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Vail Pets: What kind of dog is your mutt?

Stephen Sheldon
Community correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – No wise-guys, I did not say paternity testing, I said genetic testing.

Genetic testing to determine what breeds are present in your mixed breed dog, a.k.a. mutt, has been around for a few years but it was pricey. Recently, however, it has become affordable to almost anyone who has that itching desire to know just what ingredients are in their Heinz 57 dog. Since finances play a big part in our profession, affordability is a key factor in my opinion.

The genome, or DNA, of over 200 species of dogs has been mapped out. A simple blood test that costs less than a night out on the town can tell you a lot of information about your pound puppy. We can now tell you what breeds and what percentage of each breed is in your dog. Thus, we will know what characteristics to expect, what type of medical problems may be in store, how your dog will behave and respond to training, and what size to expect Mr. Mongrel to be when he is all grown up.



In addition to satisfying your curiosity, that is a lot of valuable information. For instance, if you have found your dog to have a high percentage of, say, the herding breeds, you would want to make sure you provide plenty of opportunity for exercise. If training or behavioral therapy is needed, it is definitely helpful to know what breeds are present because not all breeds act or respond the same way.

If you found a high percentage of retriever or German shepherd, you might want to start supplementing with glucosamine to prevent future hip problems, which we know are widespread in these breeds. If you found you had a dog that was predisposed to weight gain or kidney disease, you might want to start tailoring the diet at an early age or have tests run to check the kidneys.



The report you get is very detailed and includes breeds in your dogs’ ancestry back to his great grandparents as well as details about each breed found. The veterinary report you get reminds us of genetic or hereditary diseases we should be on the lookout for. I say “remind” because we veterinarians are supposed to know all the genetic diseases to be on the lookout for.

I have had a lot of clients ask about genetic breed testing for their dogs since the test became available years ago. I thought it was an unnecessary expense until now – the price drop and the nearly tripling of breeds included in the test has changed my mind. I think it is a fun and useful tool that many of you may want to explore.

By the way, I have not had my dogs tested. My wife and one child are allergic to dogs so I have non-shedding, pure-breeds: a standard poodle and a Havanese.



Dr. Stephen Sheldon practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 970- 524-DOGS or by visiting the hospital Web site, http://www.gypsumah.com.

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