What to Know Before Buying a DNA Test for Your Mixed Breed Dog

Dog DNA tests have risen in popularity over the last decade as they move from veterinary clinics to direct-to-consumer models. But what exactly can you expect if you order a kit for your own pup? To find the answers to your most asked dog DNA test questions, read on for Freshpet’s answers!

What is a dog DNA test
and how do they work?

Before we get into what dog DNA tests are, we should start with a quick biology lesson. Deoxyribonucleic acid, also known as DNA, carries the ‘blueprint’ for every living organism, and genes are specific segments of DNA that act as the basic unit of heredity – for reference, dogs have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. Now, on to the fun stuff!

DNA tests for dogs are identical to those for humans, with one
small difference: the technology has been adapted to fit the canine genome.
These tests look for markers in your dog’s DNA and compare them to a database
to give insights on breed makeup or health conditions.

All you need to do is order a kit, register the unique code, and use the provided cotton swab to take a sample of your dog’s saliva. After you’ve collected the sample, you can mail it back to the company’s lab where the DNA will be extracted and analyzed.

Why should I do a DNA
test on my mixed-breed dog?

There are a number of reasons why you should do a DNA test on
your mixed-breed dog, including:

  • Breed identification: We love dogs of all shapes and sizes, but it can be fun to find out what combination of breeds is behind your pup’s appearance. To do this, the test will look for DNA markers and compare them with a database of DNA of purebred dogs. They’ll then analyze these results to determine the type and number of markers and determine the breed makeup. In addition to this being fun to know, it can help new pet parents better predict their pup’s expected size, temperament, energy levels, and trainability.
  • Screening for
    genetic disorders:
    Another use for dog DNA testing is identifying genetic
    disorders. These tests can screen the identified DNA markers and determine
    whether they signal any disease mutations.

Some experts say that these tests are even better at flagging
illness than breed makeup because the disorders they screen for are related to
specific and easily identifiable DNA mutations. The hope is that in the near
future, these tests will play a key role in showing which dogs are at a high
risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer. This
way, pet parents can start scheduling regular screenings and implementing
healthy lifestyle regimens that can increase their pet’s chance of living a
long and happy life.

What dog DNA test
should I buy?

There are a number of dog DNA tests on the market – all of which
use identical technology – so your decision comes down to what you want to
learn. If you simply want to know your dog’s unique breed mix, there are tests
specifically designed for breed identification – most of which come at a lower
price point than those that screen for genetic health risks.

If you want health screening in addition to breed
identification, look for companies that screen for a wide variety of genetic
diseases and have a robust database to compare against. It can also be helpful
to choose a company that offers one-on-one consultations with veterinary
geneticists to help answer any questions you may have.

Embark, DNA My Dog, and Wisdom Panel are all popular choices among pet parents and offer a variety of features and price points.

If you do get a DNA test for your dog, make sure to share the
results with your veterinarian – especially if any genetic abnormalities are
flagged. They’ll be able to answer any outstanding questions you have and help
you put your new knowledge into action!


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