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Dogs are family and here at YourDNA, we know how much you love your furry four-legged companions. That's why we have looked into various DNA tests for dogs to help you determine which one is right for your needs. We've done the research so you don't have to.
What's in this Guide?
- Quick Overview
- What Is DNA Testing for Dogs?
- What You Can Learn From a Canine DNA Test
- Can a DNA Test Benefit Your Dog’s Health?
- How Dog DNA Testing Works
- How To Swab a Dog for DNA
- Are Canine DNA Tests Accurate?
- Where to Buy a DNA Test Kit for Dogs
- How Much Does a Dog DNA Test Kit Cost?
- Best DNA Test for Dogs: Reviews
- Is DNA Testing Right for Your Dog?
Disclaimer: Before You Read
It is important to know that your genes are not your destiny. There are various environmental and genetic factors working together to shape you. No matter your genetic makeup, maintain ideal blood pressure and glucose levels, avoid harmful alcohol intake, exercise regularly, get regular sleep. And for goodness sake, don't smoke.
Genetics is a quickly changing topic. Read More...
If you have a mixed-breed dog, you’ve probably wondered about your dog’s genes from time to time.
They look like a cross between a beagle and boxer, but are they? Did you know that you can actually have your dog’s DNA tested? Dog DNA tests help you discover what percentage of what breeds are in your dog. But there’s more to it than that.
They can also tell you what illnesses your dog may be at risk for, and a handful of other helpful tidbits, that can help you care for your furry friend properly.
What Is DNA Testing for Dogs?
DNA testing for dogs is similar to what it is for humans.
However, instead of determining a specific relation to another dog — such as a parent or sibling — and a complete ancestry for your dog, the test helps owners determine the exact breed composition for their dog. This is helpful because you can take the test results to your veterinarian to discuss potential health issues associated with each breed.
For example, boxers have a higher risk of developing cancer and dobermans sometimes have bleeding disorders that are similar to that of a hemophiliac. Knowing this information ahead of time can help you plan for your dog’s medical treatment in advance.
Additionally, dog DNA tests use the same technology as genetic fingerprinting, which allows law enforcement officials to identify criminals. Because of this, having your dog’s DNA tested could help identify your canine pal if he ever gets lost — of course, microchipping is also extremely important.
What You Can Learn From a Canine DNA Test
The main thing you learn from a canine DNA test is the exact breed of your dog. If your dog is a mixed breed, the test will show multiple breeds.
However, if you have a mutt that’s a mix of many different breeds, the test might not be 100 percent accurate. There’s a chance that the test will only reveal some of the breeds contributing to the dog.
This is mostly because not all dog DNA databases have samples of DNA for every dog breed out there. Although, if your dog has a purebred parent or grandparent, canine DNA testing is highly accurate.
One thing to note, dog DNA tests don’t provide purebreed confirmation, but there are other tests available for that.
Your dog’s DNA test results can also tell you if your dog has any genetic mutations that make him predisposed for various health risks, and tell you if your dog has a multidrug sensitivity. Other things you can learn from a canine DNA test include:
- If your dog has chronic allergies or intolerances
- If your dog is actually a purebred or not — only for your edification, not for registry purposes
- Any hidden or recessive traits your dog may have — for example, even though your dog’s coat is one color, he may carry recessive genes for another color
Some canine DNA tests also predict how big your puppy will get and estimate a dog’s age. It’s important to note, though, that this information is based on estimates calculated from the company’s set algorithm, so it’s not going to be 100 percent accurate.
When it comes to using DNA to determine your dog’s age, the age specified is known as your dog’s genetic age, not his chronological age. There can be a difference between the two depending on your dog’s health.
To determine your dog’s genetic age, the lab analyzes the telomere length of your dog’s chromosomes. This length shortens on a cellular level as your dog ages.
This means a DNA test can predict the longevity of your dog from a cellular level, but it can’t tell you when your dog was born.
Can a DNA Test Benefit Your Dog’s Health?
While DNA testing won’t help prevent your dog from getting a chronic disease or illness, it can help you prepare for future medical issues your pup might endure.
Part of a dog DNA test looks for mutated genes that could indicate your dog has a higher risk of developing specific health problems — and almost all of the dog DNA tests available have health screening options included.
Also, when you know your dog’s exact breed, you can discuss potential health risks with your vet. Certain dog breeds are prone to specific ailments.
For example, beagles and shelties are more likely to develop seizures. So if you know that your dog is part beagle or part sheltie, your vet might advise you to watch for specific signs of seizures.
Knowing your dog’s breed makeup also tells you if he has a higher risk of developing chronic illnesses, such as cancer. Scottish terriers, beagles, rottweilers, and Shetland sheepdogs are just a few breeds that have a high cancer risk.
