A Guide To DNA Testing For Dogs

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Have you ever wondered about the genetic makeup of your mixed breed dog?

You’re not the only one — and buying the best dog DNA test is the way to find out exactly what type of dog you have.

dog breed dna test

Determining a breed by physical appearance alone can be misleading, therefore it’s no surprise that more and more dog owners are using DNA testing to discover more about their dog’s genetic makeup.


New advances in technology mean that a dog breed DNA test no longer requires an expensive trip to the vet — there are now a variety of affordable kits available for home use that can be bought easily online or in pet stores.

Here’s a quick look at how the top 4 dog DNA test kits compare against each other:

 Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0 most accurate dog dna testEmbark Dog DNA Test
dna testing for dogs
DNAffirm
dog breed dna kit
Wisdom Panel 2.0
dog dna testing
Breed Database>250 breeds200,000 genetic markers90 breeds>250 breeds
Tests for Genetic Mutations?NoYesNoNo
Turnaround Time2-3 weeks6-8 weeks2 weeks3 weeks
Price$$$$$$$$$

Let’s find out more…

Why Buy a Dog DNA Test Kit?

Natural curiosity aside, there are some very important reasons why you may want to invest in a dog breed DNA test.

Breed Temperament

Knowing what breeds make up a mixed mutt’s heritage can be extremely valuable information — particularly if your dog is young and you want to know in advance how he might turn out as a mature dog.

The results of a DNA test for dogs can be used to research the breeds in your dog’s genetic makeup and give you helpful indicators.

For example you will be better equipped to determine the unique temperament of your pet — whether he will make a good family dog or a good guard dog. Knowing your dog’s lineage can help with training methods too — for example a dog with Border Collie genes will respond better to certain types of training and socializing than a Chow Chow mix might.

These results can also help ascertain the amount of exercise and food your dog needs, what kind of games he prefers playing, or whether he will be happy to be left alone while you are at work.

Possible Genetic Diseases

DNA testing for dogs can also flag up potential genetic health issues (for example neurological issues or hereditary blindness) or diseases your dog may be susceptible to, enabling you to discuss them with your veterinarian and anticipate your dog’s future needs.

This is particularly crucial if you are considering breeding from your pet, as you must be sure not to pass on any hereditary defects or risks to potential puppies.

If you have a large dog, you might have worried about the possibility of your dog developing hip dysplasia.

This genetic disease is sadly common in dogs like Labradors, Golden Retriever Huskies, Great Danes and other large hounds. Essentially, it’s where the hip joint is malformed, which will lead to pain and difficulty moving as your dog ages. This will obviously greatly impact their life.

If you’re able to buy the most accurate dog DNA test and discover that your mutt has some Labrador heritage, for instance, you can use this knowledge to proactively defend against the onset of hip dysplasia, with supplements, vet visits and the like.

Dog Breed Identification

More and more commonly, dog DNA testing is being used as a foolproof means of identifying your dog. Once he has a genetic profile it can be stored as a permanent record throughout his life.

It can be used in the same way as a fingerprint for humans – each dog has a totally unique profile. This can be an effective means of identifying your four legged friend if he gets lost, or if he is stolen.

dna testing for dogs

How to Find the Most Accurate Dog DNA Test

When choosing the right DNA test for your dog, there are several factors to take into account.

Procedures may vary from test to test, and not all tests have the same number of breeds that can be identified in their database.

There are also differences in how long it will take for you to receive your results, the way the results are presented, and of course, price.

Vets use blood tests to get the necessary genetic information required for a DNA test, but home dog DNA tests require cheek swab samples.

This is a mostly accurate and simple procedure, although owners must be careful to avoid contaminating the swabs. With blood testing the chances of contamination are greatly reduced.

Taking a cheek swab sample from your pooch is quick and painless (although it can sometimes be a little tricky if your dog doesn’t like having things in his mouth).

Home dog DNA test kits provide special swabs which should be rubbed on the inside of your dog’s cheek for around 30 seconds (tests usually include more than one swab to assure greater accuracy), which you then package up and send off to the laboratory at the address provided.

Results normally take between 2 and 3 weeks to arrive depending on the test used.

These can often be surprising, leading some owners to question the accuracy of such dog DNA tests.

However most DNA tests can identify the majority of breeds in a dog with considerable accuracy, although it is far easier to achieve accurate results for a dog with at least one purebred parent or grandparent than it is for a dog with a wide variety of breeds mixed together.


