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Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A DNA test can reveal what your mutt's made of

  • Mike McKee places a doggie treat on Leila's nose as (from left) Mya, Kirsten McKee and Noah wait to see if Leila will stay still or flip it in the air...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Mike McKee places a doggie treat on Leila's nose as (from left) Mya, Kirsten McKee and Noah wait to see if Leila will stay still or flip it in the air and grab it. Kirsten McKee had Leila's DNA tested when she was a puppy to find out what kind of dog Leila's father was.

  • Kirsten McKee had her dog Leila's DNA tested when she was a puppy to find out what kind of dog Leila's father was.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Kirsten McKee had her dog Leila's DNA tested when she was a puppy to find out what kind of dog Leila's father was.

  • Kirsten McKee, daughter Mya, 10, and son Noah, 14, watch Leila perform tricks at their Marysville home.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Kirsten McKee, daughter Mya, 10, and son Noah, 14, watch Leila perform tricks at their Marysville home.

  • Kirsten McKee cuddles with Leila.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Kirsten McKee cuddles with Leila.

When Leila was born, Kirsten McKee didn't know much about the baby daddy.
All she knew was that he was the red-hot retriever prancing around the neighborhood.
So, she had a DNA test done.
It was obvious that Leila's mom, a mixed-breed who belonged to her in-laws, had some border collie, but McKee wasn't sure what else. She suspected Leila's dad was likely the product of some heat-of-the-moment mixed matings as well.
A drop of blood revealed more than Leila's pedigree, or lack of. "You can find out what kind of medical conditions they might run into," said McKee, a receptionist at a Mukilteo vet clinic. "Or how big the dog might get."
DNA analysis showed Leila's dad was half Labrador and her mom half border collie. Well, that explained the pup's bossiness and the spring in her step.
Her parents' other halves were of mixed breed ancestry, as was Leila's.
The DNA blood test, which distinguishes more than 235 breed types, determined the five next best breed matches in Leila's makeup were: Argentine dogo (17.75 percent); Russian wolfhound (10.88 percent); Akita (5.4 percent); Great Dane (4.75 percent); and Cesky terrier (2.95 percent).
Health risks for Leila's main breeds include exercise-induced collapse, drug sensitivity, narcolepsy, skeletal dysplasia and eye problems.
So far, she's a healthy, frisky 4-year-old who keeps a nose in everything that goes on with McKee's two kids and husband at their Marysville home.
The test predicted Leila's adult weight at 48 to 75 pounds. She weighs 56 pounds.
DNA kits are specific for mixed-breed, purebred or designer dogs. Testing can be done with blood draws at a vet or with home kits using cheek swabs.
Tests start at about $80.
"We are seeing it more and more," said Steve Scheurich, practice manager at Banfield Animal Hospital in Everett. "We see all kinds of reasons for it. Most of the time they're curious just what the heck it is."
That information comes in handy if that cute little puppy is going to be too big for apartment rules or has a breed type banned in some communities.
Sometimes it's for bragging rights.
"My ex-wife and I had it done over a breed of dog," Scheurich said. "I said it had no boxer. She said it did. She was right."
The results can be surprising in other ways.
"Some you're looking at it thinking, 'How in the world could that happen?' It seems to be physically impossible," he said.
"You never know what you are going to find with these things. When they say Heinz 57, they aren't kidding. They are ... literally."
DNA tests
DNA tests are available for things other than dog breeds. Some property managers use dog-poop DNA-matching services to nail owners who fail to pick up after their pets. When a "land mine" is found, the tests determine who did it.
Bird owners curious about their feathered friend's gender can get a bird sex determination test.
If you want to know more than your parents told you: Online sites sell cheek swab tests for humans for matters such as paternity, sibling relationships and predisposition testing to identify key markers that show a predisposition for certain diseases or for general health issues.
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com
Story tags » AnimalsScience (general)

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