I was the proud owner of an Australian Cattle Dog mix.

Australian Cattle Dog. Source: Just Jefa on Flickr.

Whenever I spotted a fellow heeler owner at the dog park, we nodded to one another, knowingly.

I was part of an exclusive club.

A club of people with the most loving, most reactive herders – who wouldn’t want it any other way.

And then Royal Canin reached out to me about publishing a review of their Genetic Health Analysis (GHA) test that would tell me exactly what breeds made up my very special Cow.

And I was shook.

I received a test and compensation from Royal Canin in exchange for an honest review of my experience. 

I’ve been staring at pictures of dogs that share Cow’s heritage. Her markings could have come from a black and white American Cocker Spaniel, but maybe not. Her amber eyes and saddleback marking could be from her German Shepherd relatives. Black Chow Chows seem to have a reddish tinge, just like Cow. She definitely has a Parson/Jack Russell Terrier head shape, face mask and button ears.

The results also include possibilities for the “mixed breed” bones. Cow might have some Boston Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier in her, too.

How Royal Canin GHA Works

Your veterinarian will take a blood sample and send it to the Royal Canin lab, where technicians use DNA mapping to detect patterns that indicate similarities to known dog breeds, and genetic mutations that can lead to disease. Once your sample is received by the lab, it typically takes four weeks for you to get the test results.

How Royal Canin GHA Compares To Other Products

What sets the Royal Canin GHA apart from similar products is the fact that you have to purchase it from your vet, and you need a blood sample, rather than an at-home cheek swab. So, while the cost of the test itself is comparable to other tests, you have to add in the cost of a vet visit.

The Royal Canin GHA results provide nutritional recommendations based on your dog’s heritage, a bit of information about each bloodline, and detects over 170 genetic mutations that could indicate whether your dog could develop certain diseases. Here’s a full list of the dog breeds and genetic mutations detected by Royal Canin GHA.

Nutritional needs do not vary much by breed, but there are enough variances that would make you want to consider your dog’s breed when making decisions about their diet.

For example, Megan Sprinkle, Royal Canin veterinarian, says, “some breeds do have predispositions for things we can address with diet… dalmatians has a tendency to produce urinary stones, so we would avoid certain types of proteins that are high in purines. Another example would be bulldogs, they tend to have skin and GI [gastrointestinal] issues, so we could also address that through their diet.”

Remember how I thought Cow was an Australian Cattle Dog? The ACD was originally bred with the Dalmatian, and, similarly, they can be prone to bladder issues. So, instead of that, I’ll want to optimize Cow’s diet to support her digestion and keep her joints limber throughout her life.

I also liked how the Royal Canin GHA includes information about each breed’s temperament. In the past, I attributed Cow’s tendency to bark at strangers to bad situations she may have encountered when she spent most of her days in the streets of semi-rural California. She did have a rough life, but according to her heritage, she’s a guard dog at heart. She’ll bark first, ask questions later – though she’s incredibly affectionate with people she trusts.

When it comes down to it, though, train and feed the dog in front of you. Every dog deserves positive reinforcement based training – yes, even “tough” breeds – and every dog should have at least some fresh foods in their diet.

Would I Recommend Royal Canin GHA?

I would, particularly if you have a mixed breed dog of unknown origins.

Though Royal Canin is a dog food brand that sells breed-specific formulas, you don’t have to buy the food that coordinates with your results. The biggest benefits you get from the test are the genetic mutation detection and the head-start to learning more about the breeds that make up your dog’s heritage. If you’re going to have your dog’s DNA tested, you might as well get the most comprehensive product.

But don’t stop there. Learn everything you can about your dog’s breeds, and of course, make decisions based on your dog’s actual training challenges and health conditions.

The only thing I found inaccurate about Cow’s results was her recommended weight range: 37-59 pounds. At her highest weight, 32 pounds, she was sausage-shaped with no visible waist. These days, she looks perfect at 27 pounds. Your vet can easily tell you if your dog is at a healthy weight, or you can look for a visible “tuck” behind their ribs and a defined waist.

Otherwise, I found the results extremely useful in my journey to help her live longer, happier and healthier.

Want To Get The Royal Canin GHA?

You can only purchase the test through your veterinarian – find out if your veterinarian sells Royal Canin products.

Learn more about Royal Canin GHA

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.