Hopping on The Canine DNA Test Bandwagon

wisdom panel logoI tested my dog Iris using the Wisdom 4.0 DNA test, which is marketed to people who are curious about what breeds make up their dog’s heritage. I was not surprised to find out that she was 100% Bull Terrier, and I was pleased that she wasn’t carrying genes for either of the two genetic diseases included in the test, but this was also no surprise as neither is a known issue in her breed.  The only breed-specific disease in Bull Terriers with a DNA test is Lethal Acrodermatitis, which has a single-gene test available through PennGen at the University of Pennsylvania.  Using the Wisdom Panel piqued my interest in the in-home tests and the reasons they are growing in popularity.

I tested Iris at the request of Dayna Dreger, who is a canine research scientist at Purdue University. I met Dayna early in 2018 at a dog show in Indianapolis where she was collecting DNA for a project involving canine feet.  She’s currently working on a dog color genetics project. Iris is black brindle but is starting to get more and more brown mixed in areas that used to be pure black, and Dayna noticed a photo of her on Facebook and wanted to include her DNA in  her project.   Check out a report on Dayna’s work identifying the relationships between dog breeds around the world, including some cool visualizations.

Popularity of In-Home DNA Testing is on the Rise

People are buying more DNA tests for their dogs, once again following a human trend to find ancestry and relatives through in-home DNA tests as shown in these charts based on Google Trends search data. Both types of tests see searches spike in November, suggesting they are being purchased as gifts.  (NOTE: The spike in general DNA test search in April 2018 may be related to DNA Day on 4/25/18 – the canine DNA test companies seem to have missed this marketing opportunity!)

 

Health Reasons to Test Canine DNA

Dog breeders should do relevant DNA testing, for heritable diseases to avoid matings that could produce affected puppies. Purebred dog owners can find out if theirs dogs are at risk for an adult-onset disease.   Many of the breed-specific tests are offered individually through universities, like the LAD test for Bull Terriers and Miniature Bull Terriers, but some also come bundled in DNA panel tests like the more expensive Wisdom Panel Health Test.  The number of tests and laboratories offering these tests is exploding, and canine health advocates are trying to help people find and select tests by creating a harmonized database of available tests.   Dog owners should careful when interpreting DNA-linked disease gene findings in breeds or mixes which are not the same breeds studied to initially identify the disease-linked genes.  Similar diseases in different breeds can have different genetic profiles, and misinterpreting a DNA report can have disastrous consequences for individual dogs.

Testing to Determine Parentage

Purebred dog owners can also test DNA to determine parentage.  The American Kennel Club requires that sires whose semen is collected and shipped for fresh chilled or frozen breedings be DNA tested so if there is any question, parentage can be confirmed. DNA profiles also come in to play for litters with multiple sires or in cases where purebred puppies’ parentage is disputed or unknown.  Yes,  there are scenarios in the purebred dog world that would be right at home on  Jerry Springer!  The AKC tests are used to determine parentage, or specifically to rule parents in or out, not to identify the breed of the dog in question.  The AKC tests are most akin to DNA tests conducted on crime scene artifacts and for paternity tests to identify parentage with confidence. AKC does some direct marketing of these tests to new AKC titlists who can receive a colorful certificate displaying their dog’s DNA profile.

Should You DNA Test Your Dog?

People who are curious about the breeds in your dog’s family tree have a number of commercial DNA test options, but results will not necessarily be identical across all the DNA tests out there. The number and breeds of dogs used to establish the profiles are not identical across all the tests, so results should be considered directional rather than definitive.  The Wisdom Panel has a fun quiz that illustrates how difficult it can be to guess which breeds are behind a given dog based on appearance.

DNA testing for dogs can be used to improve dog health, inform breeding decisions,  identify parentage or likely breed makeup for a specific dog.  Caution needs to be used using DNA to learn about dogs’ genetic risks; within a breed, consulting with your breed parent club can help you understand which tests are relevant and how to interpret results.  If you have a mixed breed dog, more caution is needed before interpreting disease gene data, as what is known within a single breed may not apply to other breeds or combinations of breeds.

 

Black Brindle Bull Terrier
Iris – GCH Ch Nuance Night in Tunisia, ROM, CGC, TKN

DNA Test result graph 100% Bull Terrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Research on Senior Pets and Overweight Pets

Packaged Facts announced the publication of a new report analyzing the need for products targeted at senior pets, overweight pets and special needs pets in the US.  The report notes that according to American Veterinary Medical Association and Association for Pet  Obesity Prevention research, the proportion of American pets in these groups is higher than the market shares for products targeted at them. This indicates an opportunity for product manufacturers and retailers who can convince these pets’ owners to purchase products addressing their specific conditions.

