Dog adoption has become one of the more popular ways to bring a furry companion into a family’s life, and it’s a worthy endeavor. However, most of the lovable pooches you bring into your home through adoption are mixed breeds and strays that require just as much love as pure-bred puppies. This is great, as your furry friend will be unique, but it may leave you with questions—either out of curiosity or concern. A DNA test can highlight your dog’s ancestry—all the breeds that have contributed to their adorable personality—but can also key you in on possible genetic predispositions and even important information about how to interact with and care for them.
Today, there are three major names in the market for DNA testing kits for your dog—Embark, Wisdom Panel, and DNA My Dog. These three companies offer similar services, but each has features that make it valuable depending on your needs. Read on below to learn more about DNA testing for dogs and see how you can learn more about your pooch take better care of them.
Top Dog DNA Testing Kits
So How Do You Take a DNA Sample from a Dog?
DNA tests may sound scary for humans, with pictures of large needles and blood. Thinking about doing that to your loyal pooch may sound too terrifying, but fortunately for Fido (and you), DNA testing kits today make it surprisingly easy to collect a sample and get results back in short order. There are no complicated steps or visits to the vet necessary to collect a sample and, with just a few caveats to keep an eye out for, you should be able to get all the DNA you need in just a few short minutes. DNA tests for dogs today use saliva samples to make the process easier, much like human tests do. Even better, the way you collect these saliva samples is similar—all you need is the cotton swab provided and a little patience.
Before taking samples, however, there are a few things most companies recommend to attain the most accurate results possible:
- Make sure your dog hasn’t eaten or drank anything in the two hours before collecting the sample
- Make sure your dog doesn’t come into contact with other dogs in the two hours prior to collecting the sample to avoid cross-contamination.
With that in mind, the way to collect the sample is easy. Once you receive your testing kit, you’ll find a cotton swab and a small container to place it in. Simply swab the inside of your dog’s mouth for between 20 seconds and 1 minute and before placing it in the accompanying container. Some have complained that their puppies don’t enjoy the swabs, but a handful of treats can usually do the trick.
How Long Does it Take to Get Results?
Although your mileage may vary depending on which testing company you choose, it’s important to remember that your test results aren’t going to instantly show up in your inbox. That’s not to say you’ll be waiting for years to find out your results, however. Usually, most companies will process DNA tests within six weeks, although a few companies (notably DNA my Dog) deliver results more quickly than that.
Can You Be Certain the Results Are Accurate?
Although DNA tests for dogs are significantly more affordable today than they were even ten years ago, it’s still fair to ask if you’re getting your money’s worth. Obviously, the biggest concern here is that you’re getting tests that are not accurate and you’ve simply wasted your money. Fortunately, however, we found that most tests offer reassuringly high levels of confidence in their tests. There are a few factors to consider when it comes to determining accuracy in dog DNA tests, but perhaps the most important is the sample size your dog’s DNA is compared with. Companies can determine breed makeup by matching DNA samples to existing breed references, so having a larger number of markers and a larger database is crucial. Here is how the top three companies rate the accuracy of their respective results:
- Embark claims their test can capture over 200,000 genetic markers in a DNA sample, which is the highest available on the market. The company compares results to over 250 dog breed samples for reference.
- Wisdom Panel has genotyped over 13,000 dogs, which helps establish an extensive reference library for incoming tests. The company has over 250 breed samples to test against your dog’s sample.
- DNA My Dog uses a smaller sample size, focusing on the most common dog breeds in America (which means rarer breeds may not show up on their tests), though it offers “levels” of genetic matches, which represent the percentage of DNA present in your dog.
Overall, all three companies have strong certainty in their results. When companies give you a list of possible breeds, they’re being matched against their best possible results. However, if you want to have a better idea, choosing a test that compares against a larger sample may be worth your time.
DNA Tests and Dog Training
One of the biggest reasons to get a DNA test for your dog is to help understand their nature, and to learn more about their behaviors. It’s well known that different dog breeds have unique qualities that can impact how they learn best, how well they socialize with others, and more. For this reason, knowing your pet’s breed can go a long way towards identifying the best way to train them while providing them with the quality of life they deserve. DNA tests help you find out why your pet may be overactive, or not responding to a particular type of training. A terrier, for instance, may require a higher intensity workout and an active training routine that fits in lots of play and positive stimulation. Corgi mixes, on the other hand, tend to be yippy and have a strong herding instinct that makes them prone to nipping at people’s heels. If you had no context, these may seem like behavioral problems. However, a test may show that these patterns are simply a part of their nature, and help you plan on the best ways to work with your fluffy companion.
Discovering Potential Health Issues
Another important result from your DNA testing kit is understanding your dog’s health and genetic predispositions better. Much like their breed can impact their temperament and behavior, it can also carry specific risks of diseases and health conditions that can ultimately affect their quality of life. However, it’s important to keep calm and avoid panicking if your dog’s test returns markers for a potential condition.
It’s worth noting that just because the markers are present in your dog’s DNA, it doesn’t mean they’ll develop that condition within their lives. More importantly, their genetic makeup and DNA variance may also affect specific gene expressions in a different way. What you can do is visit your vet and discuss the results. This will help you create a better routine for your pets that doesn’t harm them and can help inoculate them against any potential illnesses or long-term health issues. However, you should not decide on a radical treatment or care option based exclusively on your DNA tests results alone.
Don’t Forget to Check if Your Insurance Covers Dog DNA Tests
We noted above how DNA tests today are significantly more accessible, but that doesn’t make them free. Most tests range from $70 to $200, but that can include or exclude things like health screenings and other specific marker tests. Thus, learning more about your dog may seem like a great way to solve your curiosity, but not much more.
However, if your pet seems to be at risk of a health condition or illness, testing them becomes much more of a necessity. Although it changes from provider to provider, DNA testing kits for dogs are sometimes covered by insurance, but it will usually depend on what type of tests are being done, and why. Additionally, some vets may ask for additional testing in clinics, which are more likely to be covered by your pet’s insurance.
Learning more about your furry companion is a great idea, and today more than ever it’s an affordable and even fun process. Although there are multiple companies offering it, Embark, Wisdom Panel, and DNA my Dog remain the top choices to tell you the most about your pet’s genetic background. It’s important to know what you’re looking for—whether you want to understand your pet’s behavior or make sure they don’t have any predisposition to potentially life-altering conditions—and choose a test that can deliver the answers you need.
With information about your dog’s genetic makeup, you can find a better way to train them, socialize with them, and give them the best possible quality of life. More importantly, you can make smarter decisions about their health and nutrition, with guidance from your vet, that will help prolong their lives and avoid any potential illnesses or conditions they may have a predisposition to. It’s important to research the available choices and find the DNA test kit for dogs that can help you discover the most about your pooch while accordingly matching your budget restraints and other limitations. Reading our expert reviews, along with our hundreds of user reviews, can help you make the best possible selection.