19 Oct 2020
If you’re a dog owner, or looking for a puppy what does it REALLY mean when a dog is “genetically tested”?
“My dog is genetically tested” is an increasingly common statement from dog owners. We see it on breeder’s webpages as part of advertising puppies, or as information on the dam/sire… it’s common on social media as a point of pride or a mark of care and responsibility by owners… but what does genetically tested (or DNA tested) actually mean? While using genetic testing as part of pre-breeding testing is a really valuable tool, a genetically tested dog is not, in itself, a "guarantee" of health. Understanding the different kinds of genetic testing available, and what information tests can (and cannot) provide is key for both dog breeders’ breeding plans and puppy buyers seeking responsible breeders.
Make sure you understand why the genetic test was performed.
The term “genetic test” can refer to a wide-variety of types of DNA testing – parentage confirmation, permanent identification, disease risk tests, breed* or type of dog, even the kind of coat a puppy might develop.
Find out what tests might be important to your breed/type, ahead of testing or looking at test results.
HGTD allows you to search by breed to see what tests are available for your breed (or cross, or mixed breed). You can also see which tests might be most relevant, and find more details on the disease or phene being tested for. As part of the continued improvements of HGTD, you'll soon be able to see tests and their relevance listed by 4 different categories: genetic disease/disorder, other genetic traits, diagnostic tool, parentage/kinship/identity/scan. You'll also find it easier to see tests available, including relevance, for all dogs (not just breed/type-specific). Look out for a blog expanding on this in the near future.
Ask to see the test results, or have the owner explain the results to you.
Just performing a genetic test isn’t enough. Saying a dog is "tested" isn't the same as saying a dog has a low-risk test result. When it comes to disease tests especially, you need to understand what the results mean for the dog, and how it may impact a dog’s health risks or breeding strategy. Asking the owner to explain the results is not only helpful in understanding why they are testing, but a good way to check they understand the results as well!
Is there a “good dog” test?
There is no such thing as a genetic test that can tell you if a dog is healthy or not, or at risk or not of all inherited diseases. Many breeds of dogs have a selection of breed-specific tests for specific inherited diseases that can be informative, but there is no comprehensive pass/fail when it comes to genetic testing. And, obviously, IPFD and HGTD thinks all dogs are good dogs. Read more about this in Brenda's blog, "Not all puppies from health-tested parents will be healthy!" here.
*A dog’s breed, with reference to kennel clubs, is determined by the specific registration body/club. Most kennel clubs do not accept a breed genetic test as the sole or primary determination of breed. If you are wanting to register your dog as a specific breed, or “pure-bred” or “pedigree” dog, then you should contact your countries’ kennel club for information.
photo: Markus Spiske via Pexels