Monday, February 18, 2008

Would You Be Interested in This?

The WISDOM Panel MX is a blood test to tell you what dog breeds make up your mixed breed dog. From their brochure, the test: "Uses advanced genetic science to detect more than 130 American Kennel Club (AKC)-recognized breeds in mixed breed dogs."

I haven't considered making this service available to my clients yet, mainly because I don't see the advantage. Other than the "gee, whiz" factor, I can't perceive any way to use the results. The company line is that it "may offer insights about a dog's unique personality" or that it "may help veterinarians develop a care plan specifically tailored to your dog," but I'm not so sure I buy that concept.

The "personality" thing seems geared to blow up in your face. "Well, of course she (barks/bites/steals food/digs up the yard), after all she is a XXX mix," is just another way to excuse bad behavior, if you ask me. "Train, don't complain," people, and don't use a dog's breed, gender, or coat type to let them get away with misbehavior.

As for the "care plan tailored to your dog" concept, well, all I can say is "Hooey!" Yes, purebred dogs are genetically prone to certain diseases - cardiomyopathy in Boxers and Dobes, allergic dermatitis in West Highland White Terriers, hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia in Golden Retriever, eye and ear disease in Cocker Spaniels, etc. One of the benefits of being a mixed breed dog is "hybrid vigor."
A mixed breed dog comes from a wider gene pool, because it has not been closely line-bred to get just the right top line or ear set or coat color. When you select for a specific phenotype (look) you also select for a specific genotype, and as well as bringing out the best in a dog breed, you may also bring out the worst genetic weakness. Good breeders screen their dogs to try to minimize these risks, but mixed breed dogs have done that job for us. So, knowing that Fido is a Golden Retriever-Australian Shepherd crossed with a Standard Poodle-Labrador mix doesn't mean he is any more prone to anything than Fluffy, who is a Shi-Tzu/Maltese/Cairn Terrier cross.

This has all been, as they say, my humble opinion. If you want more information, go to their website and read for yourself.

I would be interested in the opinions of mixed breed dog owners, though. If your vet offered this test, would you have it done? What would you be willing to pay for this information, and how do you think you would use it? I'd really like to know if I should be providing this service.

* * * * *

Edit, February 21:

I have done a little more investigation into this test, and can update you a bit. The cost to clients is a suggested retail price of $150 (varies among practices.) There is a cheek swab test, as Kathy mentions, which is cheaper, however, it can detect only 30 breeds, not 130 as the blood test does. It may be this cheek swab test that was offered to people at Chrissy's shelter for $60. The blood test costs the vet's office more than $60, so I doubt the shelter could offer it for that price, unless the company was writing-off part of the fees as a donation.

I have always wondered about Holly's ancestry. She is supposed to be pure Labrador, but her
lean body has me wondering if there is some Greyhound in her. Personally, I might pay $40 or $50 bucks to run this test on her, just for the fun of it.

Mostly, I agree with Sara and others - I would rather spend my money on preventative health care, like premium foods, parasite control, and wellness screening tests, and would council my clients to do the same.

Thanks to all who participated in this survey. You have validated my opinion that, while this test sounds cool, it probably isn't very important.


nina said...

I'd rather leave a little to the imagination.
Unless there is a strong need for the genetic background of an animal (disease?) can't we just take each as a package deal? And appreciate the uniqueness that odd combinations produce?
I'd rather my pet not be under such scrutiny.

Kathy said...

Kathi, ever since I read about this test, I have wanted to have my shepherd mix and terrier mix dogs tested. I haven't talked to my vet about it yet. When I got the shepherd mix, the shelter tag said she was a "shepherd/setter mix." I don't see the setter part in her at all. To me she looks most like a belgian shepherd/flat coat retriever mix. She has been the most challenging dog for me to own. From being scared of loud noises, to chewing up furniture when stressed, to barking at the neighbor's dogs, to resisting having her coat brushed and nails trimmed, she has always been more than I can handle since I got her at one year old, over the past six years of having her. I did try obedience training but she was overstimulated by the other dogs and people. Then I tried a animal behavior trainer who specialized in dogs like Shadow. She even got into trouble with the other dogs in that class, so we dropped out. I think she knows she has my number. The "terrier mix" was to be a companion for her, because she has extreme separation anxiety. We tried "clomicalm" with her for awhile when I first had her, but it didn't seem to help. So, yes I would love to know what kind of dogs I have! I would also love to know what kinds of experiences my shepherd had the first year of her life that caused her to be to fearful, aggressive and destructive.

possumlady said...

The animal shelter that I volunteer for has run these tests for folks. With all the mixed breeds they adopt out it seems to make sense. I'm not sure if it was for fundraising efforts or not. They charge $60.00 for it. If my Jiminy were still alive, I definitely would have it done. Just for fun and the curiosity factor. When I adopted her at the ripe old age of 11, her former owners said she was a retriever/border collie mix. Now retriever I definitely could see--border collie? I just could not see that at all in her. So I was, and still am curious.

The shelter advertised it also as just a novelty. A fun thing to know about your dog. Not for any medical or behavior reasons.

ncmountainwoman said...

After viewing the Website, I can only believe that this is a money-making, totally absurd program that yields very little useful information and gives a kickback to the clinic for promoting it and drawing the blood. If my veterinarian put this up in his office, I would find another doctor for my pets.

Julie Zickefoose said...

