2020 Pet Census to reveal insights into U.S. pet population

There are censuses for people, and now, there are censuses for dogs and cats.

Wisdom Health announced this month its plans for a 2020 United States Pet Census, coinciding with the U.S. government’s census for the same year.

What kind of demographic data does a pet census seek out? Anything that can be used to understand U.S. pets and improve their quality of life, the veterinary science company says: size, breed, activity levels, overall lifestyle, etc.

Part of the census will involve data collected by the Wisdom Panel, a comprehensive DNA test offered by Wisdom Health. With this panel, anyone can order a swab, take a sample from their own pet, send it back to the company and receive a detailed report outlining the pet’s breed history, ancestry, and genetic health conditions. Wisdom Health says that panel results gained from the census will be used to weigh healthcare options for dogs and cats.

“These comparisons will also give a deeper understanding of the purebred and mixed breed pet population, and provide clues regarding the history of dogs and cats in the U.S., as well as the preferences of owners by region and state,” Wisdom Health said.

The DNA test might sound a lot like the popular ancestry tests people have been using in recent years to find out where their ancestors came from, and that’s because the tests are indeed very similar. Canine and feline DNA tests are a form of genomic testing. Genomics is the analysis of the genome, or the entirety of a living thing’s DNA.

Researchers sequence and scan the genome for SNPs, which are specific gene markers that are known to indicate specific traits. These traits can be used to pinpoint breeds, to note susceptibility to certain diseases or even just indicate details of the pet’s appearance. Having all these details, from the little things to the big things, will form a more complete picture of the nation’s pet population.

“Not only will the 2020 Pet Census provide a window into the lives of America’s cats and dogs, but it will also better inform the relationship between pets, their owners, breeders, shelters and veterinarians with the ultimate goal of improved pet care and wellness,” said Wisdom Health’s Audrey Yoo.

Neogen is proud to partner with Wisdom Health to process genomic tests. For more about the fascinating science of genomics, check out our primer on the topic.

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