Have you ever wondered about those DNA test kits for dogs? If you want to learn more about your dog’s DNA, great grandparents, breed, genetic markers, family tree, and so much more, you may want to give one of these DNA test for dogs a try. You can learn a lot about your dog’s genetic makeup through these kits.
If you’ve ever been asked the question, “what is your dog?”, not knowing the answer to the question yourself, you probably respond with “a mix” or “a mutt” or something along those lines. Knowing your dog’s genetic background can also help you make more informed decisions about their health and care.
Table of Contents
Compare the Best Dog DNA Tests
|Embark Breed + Health Kit
|350+ dog breeds, 190+ health traits
|Online relative finder portal
|Wisdom Panel DNA Test
|350+ dog breeds, 200+ health traits
|DNA My Dog
|100 dog breeds
|Best for low cost, fast turnaround
|HomeDNA Dog DNA Tests
|Database 220 dog breeds, 150 health traits
|Personalized life plan to share with your vet
|Paw Print Genetics
|155+ genetic mutation tests
|Choice of single test or panel of tests
|Cancer screening only
|No waiting period – results in 3 minutes
|Detecting risk of cancer
There are a lot of companies offering dog DNA test kits, so it can be hard to determine which brand is right for you and your pup. We have looked at several of the most popular brands including Embark, Wisdom Panel, DNA My Dog, HomeDNA, and Paw Print Genetics. Read on for more information on each brand to help you make an informed purchase.
How Do You Check a Dog’s DNA?
Dog DNA tests are easy to use. These dog DNA testing kits work in much the same way as popular DNA test kits for people. Several companies make these testing kits for dogs. Most of them come with similar cheek swabbing tools and the instructions for effective sample collection.
Typically, these instructions tell you to swab the inside of your dog’s cheek for up to one minute, place this collection inside the supplied tube or containers, and mail your sample off to the designated lab for evaluation.
Some dogs will be more cooperative than others. If your dog gets fussy or uncomfortable with the process, you may want to have treats handy for afterward. To get the most accurate reading, your dog should not have anything to eat or drink for two hours before the test.
Additionally, your dog should not have contact with other dogs for two hours before the test. Both of these precautions will help to prevent any cross-contamination. Other than that, getting enough of a sample for an accurate result is pretty simple.
What Happens to My Dog’s Sample in the Lab?
Lab technicians will extract your dog’s DNA sample from the cheek swab and enter it into their database. Technicians use a computer algorithm to produce a chart that shows how much of each breed is present in your dog’s DNA. These results will be sent back to you.
In the past, DNA tests were done by collecting a blood sample. Now, doggy DNA testing is completed with a simple check swab. The DNA kits will include cheek swabs for you to use to collect cells from inside your dog’s cheek. Seal the swab with your pup’s sample in the container provided in the kit, and send it back to the company lab for testing.
In the lab, technicians will extract your dog’s DNA sample from the swab. They will use computer programs to identify data and compare it to the DNA data stored in their database.
Canine genomes are comprised of 2.5 billion nucleotides or DNA building blocks. Typically, DNA researchers look at around 200,000 of these genes (called microsatellites). Microsatellites are repeating DNA sequences. These sequences are called single nucleotide polymorphisms. These single nucleotide polymorphisms are what makeup the signatures of specific dog breeds.
In order for the lab technicians to get accurate results, they will need enough of the single nucleotide polymorphisms from enough purebreds of each breed. For this reason, the company’s with larger databases of dog breeds will be able to provide more comprehensive and accurate results for your dog’s sample. They’ll have more to compare your pup’s DNA to, which is where the more accurate results come from. If you are looking for a company with a large database, both Embark and Wisdom Panel brands are the best examples for most dog breeds in their databases.
Are Dog DNA Tests Legit?
The most popular dog DNA testing companies will tell you their results are 95 percent to 99 percent accurate. The reason for the 1 percent to 5 percent discrepancy is in the event of human error, or the event that your dog is a mixed where at least one of the breeds is not in the company’s database.