According to the most recent research by the AVMA and APOP, over 40% of pets are either over the age of 6 or overweight, their studies did not indicate what proportion of pets fall into both categories.   In a related story, Petfood Industry magazine reported on a study which found that Beagles who were allowed to overeat a diet that included human snacks re-gained weight at much lower caloric intake levels than those required to gain weight in the first phase of the study.

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Nutro dog food plans Meetups

Nutro dog food logo
Nutro dog food logo

Petfood Industry reports that Nutro has partnered with Meetup.com to sponsor 60 Meetup groups. The sponsored groups include a variety of  existing dog Meetup groups across across North America, including specific breed groups, rescue groups and the Denver Yappy Hour all-dogs social group.  Nutro is hosting a kick-off Meetup on September 16, in New York City which features an appearance by celebrity veterinarian Dr Marty Becker. It’s not clear how the groups were selected for this promotion, although I do see that groups can signify that they are seeking sponsors and Meetup will facilitate the process for sponsors wishing to sponsor 50 or more Meetup groups.  On the promotional webpage for its Meetups, Nutro also mentions its Facebook fan page however, I see no mention of the Meetup there.

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Taco Bell Spokesdog passes

RetailWire alerted me to an LA Times article reporting on the death of Gidget, the Chihuahua best known for her role in the  Taco Bell “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” campaign which ran from 1997-2000.  Gidget was 15, and suffered a massive stroke at home.

This Taco Bell campaign became a cultural icon, despite  criticism both for perpetuating Latino  stereotypes and promoting impulse purchases of Chihuahuas.

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Dogtime Media’s Save-a-Dog Facebook app

MediaPost reports that Dogtime Media has just launched the Save A Dog Facebook application with the support of Frontline as its exclusive advertiser through September. The application allows users to check out adoptable dogs by breed and location, and then virtually foster, walk, and send dogs to their friends. Points are earned for downloading the app and all virtual interactions with the rescue dogs.

For every 2500 points earned, DogTime will donate the equivalent of one cup of food to rescuegroups.org, a technology provider which creates online solutions for rescue groups and will use the funds to lower the costs of their services to those groups.  This is the first time I’ve seen an organization looking for volunteers to provide technical services rather than the traditional food, toys and pet supplies for rescue.

A comprehensive campaign is planned utilizing DogTime’s network of advertisers, bloggers, and newsletter subscribers as well as its Twitter stream. Partners Frontline and rescuegroups.org will also participate in campaign extensions.

A personal criticism of the application’s functionality: The breed selection tool could be better, as my search for Bull Terriers near my zip code yielded hundreds of pit bulls, but I saw no actual “English” type Bull Terriers such as I own. Which reflects the balance of those breeds in rescue, I’m sure, – I just wish the listing “Bull Terrier” was better targeted to match the dogs.  This problem may be limited to breeds with similar names, but it reduces the attractiveness of the app for people who can’t find dogs like the ones they own to send to people who also own those dogs (who happen to make up the majority of my Facebook friends.)

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Dog Product Placement: Master Dog food

Ad Age shared a report from Martin Lindstrom regarding a clever dog food product placement in Venezuela.  Master Dog food was a sponsor of the reality show La Granja Vip –  a version of an international reality format known as The Farm. They wanted to integrate their brand with the show and decided to have a dog representing the brand’s signature breed, the Golden Retriever, appear as a contestant on the show.  The dog, named Master, became an extremely popular character on the show and in turn a highly sucessful promotion for the company. Martin says Master worked so well as a product placement by meeting all three goals for product placement:

1. Make sure the product is relevant and necessary to the plot

2. Make the brand the hero

3. Ensure the product image remains the same across all  touch  points

The dog, which appears on on the brand’s site and many of its product labels as well as in the show, satisfied the goals on all counts.

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Dog Breed Owner Reviews

I’ve been thinking about launching a website as my own educational playground and have finally landed on a topic – reviewing tough dog toys – and purchased a domain name.  So I’ve been tooling around the web looking at review sites looking for design ideas.  Couldn’t find any dog toy sites that really stuck my fancy so I decided to check out baby toy sites and ended up on a general review site called Viewpoints.  Baby pages featured a classic review/ecommerce site design, then I noticed they had a pet section, so I clicked to look at that (exact same layout, naturally.)  But here I found something interesting – dog owner reviews of  their dog breeds.  The sidebar promised there were 232 reviews, but clicking on it revealed these were spread across just 38 breeds.  What I found interesting was that on a 5 point scale, the lowest score was a  4.0 – for the  “Shitz Tsu” (people who correctly spelled the breed name, Shih Tzu scored it at 4.64) and most were around 4.8.  I guess no one wants to spread a cautionary tale – or kept a dog they’d rate lower than a 4.0.  Actually I noted some of the lower ratings were by people who didn’t own the breed, but knew someone who had one they didn’t like.  The most reviewed dog was the  American “Pitt” Bull Terrier with 37 reviews, for the most part glowing reviews with quite a few pit rescuers represented.

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