Complete Guide to DNA Testing for Dogs and Pets

ByTop10.com StaffNov.12, 2018

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DNA testing for pets
DNA testing isn’t only for humans anymore. Pet owners who are curious about their dog’s breed or cat’s ancestry can turn to DNA testing to learn more about their pet’s history. Our comprehensive guide to dog and pet DNA testing covers all you need to know to find the best DNA test for your pet.

What is a DNA Test for Dogs and Pets?

Just like humans, our pets also have a unique DNA profile which is inherited from their parents. By analyzing a cheek saliva swab or the cells in a hair sample or blood sample, scientists can break down details about an animal’s species, genetic health, and other important details.

What Are the Top 5 Dog DNA Tests?

1. GPS Origins

GPS Origins offers 2 DNA tests for dogs, both costing $125. The Health Screen and Life Plan scans your pet’s DNA for over 150 genetic diseases and health traits, including tendencies to react to some medications. The Mixed-Breed Identification DNA Test and Life Plan tells your dog’s breed in percentages, predicts his/her final weight, and gives only basic health profiling information. It also offers nutritional advice and breed-specific games. Your dog’s DNA is compared against a database of 220 breeds. Both test kits include easy to use cheek saliva swabs and take around 3 weeks to deliver results.

2. Who'zTheDaddy?

You can choose between 3 different canine DNA tests. The Inherited Diseases Test takes about 7 days and costs from $75 for the first test and $40 for each additional test for the same dog. It checks for the 9 most common canine genetic diseases in specific breeds.

The Dog Parentage Test checks the sire of your puppy. It costs $198 and uses 21 genetic markers to return a definitive answer. If you're concerned about distinguishing between closely related potential sires, it will check 28 markers. It takes 10 business days to get an answer.

To discover the breed and ancestry of your mixed-breed dog, you’ll want the DNA My Dog Test. Costing $79 and taking 2-3 weeks to provide a response, the test compares your dog’s DNA sample against a massive database of dog breeds. Your response will provide up to 5 levels of dog breeds, with levels 1 and 2 showing the majority breed.

All 3 tests use a simple cheek swab saliva sample.

3. HomeDNAdirect

The Dog Parentage Test uses 16 genetic markers to return an answer that either qualifies or does not qualify your dog's parentage. This test costs $198 and takes 10 business days to process.

The Dog Breed DNA Test returns information about your dog’s breed, graded across 5 levels with level one showing the breed which makes up 75% of your dog’s heritage. It also tells you about your dog’s health tendencies, temperament, and personality traits. Expect to pay $75 and wait around 2-3 weeks for results, from receipt of your DNA sample.

Home DNA Direct’s Inherited Diseases Test checks for 9 common inherited diseases. It costs $75 for the first test but only $39 for every additional test for the same dog, and you’ll have to wait 7 days for the results.

4. International Biosciences

International Biosciences’ 3 dog DNA tests all use a simple, non-invasive cheek saliva swab. The DNA My Dog Breed Test takes 2-3 weeks to give you a breakdown of the different levels of dog breeds that make up your canine’s genetic history. A breed that is present at 75% or more is classed as Level 1, while any breed with less than a 5% presence is considered level 5. It also tells you the health issues and temperament that can affect your mongrel.

The Dog Parentage test costs $198, takes 10 business days to process, and uses 16 genetic markers. If you're concerned about closely related sires, it will test for another 13 markers. The Inherited Disease and Trait test costs $75 for the first test and $31 for each extra test for the same dog. It takes 7 days to process and combines checking for a tendency toward genetic diseases along with information about your dog's traits and temperament. 

International Biosciences is the only company to offer Dog Allergy Testing, which checks your dog’s DNA cheek swab for sensitivity to over 100 common allergens. The test costs $99.

5. Embark

Embark uses a simple cheek swab sample to carry out one comprehensive DNA test that returns information about your dog’s breed, health tendencies, traits and temperament, and more. It tests for over 160 health conditions and over 175 breeds, including wolf, coyote, and dingo and is the only company that tests for village dog. Results take 2-7 weeks to arrive via email, and the test costs $199. 

How Do You Perform a DNA Test on Your Pet?

Once you’ve decided to do a DNA test on your pet, the process is pretty straightforward.

  1. Buy a DNA testing kit and read the instructions carefully.
  2. Swab the inside of your dog or cat’s cheek with the enclosed brush or scraper to get a saliva or cell sample.
  3. Carefully package your pet’s DNA sample according to the instructions. You might need to pack it in a tube, let it air dry, or wrap it in a particular way to preserve the genetic material.
  4. Send your pet's DNA sample to the company's address, and prepare to wait. It commonly takes about 6-8 weeks to get a reply, usually via email, about your pet’s genetic makeup.

What Can You Learn from a Pet DNA Test?

A pet DNA test can tell you more than you'd expect about your furry or even feathered friend. Here is some potential information you can discover from your pet DNA test:

  • Your dog or cat’s breed. If you own a rescue cat or dog or just have a simple ‘mongrel’ mutt, a pet DNA test can tell you the main types of dog or cat—do you have a Persian Blue in disguise or a playful Labrador-cross?
  • Your pet's sex. This is particularly relevant for birds since it's often difficult to tell if you have a male or female. DNA testing uncovers male or female chromosomes to give you a definitive answer.
  • Your pet’s genetic health profile. Persian cats have a tendency to develop Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), and some dog breeds like collies are likely to react badly to certain common medicines. Knowing your pet’s inherited health issues means that you’re better able to be proactive in treating them.
  • An animal’s potential size and characteristics. If you’re thinking of adopting a rescue dog, you might want to know how big it will grow and its potential temperament.
  • Your pet’s health needs. Knowing your dog or cat’s breed means that you can make sure that they get enough exercise and the best kind of pet food for their type.

What’s the Difference Between Dog DNA Tests and Other Pet DNA Tests?

All DNA tests are similar in that they all analyze DNA samples for unique genetic markers. But, dog DNA tests only test for canine markers, so there’s no use testing the system by sending your cat’s DNA instead. Cat DNA tests look at feline markers, but they usually also use a cheek saliva swab. There are also equine (horse) DNA tests, which use the root of the horse’s hair, and bird DNA tests, which analyze the bird’s toenail clippings or feather root.

Are Pet DNA Tests Accurate?

Everyone wants to know whether they can rely on the results of their dog DNA test. Like human DNA tests, some are more accurate than others. Most pet DNA tests are pretty accurate, but their reliability depends on a few issues:

  • The quality of the DNA sample, so it’s important to follow instructions correctly
  • The number of genetic markers examined by the test company
  • How many breeds are in the test company’s database—the more breeds, the more accurate the results will be
  • Whether your dog is a first or second generation from a purebred. The purer the breed, the more reliable the results

Embark on Your Pet's Journey

Whether you’re curious about your mongrel’s breeds, want to know more about how to keep your pet healthy, or need to check your puppy’s sire, there’s a dog DNA test that provides reliable and accurate results. Indulge your curiosity today.