For example, the popular brand Embark’s database contains over 250 dog breeds. In contrast, value brand, DNA My Dog’s database consists of approximately 100 dog breeds, and a comprehensive testing brand, Wisdom Panel, has about 350 dog breeds in their database. DNA My Dog sticks to only 100 of the most common dog breeds to keep prices low, provide the consumer with quick turnaround time, and support most of the testers’ needs.
Accuracy of results will depend mainly on the pool of references in the company’s database. Most of the time, your dog’s breed will be in their database pool. However, it is possible to have a rare mixed breed that will not match any in the database. If you have adopted a dog from another country outside of the US, your chances of having a rare mixed breed that won’t show up in the system are higher.
Dog DNA Tests & Obedience Training
There are many benefits to learning about your dog’s genetics beyond being able to answer the question, “What breed is your dog?”. For instance, a lot of your dog’s personality is determined by their breed. If your dog is extra energetic, discovering the background of where this energy comes from can help you use this to your advantage during obedience training.
Some dog breeds do well with specific training strategies, while other dog breeds may do better with different training methods. Learning about your dog’s background will help you make decisions about what kind of obedience training methods to use to be more effective.
Dog DNA Testing & Your Dog’s Health
Testing dog DNA with a doggie DNA kit can help you learn about specific medical conditions your dog may have a predisposition to develop. If your dog’s test results come back with a gene variant for a particular medical condition, do not panic. It only means your dog may develop it in the future, not that your dog definitely will.
If your dog’s panel comes back with a gene variant, you should always consult your vet. They can help you come up with the best course of action for your pup. Additionally, the major DNA testing brands have experts that can help you understand the meaning of your dog’s test results.
How Long Does It Take to Get Your Dog’s Results?
Each of the testing kits will have its own time frame for when you should expect results. Typically, though, you should expect results in about four to six weeks. Embark takes a little longer, typically closer to six weeks, while DNA My Dog’s turnaround time is closer to two weeks.
How Much Does It Cost to Get Your Dog’s DNA Tested?
Depending on which doggie DNA test and company you choose, your test kit can cost between $70-$200. On the low end, DNA My Dog has a basic breed identification test kit for $69. The full health screen kit without breed results costs $140. Both the basic dog DNA test plus the full health screen is $189. Embark dog DNA kits are $200. These include the breed results and health screening. Wisdom Panel dog DNA test kits offer a basic test kit for $85 or basic plus disease detection test kit for $150.
What is the Best DNA Test?
We reviewed several dog DNA brands to determine which ones are the best. Read on to find out more about the best dog DNA tests available. Each of the best dog DNA kits works in a similar way, with a simple, easy to use cheek swab. Although the type of dog breed results and the depth of health screening results you get will vary by brand.
Each dog DNA brand has positives and negatives. The best choice depends on your preferences, your dog, and what precisely you want to find out. If you are looking for fast results or the lowest cost test, DNA My Dog may be your best option with the quickest turnaround time.
Wisdom Panel is more expensive and has a longer turnaround time. However, Wisdom Panel also has the most dog breeds in its database. Having more dog breeds in the database means your ability to find out exactly what your dog’s breed blend is will be higher with Wisdom Panel than with DNA My Dog.
Embark has a lot of things you can do in addition to genetic makeup testing. For instance, through the Embark online portal, you can discover your dog’s family tree and connect with your dog’s relatives. With Embark, you can even set up play dates with your pup’s genetic relatives.
DNA My Dog
The DNA My Dog Canine DNA Test is the best option if you are on a budget. For about $70, you get the basic test. The kit comes with two cotton swabs and an envelope to mail them back with your dog’s sample.
The DNA My Dog database has around 100 dog breeds, which is on the low end. The positive of this is that it makes the turnaround time for results approximately two weeks – which is the fastest among all the brands surveyed. The downside is that your dog’s DNA may have some breeds not included in the database, so your results may not be 100% accurate.
