The procedure is now part of the routine: open the kit, spin a swab around, place it in solution, and wait for the results with bated breath. It’s not a test for Covid this time; it’s a DNA test for dogs.
The kits, which are mostly used to understand a dog’s breeds, were initially introduced 15 years ago and have since grown in popularity in the United States, where roughly 40% of all homes have at least one canine companion.
“Having a dog and integrating them as a member of your family, you want to know where they’re from,” said Mila Bartos, a Washington lawyer.
Meanwhile, Embark Vet, one of the most popular test brands, told AFP that between 2019 and 2020, it had a 235 per cent increase in sales. The epidemic has only served to amplify the tendency.
The DNA tests are not inexpensive, costing between $100 and $200 each.
However, in a country where dogs reign supreme, the cost hasn’t been a significant impediment for many pet owners.
According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans will spend roughly $104 billion on their animal friends in 2020, which is the equivalent of Slovakia’s GDP.
DNA Test on Dogs
The DNA tests are straightforward: a saliva sample is obtained from inside a dog’s jowl and mailed, with results arriving between two weeks to a month.
Moreover, when a new puppy parent adopts a purebred dog, the DNA test is sometimes used to ensure that the dog’s one-breed lineage is correct.
But for the owners of shelter pets, the burning question is — what IS my dog?
Bartos, 51, adopted three dogs, Natty, Maisie, and Mabel, and gave each one a DNA test.
Natty is a combination of a pit bull, beagle, chow-chow, and German shepherd, she discovered. She even had a cousin in Baltimore, according to the results.
Maisie, on the other hand, turned out to be a descendent of a long line of show dogs, with a beautiful glossy brown coat.
Further, Levi Novey, a 42-year-old consultant from Virginia, said obtaining a test helped him understand his tiny dog Summer’s behaviour better.
“For example, given her ancestry, her athleticism, prey drive, interest in retrieving balls, and selective choice in persons she wants to be cuddly and kind with became easier to comprehend,” he said of the 13-pound (six kilograms) black puppy.
Ashley Ternyila of New Jersey ordered a DNA test after deciding the German shepherd she adopted from a breeder looked a little too much like a wolf.
“He exhibited quite a few wolf-like qualities, so we got him tested for fun and to put rumours to rest,” Ternyila explained.
Allen McConnell, a professor of psychology who specialises in the relationship between humans and their pets said “the owner’s desire to understand, predict and anticipate their dog’s actions makes wanting to know something about its breed useful in the owner’s eyes.”
He added that clichés about dog breeds exist, such as Labradors being nice to children and pit bulls being violent watchdogs. These stereotypes are often false, but they do help people understand the animal.
Moreover, DNA tests can identify predisposition to hereditary disease as well as reveal a dog’s breed.
The most expensive tests allow owners to examine their pet’s DNA for genes linked to heart disease, renal disease, and premature deafness, among other issues.
“Just because they have a genetic marker doesn’t necessarily mean they have the illness,” cautions veterinarian Sarah Bowman of Washington.
According to her, the tests allow people to be more aware of the risk and exercise greater caution.
Owners should “contact their physicians before making any decisions based on their pets’ test findings,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Pet owners should think about the consequences of learning their dog’s breed. Certain breeds, such as pit bulls and Staffordshire terriers, are considered aggressive in many countries and are prohibited from living in apartment buildings.
Bartos, the lawyer, warned that if the adoptee is a half pit bull, it “might be an issue” with a landlord.
“If you don’t want to know that information, then you probably shouldn’t run a breed DNA on it,” Bartos said.