If your dog’s DNA test reveals any of these breeds, your veterinarian might suggest regular cancer screenings. Some other conditions and health risks that canine DNA testing might help you identify include:
- Bladder stones
- Ear infections
- Kidney disease
Additionally, once a dog DNA test helps you identify your dog’s breed, your veterinarian can help you determine if the breed is prone to food or medicine allergies or intolerances. Then, you can alter your dog’s diet so that he doesn’t consume food he may not be able to digest properly, which could improve his overall health and disposition.
How Dog DNA Testing Works
As far as the testing process goes, dog DNA testing is very similar to human DNA testing.
If you do the testing at home, you simply swab the inside of your dog’s mouth and send the sample to the testing company. The company then runs the necessary tests and provides you with your results.
This can take anywhere from two to eight weeks. When DNA tests are performed in a veterinarian’s office, the vet may decide to use a blood sample instead of a mouth swab.
To do this, your vet simply draws a sample of your dog’s blood and send it to the lab to get the DNA test processed.
How To Swab a Dog for DNA
There are two types of dog DNA tests available. The way you swab your dog for DNA varies slightly depending on the type of test kit you have.
If your test kit has a swab that’s attached to the test tube, you should remove the collection tube from the packaging before swabbing your dog for DNA, but don’t remove the swab from the tube. Instead, you’ll use the tube as a handle while you collect a DNA sample from your pup.
If you have a kit that has a separate swab and tube, you only need to remove them from the packing before you start. You’ll use the swab as-is to collect your sample,
To collect the DNA sample, wipe the swab along the inside of your dog’s cheek and under his tongue for at least 30 seconds. It’s important that the swab is completely saturated, and for some dogs, this might require you to swab for a full minute.
To speed up the process, roll the swab between your fingers as you collect your dog’s saliva so that each side of the swab is fully covered.
It can be difficult to get your dog to sit still long enough to collect a good saliva sample. Because of this, it’s a good idea to wait until your dog is calm and relaxing.
As you start to collect the sample, use your free hand to pet your dog, gently holding him in place. You can also have a treat ready for your dog to encourage him to stay in a sitting position, but make sure you don’t give the treat to him until you’re sure you’ve collected a decent DNA sample.
You should also consider having a friend or family member help you keep the dog in place while you collect the sample. This way your other hand is free in case you need to hold your dog’s mouth in place during the collection process.
Are Canine DNA Tests Accurate?
Canine DNA tests are really accurate, especially if your dog comes from purebred parents.
While the testing doesn’t really “go wrong,” there is a chance that it could be incomplete. If your dog is a mixture of several different breeds, you might not get a list of all of the dog breeds with your DNA test.
This testing requires the lab to run your dog’s DNA sample through a database of information from different dog breeds but it’s possible that your dog has DNA from a breed that isn’t listed. Typically, the more breeds the company database has, the more the testing kit costs.
Where to Buy a DNA Test Kit for Dogs
At-home DNA test kits for dogs are available.They allow you to collect the DNA sample yourself, and then you mail the sample in to be tested.
Typically, it takes anywhere between two and eight weeks to get the results back, depending on the company and the type of DNA testing and health screening the kit includes.
You can purchase DNA test kits for dogs online, through company websites, through Amazon, or from Petsmart. When shopping for a dog DNA testing kit, you should consider the type of test, how intensive the health screening portion is, the number of breeds it can identify, and your budget.
How Much Does a Dog DNA Test Kit Cost?
As of January 2019, the cost of dog DNA test kits typically run between $60 and $200.
This depends on the type of DNA test kit you buy — prices increase depending on the number of breeds tested and the type of health screening included.
To get the best price, you should compare the cost of each test you’re considering on the lab’s website other online retailers. It’s usually fairly easy to find coupons or promo codes to use when purchasing a dog DNA test kit through the lab.
Petsmart also frequently has coupons available for in-store shoppers and they offer promo codes for people who prefer to shop online.
Best DNA Test for Dogs: Reviews
Even though dog DNA testing is becoming more and more popular, there are still only a handful of options available for at-home kits.
This good news is, this makes it easy to compare all of your options side-by-side.
Embark: $199 or 3 interest-free payments of $67 with financing through Affirm
Embark’s dog DNA test is the priciest option available, but it’s also the most thorough. Also, because the company’s test results are really detailed, the test is really popular, which could lengthen the amount of time you have to wait for your results. Typically, Embark testing is complete within two to four weeks.
It’s also important to note that Embark’s dog DNA test kit has rave reviews on Amazon and the company is known for having excellent customer service.
