DNA Testing and Purebred Dogs

Have you seen the different DNA tests out there advertising they can screen your dog for potential genetic health issues and also tell the breed in your mixed breed dog?  These DNA tests can be a great tool if you understand their uses and limitations. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has this to say about these types of tests as far as their uses in screening for genetic health issues and the limitations of the testing, "It’s the day every dog owner dreads: a bad diagnosis that drops out of the blue. These days, an increasing number of pet owners are using dog DNA tests to ward off this sudden heartbreak or help them diagnose existing symptoms. It’s a tempting idea: just take a swab from your dog’s cheek and send it to a lab, the logic goes, and a few weeks later, you’ll know which diseases your dog is genetically at risk of developing, perhaps even before anything goes wrong.

It’s so tempting, in fact, that dog DNA testing companies are proliferating, selling kits costing up to $200 that test for genes associated with more than 160 conditions. But when it comes to predicting disease in dogs, experts in dog genetics and canine health are sounding the alarm about the limitations of DNA testing at its current stage of development." ( https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-dna-testing-genetic-screenings/).

Another limitation of these tests occur when a purebred AKC registered dog is tested with a DNA test that is made to test mixed breed dogs.  These testing companies themselves say that these tests are NOT designed to be used in determining whether a dog is purebred or not. Here are some quotes from the websites of the two biggest DNA testing companies- Embark and Wisdom. 

 

From the Embark website:" These results in no way affect the “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registration body" (https://embarkvet.com/breeders/resources/canine-genetics-for-dog-breeders/advice-and-best-practices/purebred-as-mixed/

From a post from Embark for Breeders on their Embark for Breeders FB page: "We are pleased to offer the most accurate and comprehensive dog DNA test available. However even when testing with 200,000+ genetic markers, a DNA breed test cannot be used to certify a dog as a "purebred". This is because "purebred" status is not itself a scientific designation, but includes human-defined registration status and pedigree records indicating all of a dog’s ancestors were documented as purebred as well. While the term "purebred" is often associated with "single breed", this is not actually the same thing. Embark's DNA testing can generally inform on 3-4 generations of ancestry, which even for registered dogs will in some cases identify some DNA from another breed, often a closely related breed. This can occur for a variety of reasons, and these results do not affect the dog's registration or purebred status, because as stated earlier "purebred status" is not a scientific designation or dependent upon DNA ancestry results.

While we encourage owners and breeders to use DNA testing to learn more about their dog’s ancestry, health, traits, and relatives, owners looking to register their dogs with various organizations will need to submit their pedigrees to the appropriate registry body for that certification. These registries typically do not include the requirement that the dog be certified as "single breed" from a DNA testing company such as Embark. We encourage breeders to contact their preferred registries and breed club organizations to learn more about their requirements and expectations for dogs of your breed." (See below screenshot from the Embark for Breeders FB page) 

From the Wisdom website: " Wisdom Panel dog DNA tests aren't designed or intended to determine or validate whether a dog is purebred." (https://help.wisdompanel.com/s/article/Wisdom-Panel-test-said-my-registered-purebred-dog-isn-t-a-purebred-How-can-this-be)

In addition, the AKC does NOT recognize these tests as valid for determining whether a dog is purebred: " These new DNA tests are designed to determine the primary and secondary genetic heritage of mixed breed dogs, not to certify whether or not a dog is purebred. The AKC believes that the best way to determine parentage of a dog is still based on AKC’s long-standing DNA program and AKC does not intend to use these tests to evaluate a dog’s status as purebred.  (https://www.akc.org/breeder-programs/dna/dna-resource-center/conditional-registration/)

" There are no tests available to identify a dog’s breed purity.  There are for-profit companies selling canine DNA tests that purport to identify a mixed breed dog’s heritage, i.e., Breed Identification Tests. These tests cannot tell you whether a particular dog is purebred.  Rather, these tests demonstrate how closely an individual dog statistically matches the testing company’s internal reference database for the breed. " (see below email from the AKC)

So if you chose to do one of these DNA tests on your dog, please be aware of their limitations before you spend the money on this type of DNA testing. 

Screenshot from Embark for Breeders FB page.

Here is our email & the attachment from AKC when we contacted them about this issue.

Page last updated on 2/18/21

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