You thought psychological counselling for pets was the last word in over-indulgent animal concern?
Not so. Thanks to Dr. Susan Nelson, a veterinarian at Kansas State University, you can get a blood test, "Wisdom panel MX", that can determine the heritage of the family dog.
That's right, your dog could turn out to be related to William Wallace's dog.
"The new test uses a blood sample that looks for 'breed signatures' that are specific for more than 130 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, with more breeds being added as time goes on," Nelson said.
"Accuracy is estimated at 84 per cent for first generation mixes," she said. "Modern dogs have a lot of identical DNA as it is thought they have descended from the gray wolf. But scientists have identified 300 sites (called SNPs) in the DNA sequence where subtle changes can occur.
"Specific combinations of variations at these sites are known as breed signatures. The report will present the breed signatures that are present in each dog's DNA. In some cases a certain proportion of a dog's genetic material will be so mixed that no breed signature match can be made. In these dogs a mixed component will be reported along with other breeds detected."
Nelson said analyzing a dog's breed is more difficult the further back one looks. "Trying to take the results back to grandparents is difficult because the DNA changes are so subtle."
The testing process is simple, Nelson said. Owners bring their dogs in to the hospital for a blood test.
"The test requires just a small amount of blood to be drawn," she said. "Then, in a few weeks, owners can go online to get results, using the identifier number they receive when the blood sample is taken.
"The results are shown in the form of icons that represent a breed. The size of the icon and distance away from you dog's 'ID tag' suggest the relative prominence of each detected breed," Nelson said.
Owners are also shown pictures of the relevant breeds, along with a list of physical and behavioral traits common to that breed.
"Although you can't predict disease or behavior by this test, it provides information that may be very helpful in training and behavior modification," Nelson said.
Nelson said the test could potentially be used by owners in towns with breed specific legislation to prove their dog is not among the banned breeds. She said whether a community would accept the test would vary from one location to another.
Nelson noted there is a test using cheek swabs available online, but it currently identifies only 38 breeds.
"It is important to remember that none of these DNA tests are 100 percent accurate in detecting breed heritage and to keep this in mind when opting to have your dog tested," Nelson said.
"That being said, it is still a fun and medically relevant technological advancement which owners with a little extra cash may want to try."