Updated on: October 2, 2020

A dog DNA test kit is a tool you can use to assess your dog’s genetic makeup. At-home kits range in price from $40 to $130, with some kits costing a few hundred dollars. DNA tests performed by a veterinarian costs between $40 and $100 and tend to be fairly accurate.

In the last few years, as at-home DNA testing has increased in popularity for humans who want to trace their ancestral roots and identify potential health problems, DNA testing of dogs has also become common. It is used for many of the same purposes. People assess their dog’s DNA to determine the various breeds that make up the dog’s bloodline and to consider whether there might be any breed-specific health issues of concern.

Three of the most popular dog DNA test kit brands can be purchased online or at retail stores and include:

  • Embark
  • Wisdom Panel
  • DNA My Dog

What to Consider Before Using a Dog DNA Test

There are pros and cons of testing your dog’s DNA. It can help you learn more about your dog, especially if he or she was adopted and is a mixed breed. But there are also negative aspects of DNA testing for dogs.

The main reason people DNA test their dogs because they are interested in knowing more about the dog’s various breeds. Sometimes it’s easy to look at a dog and determine the breed or breeds that likely mated to produce the offspring that became your family pet. But if you want to know more about your dog’s grandparents or further back in their bloodline, that’s not as easy with only a visual assessment.

Additionally, some dogs tend to favor one breed over another with their looks and temperament. Perhaps your dog’s mother was a Labrador retriever and its father a German Shepherd Dog, but all you see when you look at your pup is a Lab. A DNA test will determine for certain what breeds make up your dog and it might surprise you.

Another reason pet owners DNA test is to identify potential health problems of their dog. Pet owners can then make decisions based on that information. For example, there might be genetic reasons to alter your dog’s diet or lifestyle, the same as you might make changes once you’ve evaluated your DNA.

These tests are good for general knowledge and to help your dog live his or her best life. They are also helpful if you intend to breed your dog and you want to confirm what your dog will pass on to its pups.

Dog DNA Testing Risks

Of course, like with most things, there’s a downside to dog DNA testing.

One of the biggest risks is that you might learn things you didn’t want to know. The same is true for human DNA testing. Many people are better off not learning they have a higher risk for certain genetic diseases. They might feel the same about their beloved pet. Dog DNA tests tend to provide a lot of information and not all of it is valuable. This is especially true when your dog’s lineage is a mixed bag and there are a lot of different breeds in his or her bloodline. Just because your dog’s great-grandmother’s breed had a risk for a disease doesn’t mean it will pass to your dog.

Like you, your dog is an individual and many factors play a role in how his or her life will play out. It’s important not to panic, even if a DNA test identifies a potential health risk for your dog. Your best bet is to take the information you gather from DNA testing, discuss it with your vet, and use it to inform the choices you make for your dog’s diet, lifestyle, and other things.

How Do You Conduct a DNA Test on Your Dog?

In theory, conducting a DNA test for your dog is simple. However, your dog’s temperament can make it challenging to collect the sample.

To conduct the test:

  • Once you have your test and you’ve read the directions, you’ll collect your dog’s DNA. You do this by using a swab provided by the test kit to rub the inside of your dog’s mouth. Some kits require the collection of a larger saliva sample.
  • Package the results as directed and mail them to the testing company.
  • Await your results. It usually takes about two to four weeks to hear back from the testing company.

Most dog DNA test kits are accurate, but there are a few things that alter the results. For example:

  1. Quality of the sample
  2. Number and types of dogs
  3. Number of genetic markers
  4.  Quality of the testing process

The Wisdom Panel is one of the most accurate dog DNA testing kits available. This company uses 1800 genetic markers to evaluate samples and tests for more than 200 different dog breeds and variations. Tests are processed in a USDA accredited lab with quality controls and testing has shown an average repeatability rate of over 99 percent.

Dog DNA Testing Myths

As you might guess, there are many myths associated with testing your dog’s DNA. Some people assume testing is a gimmick, while others think it’s better to rely on their vet’s assessment of their dog’s breed.

A few of the most common myths associated with DNA test kits for dogs include:

  1. Test results are inaccurate if my dog looks nothing like any of the breeds listed in the results. Your dog might not look like his or her primary breed.
  2. My vet has a better chance of identifying the breed of my dog accurately than a test. Vets make assumptions about ancestry based on physical appearance, which tends to have an accuracy rate of only about 25 percent.
  3. Papers from a breeder override DNA testing. Not all breeders are reputable and even when they are, mistakes are made. Genetic testing is more likely to confirm your dog’s lineage than the word of someone who may or may not be wrong.
Joel is a writer with a passion for the science of DNA and the power of its manipulation.
Resources

“Are Dog DNA Tests Worth the Cost?” Abc10.Com, www.abc10.com/article/life/animals/are-dog-dna-tests-worth-the-cost/103-59a5cac0-663e-4c64-93da-4e74456cb39f.

AKC Staff, et al. “What You Need to Know About Dog DNA Tests.” American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/expert-advice/dog-breeding/dog-dna-tests-descriptions-and-uses/

“Genetic Diversity of Dogs | Ask A Biologist.” Asu.Edu, 19 Aug. 2011, askabiologist.asu.edu/plosable/dna-dogs

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