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Dog DNA tests: A vet's guide to everything you need to know

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We love our mixed breed pups! If you’ve got a dog who is a true mutt, then you may have considered carrying out dog DNA tests and avoiding all the guesswork.

With dog DNA testing, not only can you find out which breeds are contributing to your dog’s unique features, but you can also learn a lot of useful information about your pup’s health and genetic background that make up his or her unique mix.

DNA testing is easy and can be performed with the right dog DNA test kit from the comfort of your own home, so your dog won’t even need to make a special visit to the veterinary clinic. Before you buy your test kit, read on to learn more about the ins and outs of dog DNA testing. 

What do DNA tests check for? 

One of the main reasons pet owners choose to DNA test their dogs is to find out which breeds make up a mixed breed dog’s DNA.  This can give pet owners a lot of essential information about the dog’s expected size, temperament, energy levels, and trainability.  

Some genetic tests even connect you with your dog’s close relatives, so you can have fun tracking down your pup’s siblings!  Knowing your dog’s genetic makeup is also useful should you ever need proof of your dog’s breed, such as when renting an apartment or purchasing homeowner’s insurance.

Why DNA test your dog?

Not only is it fun to see what breed your dog is, but you can also learn a lot about your dog’s health from a dog DNA test. Different breeds are predisposed to different health conditions, so knowing a dog’s genetic background can help both pet owners and veterinarians be more cognizant of potential risk factors that may play a role in a particular dog’s health and behavior.

Some dog DNA tests look for genetic markers of certain diseases, which can be a useful tool for you and your veterinarian to plan your pet’s future veterinary care. If you plan on breeding your dog, genetic testing is recommended to screen for diseases which could be passed on to your dog’s offspring.

what breed is my dog? how to identify any breed of dog

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My dog is a purebred – why do I need a DNA test? 

Even purebred dogs can benefit from genetic testing!  In addition to DNA tests to evaluate which breeds are in your dog’s genetic makeup, many dog DNA testing companies offer health screening profiles which evaluate your dog for genetic markers of specific diseases. 

 Some testing companies also offer “purebred profiles” or “breed specific profiles”, which test for diseases known to be common in your dog’s specific breed.  Remember, if your dog tests positive for one of these genetic markers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she will definitely develop the disease in question.  You and your veterinarian should discuss the test results and your dog’s risk factors to determine the best course of action for your dog’s future veterinary care. 

Where to get a DNA dog test  

With the new commercially available DNA test kits, it’s easier than ever to have your dog DNA tested.  Just purchase a dog DNA test kit of your choosing – either online, at the pet store, or through your veterinary clinic.  There are several test kits available on the market today, so be sure to do your research or talk to your veterinarian in advance to find a kit that is both accurate and offers the type of testing you want for your dog. 

How much does it cost to DNA test a dog? 

Test kits cost typically cost up to $200, depending on the type of testing you’d like to have done. Once you receive your test kit, follow the included instructions to submit your dog’s DNA sample. This typically involves swabbing the inside of your dog’s cheek and sending the swab back to the testing company by mail.

dog breeds

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How long does a dog DNA test take to come back? 

After the company receives your sample, you will typically receive your results within 3-4 weeks.

Are dog DNA tests accurate? 

Although dog DNA testing can provide a wealth of information about your dog’s genetic background, it is important to remember that dog DNA tests are not 100% accurate at this stage. 

 However, some DNA tests are more accurate than others, so be sure to do your research and choose a reputable product, or ask your veterinarian for a product recommendation before purchasing a test kit.  In general, you get what you pay for, so be wary of products and prices that seem too good to be true.  

More importantly, no matter how accurate the test, it’s critical for pet owners to understand that a positive test result on a genetic test does not necessarily mean that their dog is going to develop a particular disease.  

Pet owners should use caution and avoid over-interpreting their dog’s test results, because a correlation between a particular gene and a certain disease does not necessarily mean that gene causes the disease.  It is best for pet owners to go over their dog’s genetic testing results with their veterinarian, so that any concerns can be addressed and an appropriate plan for the dog’s care can be made moving forward.

Conclusion

Dog DNA testing is still very much in its infancy, and more research is needed to help improve the accuracy of these tests.  Nevertheless, dog DNA testing provides a plethora of useful information for both the pet owner and the veterinarian. 

 A DNA test for your dog can not only identify your dog’s breed, but can also tell you about your dog’s close relatives, predict your dog’s personality and physical traits, and evaluate your dog for genetic markers of dozens of diseases.  

Evaluating these results with your veterinarian will help you interpret any positive tests results and make the best possible choices for your dog’s future veterinary and wellness care.  

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Since obtaining her doctorate in veterinary medicine, Dr. Racine has worked exclusively in small animal general practice. Her work has been featured in blog posts, articles, newsletters, journals, and even video scripts.