Uncovering the mysteries of mixed-breed dogs

INLAND EMPIRE – Welcoming a pet into a home can be a joyous event. Companion animals have a way of assimilating into a family rather quickly. Some prospective pet owners spend months researching the type of breed they prefer, while others prefer to adopt mixed-breed dogs from a nearby animal shelter.

Purebred and mixed breed dogs both make great pets. In fact, some experts will say mutts are preferable to certain pure breeds because they are less likely to carry genetic defects that may lead to illnesses or other medical concerns as they age. But some dog owners prefer purebred dogs because they know what to expect of such animals. For example, Golden Retriever or Labrador owners likely have a good idea of the dogs’ temperament and can likely gauge just how large the dog will become.

The owners will also be aware of particular flaws or attributes of the breed, such as drooling, snoring or barking. Though such guesswork used to be considerably more difficult with mixed breed dogs, scientific advancements now enable curious pet parents to determine the genetic makeup of mixed-breed dogs.

A variety of do-it-yourself DNA testing kits allow dog owners to perform genetic testing on their mixed-breed best friends. Owners simply swab inside of the dog’s mouth to collect cheek cell samples, and then seal the swabs inside of the kit packaging. Some additional information must be supplied before a lab will run a series of tests to determine the best breed matches among their database of various dog breeds. The tests look at microsatellite genotypes for specific dog breeds, and usually offer the percentage of a given breed that is in the mutt’s DNA.

Accuracy of the tests depends largely on the number of breed-related genetic markers in its database. A company that has a larger database of genetic markers will be able to offer a clearer picture.

While the tests are not 100 percent accurate, they do offer owners of mixed breed dogs a better chance at determining the heritage of a particular mixed-breed dog. This can help owners of such dogs be aware of any potential health issues or simply assuage curiosity as to why their pup looks or acts the way it does.

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