The results of the DNA test for my rescue dog are in: I am pleased to announce I definitely have a dog. A dog-dog. But the test didn’t just tell me about the breed – there is plenty more to learn from a test
The results took not quite seven weeks (including shipping the sample from the UK to the US), and the headline result made me laugh: European village dog. So, a dog, basically. But behind the somewhat simplistic headline was a wealth of insight into my dog’s ancestry, appearance and health.
If “village dog” sounds like a cop-out, the first scroll down the results screen proved cynical me wrong. Embark went into great detail – really, the only surprise is that I wasn’t furnished with the exact village coordinates. The analysis provided some background on village dogs in general: Many village dog populations precede the formation of modern breed dogs. Embark estimates that around three-quarter of today’s dog population are village dogs. It has studied DNA from village dogs since 2007 and says: “Through this work, they [the company’s founders, Adam and Ryan Boyko] have discovered the origins of the dog in Central Asia, and identified genetic regions involved in domestication and local adaptation, such as the high-altitude adaptation in Himalayan dogs.”
The DNA strands of village dogs are fairly short, but even they are distantly related to some of the breeds humans have cultivated and bred over the centuries. Goldie’s DNA shows traces of English cocker spaniel as well as pekingese.
The latter is a funny little breed, since it is known both as a lion dog and a total lap dog, bred for the Chinese Imperial family. Embark tells this little story: “The creation myth The Lion and the Marmoset provides the origin of the pekingese: A lion fell in love with a marmoset, but, alas, the lion was too big. Buddha allowed the lion to shrink in size to follow its heart, and the result was the pekingese.”
The brachycephaly gene
Unfortunately, pekingese have flat faces, and a Brachycephalic dog can have lots of health problems (see the Wunderdog article on brachy issues here). Fortunately, Goldie was tested for Brachycephaly (BMP3) in the advanced test results and showed her to be negative for chromosome 32. “Many brachycephalic or ‘smushed-face’ breeds such as the English bulldog, pug, and pekingese have two copies of the derived A allele,” says the report. “Mesocephalic (Staffordshire terrier, labrador) and dolichocephalic (whippet, collie) dogs have one, or more commonly two, copies of the ancestral C allele.”
Goldie is a CC, aka the “all good there”-allele.
As for her cocker relatives, they are known as the “merry cocker” for their constantly wagging tail. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have one, Embark points out, so I assume Goldie will be invited to Sandringham next summer for the family picnic.
Taking all the results together, I pronounce Goldie to be an EMLL (European Merry Lap-Lion).
My dog’s health
While breed information is useful to pre-empt breed-specific problems (for example, German shepherds are prone to hip problems due to their sloping back, and collies can develop genetic disease “collie eye” that affects the retina), I also received the DNA results for 165 clinical traits. Among them are alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity, a measure of liver health; progressive retinal atrophy (PRCD), which can cause vision loss, and dilated cardiomyopathy (PDK4), the most common heart disease in dogs.
Goldie tested negative for all clinical traits, which reinforces the common wisdom that mixed-breed dogs are the healthiest. Of course, these results don’t replace regular checks by a vet and I have shared my results with our vet. But if Goldie had tested positive for a dangerous genetic trait, we could start monitoring for its symptoms.
You can spend an hour on the test results to click through coat and weight analysis, additional research into allergies, behavioural issues and nutrition. Goldie is on the smaller frame size, adapts well to high altitudes, has a 0% inbreeding coefficient and is 0.8% wolf.
You can view Goldie’s complete results here, and if you want to order a kit, use the discount code GOLDIE to get 10% off. If you take the dog DNA test, you can opt in to contribute your dog’s DNA to future research and Embark will update you as genetics progresses.
If you took the test, let me know in the comments below what you thought.