When breeding dogs, pedigree doesn’t make a dog any more loving or loyal, but ancestry does play a role in canines’ genetic makeup and risk of inherited conditions and temperament problems. For this reason, breeders need to be extremely careful when selecting mating partners for dams so as to ensure breed purity and reputable lineage.
Still, in some cases, a dog breeder may need to check the dam’s or sire’s DNA fingerprint in order to minimize the risk of hereditary health issues or to determine parentage for pups or entire litters. In such an event, DNA profiling and parentage analysis may be a useful tool that can save a dog breeder or owner a lot of hassle, concerns, and unwarranted costs down the road.
But what exactly do DNA profiling and parentage analysis stand for; and why and when should a breeder resort to either of them?
DNA Profiling: Your Dog's Unique Paw Print
Sometimes referred to as genotyping or DNA fingerprinting, DNA profiling is used to determine a canine’s unique genetic code. Although it cannot establish a dog’s breed, it can help identify specific sets of gene markers passed down from the dam and sire.
A DNA profile can be a valuable instrument in proving parentage and health screening for the presence of genes that can contribute to the onset of heredity-related diseases such as eye, fang, and hip problems.
Despite the fact that a DNA profile cannot prevent dog theft or its consequent sale to a third party, it can be used to identify a dog in the event it reappears once it’s escaped or got stolen.
DNA Fingerprinting for Dogs: How It Works
The list of samples accepted by laboratories for DNA fingerprinting purposes includes dewclaw, blood, and buccal smear. Based on the provided sample, the laboratory will devise a panel of genetic markers (the number of markers ranges from one lab to the other) which are unique to your dog and can be used as its ID card.
Once the dog has been genotyped, the sample used for DNA fingerprinting purposes will be stored as a permanent DNA record and will be available to the dog owner should the need for additional tests arise at any point later on.
After the DNA profile is done, the laboratory will issue a DNA analysis certificate listing all relevant data such as registration number, name, pet name, and the microchip number.
Parentage Analysis: Pedigreed and Fit Dogs
DNA profiling is one of the common tools dog breeders use to determine parentage, but there are also other instruments that can help a dog owner or breeder verify pedigree. Parentage analysis tests are often used by breeders of champion dogs or elite animals (horses, for example), as well as owners who want to make sure that their pup or adult dog is 100% purebred.
Apart from allowing breeders and owners to ascertain breed purity and thus improve pedigree validity and value, the parentage analysis can also be useful in fast-tracking genetic progress and estimating the breeding values for bought-in sires and dams. Most kennels use parentage analysis tests to establish pedigree and cut the risk of inherited diseases such as hip dysplasia, vision impairments, autoimmune disorders, and fang problems.
Establishing Parentage: Is It Really Worth It?
The costs of parentage analysis can be pretty steep, especially if you’re testing multiple sires or entire litters. Nevertheless, a majority of dog breeders agree that the test price is well worth it in the case of elite champion dogs where lineage determines the market value of the animal.
For an average dog owner, though, parentage test expenses may seem a little less justifiable, especially in case of dogs where breed purity isn’t a must. Still, before you discard parentage analysis, pause to consider the fact that the test may be an investment in your dog’s long-term health and well-being as it will point to potentially risky genetic mutations, irresponsible dog breeding practices, or even fraud.
Clear by Parentage: How Accurate Is It?
Parentage analysis will help establish the relationship between one or both parent animals and the progeny based on the principle of exclusion. This means that the results will in most cases be 99.99% accurate. Still, false matches can occur under certain circumstances; in such cases, the laboratory may recommend running secondary tests.
This is why breeders are often advised to have DNA profiles drawn up for each of the dogs in the kennel: a comprehensive overview of DNA fingerprints will minimize the risk of false matches in future litters.
Based on the findings, the laboratory will issue a parentage verification report listing genetic markers for the offspring as clear for mutations. Once the parentage test is done, the laboratory can profile the adult dog, pup, or litter and cross-check DNA fingerprints against the parents’ profile to verify sire and dam registry.
True or False Match: Parentage Factors
Parentage analysis is relatively reliable, but there are certain conditions in which the test may produce a false match. The outcome of the testing may not provide a correct result due to three main factors, e.g. genetic pool diversity, lack of DNA records in the laboratory database, and one-parent tests.
- Diversity of the Genetic Pool — In case the sires and/or dams subject to parentage analysis testing are closely related, the likelihood of false matches will be higher.
- Lack of DNA Database Records — The chance of false parentage matches will increase in case DNA profiles of certain sires or dams are not listed in the laboratory database.
- One-Parent Parentage Testing — Although most kennels usually run sire match analysis only, a comprehensive pedigree test is generally a more reliable tool than one-parent analysis.
Run the Drill: How DNA Profiling is done
Once you have selected a reputable laboratory, you should ask the veterinarian about the type of test you should order. In certain cases, a DNA profile will suffice, but in other circumstances, a comprehensive parentage analysis will be required to verify the dog (or litter) is purebred.
Some laboratories offer the option for breeders to run DNA tests to determine traces of wolf or coyote DNA in a canine. Not the most useful test but can be fun to see. Bear in mind that this is usually a separate test and is charged extra, so be sure to inquire about its availability and costs with the chosen laboratory.
After you’ve picked the laboratory and test type, you should collect the samples with the help of a test kit. You can get the samples yourself, but if you’re a first-time breeder, it may be a better idea to consult the vet and ask them to do it for you to avoid potential mistakes. The gathered samples should be safely stored and transported to the laboratory in separate containers to prevent sample contact.
The lab experts should notify you about the findings within a few days, and you will be able to inquire about specifics in depth if you come across surprising details in the report.
Lost Dogs: DNA Profile or Microchipping?
When it comes to microchipping, dog breeders’ and owners’ opinions tend to be divided. While some believe microchip insertion is a safe and simple procedure that can increase the odds of a dog’s return in case it gets separated from the owner, others regard it as a potential health risk.
In this context, DNA profiling can be of aid since it is a non-invasive, failsafe identification tool. The puppy or dog’s genetic fingerprint will double as a guarantee of speedy reunion should the animal go missing.
Nevertheless, if you want to be 100% certain a furry companion will find its way home in the event of loss, you may want to give microchipping a serious thought or discuss it with the veterinarian. A quick and almost painless procedure, insertion of a microchip between the dog’s shoulder blades will minimize the risk of your dog being permanently separated from you. To keep your pet safe from harm, you should ask the vet to check the position of the microchip at regular checkups to make sure it hasn’t traveled far from the insertion point.
DNA profiling and parentage analysis are valuable tools every dog breeder should bear in mind when raising elite litters. Reliable, non-invasive, and widely available, DNA profile and pedigree analysis tests are your best friend in the pursuit of breed purity and kennel excellence, so if you haven’t had your dogs tested yet, make sure you do it before long.