Why are DNA tests for dogs so successful in the United States?


The ritual sounded familiar. Open the kit, spin the swab, soak and mix, then eagerly await the result. Apart from that, a smear is taken from the jowl pit and above all it is a DNA test for dogs, not a Covid-19 scan.

Founded in 2015 and marketing one of the most popular kits in the United States, Embark Vet assures AFP that it experienced 235% growth between 2019 and 2020. And the pandemic has only strengthened the movement, she relies on a veterinarian. inexpensive, $100 to $200 depending on the kit. But that’s not a problem in the dog-king country: Americans spent about 104 billion on their animals in 2020, the equivalent of Slovakia’s GDP, according to the American pet products association.

Know your dog’s story

When the sample is mailed, the waiting time can be between two weeks and a month. The first goal is to be clear about the breed of the dog. Sometimes, when the owner acquires a purebred dog, it’s all about verifying that there are no faults in the goods. This is the case of Ashley Ternyila, who lives in New Jersey. The German shepherd she bought from a breeder looked a little too much like a wolf despite her white fur, so “to put an end to the rumors, we tested her,” she told AFP. But for owners who choose to adopt from shelters, it’s a question of trying to fill in the gray areas in front of the person who is now an integral part of the family.

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“Owning a dog also means wanting to know where it came from, what its history is,” explains Mila Bartos, 51, a lawyer who lives in Washington. He adopted his three dogs, Natty, Maisie, and Mabel, and provided an overview of their family tree by running a DNA test for each. He discovered that Natty, a mix of pit bull, beagle, chow-chow, and German shepherds, had a cousin nearby, living in Baltimore, or a long lineage of the Maisie, who was half Labrador and glossy brown-haired. .

Levi Novey, a 42-year-old counselor based in Virginia, says the test gave him a “better understanding” of the behavior, “energy, hunting instinct” of his tiny 6-pound black dog, Summer. and “the way she chooses the people she hugs.” What fuels dog owners’ curiosity about their dog’s breed, in particular, is this “desire to understand, anticipate and predict their dog’s movements,” analysis for AFP Allen McConnell, a psychology professor specializing in human relations to their pets.

Dog breeds do indeed carry stereotypes – “Labradors interact well with children, Pit Bulls are aggressive watchdogs” – this can help interpret canine behavior, although sometimes inaccurate. Animal, he explains.

Screening for susceptibility to genetic diseases

Levi Novey also reassured that Summer was not predisposed to any genetic disease. Because that’s one of the selling points of these tests: The most expensive, it allows for the examination of DNA to look for genes that cause heart abnormalities, kidney dysfunction, early deafness… But be careful, warns Sarah Bowman, a Washington veterinarian. The reason is not that a dog has “the genetic marker that he or she has the disease (a pathology)”. At most, these tests make it possible to be aware of risk and be more mindful in this area, she explains.

The American veterinary association, contacted by AFP, also encourages consultation with one of its practitioners “before making any decisions based on the results of these tests.” And then, perhaps apprentice testers should also avoid legal repercussions. As elsewhere in the United States, certain dog breeds such as the pit bull or staffordshire terrier are viewed as aggressive and are therefore prohibited from entering certain apartments.

However, in this highly procedural country, if the adopted dog is a half pit bull, “there could be trouble” with an overly observant owner, warns Mila Bartos in her capacity as a lawyer. “And if you don’t want to know this information, you probably shouldn’t do a DNA test.”

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