Consider these specs:
- 2 swabs, free replacement swabs if damaged
- 100 dog breed database
- Phone/email customer service
The Embark Breed + Health Dog DNA Test uses a research-grade DNA genotype platform to scan 350+ breeds and 190+ genetic health traits. Use a simple cheek swab to discover your dog’s ancestry, breed, relatives, grandparents, and health. Embark’s relative finder is free to use when you purchase a kit. With the online relative finder, you can connect to other pet parents with dogs that share DNA with yours.
Embark is one of the most comprehensive doggy DNA testing services available. Your test will scan for breed identification, ancestry, traits, and risk of disease. Your dog’s results will include a detailed report you can share with your vet to help determine your pup’s best health plan. Embark also uses a percentage of funds for genetic testing in animal shelters around the country.
Another exciting thing about Embark is their ongoing research. Embark works with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Cornell University to conduct genetic testing studies. When you use the Embark DNA test, you can choose to include your pup’s DNA information into the research if you want to be a part of it.
One of Embark’s tests is a whole genome sequencing kit, the only dog DNA kit that will sequence an entire genome. You will keep getting updated information on your dog’s results as Embark continues to conduct more research and obtains more excellent knowledge on doggy DNA.
Consider these specs:
- 350+ breed database
- 190+ health traits
- 1 Gentle cotton swab
- Online Portal
- Relative Finder
Wisdom Panel DNA Test
Wisdom Panel offers two primary DNA test options. You can get the Wisdom Panel Essential or the Wisdom Panel Premium. The Wisdom Panel Essential breed health kit option will test your dog for over 25 medical condition predispositions and over 350 breeds. The Wisdom Premium options tests for all the same things as the Essential test, plus over 200 health risks and your dog’s status as a carrier.
You can choose a breed breakdown only test, or you can choose a breed plus health kit. The breed only test is cheaper, which is excellent for pet parents who are curious about their dog’s breed but prefer not to shell out a ton of money to find out. The test kit comes with simple instructions that are clear and easy to understand. The kit comes with two bristled swabs. Swabs are bristled to get a reliable sample. One drawback is that the bristles may irritate your pup’s mouth more than the cotton swabs in kits from other brands.
Consider these specs:
- 350 breed database
- Two swabs included
- Health screening optional
- Swabs can irritate gums
- 4-week turnaround
HomeDNA Dog DNA Tests
The HomeDNA brand has two options for doggie DNA tests. You can get one specifically for mixed breed dog breed identification. The other DNA test kit is for screening health information. Both kits come with a customized life plan for you to keep and share with your vet.
There is no combo test offered from this brand, so you will have to choose one or the other, or pay for both tests if you want both dog breed identification and genetic disease information. For this reason, if you are looking for a comprehensive option that will give you both breed information and panel health information, you may want to opt for a brand such as Embark instead.
If, however, you are only interested in the dog genetic health screening option, HomeDNA has the best value for this test than either Wisdom Panel or Embark. HomeDNA’s breed test is more expensive than DNA My Dog. However, HomeDNA’s database is much more extensive than DNA My Dog’s database, therefore providing more accurate mixed-breeds results.
Consider these specs:
- 2 Kit options available
- Database 220 dog breeds
- 150 health traits
- 3 Week Turnaround
Paw Print Genetics
The Paw Print Genetics offers the choice of either a single test or a panel of tests to determine your dog’s chances of developing certain diseases. There are also tests available for DNA profiling and parentage. You can use these results to ID your dog in case of them ever getting lost. This company’s website has a lot of information available as well. You can search by dog breed, symptoms, or disease traits. There is a limited number of tests for mixed-breeds and no breed identification test available.
Consider these specs:
- 155+ genetic mutation tests
- Choice of single test or panel of tests
- DNA Profiling
- Pedigree Report and Genetic Health Certificate
- Results available in 2 weeks
The OncoGuarDx test is explicitly designed to measure your dog’s DNA for thermodynamic stability as a cancer detection tool. This test works a little differently than the other at home doggy DNA tests. For this test, you swab your pup’s nose rather than the inside of their check. Then, transfer the swab to the specially treated plate that comes with the kit. In three minutes, you will get your dog’s results through an app.
