Boston Globe correspondent Scott Kirsner chronicled his attempts to use dog DNA tests to figure out the genetic ancestry of his shelter dog Louie.
The first canine genome was decoded in 2005 by researchers at the Broad Institute and their collaborators. And in 2009, Wisdom Health, a subsidiary of Mars Inc., launched the first dog DNA tests for consumers. Kirsner and his wife bought the latest version of that product, the Wisdom Panel 4.0, which said that Louie was 62.5 percent Chihuahua. The rest of him was an even split between miniature poodle, cocker spaniel, and English springer spaniel, according to the test.
But canine DNA testing isn't just about determining ancestry, Kirsner says. The tests also told him that Louie was free from 14 genetic conditions that were common in his breed mix. But even that, the Broad's Karlsson tells him, may not be great news. "There is only a tiny percent of diseases, many very rare, that we can test for," she says, adding that it isn't yet possible to flag dogs that are likely to develop conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
So in the end, Kirsner says, he found that dog DNA testing is mostly still a novelty, even as the dog DNA testing market seems likely to keep growing. His advice? "If you get a dog DNA test done, I'd recommend you do just one."