Is Testing Your Dog’s DNA Worth It?

What breed is your dog? Testing Your Dog's DNA.

Reviewed by Dr. Steven Servantez

“What kind of dog do you have?” Any dog owner regularly gets asked this question. It’s the canine equivalent to “What do you do for a living?”.

But what about mixed-breed dog owners? How do you answer this question?

Enter dog DNA tests. Canine heritage tests entered the market in 2007, and the number of test choices has greatly expanded since then. These tests claim to identify your dog’s breed ancestry. And if you love a mixed-breed dog, you must admit you’re curious about what breeds make up your canine companion.

The question is, are dog DNA tests worth it? What will they tell you, and how accurate are they? Let’s take a look.

How do dog DNA tests work?

Dog DNA tests require a sample from your pet -- either a cheek swab sample or blood sample, the latter of which is handled by your veterinarian. The sample is compared against the DNA of breeds in the test company’s breed database.

The results you get back vary by test company. In some cases, you might get a report back showing the primary, secondary, and in-the-mix breeds. In other cases, your report might include all the breeds in your dog’s genetic make-up in order of prevalence. Some will delve into breed behavioral characteristics and genetic markers.

Dog DNA tests are actually accurate in identifying the majority breeds in your dog. Results are highly accurate if a dog has a purebred parent or grandparent. However, the more breeds there are in the mix, the more difficult it is for the test to identify all of them.

Are all dog DNA tests created equal?

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a DNA test for your dog:

  • Type of Sample: DNA samples can be collected by cheek swab or blood draw. Obviously, the cheek swab is more convenient to collect -- you can do it yourself right at home. However, cheek swabs can be easily contaminated and you might not collect enough cells for the best results. A blood sample will require a visit to your veterinarian, but you reduce the chance of contamination and you’ll most certainly have an adequate sample size.
  • Number of Breeds In the Database: Dog DNA test companies vary in the number of breeds they analyze your dog’s DNA against. For example, the Royal Canin® Genetic Health Analysis™ compares your sample against more than 250 breeds. Other tests may only compare against fewer than 100 breeds. The more breeds in the database, the more accurate the results.
  • Price: Price is another variable among dog DNA tests, and they range from $60 and up. Generally, the more dog breeds in the database, the more expensive the test. But again, the more breeds in the database, the greater the chance for accurate results.

What are the benefits of testing your dog’s DNA?

So, back to the original question -- is testing your dog’s DNA worth it? From a dog health perspective, we say yes.

Potential health issues are associated with specific dog breeds. When you know the potential health risks facing your dog, you and your veterinarian can keep an eye out for symptoms in the future.

Dog DNA tests can also help you predict your dog’s likely adult weight and size, information you can use to ensure your pet stays at a healthy weight. And knowing your dog’s breed make-up will help your veterinarian make more precise nutritional recommendations.

Badger Veterinary Hospital offers the Royal Canin® Genetic Health Analysis™. This test scans your dog’s DNA for ancestry and for specific genetic markers, which helps you and your veterinarian develop a health plan for your dog’s individual genetic code.

Interested in a Royal Canin® Genetic Health Analysis™ for your dog? Contact us today to schedule your dog’s appointment.