Its test kit includes:
- Breed testing for 250+ dog breeds
- Health screening for over 165 genetic conditions
- Ancestry information for your dog back to his great grandparents
- Testing for wolf, coyote, dingo, and village dog ancestry
- The world’s only canine relative finder
If you need DNA testing completed for multiple dogs, Embark has discount codes for you to use on their site, as long as you aren’t purchasing Embark for Breeders products. You can get:
- 10% off of two kits using the code MULTIPACK2
- 15% off of three kits using the code MULTIPACK3
- 20% off of four or more kits using the code MULTIPACK4
You can also compare discounts and promo code offers if you’re purchasing one kit using RetailMeNot, Coupons.com, and Groupon. Also, before you order online, check with Ebates, they sometimes offer a promo code for discounts, plus cashback on purchases from the Embark website.
Embark’s dog DNA test is also sold through Amazon.com, Chewy, and Petsmart. If you’re only purchasing one kit, you might be able to get a better price through Amazon. Chewy and Petsmart both accept promo codes as well.
Wisdom Panel 4.0 From Mars Veterinary: $85-$150
When it comes to doggy DNA tests, Wisdom Panel 4.0 is Amazon’s Choice. It prides itself in having the World’s Largest Breed Database, and their tests can identify more than 350 dog breeds. The company offers two different levels of DNA testing kits. One that offers health screening and one that doesn’t.
Also, some people have received mixed results from the Wisdom Panel 4.0 test, reporting that part of the DNA profile showed a breed percentage listed as “mixed breed.” This may be because Wisdom Test 4.0 tests fewer genetic markers than Embark, even though it tests for more breeds.
Because dogs receive two copies of every gene — one from their mother and one from their father — it can make finding exact breed percentages difficult if both the dog’s parents are mutts. The Wisdom Panel 4.0 dog DNA test includes:
- Screening for 350+ dog breeds
- Trait analysis
- Drug and exercise-induced collapse (MDRI and EIC) testing
- Screening for 150+ genetic health conditions (optional)
- Project weight profile
- The ability to share your results online with your vet
Mars Veterinary doesn’t offer discount codes on its site, but you can find some available from Groupon and Retail Me Not. Also, each kit comes with a discount code that you can share with your family and friends, so if you know someone who’s already purchased a kit, ask them if they have a promo code available.
Find My Pet DNA: $90
If you’re looking for a cost-effective option, Find My Pet DNA’s dog DNA testing kit might be a good option for you. This test screens your dog’s DNA against 200 different breeds and includes a health screening.
Like with anything else, you get what you pay for when it comes to dog DNA tests. So even though Find My Pet DNA’s test is under $100, screens for 200 dog breeds, and includes a health screening, the report you receive won’t be as detailed as that of the more expensive kits because this test doesn’t incorporate as many breeds or genetic markers.
However, if you don’t need really detailed results, this test is a good option. It’ll answer most of the questions you have about your mixed-breed pup without putting a huge dent in your wallet.
Unfortunately, Find My Pet DNA doesn’t offer discount codes on-site, but you may be able to find the test slightly cheaper on Amazon’s website.
HomeDNA Orivet Dog DNA Test and Life Plan: $125
The good thing about HomeDNA Orivet’s Dog DNA Test and Life Plan is that you get a report that goes beyond basic DNA test results. The included life plan gives you a customized diet for your dog, exercise suggestions, and a playtime routine that’s designed to maximize your dog’s lifespan.
However, the report doesn’t explain the results as well as other tests do. Also, health screening doesn’t come with this doggy DNA test, but they do offer a test for dog health screening separately. It also doesn’t include a wolf and coyote test. This test includes:
- Testing for 200+ dog breeds
- Predictions for your dog’s adult weight
- Nutritional suggestions for your dog
- Basic health schedule and life plan to help owners care for their dogs
- Breed-specific game suggestions
HomeDNA Orivet does display promo codes on its website, when available, that give you a discount and/or free shipping. The tests are also sold on Amazon.com, and you can frequently find discount promo codes for HomeDNA through Ebates, Retail Me Not, Coupons.com, and Groupon.
Is DNA Testing Right for Your Dog?
Dog DNA testing is an interesting concept, but how do you know if it’s right for your dog?
The bottom line is, completing a dog DNA test won’t harm your pooch in any way, so if you want to know exactly what breed of dog you have, you should consider having a test completed. However, it’s important to remember that the results you receive for health screenings aren’t set in stone.
Just because your dog has genes from a dog breed that has a high risk of cancer, doesn’t mean he’ll definitely get cancer. So there’s no need to take your dog to the vet for immediate treatment.
Instead, read the report with an open mind and consider the details as suggestions or illnesses to watch for in the future.