Whether you want to confirm that your pup is 100% Beagle or learn more about your pooch’s ancestry and potential genetic disorders, a dog DNA test can help. Canine testing kits can reveal a lot about our pets including their breed lineage, hereditary health conditions, as well as behavioral characteristics that might be of some interest or even concern to us in the future. However, not all dog DNA tests are created the same and so the accuracy of results varies greatly from product to product. To get reliable information about your four-legged companion, it’s crucial to select a trustworthy test. To help you do just that, we tried several different kits, detailing some of our favorites down below. We’ve also put together a detailed buying guide to further aid you in your search for the best dog DNA kit, so read on!
The Best Dog DNA Test
- Brand: Embark
- Type: Breed Identification, Health Condition Identification
- Life Stage: Adult
Embark’s dog genetic testing kit prides itself on highly accurate results that have been, thus far, confirmed by many pet parents who have tried the product. One of the strengths of the Embark DNA Test is its database of more than 200,000 genetic markers which basically covers all essential information that a dog owner could want to know about their beloved pooch. This is especially true for individuals who may have doubts about the breed lineage of their pets. Some owners who have bought supposedly pure breed dogs are often shocked to find out that what they have is actually a cross breed or a mutt. Regardless, this enables owners to tailor-fit their pet care based on the dominant traits of their dogs. Knowing their recessive traits will also help allay future anxieties about a possible ‘anomaly’ observed in their pets.
More importantly, however, is the information generated by Embark’s testing for more than 170 genetic conditions. The company website says the test is highly accurate for detecting degenerative myelopathy, exercise-induced collapse, PRA blindness, dilated cardiomyopathy, and even multi-drug resistance gene sensitivity. While it is quite difficult to evaluate the veracity of these claims, the company’s partnership with the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine should be a welcome relief. Also, the test results are accepted and deemed valid by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
The only downside to the Embark system is that it takes an unusually long time to get the results. This should already be expected as they have a lot of genetic markers and genetic diseases to cover in addition to the breed identification testing. The long wait really pays for itself once you get the full results. So far, Embark’s genetic testing kit is exceptional since it provides a 3-pronged approach to caring for your pet: accurate breed identification, extensive genetic marker determination, and excellent genetic disease evaluation, making it simply one of the best dog DNA test kits in the market.
- Brand: Wisdom Panel
- Type: Breed Identification
- Life Stage: Adult
The Wisdom Panel 3.0 is more powerful, accurate, and inclusive than its predecessors. In fact, the third iteration can be viewed as a much better option for dog lovers who would like real peace of mind regarding the genetic composition of their beloved furry friends. It’s fiercely competing for the top dog DNA kit by offering an exceptional breed-by-percentage identification technology that is able to identify more than 250 dog breeds, varieties, and types. Unfortunately, there clearly is no way of ascertaining the veracity of the results in cases of multi-breeds – meaning, even the ancestors of a multi-breed canine are mixed breeds themselves.
Regardless, the Wisdom Panel 3.0 boasts of an amazing number of genetic markers in its database. However, its 1,800 markers pale in comparison to Embark’s 200,000+ predetermined markers. Nevertheless, this should help you gain a better understanding of the actual nucleic acid composition of your pet, enabling you to design a program that is best suited to their dominant traits. Moreover, the 3.0 is highly sensitive in the determination of the genetic marker for multi-drug resistance, saving you and your pet the hassle of having to deal with medication adverse reactions should your pet require treatment in the future. And like all Wisdom Panel products, you get the results delivered to you within 2 to 3 weeks.
Ultimately, the 3.0 kit is similar to Wisdom Panel Health as it provides great coverage of genetic markers, as well as accurate breed identification. It also provides adult weight range prediction, allowing owners to make more sensible food choices for their pets, like feeding grain free dog food. However, unlike the Wisdom Panel Health, this model doesn’t include genetic trait analysis.
Read here our detailed Wisdom Panel 3.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit Review.
