Americans are testing their dogs’ DNA, with remarkable results

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VSARNEGIE PURPLE DOG-FULLER leads a happy life in Hollywood. She likes to snack on ice cubes and listen to Snoop Dogg. Life hasn’t always been so easy. Found wandering injured in Santa Monica, she spent time at a rescue center before being adopted by Gregg and Lindsay Fuller last year. They felt she was a French Bulldog mix. But one DNA test revealed that she was more American Staffordshire Terrier (39%) than French Bulldog (24%), with significant Pomeranian genes (16%). “We were shocked,” admits Fuller.

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Pedigree was once the preserve of elite dogs. Their breeders are particularly interested in the purity of bloodlines, the creation of new champions and the increase in puppy prices. Now common pooches have their pedigrees traced. Wisdom Panel, a firm that tests pets DNAsaid on March 3 that its database had grown to 3 million animals (more than 95% of which were dogs), up from 1 million in 2018. Embark Veterinary, a similar company that has 1 million dogs in its database, was valued at $700 million in July after a $75 million investment.

During the pandemic, 23 million Americans adopted puppies, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Rebecca Chodroff Foran, research director at Wisdom Panel, thinks this trend has collided with another: the growth of humanity.DNA business. Owners “now see their pets as key members of the family,” she says.

Animal DNA tests work much like humans. They compare genetic markers with a database of pets with verified pedigrees, revealing canine lineage and potential health issues. Embark claims 99.9% accuracy; Wisdom Panel claims over 98%.

Some owners are horrified to discover that their expensive crossbreed is actually a mix of entirely different breeds. But owners of adopted and rescue dogs, who make up 67% of Wisdom Panel’s database, are eager to learn. Murray, who lives in New York with his owner Erica Hyman, looks like a Jack Russell but with upright ears. It turned out to be a mixture of 23 breeds. “Now I just tell people ‘He’s just a dog!'” Ms Hyman said.

Chico Lopez, who breeds American Pit Bull Terriers, thinks DNA is a decent investment for pooches. He compares them to second-hand cars: “We don’t know if the engine is from a Toyota, the transmission from a Bugatti and the tires from a small motorcycle, so first you have to… find what will work. to break. “But those who want a pure blood,” he says, “shouldn’t rely entirely on DNAbecause reputable breeders already have precise knowledge of a dog’s ancestry.

Owners of adopted dogs like to seek out long-lost relatives. About 12% of dogs in the Embark database discover a sibling, parent or offspring. And, as in man DNA test, there is the possibility of stumbling across a family secret. Some dog owners are now discovering that their adorable pooch fathered a litter in another state before running away. Paw shape.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Son of a bitch”

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