Beyond the DNA Breed Test: Genetic Testing in Dogs

7 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
September 09, 2023

3 puppies are happy to meet a veterinarian

When you hear the word “test,” some of us may have flashbacks to cramming all night studying and sweating through exams. Thankfully, you won’t have to go back to school for the types of tests we’re discussing! A canine genetic test is not something you or your puppy have to study for; instead, they are tests conducted by veterinarians and specialists to help you determine if there is a genetic propensity to develop serious issues that affect the health of your puppy.  

You may have seen companies that will test what types of breeds are represented in your dog. We’ll save reviews of those for another day and will instead focus on some other tests you may not have heard of. 

When you’re searching for puppies for sale, you may notice a few acronyms in their information and descriptions. What exactly do these mean? We’ll help explain all these acronyms and tell how each test can be a window into your puppy’s health – and future. Explore the different types of canine genetic testing to help your puppy live a long, fulfilling life. 

What Types of Canine Genetic Testing Are Right For My Puppy? 

Genetic testing for dogs encompasses various diagnostic methods beyond DNA testing. These tests are crucial in understanding a dog's health, potential risks, and hereditary conditions. Some dog breeds are susceptible to certain genetic conditions, so it’s a good idea to speak with your veterinarian for more information to see if testing is right for you. Your vet will know what your particular dog breed needs to stay healthy. 

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Eye Certification Exams (CAER)

Canine Eye Certification Exams are essential for breeds susceptible to eye conditions like cataracts, retinal diseases, and glaucoma. These exams are conducted by veterinary ophthalmologists to assess a dog's ocular health. 

During the CAER exam, the veterinary ophthalmologist will perform a comprehensive assessment of the dog's eyes. It's generally a quick and painless procedure that provides valuable insights into a dog's eye health. This examination includes checking the eye's external structures, such as the eyelids and tear production, and using specialized equipment to examine the interior structures of the eye. To get a complete view of the internal structures of the eye, the ophthalmologist may use eye drops to dilate the dog's pupils. This allows them to examine the retina, lens, and other critical eye parts more thoroughly.

Canine Eye Certification Exams help detect and diagnose eye issues early, allowing for timely treatment and management. This can significantly improve your puppy’s quality of life and prevent vision loss. 

By certifying that breeding dogs have healthy eyes, breeders can reduce the risk of passing on hereditary eye conditions to their puppies. CAER testing also helps in maintaining the integrity of a breed and ensuring the well-being of future generations.


Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) Hip and Elbow Certification

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) Hip and Elbow Certification is a vital diagnostic tool in the world of canine health and responsible breeding. This certification involves the evaluation of a dog's hip and elbow joint health through X-ray imaging, aiming to detect structural abnormalities and assess the overall joint condition. 

OFA Hip and Elbow Certification serves as a preventive measure for dog owners. It helps identify early signs of hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and other orthopedic issues. Early detection enables timely intervention, potentially preventing or managing joint problems that can cause pain and reduce a dog's quality of life.

OFA Hip and Elbow Certification process in canines involves X-ray imaging to assess the health of a dog's hip and elbow joints. Your puppy is sedated to ensure immobility during the procedure. Precise X-rays are taken from various angles to evaluate the joint structures. These images are then submitted to the OFA for evaluation by specialists. Your vet will interpret and explain the results for any next steps. 

Cardiac Evaluation (OFA Heart Certification)

Cardiac Evaluation, often referred to as OFA Heart Certification, is a crucial procedure in canine health assessment, particularly for certain breeds prone to cardiac issues. This certification focuses on detecting heart conditions in dogs, including congenital defects and heart murmurs. It ensures that breeding dogs are free from hereditary cardiac diseases.

The veterinarian will typically begin the testing by listening to the dog's heart with a stethoscope to detect any murmurs or irregularities. If necessary, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) may be conducted to measure the electrical activity of the heart. In some cases, an echocardiogram, which uses ultrasound, may be performed to visualize the heart's structure and function. The entire process is generally non-invasive and well-tolerated by your puppy, providing valuable insights into their cardiac health.