- Brand: Wisdom Panel
- Type: Breed Identification
- Life Stage: Adult
If you’re seeking to complete a dog DNA kit, so that you can favor the health and happiness of your dog, over general interest, this is the DNA test for your needs. Designed to screen for a wide range of medical conditions, you can check for the most common predispositions to illnesses in dogs with this DNA test.
Taking up to 4 weeks to get back to you, it checks over 350 breeds and provides a full breakdown of what percentage of which breed your dog has in their DNA. The results then include common genetic conditions expected within each breed and even provides you with a screening for these, all in one kit.
- Brand: Embark
- Type: Breed Identification
- Life Stage: Adult, Puppy
More accurate than many other dog DNA tests on the market, this DNA kit checks your pup for over 350 breeds and provides owners with incredibly accurate results. Customers love that the results for this option come very quickly, and are highly detailed when they arrive.
Unfortunately, this testing kit for dogs doesn’t provide a complete breakdown of genetic predispositions. So, this isn’t the best DNA test for dogs on the market. However, if you’re simply interested in learning more about your pup and want to check each breed manually, after receiving your results, you can’t go far wrong with this high accurate testing kit.
- Brand: DNA My Dog
- Type: Breed Identification
- Life Stage: Adult
Looking for a test with super-fast results? DNA My Dog tests for all breeds found in your pet’s genetic makeup and offers results in just two weeks. While not the most detailed test on the market, this product provides useful background on your pet’s genetics, including the percentage of breeds that make up who they are, health concerns, personality traits and other information. The kit is a good choice if you’re looking for basic and simple results that can help you and your veterinarian create a better health plan for your dog. Thanks to breed percentage results, you can find out if your pooch is predisposed to certain health problems, as well as what exercise levels are recommended for their age.
DNA my dog kit takes a couple of minutes to administer as all you have to do is collect a swab from your dog’s cheek with a sterile cotton swab (included in the kit, of course) and mail it to the lab. All that’s left then is to wait for the results, which usually take around 2 weeks. The manufacturer does note that if you’re testing a puppy, he or she should be weaned from the mother and not fed from her for at least 2 hours before taking the sample.
Best DNA Tests for Dogs: A Buyer’s Guide
Whether you want to find out your dog’s potential risks for developing genetic diseases, create a better health plan for their future, or simply understand their personality better, a DNA test can help. By discovering what breed your dog is, you can gain insight into their genetic makeup, and as a result, make their life healthier and happier. In essence, a canine DNA test is comparable to a human DNA test: it can tell you all about your dog’s origin and heritage, plus provide highly valuable health information. And similarly to their human counterparts, canine DNA tests – at least the comprehensive and highly accurate ones – come at a high price. To help you get the best deal for your money, we’ve prepared this buying guide, in which we cover everything you need to know about dog DNA testing, including the things you should look for when purchasing a kit.
What is a Dog DNA Test?
A DNA test for dogs is a genetic screening test that can reveal useful information about a dog’s genetic makeup, family history, risks of developing certain diseases, even personality traits. For rescue pet parents and owners of mutts, these tools are extremely valuable as they can help in creating a better health plan and aid in training. But even if your dog is not a crossed or multi-breed but a pure one, you can still benefit from genetic testing. A detailed pet DNA test can show if your dog has a genetic predisposition for certain health conditions and offer you a way to react on time and look for treatment, as you’ll be able to recognize the early signs.
These tests are a great way to get to know your dog too, or to be more precise, what makes them tick. After all, the breeds that make up the biology of your dog play a vital part in who they are, including their appearance, behavior, and health. Although some people may tell you that DNA tests for dogs are really all about the owners and satisfying their curiosity about their pets, there’s no denying they’re much more than that (although to be fair, they do help satisfy our curiosity too!). Dog DNA kits are first and foremost useful – by discovering the breeds that make up the biology of your dog, you’ll be able to treat them better, feed them healthier and even prevent certain health problems.
