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Dr. John
Dr. John, Texas Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 5222
Experience:  Over 14 years of clinical veterinary experience
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I want to get a DNA test dead dog. We think she was mixed

Customer Question

I want to get a DNA test for my dead dog. We think she was mixed and have been curious to what breeds she was. She's passed 3 days ago. I know there are places I can send in a blood sample. She's buried in a shallow grave and I want to know if it's possible to extract a fluid sample that will work. If so, what part of the body would be best to try and get a sample after the animal died a few days ago? I rather not pick up the animal. I can remove some of the dirt away from a certain part of her body and insert a syringe to try and get blood. Muscles of the leg? Neck? I don't know if all the blood settle to the bottom? Any guidance would help. I didn't realize the tests got so cheap and she died very suddenly. Thanks.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Have you looked to see if there is a wound on their foot?
Customer: Not very much. No. I mean, nothing that I saw. Maybe something very small on the bottom I may have missed.
JA: The Veterinarian will ask you more detailed questions to find out what is causing this. What is the dog's name?
Customer: Penny
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Penny?
Customer: no
JA: OK. Got it. I'm sending you to a secure page on JustAnswer so you can place the $5 fully-refundable deposit now. While you're filling out that form, I'll tell the Veterinarian about your situation and then connect you two.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Hi there. I'm sorry to hear of your loss. There are a few limitations with the current DNA breed tests out there. They are generally seen as "estimates" of a dog's breed and are usually only worthwhile for curiosity, just to give you an idea of their accuracy.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

There are also, unfortunately, some limitations in getting a decent sample at this point in time, as changes to tissue and DNA may have already occurred.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I figured as much, but let's assume I wish to try.
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Okay. If that's the case, I think blood is not going to work in terms of sample quality as well as quantity. Tissue such as skin or bone would be better samples. But you should check with your test provider, what samples they are happy to test.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I planned to ask them about it, but I didn't know if they knew anatomy. Like if they just say to send in blood, I'm looking for help on extracting it from the right place. Like where to find it on a animal that died a few days ago.
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

It is likely that most of the veins that can be accessed in life will have collapsed or drained at this point. So in terms of blood, I suspect that the only place left to sample will be directly from the heart.

Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

I have to warn you that it also won't be very nice blood at this point.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I don't know what that means. Do you understand the questions I came on this website to have answered? Will the blood not be liquid any more? Is there a place on the body where I am most likely to obtain liquid blood?
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

No, the blood will not be liquid. It will be clotted and decomposing by three days after your dog's death.

Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Blood is normally collected specifically from veins which are full when an animal is live. But in a dead animal, there will be no blood in the veins. Drawing from muscles is not going to give you any blood.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can you not approximate any part of the animal where I have the best chance to obtain a blood sample?
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

I would say the heart, which is between the 3rd and 4th rib.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Okay. Is this something a syringe can get to?
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Yes, you will need to attach a large needle to the end of the syringe.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Okay thanks. I have to go.
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.


Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Hi. I have not heard back from you for a while. Did you end up having any luck collecting a sample?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The testing company said their particular test would require blood that was not starting to clot. Or tissue samples from certain organs. And even then they would need to be taken rather quickly after death. Guidelines seem to indicate 3 days. They suggested contacting vets the animal has visited to check if they had a sample of blood stored for some reason. It is confusing to me as I know DNA tests are possible for other applications long after death. I have to assume this test is a much cheaper genetic test and requires different criteria for a sample.
Expert:  Dr Chris replied 1 year ago.

Yes, the commercially available tests and the science behind them are still fairly basic and they are limited in what methods they can use to extract DNA from samples.

If you are thinking about the methods they might use in forensics or paleontology, bone can be the sample of choice. Or rather, the only sample available. But the extraction process is much more complicated and laborious, which I guess would conflict with company being able to offer you an affordable price. The limitation with those old samples is still the degradation of DNA over time. Strands of DNA becomes damaged and broken with time, and will either cause errors in interpreting the results, or make the DNA completely unreadable. Scientists in the field always need to interpret their results with a grain of salt, but that's the best they have to work with.

I'm sorry that you haven't been successful in finding an answer so far. If it would help you at all, you could upload a photo of Penny here, and I'd be happy to have a look and offer you my professional opinion on what breed(s) I think she might have in her.