More and more people are getting their DNA tested to find out about their ancestry and genetic health, but did you know that you can do the same thing for your dog and even for your cat? Dog DNA tests are now an important part of the breeding process, and they can help tell you everything you need to know about where your dog has come from.
Read on for our guide to how to use them, some of the best ones out there, and whether or not they are right for you.
How do canine DNA tests work?
Before you decide if a canine DNA test is right for you, let’s take a look at how they actually work.
How to use them?
By far, the most popular method of taking your dog’s DNA is to use a cheek swab. Most canine DNA kits will come with a test tube and a swab. You remove the swab from the packet and gently rub it against the inside of your dog’s cheek.
It can be helpful to show them one of their favorite treats beforehand so that they produce a lot of salivae (but don’t let them eat it!). You should also make sure to swab for between 30 and 60 seconds to make sure that you get enough saliva for the test.
Then you simply place the swab in the test tube (that will contain stabilizing liquid), pack it up, and post it back to the company.
What is the science behind them?
Dogs have 39 pairs of chromosomes (compared to human’s 23) arranged in specific sequences. Many of these sequences are the same for every dog. For example, a specific sequence might code for fur growth. However, while the sequences are the same, one of the building blocks that make up the sequence could be different for different dogs.
For example, it might code for curly fur instead of straight fur. Geneticists look at the pattern of differences in these known sequences. They can compare them against the pattern for specific breeds or against the pattern that is known to be related to specific diseases.
What will dog DNA tests tell you?
Different people decide to test their dog’s DNA for different reasons. For many, especially those who have rescued a dog with no known history, curiosity alone is the driving force behind conducting a DNA test.
Finding out exactly what breed, or a mix of breeds, your dog is can be exciting. And it can also help you to connect with owners of the same breed.
For others, DNA testing can be an important part of understanding health risks. For example, because of the nature of dog breeding, some breeds are much more susceptible to certain genetic diseases than others.
Dog DNA tests can be used to find out if your dog has the gene that puts them at risk of a particular disease, which can help you plan how to deal with it.
You can also use the health results from dog DNA tests as part of your breeding program. Checking for inheritable diseases in specific dog breeds has become crucial when you are breeding dogs.
Potential owners are reassured by seeing the negative results of DNA tests for genetic diseases that are common in the breed, and they can help you plan for which dogs should be bred and which shouldn’t.
Finally, dog DNA tests can give you an idea of the sorts of behavioral traits your dog might be expected to develop. Of course, these are often only probabilities because the environment so heavily influences behavior.
Still, it can definitely help you to understand your dog better and maybe target your training even more effectively.
Wisdom Panel provides at-home dog DNA tests and has been used 2.5 million times by pet owners, and is the top choice for vets. These tests can give you three different key pieces of information:
- Ancestry – Wisdom Panel boast the largest dog breed database in the world, with approximately 350 breeds included. And their dog breed DNA testing can detect breeds as precisely as 1%.
- Health – Wisdom Panel dog DNA tests can show you your dog’s risk of developing genetic disorders and other medical complications so that you can plan in a more informed way.
- Traits- in your results you’ll receive a wealth of interesting information about all your dog’s traits, their history, and why they have them.
There are two levels of Wisdom Panel dog DNA tests. The Essential plan comes in at $99.99 and gives you breed detection, 25+ health tests, and 35+ trait tests.
The Premium plan, on the other hand, also gives you breed detection, but with 210+ health tests, 35+ trait tests, a genetic diversity score, and a consultation with a vet about the health findings. It costs $159.99.
Wisdom Panel Essential by Wisdom Health
Price when reviewed: $89.99
The Embark dog DNA test was created in partnership with Cornell University and is the highest-rated test available. There are two types of tests available: one that looks at ancestry and one that looks at ancestry and health.
- Breed ID Kit $129 – using a database of 350 breeds and 200,000 genetic markers, you can find out your dog’s breed, as well as information about their family tree. You can even connect with their relatives on the free online database provided.
- Breed + Health Kit $199 – you get the same information as the Breed ID Kit, as well as information about 200+ health risks and 20+ physical traits.
Price when reviewed: $149.00
Orivet dog DNA tests are aimed at breeders and veterinarians. They are very different from the other DNA tests covered so far. Their focus isn’t on finding out your dog’s breed or ancestry (as a breeder, you already know that).
Still, they are instead a much deeper dive into the genetic disorders and physical traits associated with a particular breed.
There a specific dog DNA tests available for each breed type, and a standard test for a specific gene is $45 for members and $75 for non-members. You can also buy an extensive color and coat panel, which is $139.95 for members and $155.50 for non-members, and a DNA profile to prove parentage that is $40 for members and $65 for non-members.
The results of these tests can be used to prove parentage, look for the physical traits that could be passed on when breeding, and to check for the risks of genetic disorders.
Geno Pet 5.0 by Orivet
Price when reviewed: $145.00
Do the tests offer the same accuracy?
It isn’t easy to directly compare the accuracy of the different tests because they each emphasize different areas. The Wisdom Panel test, for instance, can find breeds that are in your dog as low as 1%, whereas the Embark test looks at 200,000 genetic markers so it can be more sensitive to genetic traits and diseases that are hard to find.
In addition, the Premium Wisdom Panel test looks at 210 health conditions compared to the Embark’ 200 and looks at 35 traits compared to 20. But it is more expensive, and you don’t get the option to discover your dog’s family members on the online database.
The Orivet test focuses on being very accurate. Still, for very specific traits and disorders, so it won’t give as broad a picture as the other two but will be able to give you much more accurate information about that specific gene.
Essentially, the best dog DNA test for you depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it. So it is always a good idea to sit down beforehand and think about the most important information for you before you decide which test to buy.
Are pet DNA tests really worth it?
If you are a dog breeder, dog DNA tests for genetic disorders and traits specific to your breed are becoming more and more expected. So they can definitely be worth it if you plan on going into dog breeding.
If you are getting a dog DNA test to look for health risks, then it really depends. They can only test for genetic disorders and traits that are already known, so they can’t give you information about genetic disorders and traits that aren’t already in the system.
They also can’t tell you the probability that your dog will develop a particular illness or disorder in the future because a lot of that depends on the environment and the interaction with other genes. But it can help you to keep your eyes peeled for certain diseases, and you can let your vet know to look out for them as well.
If you are just interested in finding out what breed your dog is and their ancestry, then there is no reason at all why dog DNA tests wouldn’t be worth it. You will be able to find out all the information you want about what breed your dog is and its history, which can be genuinely fascinating.
To wrap up
Dog DNA tests are becoming very popular. They are important for breeders who want to check for physical traits and the potential for genetic disorders, but they can also be useful for everyday dog owners as well.
A dog DNA test can tell you exactly what breed your dog is and their ancestry, and it can give you information about their traits and their risk for developing certain diseases. But, of course, the exact test that’s best for your dog depends on what information is important to you, and only you can decide that!