Blood vs Swab DNA Test
We mentioned that dog breed testing is similar to human DNA testing. Both tests provide information about ancestry and many also offer insight into health and risks for developing certain illnesses. Similarly, both tests can be done via blood samples or cheek swabs. But which is better? Unsurprisingly, the results from both swab and blood samples are exactly the same. The only difference? How the samples are collected and processed.
- Cheek Swabs: quick and easy, a swab sample requires you to swab the inside of your dog’s cheek and mail it. Noninvasive and simple, this is the preferred method for collecting doggie DNA as it’s perfectly comfortable for both the animal and the owner. Unlike the blood sample which needs to be done at a veterinarian’s office, a swab can be collected at the comfort of your own home. On the negative side, if you’re not careful with choosing a reliable DNA test, you may end up with inaccurate results.
- Blood samples: collected by inserting a needle into your pup’s vein and drawing blood, the blood sample is, needless to say, pretty uncomfortable for most dogs. Considering the results are pretty much the same as those obtained from cheek swabs, this method of DNA collecting is not popular among pet parents. That being said, blood tests do yield larger amounts of DNA, which – at least in theory – should make them more accurate than swabs.
How Does Dog DNA Testing Work?
Whether you opt for a swab or a blood sample, the process of analyzing the DNA is the same: a lab will extract the DNA from the sample and then genotype it. What this means is that the genetic markers found in the sample will be compared with markers of other dogs in the database that the lab is using. To be more precise, since the genome of a dog contains about 2.5 billion building blocks of DNA – also known as the nucleotides – the researchers will focus only on some of these genes, or rather, the repeating sequences of DNA called SNPs that form signatures that are particular to various breeds. That’s why it’s important to choose labs that work with big databases – the bigger the database, the more SNPs from purebred representatives of each breed the researchers have to compare to your dog’s SNPs. In essence, the larger the database, the more likely the results are to be highly accurate.
Benefits of DNA Testing for Dogs
There can be many reasons why people would like to have their pets DNA tested. There is a lot of information that can be obtained just by looking at the unique arrangement and sequencing of nucleic acids in the DNA of any organism. Having the DNA of our dogs tested actually gives us the power to better care for them. This is essentially the gist of such tests. Here are some of the more popular benefits of DNA testing for dogs.
Reveals health risks that your pet may genetically be predisposed to
One of the most important reasons why dog owners choose to have their pets DNA tested is so they can get an idea of the various diseases that their beloved pets may be genetically predisposed to. While most genetic test kits today only look at a pet’s breed makeup to make careful calculations as to the risk of developing a particular disease or health condition in the future, these are not really definitive. They are often interpreted from analyses made from comparing and cross-referencing a dog’s breed makeup with existing and known healthcare conditions for that breed. Using inferential statistics, scientists can then deduce the percentage of chance that a particular health condition might present itself in the future. Sadly, these are just very educated guesses or inferences.
More advanced kits, on the other hand, employ a variety of tests that try to check for specific genetic mutations. For example, it is now known that progressive retinal atrophy is actually a very common genetic anomaly that affects more than a hundred dog breeds. However, it has also been shown that some breeds are more susceptible to this genetic mutation. Another example is the defective multi-drug resistance gene that has been ascertained to be common in Collies and Shepherds.
Helps in tailoring a better health program for your pet
By providing you with a thorough report on what genetic mutations may be present in your pet, dog DNA kits can help you make the necessary preparations and arrangements with your veterinarian regarding your pup’s care. More importantly, this information also gives you more than enough reason to tailor your health program for your pet. You can use simple parameters such as adult canine weight prediction to design a more sensible diet for your pet, preventing obesity and metabolic disorders like diabetes. This way, you will be able to provide a more nutritious, well-balanced meal program for your pet and one that is truly appropriate for their genetic makeup.
Since you now understand what diseases or health conditions your dog may be predisposed to, you can take the necessary steps to prevent the occurrence of such conditions. For instance, if you know that your dog is genetically predisposed to developing canine hip dysplasia or even arthritis, then you can try to circumvent this predisposition by giving your pet appropriate dog joint supplements. These may or may not work in preventing the full course of such abnormalities; however, studies show that supplementation can help lessen or minimize the impact of such conditions on the overall quality of your dog’s life. At any rate, supplements such as chondroitin, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, and MSM should strengthen the joints of your pet, minimizing the effects of hip dysplasia and arthritis and other similar conditions. You can use the same genetic information to devise a comprehensive plan for your dog’s oral or dental health, as well as immune system integrity and coat skin health.
