom Panel website says, a dog’s ancestry can influence him or her in ways you might not imagine.

Obvious and not-so-obvious physical traits plus behaviors like digging, herding and barking all come from the various breeds in a dog’s family tree. Once an owner understands a dog’s natural tendencies, it makes it possible to create a tailored training, exercise and nutrition program to fit his one-of-a-kind needs.

My sister Andrea, who last appeared on this blog with her report from an elephant sanctuary in Thailand, writes that last Christmas she decided to get her rescue dog DNA tested as a gift for her husband, who came into the relationship with the dog. Here's why:

We knew he was a cattle dog mix, but could only guess the other breeds. He looks like a blue heeler, is very intelligent and great at Frisbee. But we were sure he must also have some hound in him because his nose is often on the ground and he will follow certain scents with the determination of a hound. And he is an incredibly sweet dog. He has never met a person he doesn't like and is particularly enamored with toddlers-- not a cattle dog trait. He's a very handsome dog and we often get asked when we're out on walks what he is. I thought it would be great to be able to answer the question with certainty and to give us a better understanding of our wonderful dog.

She says she thought Wisdom Panel was reasonably priced and they delivered updates and final test results in the time frame promised. The only downside Andrea felt was the difficulty in swabbing the inside of her dog's mouth. Another friend who tried it didn't have a problem.

In several weeks they got the results: their dog was indeed mostly - 50% - cattle dog and more than 10% Bassett hound and a few unusual breeds. My sister attributes his distinctive eyebrows come from his Entlebucher mountain dog heritage and his love of snow and tendency to trot far out in front of us explained by his various sled dog (Chinook genes). 

Each customer gets a detailed report that looks like a family tree, with the breakdown of the percentages of each breed and details about each breed's characteristics.

It's too late to run a test and get the results back in time to put under the tree for Christmas. But you could always order online, print it out and stick in an envelope in someone's stocking.

One more plug: if you order from Wisdom Panel before Dec. 31 you can get a picture on your dog in his family tree suitable for framing.

Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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Amy Worden Inquirer Staff Writer
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