For puppy owners, OFA Heart Certification provides peace of mind regarding their pet's cardiac health. Detecting heart problems early can lead to better management and a higher quality of life for the dog. It ensures that dogs suffering from congenital or hereditary heart conditions receive the necessary care and attention.

Thyroid Function Testing

Canine thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism, involve an underactive thyroid gland, leading to hormone imbalances that affect metabolism, energy levels, and overall health. These issues can be hereditary in some breeds. Genetic testing for thyroid problems typically involves analyzing specific genetic markers associated with thyroid function.

The process for canine thyroid testing may be uncomfortable, but it’s just for a short time. A blood sample is drawn and sent to a lab. A full canine panel testing includes five different areas examining free T4, bound T4, T3, Canine Thyroglobulin Autoantibody detection, and TSH.

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Canine Coat Color and Pattern Testing

Some breeders are interested in understanding the genetics behind coat colors and patterns in dogs. Dog owners may opt for genetic coat color testing for several reasons. Firstly, it satisfies curiosity, providing insights into the genetic makeup of their pet's coat color. Secondly, it can help predict the coat color of future offspring when selecting parents. Additionally, for breeders aiming for specific aesthetics in their litters, coat color testing assists in making informed pairing decisions. While primarily for informational purposes, it allows dog owners and breeders to better understand and plan for the visual characteristics of their canine companions or breeding programs.

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BAER Testing (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response)

BAER Testing, short for Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response, is a diagnostic procedure used to assess a dog's hearing abilities. It's especially important for breeds prone to congenital deafness or hearing impairments. This non-invasive test measures the electrical activity in the auditory pathway, allowing veterinarians to determine if a dog's hearing is normal, impaired, or completely absent.

Early detection of hearing issues is crucial for providing proper care, training, and accommodations to ensure a good quality of life for the affected dog. It also helps in tailoring training methods to accommodate hearing-impaired dogs


Blood Typing for Transfusions

Blood typing ensures compatibility for blood transfusions for dogs in emergency situations. It's vital for breeding dogs and those prone to specific health conditions that may require transfusions. Your veterinarian will take a blood sample which is then examined for reactions to certain antibodies to determine one of 12 different blood groups in dogs. Knowing your dog’s blood type will help choose blood recipients that are compatible with their bodies. 


Von Willebrand's disease (vWD)

Von Willebrand's disease is a hereditary bleeding disorder in dogs, similar to hemophilia in humans. It's caused by a deficiency or dysfunction of von Willebrand factor, a protein crucial for blood clotting. Dogs with vWD can experience prolonged bleeding even from minor injuries or surgeries.

To detect Von Willebrand's disease in dogs, several tests can be performed. The most common is the von Willebrand factor antigen test, which measures the quantity of the protein in the blood. Another test is the von Willebrand factor activity assay, which assesses the functionality of the protein. Genetic testing is also available to identify specific gene mutations responsible for vWD. Early diagnosis through these tests allows for appropriate management and responsible breeding decisions to prevent passing on the disorder to offspring.

Allergy Testing

Allergy tests can identify common allergens that may cause skin issues or digestive problems in dogs. Understanding a dog's allergies can lead to better dietary choices and overall well-being.

Behavioral Genetic Testing

Although not as precise as DNA testing, some behavioral assessments aim to predict a dog's temperament and behavior traits. This can be helpful for matching dogs with suitable owners.

Pawrade Offers Quality Puppies For Sale

Genetic testing beyond DNA analysis is a valuable tool for dog breeders and owners. Understanding these testing options can lead to healthier and happier dogs in the long run.

Speaking of healthy and happy dogs, Pawrade offers puppies for sale from trustworthy breeders who understand the breed’s genetics and needs. Contact our Puppy Concierge team if you have questions about the puppy you fall in love with, and we’re happy to help you choose the right furbaby for you. 


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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