The point is, when you’re armed with a unique understanding of your dog’s fundamental composition, you can create better and more responsible plans to care for them.
Aids in planning for more effective training programs
Being aware of your dog’s genetic background will give you an opportunity to create more effective training programs for them. Knowing which breeds are found in your pup’s lineage, will help you understand some of their more peculiar behaviors, which should come in handy when devising more effective obedience training programs as well.
Read here our detailed guide on the Best Dog Training Books.
Things to Look for in a DNA Testing Kit
There are plenty of canine DNA kits on the market today. Some are highly comprehensive and accurate, while others are more limited, providing you with basic information on your pet’s lineage. Either way, it is imperative that you look for the following things when shopping for a DNA testing kit.
First and foremost, look for accurate tests. Anything between 95-99% is considered good, although a slightly lower percentage than that is acceptable as well. What’s important is choosing tests that use large databases as they have more information to work with. The larger the database, the more accurate the results are going to be.
The validity of a test greatly matters too. You may get the result you want or expect, but is the process of arriving at this result authoritative enough? If you believe the result to be the outcome of a sound process, then the test is valid. However, if you are doubtful of the result for obvious reasons, then something might be off. Sadly, this is quite difficult to measure and establish. As such, we recommend looking at the credibility and trustworthiness of the company that makes the test kit to get an idea of whether the results are valid or not. Look for brands that work with authoritative organizations.
These tests don’t come cheap. As such, since you’re already paying, you might as well demand the most comprehensive report on your dog’s genetic background and health. Some kits cover only breed percentage while others go as far as providing you with a complete health risk profile including an adult weight range prediction. In any case, the more information you get, the greater your understanding of your pet will be.
Speed of Results Delivery
Some companies can deliver the testing results within 2 to 3 weeks while others may take longer than that, even up to a month. While it’s understandable to want to see the results as soon as possible, we advise you not to base your purchasing decisions on how quickly the company can deliver the results (for example, DNA my Dog takes only 2 weeks but it’s not comprehensive). After all, the accuracy of the results is what really matters, not how fast they travel to you.
How Accurate Is This Test?
This entirely depends on the company that does DNA testing. As mentioned, if a company uses a large breed database and can guarantee 95-99% accuracy for their results, the test will indeed be very accurate. Do bear in mind that no test can be 100% accurate – you just have to make some room for human error. But when it comes to determining genetic health conditions, the results are usually highly accurate and valid as the scientists are looking for specific genes related to diseases.
How Much is a DNA Dog Test Kit?
The price of canine DNA kits varies greatly as does the accuracy of their results. Today, you can easily find a test priced as low as $60 and as high as $200. While it’s true that often price does not guarantee quality, when it comes to DNA testing, price matters. Typically, more expensive tests offer more accurate and comprehensive results.
How to Swab Your Dog with a DNA Test
Taking a sample of your dog’s tissue for genetic testing is pretty easy. Here’s how to do it:
- First, inspect your dog’s oral cavity. Check if there are food particles or dirt present in between your pet’s gums and cheek. If your pooch just had their meal, you will need to wait at least 2 hours before swabbing.
- Get your testing kit and carefully open the packaging. Make sure you have read the instructions carefully so you’ll have an idea of how to proceed. Don’t touch the bristles as this may contaminate the sample later on.
- Roll the swab bristles firmly against the inner surface of your pet’s cheek. Depending on the test kit, you should do this for about 15 to 30 seconds to make sure you get enough cells to be tested.
- Allow the DNA sample to dry naturally for about 5 minutes. Again, avoid touching the bristles. Once 5 minutes are up, you can carefully put the DNA swab back right into its storage sleeve.