The Best DNA Tests for Dogs

Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit

One of the bestselling dog DNA testing kits available, Wisdom Panel 3.0 owes its high accuracy to the huge genetic database of over 250 dog breeds it uses to determine results.

This test works by using a simple cheek swab to collect skin samples, which is then delivered free of charge to the laboratory.

The test also includes weight indicators for dogs and puppies to help you determine correct diet and exercise regimes, and MDR1 drug sensitivity screening (important to avoid the risk of adverse drug reactions) is included as part of the price.

After 2-3 weeks, mixed breed dogs will receive a report of their breed heritage as far back as their great-grandparents, with profiles to explain in detail each of the breeds in their lineage and their traits.

It’s no surprise that this is routinely considered the best dog DNA test on the market: it’s very accurate, quick and provides detailed information that you likely won’t have known before.

Pros

  • Great customer care
  • Clean, sophisticated results report design
  • Accurate – uses large database
  • Interactive online breed report can be downloaded as PDF
  • Affordable price
  • Fast results

Cons

  • No genetic mutation testing

dna test for dogs

Embark Dog DNA Test

This comprehensive, cutting edge dog DNA test has a solid scientific grounding.

This test is one of a kind and uses around 200,000 genetic markers to provide detailed information about the breeds that make up your dog’s ancestry as well testing for over 160 genetic diseases (including Multi-Drug Sensitivity, cardiovascular issues and glaucoma). This is a step-up on the Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0 above, which can’t provide any information on genetic mutations.

The results of this thorough testing are provided in detailed reports which can be shared with your veterinarian, an interactive guide, and an user-friendly app.

The one major downside to this dog breed DNA test is undoubtedly the long turnaround time –anywhere between 6 to 8 weeks. What a drag! It’s is comprehensive, however, and some dog owners consider it the most accurate dog DNA test kit out there right now.

Here’s a great video of someone using the Embark test kit to test whether their dog is a husky or malamute:

Pros

  • Extremely accurate
  • Each purchase contributes funding and genetic testing to animal shelters
  • Results are updated retrospectively as new information becomes available
  • Includes weight prediction
  • Can estimate your dog’s age
  • Results contribute to science
  • Excellent, detailed reports

Cons

  • Comparatively expensive
  • Long turnaround time for results (6-8 weeks)

dna test for dogs

DNAffirm Dog DNA – Canine Breed Identification Test

This simple dog DNA test kit uses a database of around 90 different dog breeds. This is a significantly smaller database than the Mars Veterinary Wisdom Panel 3.0, so it simply doesn’t have the manpower to be quite as accurate.

It is a good, cheap dog DNA test, however — great for owners on a budget or those satisfied with potentially less definite results.

Swab your dog’s cheek with the kit provided and send off the sample to receive results around 2 weeks after the laboratory receives your sample.

The results are presented as a custom photo certificate detailing the main breeds that make up your pooch, along with a report on his character traits and possible health issues.

Pros

  • Cheaper than other dog DNA tests
  • Simple cheek swab test
  • Attractive custom certificate including a photo of your dog, with information regarding their DNA composition
  • Great if you just want basic information

Cons

  • Health and personality information is not very detailed
  • Smaller breed database so possibly less accurate and detailed results than other tests

dna test for dogs

Wisdom Panel 2.0 Breed Identification DNA Test Kit

Very similar to the Wisdom Panel 3.0 DNA test kit, this previous version uses the same testing and analysis methods but with slightly less sophisticated result reports.

To be honest, we’d recommend you go for the 3.0 instead if you’re torn between the two: this doesn’t represent quite as good value for money as the latest one does.

Pros

  • Excellent customer service
  • Simple to use
  • Accurate – uses large genetic database
  • Affordable price
  • Fast results

Cons

  • More basic reports than the newer updated version of the test (Wisdom 3.0)
  • Similar price to the newer updated version of the test

dna test for dogs


Have you tried the best dog DNA test yet?

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4 Comments

  1. Michal Kline on

    Hmmm I wish I had read this earlier. I just bought the Wisdom 2.0 panel but it looks like the 3.0 is a much better deal. Do you know if I can exchange it? I have a large mutt, but no real idea what her mother or father were! She’s very pretty though.

    • Hi Michal,

      Did you buy it from Amazon? If so, you may be able to return it under their returns policy. You’ll have to check with the documentation you received when it arrived. Your mutt sounds lovely!

  2. This is so funny, I just bought an Embark dna test to see if my Bella is a husky or a malamute!! Love that you included that video 🙂

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