Have you ever wondered whether your labradoodle is more labrador retriever than poodle? Or which breed the "mix" in your shih tzu mix could be? Getting a dog DNA test will finally help you answer all those people who stop you on the street to ask what breed your beloved pooch is. And that's not all, getting a DNA test for your dog can unlock some seriously helpful information, like potential genetic risks and disorders to look out for and get ahead of before they become serious issues.
The best part is that these dog DNA tests aren’t invasive or uncomfortable for your dog. All you have to do is swap your dog’s cheek a few times and send back the sample. In a few weeks, you’ll get your results and, hopefully, the answers you were searching for. Even though DNA tests can tell you so much about your pet, Dr. Katja Lang, a veterinarian at Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Hospital in Manhattan, points out that they’re not perfect. “A DNA test can give you a lot of information,” she says. But “any abnormal result should be followed up with a confirmation test to a lab that specializes in that genetic disease” to make sure the results are accurate.
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A Dog DNA test can help identify your dog's breed. Most kits analyze a large array of dog breeds and break down breeds into percentages. While the breeds themselves are mostly accurate, the percentages may vary between which brand of DNA kit you use.
Most tests include a genetic mutation test to assess potential health risks. When it comes to your dog’s health issues, one of the most important things DNA tests can tell you is if your dog has an MDR1 gene mutation, which means they could experience multiple drug sensitivities. Breeds that are most commonly affected by the MDR1 gene mutation are Australian Shepherds and Collies, though other breeds could be affected. “If your pup has this mutation, it is more difficult for them to process certain drugs, including ivermectin which is in some heartworm preventative medication,” says Dr. Lang.
DNA tests can also test for Von Willebrand disease, which is “an inherited blood disorder that affects many breeds, but the poster child is the Doberman Pinscher,” says Dr. Lang. Another common disease that’s tested for dogs is degenerative myelopathy, a neurologic disease that can affect any type of dogs, but is more common in pugs and German Shepherds. Some DNA tests even have the ability to screen for hundreds of health conditions, which can put you one step closer to ensuring your pup has a long and healthy life. To find out which DNA test could be best for you, here are a few on the market that reviewers are loving.
Some dog DNA test kits have options to test for allergies your dog may have. Allergies can include be to both food and environment, and these types of tests can help you make more informed decisions for your dog's nutritional and lifestyle needs.
Some dog DNA tests allow you to test for your dog's true genetic age. This is particularly helpful for adopted dogs whose ages may be estimated.
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Wisdom Panel has two options for DNA tests: an essential and a premium version. The essential test is under $100 and can identify your dog’s breed mix down to 1% accuracy. The main difference between the essential and premium version ($160) is that the essential can test for 25 medical complications whereas the premium can test for over 200.
This is one of the brands Dr. Lang recommends. Her theory is since the brand is more established, they’ve ironed out most of the kinks in reporting their results. Embark also has two types of tests available: the Breed ID kit ($129) and the Breed + Health kit ($159). The Breed ID kit only helps you identify your dog’s breed mix (and can even help you find its relatives through a family tree feature!), but doesn’t screen for health conditions. The Breed + Health kit has all the features of the Breed ID kit but also screens for over 190 health conditions.
This kit promises to email you a full page of results in under two weeks, which could be great if you need answers fast. Its most basic testing option ($69) helps you understand personality traits of your dog, genetic health concerns, breed mix, and more, though the description for the test kit is not as thorough or clear as some of the other brands on everything the test can uncover. It does, however, send you a custom photo certificate of the dog’s breed composition back to you with results, which is kind of fun. Does your dog look like the dog in the picture?
Some test kits are made specifically to identify allergies in your dog, which can help you make sense of common ailments your dog suffers from, such as conjunctivitis, which can be brought on by allergic reactions. Easy DNA has an allergy test ($99) also includes dietary guidelines for whatever results come back to you so you can make sure to take out any trigger foods from your dog’s dinner.
Another thing you might be curious about if you adopted your dog — besides breed — is your dog’s genetic age. International Biosciences has a test ($80) that focuses on just that. This test can help you understand your dog’s aging process, and make vital health changes to your dog’s regimen and routine based on the information, so you can see which health areas your dog may need improvement in.