DNA testing in dogs has been on the rise in recent years as more and more breeders and canine organizations require certain DNA tests to register dogs or mate. Every day we are contacted by clients who would like to order a DNA test but do not know what DNA tests are or what they are intended for. They just know they need them. To some extent, the situation is understandable as it is a professional topic that is not best known to the general public. To make it easier to understand what a DNA test actually is and what information it gives us, we will explain some basic concepts.
A genetic test is basically an analysis of hereditary information that every living thing carries in its cells. Hereditary information is stored in the form of a DNA molecule, which can be described as a book in which instructions for the operation of a human, dog or other living being are written. A genetic test reads a specific part of this information that has been related to a physical characteristic (hair colour, hair length…), a genetic disease, or another trait we want to analyse. Because hereditary information in the form of DNA is found in every cell of the organism, it must be transcribed each time a new cell is formed. There are errors in DNA transcription that are called mutations. Some mutations do not affect the content of the hereditary information but some do and thus cause e.g. hair colour change or the development of a genetic disease.
In their studies, scientists analyse DNA in a large number of dogs and try to link specific changes to physical traits or genetic diseases. When they succeed, a procedure is developed to analyse a specific DNA change called a genetic test. A genetic test is in most cases specific to a particular breed or group of dog breeds, which means that it is not suitable for breeds for which no association between a specific change in DNA and a specific genetic trait has been demonstrated. In practice, this means that two different breeds may have the same genetic disease or trait, and the genetic test currently available is only suitable for one of these breeds.
In recent years, we have seen big discoveries in the field of genetics, which resulted in increasing number of genetic tests and the areas of their application in dogs. The most common are genetic tests to determine physical characteristics, predisposition to genetic diseases, and to determine the identity of animals. When deciding on a genetic test, it is necessary to know what you are actually interested in, because only in this way you will get the appropriate answers to the questions asked with the genetic test. To make it easier to choose the appropriate genetic test, a search engine is available on our website, with the help of which you can filter genetic tests suitable for a specific breed of dog. In case you need more genetic tests, packages are also available for more than 40 dog breeds. These consist of DNA tests that are most used in a particular breed.
In order to perform a genetic test, an appropriate sample is needed, which is most often taken by dog owners themselves. Since a quality sample is crucial for the correct result of a genetic test, we will write in our next post about the importance of the appropriate sample, proper sampling, and the most common problems.