No more ruff guesses: Check out your mutt's DNA

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No more ruff guesses: Check out your mutt's DNA

Looking for the perfect gift this Christmas? Why not find out what mix is in your beloved pet?

Journalist


Why not spoil those “who have everything” with a DNA test for their pet this Christmas?
As batty as it may sound, SA company MuttMix is doing just that – offering DNA tests for dogs and cats. The home-testing kit will determine your pet’s breed.
Company director Dominique Tricerry said it could help owners of pavement specials “prepare for the unknown”.
“For example, German shepherds have a high risk of hip dysplasia, while certain breeds are allergic to certain medications. By doing a test to ascertain what breeds they are, you can be proactive – start joint supplements, alert the vet to probable medication allergies, etc.
“One of my own dogs wears a scarf with her possible medication allergy on it. We’ve also been advised by clients that once they knew what breeds were in their pooch, they were able to adapt their training to suit the breeds as certain breeds respond to different training methods or styles, and have seen much better results after doing that.”
Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital pharmacist Craig Murdoch agreed with Tricerry. “There are certain dog types which respond differently to different medications; in extreme cases we do need to do genetic testing to see which medications to use for different dogs.”
Bryanston Veterinary Hospital vet Dr Remo Lobetti said: “The main thrust of genetic testing is to determine the presence of possible genetic diseases. These diseases affect many breeds for which there are no cures. By using genetic testing it can be established whether an animal is clear of a disease, a carrier of the disease, or affected by a genetic disease. The latter may, however, only manifest later on in life. Genetic testing serves an important part of responsible breeding programmes as well as possible management plans.”
The results come with an explanation of each dog’s nature as well as potential ailments. “The Scottish terrier explains the longer body [of the writer's dog, see below],” Tricerry said.
“I always tell people never to assume the breeds in their mixed-breed dog – combinations of breeds often mimic other breeds. After all, all breeds are a mixture of other breeds, just targeted mixing over decades,” she said.
Besides domestic dog testing, there are also tests to determine the level of wolf in your dog, and tests for cat lovers.
Inqaba biotec animal genetics department manager Mischa Fraser said the company conducted more than 50 different genetics tests for dogs at their laboratory.
Their tests were done using blood samples and were mostly performed for people wanting to take their dogs overseas. “We do a DNA profile for transport out of the country as well as tests to assist with medication.”
The company also offered the service for cats and the animal genetics laboratory studies wildlife.
Cherene Denoon-Stevens decided to do genetics testing on her five-year-old adopted dog Ruby to satisfy her curiosity.
Ruby was found covered in ticks and fleas on the side of the highway near Elgin in the Western Cape.
“I ended up flying her home with me to Johannesburg. I had golden retrievers at the time, and she fitted right in with the pack.”
Although Ruby looked like a Labrador and acted in the same way as the other dogs, she was slightly smaller. Her DNA test revealed she is Level 1 golden retriever; Level 5 German shepherd and Level 5 basenji. “I would never have guessed basenji, but it explains why she is smaller with shorter hair.”
“I think if you have a mixed breed it’s so interesting [to find out the breeds]. It’s also a great gift to give someone who has a lot of stuff. It gives a nice insight into the dog’s temperament and behaviour.”
Lara McCann, owner of Spartacus, was surprised when she saw the results of her medium-sized dog because his mix contained only large dogs.
The results were: Level 3 rottweiler; Level 3 great Dane; Level 3 border terrier; Level 5 Belgian malinois; Level 5 great Pyrenees.
“I find no similarities with any of the breeds, bar maybe Rottweiler eyebrows,” she said in a Facebook post.

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