As your dog’s best friend, you know them well—their reaction to unfamiliar noises, their facial expression when someone is at the door, and their behavior when they feel ill. However, how well can humans really understand animals, especially when they may have health conditions that traditional diagnostic tests are unable to detect?
Fortunately, through genetic testing, veterinary professionals are now able to delve deeper than ever into dogs’ health risks, informing their lifelong care needs. To help you understand how genetic testing can benefit your dog, our Cara Veterinary team explains this exciting technology.
Breed testing provides clues about your dog’s behaviors and traits
A mixed-breed dog can have a mixed bag of health risks, physical traits, behaviors, and personality quirks. Although these elements are part of their charm, when you know little about your dog’s background, unknown health risks can negatively impact their training and veterinary care.
Genetic breed testing provides insight into your dog’s ancestry, including a breakdown of their predominant breeds. This information can help predict your puppy’s adult size and weight, and help you understand your pup’s most perplexing behaviors. For example, a dog who yodels rather than barks may be expressing their inner basenji!
Genetic testing can also help you personalize your dog’s socialization and training to suit their likely personality traits. Although every dog is different, some behaviors are commonly seen in certain breeds. For example, Chihuahuas are known to develop fear aggression. Knowing this can help you plan for aggressive socialization during their early months to help them overcome ingrained fears.
Genetic testing can identify hereditary disease risks
Similar to human genetic screening, canine genetic testing can determine your dog’s risk for hundreds of hereditary diseases, including breed-specific conditions. Although no one wants to find out that their dog is predisposed to developing a potentially life-limiting condition, knowing their genetic risk can inform veterinary care and lifestyle choices, helping ensure they can lead a long and healthy life.
Veterinarians strive to deliver personalized care for every pet. Genetic testing allows our teams unprecedented insight into your dog’s unique health risks so that we can provide authentically individualized care.
For example, if your dog’s genetic testing results reveal a hereditary risk for bladder stones, your veterinarian can proactively put your dog on a therapeutic diet to discourage crystal formation in their urine. Your veterinarian may also recommend that your dog have frequent checkups and imaging tests, such as ultrasounds or X-rays, to identify stone formation before the condition becomes advanced.
In addition, if your young dog’s test results indicate that they are likely to develop a progressive but untreatable condition (e.g., degenerative myelopathy) that may not manifest for years, your veterinarian can recommend lifestyle modifications that support your pup’s overall health and ideally slow disease-induced deterioration. Preventive care may include initiating veterinary rehabilitation to increase your dog’s strength and coordination and maintain healthy nerve function.
Genetic testing helps you know how to monitor your dog’s health
Dogs are masterful at hiding illness and weakness, which is why many conditions seem to appear out of nowhere. However, when you and your veterinarian know your dog’s genetic information, you can identify the subtle changes that indicate early stage disease, which can prompt you to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian so they can provide your pup with treatment, therapy, and pain management, and recommend at-home modifications that you can initiate.
If your dog’s genetic testing results indicate they have an elevated disease risk, your veterinarian will explain how your pup’s health will be affected and what signs they may first exhibit. When you know what to expect, you will likely feel more in control of your dog’s health.
Canine genetic testing limitations and considerations
Although genetic testing unlocks an expansive amount of information about your four-legged friend’s health, keeping your expectations in check is essential. When your veterinarian explains your dog’s genetic testing results, consider the following:
- Accuracy — Although the canine genome was mapped in 2005, research continues to reveal previously undetected genetic mutations and variants for countless canine diseases and conditions. Because new information is constantly being discovered, keep an open mind about your pup’s genetic testing results. The results that indicate your dog is free from currently detectable hereditary diseases and their mutations do not guarantee they are completely free from hereditary conditions.
- Environmental influence — Nonhereditary factors, such as your dog’s weight, physical activity level, and behavior, still play a role in their likelihood for developing certain conditions such as orthopedic disease (e.g., hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament rupture).
- Preventive medicine — Genetic testing helps your veterinarian consider your dog’s current and potential health care needs. However, the results are still secondary to consistent preventive care. Routine wellness exams, vaccinations, and annual screening tests continue to be essential to helping your veterinarian identify your pup’s health status changes and protect them from preventable disease.
Your Cara Veterinary team is dedicated to reimagining your pet’s health care. Genetic testing allows us to elevate the traditional veterinary experience by using your dog’s DNA to create a truly personalized treatment and care plan. Schedule your dog’s genetic testing at your neighborhood Cara Veterinary location.