Did you ever wonder if your dog is really 100% bulldog? Curious about just which breeds were combined to create your marvelous mutt? Concerned that your precious pug might be at risk for an inherited condition like canine hip dysplasia?
You no longer have to wonder about any of this, as a dog DNA testing kit can answer all of these questions for you and more.
What are the main benefits for DNA testing my dog?
The purpose of canine DNA testing is rather different than for humans. The now popular DNA tests for us are about curiosity and discovering our heritage. And while dog DNA tests can do that too, and the results can be truly fascinating, that's a benefit for us humans, not your pup.
The main benefit of DNA testing for your dog comes from the ability to test your dog for various gene specific disorders so that should something crop up it can be properly addressed as soon as possible.
Pet parents do use these tests for other important reasons as well though. Some have made use of them to 'prove' that their pet was not a member of a 'banned breed' in those unfortunate areas where breeds like the pitbull are (unfairly) outlawed.
Others have made use of them to 'test' a breeder's honesty and find out if their very expensive new companion is really as purebred as claimed (usually in order to sue, not to stop adoring the dog).
Are canine DNA tests accurate?
Research into the accuracy of dog DNA tests has produced varying opinions.
Many reports concluded that the larger dog DNA database a company maintains, the more accurate the results are likely to be.
How much does it cost to DNA test a dog?
The cost of a dog DNA test currently varies from around $60 to around $200 and up.
Some research has claimed that the more expensive the service the greater the accuracy, but this is something that is still being hotly debated.
How do dog DNA kits work?
Most dog DNA kits work in a very similar way. In order to obtain the DNA you'll need swabs from the inside of your pooch's cheek, preferably taken an hour or so after they eat. Some kits offer swabs to collect the DNA samples, others offer small sponges.
Once you have collected the DNA according to the guidelines offered in the kit you are instructed to mail it off to the 'lab' and await the results. Eventually you are provided with a report of the findings, usually by mail.
How long does it take to get a dog DNA results back?
How long it takes to get the results depends very much upon the DNA testing company you choose to make use of.
However, on average, you'll get the answers you are looking for within 21-30 days.
The best dog DNA test kit reviews
As the concept of dog DNA testing becomes more and more popular so does the number of options you have when it comes to the sheer number of dog DNA testing kits that are out there to choose from.
Here though is a look at some of the most popular and best reviewed currently available on the market.
1. Embark Dog DNA Testing Kit Review
Embark is one of the most expensive dog DNA testing kits on the market, but if you remember back to the research we mentioned much of it has concluded that this may make it one of the best choices, as a more expensive service is likely to maintain a larger DNA database and offer more detailed results.
But is that really the case?
The kit you receive is certainly comprehensive. You even get a special dog tag that will, when your dog's tests are complete, be linked to their only DNA profile so in the event that he was to get lost anyone finding him could 'look him up' online. Embark's tests are accepted by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for all conditions where OFA has an established DNA registry.
The testing process is relatively straightforward - you are given a medical grade swab kit that is easy enough to use - and setting up that all important online account that everything will link to is as simple as linking your Facebook or Google profiles.
Sending in the sample is easy - the postage is even prepaid - and you do receive a notification when the lab has your kit (which is nice). The results, however, can take between 4-6 weeks to arrive, which is a little slow, but given how complex the report it when it finally arrives the extra processing time is rather understandable.
In addition to the mailed report you are also given access to the Embark website where you can research your pup’s results in even more detail - a lot of detail in fact - as well as activate that special tracking tag that came with your package purchase.
- The company was founded and is run by geneticist brothers who had already spent years working in the canine genetics field. As one of them is a University professor the DNA sampling database they have been able to assemble is very detailed and precise.
- Embark offers the largest DNA database of any of the companies offering dog DNA tests; 250+ breeds and 165 problem genetic markers and even offers a genetic age estimate.
- Well packaged kit that includes free postage and a special tag that links to the pup's DNA test results.
- An expensive choice.
- The results can be a little overwhelming to wade through.
Embark is the most comprehensive of the DNA testing kits for dogs available right now. Research has almost overwhelmingly also found it to be the most accurate you can purchase right now as well.
There are a lot of results and reporting, perhaps more than the average pet parent actually needs, but if the reason you are considering testing is medical in nature then those results alone are worth both the money spent on the kit and the time it takes to decipher the results.
2. Wisdom Panel Health Canine breed and disease review
There are actually two versions of the Wisdom Panel canine DNA testing kit available: Wisdom Panel 4.0: Breed Detection Kit and Wisdom Panel Health: Breed + Disease Detection Kit. In order to make things as useful as possible here we took a look at the latter as it claims to offer the same medical results as other 'complex' kits like Embark.
The test claims it will be able to test your pup's DNA against 200+ dog breeds and for 150 genetic problems and mutations. That's a few less than Embark but still more than enough for most people. The test also offers a 2-3 generation glimpse at what your pup's lineage is.
The collection kit is compact and the swabs easy to use. It's also a rather nice bonus that the packaging the kit comes in is also the packaging you send the kit back in.
The results seem a little less scientific than those offered by some of the other kits - especially Embark - as there is a lot of talk about computer algorithms and not so much about science - but it's worth noting that one 'tester', who 'disguised' his pup to test popular dog DNA kits several times stated that Wisdom Panel was the only option that returned the same results for the same (disguised) dog twice. However, he also felt the results were not as detailed.
Speaking of results, those offered are comprehensive but the report is a little easier to read. This is especially true of the medical side of the results. The report takes 2-4 weeks to arrive, which is quite fast and when it does it is nicely, but simply presented.
As is the case with the Embark kit you are also given access to a ‘results’ website that lets you delve into your pup’s results in a little more detail. One nice touch? Dog food recommendations based on genetics. It should be noted here that the company is actually owned by the Mars Corporation - a major dog food manufacturer - so the actual products recommended are a little biased, but it’s a handy resource to have.
- Comprehensive test offers access to DNA information on 200+ breeds and 150 genetic conditions.
- Results arrive quite quickly.
- Results are clear and easy to understand.
- Fewer health tests offered than some competitors.
- Breed test results may not be quite as detailed.
As a lower priced alternative to Embark Wisdom Panel is a solid choice and may even be preferable to some as the results are much easier to decipher. The extra offerings on the post results website are also rather helpful as well, and certainly very interesting.
3. DNA My Dog Breed Identification Test REVIEW
This test is one of the least expensive on the market and therefore, not surprisingly, it is one of the least complex. It is a kit designed for those who are just curious about their pup's breed lineage and does not offer medical testing for genetic markers.
That having been said, that is all some people are looking for. It should be noted here that you will NOT receive a written report, or a breed certificate, in the mail - as is the case for many of the other kits - and everything is based digitally so ensuring you include the correct email address when you send your test in is a must.
The testing kit is easy to use and postage is paid when you send it back. Your emailed results arrive within 2 weeks and your dog will be tested against around 95 other breeds. When you do get your results there is no website to log into, you are simply sent three printable PDFs.
- Inexpensive and easy to use.
- Test results come in very quickly
- Very small genetic database when compared to competitors.
- No permanent website stores results.
This is a basic, inexpensive kit that is just right for those who are simply interested in discovering more about 'who' their dog is. However, those worried about genetic conditions will need to buy one of the more expensive option.
Embark VS Wisdom Panel VS DNA My Dog Comparison
Here’s a quick look at just how the dog DNA tests we looked at stacked up overall on some of the most important points.
Wisdom Panel Health Canine Breed + Disease
DNA My Dog