Unlike other DNA tests, you do not have to send your dog’s sample in and wait weeks for the results to come back. However, this test is for cancer screening only and does not provide additional detailed results like the other tests. As with any test, you should discuss your dog’s genetic results with your veterinarian before pursuing a course of action.
The results of this test will generally put your pup into one of three categories. A score of 80-90 means your dog’s cancer stress level is in an exacerbated health state. 50-60 means your pup’s stress level is at-risk as a sub-optimal health state. A score of 50 or below indicates an average stress level or a steady health state.
Consider these specs:
- Results in 3 minutes
- Screening for cancer risk
DNA Health Testing & Vet Care
You mustn’t make healthcare decisions for your dog based solely on any results. Not all results are 100% accurate due to human error, database limitations, or other circumstances. For instance, if your results show a gene mutation specific to retrievers, it may not apply to your golden retriever, but may instead apply to other kinds of retrievers. This mutation may still show up on your dog’s report.
If you discover health risks or issues on your dog’s DNA results, the best thing to do is first consult the DNA company to get more clarification and discuss these results with your vet. Most of the top DNA brands have gene experts and veterinarians on staff that can answer your questions and help you interpret your results.
How Can a DNA Test Benefit My Dog’s Health?
Each dog breed has its own specific set of characteristics and predispositions. Learning about what mix of dog breeds makes up your dog’s DNA can help both dog owners, and your vet come up with your dog’s best action plan.
When you learn about the specific genetic health conditions common for your dog’s breed, you can learn about the symptoms and early warning signals to watch out for. This knowledge will help you make preventative health decisions and catch illnesses early on.
Do I Need Pet Insurance?
If you find out that your dog could develop certain genetic diseases, talk with your vet first and foremost. Your vet may recommend getting pet insurance if your dog is likely to develop a severe illness to help you pay those medical bills if and when they arise.
SEE ALSO: Is Pet Insurance Worth It?
The best pet insurance may help to save your dog’s life if they are diagnosed with a severe illness in the future. You never want to have to choose between your wallet and your pet’s life. If you decide to get pet insurance, though, make sure to get it early on before your pup is diagnosed with a health condition. This strategy is because pet insurance companies will usually not cover what they call “pre-existing” conditions.
Are There Any Reasons Not To Test My Dog’s DNA?
When you discover your dog’s breed (or a mix of dog breeds), it can help you learn about your dog’s specific personality traits and background, helping you determine appropriate techniques for obedience training. When you identify specific health conditions your dog may be prone to, it can help you and your vet make informed care and treatment decisions.
Finding out your dog may be predisposed to developing certain diseases can be scary or cause anxiety for some pet parents. It is important to note that if you do receive results that identify a predisposition to a specific health condition, it does not mean your dog would get this disease.
Another thing to note is that you should always consult your veterinarian for care plans and treatment considerations, no matter what your results say. Never make a medical decision based on DNA results alone. If you prefer not to know what your pup may be predisposed to in the future, you may not want to get them screened. However, for many pet parents, knowing about these things may help to be prepared for whatever comes.
Depending on where you live, some dog breeds may be restricted from being owned. If you get your dog’s DNA test done and find out that a restricted breed DNA is present in your pup, you may end up with a challenge. In some areas, this could mean being unable to rent or purchase a home. In other cases, it may lead to an increase in homeowner’s insurance.
Another risk to keep in mind is that your results may not always be 100 percent correct. Some things could cause you to get a false result. Some issues that could result in erroneous information include if you did not get a good sample, or if the sample has been contaminated due to your dog eating or drinking or interacting with other dogs before the test. It is not very likely, but it is possible for samples to get mixed up in the lab.
Final Thoughts on the Best Dog DNA Tests
DNA testing for dogs can be great tools for finding out details that will help you make informed decisions about your dog’s training and health plan. It is also fun to find out what breed-mix your pup is and where their behavior patterns come from.
With the variety of tests to choose from, you can find one that is right for you and your pet whether you are on a budget, looking for comprehensive breed identification and health screening, or looking for screening for specific diseases and traits. Just remember to consult your vet before making any medical decisions based on your results.