If you’ve ever wondered what breeds are in your beloved dog’s makeup, you might’ve considered getting your furry friend a pet DNA test. How accurate is a dog DNA test? Is testing worth the money? Is it a reliable tool to help you determine the breed of your pooch?
A lot of people have purchased these kits in recent years, for breed identification and other reasons. If you’re one of the many pet parents thinking of buying a testing kit, these are all legitimate questions.
Here’s a look at some of the answers to these questions. Hopefully, they’ll help you determine whether buying a dog DNA test kit is something you should consider.
A Brief Explanation Of A Dog’s DNA And Genes
Before you buy a testing kit, it might be helpful to have at least some understanding of what DNA actually is. In a nutshell, DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a sort of instruction book that tells a living being how it’s supposed to look and function. Every living animal has DNA. It’s found in nearly every cell. DNA is basically the thing that makes every breed of dog different from every other breed. But it is also responsible for making each dog unique in their own way.1
A gene is a portion of DNA. It provides instructions that tell the body how to make a specific molecule, such as a protein. Proteins eventually help build structures such as teeth and bones. Every dog – and every other animal, for that matter – carries two copies of a gene. One comes from the dog’s father, while the other comes from the mother. Genes play a major role in creating the unique features of your pup.2
Dog DNA Testing Accuracy And Reliability: Can You Gauge Your Dog’s Health With A Dog DNA Test Kit?
Plenty of dog parents have purchased a dog DNA test kit to determine their dog’s breed and received very accurate results. Many of them also believe a test kit can also give them a picture of their pet’s health. They believe a canine DNA test can give them an idea of potential issues that may crop up, issues that might be specific to a certain breed.3
That could very well be the case. However, some worry that while the kits are good for breed identification, they aren’t reliable enough to properly inform dog parents of potential hereditary disorders. They say test kits should never guide any medical decisions – a pet parent should never make any choices regarding their dog’s health without first talking to a vet.4
Another issue some point to is the fact that DNA testing for dogs isn’t regulated. There are a lot of test kit providers that are reputable, but some aren’t. There is no independent organization set up to verify the accuracy and reliability of testing kits.5 So, like with a lot of products you can purchase online or in a store, you should do a little research before you buy a canine DNA test.
This isn’t to suggest that you shouldn’t purchase a testing kit if you’re interested. Just do a little homework, so you can have the best possible idea that the kit you buy will be worth the money (testing kits can cost anywhere from about $60 to nearly $200).6
How Does A Dog DNA Test Kit Actually Work?
Once you’re confident you’ve picked the right pet DNA test, getting a DNA sample should be easy.
A test kit will typically include a brush that you use to collect cells from your dog’s mouth. You simply run the brush along the inside of your dog’s cheek, and send the sample to the company that sold you the kit, so that it can be analyzed in a lab. Once the analysis is complete, the company will send you a report that tells you the results. It usually takes a few weeks for results to arrive.7
Testing kits usually arrive in a box which includes instructions and equipment needed for getting the DNA sample. You’ll usually need to swab your dog’s cheek between 20 and 60 seconds, depending on the instructions. Once you get the sample, you’ll put it in a test tube and mail it to the company. There, it will be processed by a lab technician. When it comes to breed identification, most testing companies claim to be between 95-99 percent accurate.8
Can You Use A Dog DNA Test For Mixed Breed Dogs And Puppies?
You don’t have to own an Entlebucher Mountain Dog or another purebred pooch. If you have a mixed breed dog, it might be great fun to have them take a DNA test. A DNA test kit is designed to show the exact makeup of your beloved companion. It might show you, for example, that your dog is 58 percent Poodle, 32 percent Terrier, and 10 percent Siberian Husky.
However, pet parents who want to use a DNA kit to prove they have purebred dogs will be disappointed. Testing kits aren’t designed for that purpose.9
How Can Breed Identification Benefit You And Your Pet? Screening For Health Risks In Certain Dog Breeds
As you learned earlier, no pet parent should ever make medical decisions for their dog based on the results of a dog DNA testing kit. Always talk to your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s health. However, a DNA test might give you an idea of their potential health risks.
Once you receive your results, take them to your vet. The results could help guide your vet regarding certain issues that could affect your dog. A testing kit, for instance, could tell you your dog has a type of genetic mutation that could make it dangerous for them to receive certain medications.10
Don’t be alarmed if your pet’s test shows a genetic mutation. It doesn’t mean your dog will automatically have a health problem. No one can predict how genes will affect any specific animal. Just make sure your vet knows, so they can take whatever steps are necessary to ensure your dog’s good health.11
Other Benefits Of DNA Testing For Pet Parents: Discover New Personality Traits You May Have Overlooked
A mixed-breed dog, of course, is made up of different breeds. Each of these breeds has its own specific physical traits and personality traits.
A testing kit can let you know the breeds that make up your dog, so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. It can, for example, give you a picture of your dog’s exercise needs, temperament, and more. The results might also help you put together a diet plan that could help keep your pet healthy and happy for years to come, no matter what your dog’s breed (or breeds) may be.12
So, while dog parents should never make a rash decision regarding a dog’s veterinary care due to the results of DNA testing, it appears these tests might be an important tool when it comes to health screening. DNA testing can also tell you your dog’s breed mixture. The results will give you a picture of your companion you might not have seen before.