Dog Genetic Testing: The Advance of Dog Genomics

Dog genetic testing kits have become extremely valuable for dog owners to take better care of their dogs and develop a better relationship with them.

· 5 min read
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Dog genetic testing kits have become extremely valuable for dog owners to take better care of their dogs and develop a better relationship with them. DNA, short for deoxyribonucleic acid, carries genetic information that dictates the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of organisms and many viruses. Since the advent of mapping human DNA with the Human Genome Project, humanity has made headway in mapping other animals' and species' DNA. In the case of dogs, the first high-quality draft sequence of whole canine genome mapping was for a Boxer dog named Tasha and was made publicly available in July 2004. Just as the Human Genome Project allowed us to gain insight into our genetic diseases, disease predispositions, evolution, and ancestry, sequencing dogs' DNA through dog genetic testing is doing the same for dogs' genetic diseases, evolution, breeds, and more.

By comparing Tasha the Boxer dog with other breeds of dogs, scientists compiled a detailed set of single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, which are genomic markers that show where changes or mutations occur in the DNA and help map genetic diseases.

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Advancing Our Understanding of Genetic Causes for Diseases in Both Humans and Dogs

Perhaps the most important use of dog DNA mapping is identifying genetic causes of certain diseases. There are many common diseases dogs can get, and dog genetic testing kits can help you identify any diseases your dog is genetically at risk of developing. This way, you can take preventative measures.

Amazing progress has been made in this area of dog DNA mapping, where many diseases underlying genetic variants have been identified, such as metabolic and endocrine disorders, blindness, cancer, neurological problems, skeletal and developmental disorders (e.g., hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis), and others.

Interestingly, 360+ genetic disorders found in humans have also been observed in dogs, and 46% of these genetic diseases occur exclusively or primarily in one of a few breeds. Using this knowledge to reveal important links between diseases that occur in both humans and dogs, we can potentially develop better diagnostic tools for both us and our beloved four-legged friends, as well as improve dog breeding strategies.

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Loss of Genetic Diversity Within Dog Breeds

What we have learned from dog genetic testing is that the evolution of most of the dog breeds we see nowadays is quite a recent phenomenon. Selective and restrictive breeding practices that began from the Victorian era in the United Kingdom caused a loss of genetic diversity within breeds, and a greater difference between different breeds.

Genetically observable (phenotypic) differences among dogs are separated into 350+ breeds worldwide and most of these closed breeding populations have received little genetic diversity. Apart from selective breeding practices, major world events have caused certain breeds' genetic variation to be further reduced. Following World War II, the population of Leonbergers was reduced to only five dogs in Europe. Their population has since recovered to about 30,000 worldwide.

Dog Genetic Testing Reveals an Adaptation to a Human-Altered Life

Comparing 7762 genes from the brains of dogs, grey wolves, and coyotes, scientists have found evidence that further strengthens dogs' coevolution with humans and suggests that dogs have adapted to the new challenges of living alongside us in human-altered environments. Dog genetic testing revealed dogs had altered gene expression in the hypothalamus, which controls specific emotional, hormonal, and autonomic responses, especially behaviours related to survival. Genetic diversity was also observed in behavioural patterns, with breeds showing forte in guarding, herding, companionship, speed, agility, and hunting.

What's Next for Dog Genetic Testing and Dog DNA Sequencing?

Although the first high quality canine genome was sequenced and published almost two decades ago, this is only the beginning of us understanding how a dog’s genetics can play into their daily lives. With so many scientists and laboratories dedicated to this field of dog genetic testing, dog DNA will continuously uncover new insights about mammalian genetics. Popular research now includes genes involved in canine cancer, structural or morphologic traits, behaviours that are canine-specific or overlapping with human psychology, aging and understanding of 'dog-to-human years', and more.

What else does the future hold for dog genetic testing? Well, there are rumors that one day, it will be possible to clone your dog after death, and might even become affordable. It should be noted that the first cloned dog was born about 17 years ago. This was Snuppy, an Afghan hound puppy, born in 2005 at Seoul National University using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). However, even if you can clone your dog, that doesn’t make it ethical to do so. A whole bunch of dogs have to be on hand to donate eggs and act as surrogates. These lab animals undergo procedures that mostly fail to produce a clone, and as far as ethics go, a lab existence for a dog is not a good existence.

Are People Currently Getting DNA Tests for Their Dogs?

Now that DNA tests for dogs are available, today, more and more dog owners are opting for dog genetic testing by ordering a DNA test for dogs such as the CirclePAW DNA test.

The DNA test for dogs is a quick and painless process that will not make your dog uncomfortable, as it only requires a cheek swab (to obtain a saliva sample) which takes under a minute.

Some of the motivations for getting a DNA test for a dog include:

  • Finding out what mix of breeds your dog is, if your dog was an adopted rescue pup and not from a breeder
  • Learn about potential allergies or food sensitivities your dog might have
  • Discovering potential health conditions your dog is genetically at risk of developing, including cancers and diseases
  • Learning about possible genetic personality traits and behavioral traits your dog might have, so you can improve your relationship with your dog and improve your care.

Get to know your dog better with the CirclePAW DNA Test for Dogs. Sign up now to be notified the moment our CirclePaw DNA test for dogs becomes available.

References:

  1. Dog whole genome genotyping (BMC Genomics) - https://bmcgenomics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12864-020-6700-3
  2. The canine genome (CSH) - https://genome.cshlp.org/content/15/12/1706.full.html
  3. Lessons learned from the dog genome (Science Direct) - https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/about.illinoisstate.edu/dist/6/45/files/2019/10/Wayne_2007_Trends-in-GeneticsDOGS.pdf
  4. Dog Genome Project (Broad Institute) - https://www.broadinstitute.org/scientific-community/science/projects/mammals-models/dog/dog-genome-links
  5. Dog Genome Project (NHGRI) - https://research.nhgri.nih.gov/dog_genome/