|Denver, COLORADO, USA
At the 29th Avenue Animal Hospital, two veterinarian technicians draw blood from a mixed breed dog's neck. It's the first step in getting what many would consider a "mutt" his genetic identity.
"Well one of the most common questions that is asked of me when someone adopts a brand new dog from a shelter or the Denver Dumb Friends League is, 'What do you think he is? What's my dog?'" said veterinarian Michele Smith.
Smith can now answer that question with more scientific accuracy, thanks to what's called the Wisdom Panel. Mars Veterinary, a subsidiary of Mars Incorporated which is perhaps best known for making candy bars, developed the genetic test. It claims to analyze the DNA of mixed breed dogs with an average accuracy rate of 95 percent.
"The company does warn that some dogs are mixed with so many different things that they won't show a strong positive for any particular breed," said Smith.
It starts with a blood sample. That sample is then sent to a certified lab operated by Mars Veterinary. The sample is then analyzed and cross checked against a database of more than 130 pure breeds. Within two to four weeks, a pet owner should expect to get a report that lists the breeds detected. Those breeds will be ranked on a scale ranging from "high" to "trace."
Smith says while the test can reveal some insight into the dog's behavior and nutritional needs, it will not predict or give information about a certain breed's tendency for disease or illness.
"What they send you is a report saying that the most commonly detected breed is this or that, and then it gives you traits that are most common to that breed like, 'Is it a good family dog? Is it a guard dog?' That sort of thing," said Smith.
Smith says the cost is between $120 and $150. Some employees of the Denver Dumb Friends League had their dogs tested for free during a trial test for the Wisdom Panel. The test itself was made public in early October. Melissa Rice, an employee at the shelter, says it settled some long-time speculation about her dog Chloe.
"We had always thought she was Shepherd-Beagle mix, we adopted her from an animal shelter 10 years ago," said Rice.
When the results came back, Rice says the test confirmed her hunches.
"We've always had fun guessing what breed she is, so it was fun to finally say, 'Hey, I was right,'" said Rice.
Not every veterinarian offers the test. Smith recommends you call around and check with your veterinarian if you're interested in the Wisdom Panel.
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