My sister-in-law got a pound pup and was told it was a purebred golden retriever by the shelter. With a straight fluffy coat,purple-blotched tongue, almond eyes, and a curly tail? I saw Chow in her ginger color and all the other attributes. It's so interesting to watch her mature and see the Chow threads come out in her personality. Very territorial and protective!

I think the test is interesting, and I'd bet there are lots of people who'd want it and would pay good $$ for it.

Mary said...

For curiosity's sake, yes, I think it would be a worthwhile test, depending on the cost. With any pet, there are genetic predispositions and every animal has its own set of health or behavioral issues that can be corrected by veterinarian medicine or behavior training. I've never hear of this mixed breed testing until now. I'd like to hear more about this in a future post.

Thanks, Kathi.

Sara said...

Using my budget for good preventive care, tests, and meds with a set-aside for illness and emergency is my priority. From my perspective, genetic breed testing seems superfluous.

BTW, how is Grace doing ? Good, I hope. :)

ncmountainwoman said...

I reviewed my previous comments and recognize they are far too harsh. So I apologize to anyone who feels the need for breed testing of his/her mixed breed dog. Of course, folks can spend their money any way they wish.

My prejudice comes from so many people who refuse to take the time and energy to train their pets, blaming the dog's behavior on the breed. Breed characteristics are a good method for selecting the right dog for your family but it's time and effort in training that makes a good dog, not a breed profile.

I absolutely agree with Sara. It seems much better to use the money for other priorities.

Anonymous said...

I can see how it might be interesting to find out what Lucy and Libby are (other than the obvious) but it's not something I need to know or would pay to have done. I can tell that Lucy is predominantly terrier, possibly some pit but it's pretty diluted if it is. And there's a definite teddy bear in there somewhere along the line, lol. Libby is definitely mostly Husky. She has Husky traits, such as the love of chasing a moving animal and the headstrong flights she sometimes takes off on.

When we got Lucy, we asked the kennel assistant "So do you know what she might possibly be?" and he said "Well....I'd say...she's a dog." That's all I really need to know.

Susan Gets Native said...

Hmmm. I would love to test Hooper and Nellie, just for the fun of it (and finally answer that wolfy question about Hoop...would it do that, too?) but I agree with your assessment that it wouldn't really give much of an insight into the dog's behavior.

KGMom said...

Another proud owner of a mixed breed dog weighing. Only reason I would consider such a test would be curiosity. One portion of our dog's heritage is visibly evident, but what else is there? No idea--so it would satisfy curiosity. BUT, now here's the big question--how much would I be willing to PAY for curiosity? Not much.
We have owned pure breds (two bench English setters--wonderful dogs; and a Welsh terrier--stupidest dog I ever saw) and two mixed breeds--our first ever dog, and our current dog.
I can see a distinct advantage of mixed breed over pure breds--but I did love our setters a whole bunch.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned this post to Robbie this morning and his reaction was "That's cool!" He agreed though, that the curiosity factor would be his reason. Not for bragging rights or training methods (which he thought was an extreme advertising method.)

I look at it as one of those deals labs offer where you can send in an inner cheek scraping and 'find family'. Ever heard of those? More the novelty factor than anything.


Kathy said...

I saw the deal that used the cheek scraping to test the dog. It doesn't cover nearly as many breeds as the blood test, so that is a big draw back. The blood test covers most of the AKC breeds.

KatDoc said...

Nina: I agree - appreciate each mix for its uniqueness, and don't scruntize too closely.

Kathy: I'm sorry you have such troubles with your dogs. It might be interesting to know what breeds they were, but I still don't see how that information would help you deal with their issues.

NCMtWoman: I can see you boycotting your vet if s/he was giving you the hard sell approach to running the test, but if they just offer the service to those who are interested? If enough people want the test, it might pay them to make it available. I never cease to be amazed at what people will pay for fancy collars, dog clothes, beds, toys, and other "non-essentials," so maybe they have $$ to burn to do mixed breed testing.

Sara: You are thinking the same thing I am - budget your pet care dollars for preventative health care - exams, vaccines, parasite control, premium foods - and if you have spare cash left over, start an emergency fund for a rainy day. Breed testing might be fun, but is it worth shortchanging your dog's health care?

Holly: I call those impossible mixes "AAD"s - "All-American Dogs."

Susan: "wolf" isn't a recognized AKC breed, and in fact isn't even the same species. Since no one has studied the wolf genome (at least, I don't think they have) this test wouldn't be able to detect "wolf" genes in Hooper. I should think it could prove the negative, that he was 60% Malamute, 15% Husky and 25% German Shepherd, for example, and thereby couldn't have any wolf genes. (Phenotypically, I don't see any wolf in him. I really think he is a German Malusky.)

Kathy: The cheek test is cheaper, but as you say, only detects about 30 breeds, so would have even less use than the blood test.

Thanks all!


Anonymous said...

Kat, I swear that Holly could have been Rascal's twin except for the white star on R's chest. The same lean, lanky build (not the square, chunky full Lab), the longer, pointier muzzle, the ears, longer legged. Even looks like she has a swirl of wavy hair on top of her rump? Rascal was, according to the parent owners, 75% BL, 25% Springer Spaniel. They owned both the parents, family dogs and he hunted with both. Parents were good, friendly nice dogs (a plus IMO), let us get in around the pups with no argument. Mom was the mix, dad was purebred. Rascal looked mostly like a BL stretched in all directions a little bit. She was a Labradinger :)

Susan Gets Native said...

A German Malusky...I like that.
And I guess I can call Nellie a German Labweiler?