Thinking of buying a dog DNA test? Take a moment to learn more about these innovative tests before purchasing your kit. We all know what DNA is: it’s the sequence of nucleotides that is the basic blueprint of any living organism. Everyone and everything has DNA. Dogs have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes along 78 chromosomes. For comparison, humans have 46 chromosomes. In 2005, MIT’s Broad Institute published a piece describing canine DNA sequencing. Now, breeders, dog owners and scientists use dog DNA tests to learn more about man’s best friend. Interested in getting your dog’s DNA tested? Read on to find out what you should consider before buying your first dog DNA test.

What You Need to Know

1.   Quality and Accuracy Vary

Since scientists are still learning about dog DNA, it’s crucial that your expectations are reasonable. Your test may give you some insights but not all the answers you need. Most testing companies have loads of information on their site, so be sure to check those out to learn more about a specific company.

2.   Mixed Breed Dogs Can Be Tricky

These days, there are a variety of mixed breed dogs (be it by selective breeding or accident). But, many companies want to know the breed of your dog before taking the test. This helps them know what type of traits to look for, but for some dogs, this is no easy feat! So, when choosing a company to go with, check their websites to make sure they have a good amount of data on a wide variety of dogs. That will increase your chances of getting accurate feedback.

3.   What DNA Tests Look For

Most dog DNA tests look at dog breeds based on the 190 or so breeds recognized by most breeding organizations. Popular dog testing companies have the upper hand because they have more data they’ve collected due to doing more tests. Since there’s so much variability within a breed, the more the company tests a specific breed, the better the accuracy will be in the future.

4.   Costs Are Surprising

For the most part, it costs about as much to get your own DNA tested as it is to get your pet’s tested. In the US, there’re four companies that offer canine DNA testing. These range from about $60 to $150. Some tests require you to swab your dog’s cheek while others require a blood draw from your vet. Therefore, there may be added costs when the vet gets involved. Some vets to offer DNA testing services, so be sure to ask at your next doggy well-visit.

5.   Finding Inherited Diseases

For breeders specifically, this is an important thing to know. You don’t want to pass on unhealthy genes to your puppies. Genetic tests have become increasingly important to prevent diseases. Issues like hip dysplasia can be avoided with looking that dog’s genes. According to one company, PennGen, out of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, they are able to identify over 900 inherited disorders.

6.   Showing Hidden Traits

Tests may also reveal some traits regarding coat color and type. So, if your puppy looks a particular way when they are young, a dog DNA test may indicate what their coat and color will be in the future. It may also show what genes they are able to pass on to offspring.

7.   Where to Get Your Dog DNA Test

There are a few popular dog DNA test retailers. First, is the popular Wisdom Panel. They have a few varieties of tests from a disease detection kit to a canine breed detection kit. Each kit has a different retail price. Next is Embark. It’s a popular test among vets and works close with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. They have different kits depending on your needs. Some kits are specialized for mixed breeds. There are various other testing companies, but we suggest taking your time to research each. Pay close attention to customer reviews to get the best idea of what you’re getting.

8.   Dog DNA Tests Don’t Work for Cats

Need a DNA test for your cat right meow? Well, sorry to say… dog DNA test won’t work on kitty. You will need to find a company that specializes in cat DNA. There are companies like Basepaws that offer cat DNA tests. Unfortunately, unlike dogs, cats have not been studied very much. So, there is limited data on our feline friends. But, do not despair! As time goes on, more data collected will informs tests.

9.   It Won’t Tell You How Big Your Pup Will Get

Every animal is different. Just like humans, our DNA doesn’t tell us how tall we’ll get or how large we’ll be. DNA gives a generalized indication of some known traits. The same is true for dog DNA tests. If you REALLY want a good, accurate test, check out a database that has a good amount of data on various breeds. But, as with anything, the more elaborate the test, the more it will cost you. Our advice? Only DNA tests from tried and true companies with good reputations.

10.   What to Expect When You Perform the Test

Every dog DNA test is different, but generally, when a test arrives to your home, you can expect a few things. First, most tests are a swab test, not a blood test. So yay for not having to deal with icky blood. Most tests will advise to wait at least a few hours after your dog’s last meal. Then, you swab the inside of their cheek using the swab in the kit. Following that, you’ll pack the DNA sample back into the kit and ship it per the directions. After some time, you will get an email or letter in the mail with your pup’s DNA results.

The Bottom Line

A dog DNA test is a fun way to learn more about your furry friend! As long as your expectations about results are reasonable, you’ll be delighted with the feedback you get. Animal genetics is growing in a big way and soon you’ll learn more than ever about your pet. We foresee dog and cat DNA tests growing in popularity and accuracy.