Whether your dog is a mixed-breed mutt or a purebred pooch with a detailed family tree, it’s hard not to wonder what the best dog DNA test might reveal about your furry friend. With an increasing number of at-home kits available to order, it’s important to know what the test results can really tell you about your pet, from their genetic makeup to their breed composition to their potential health risks. So, we spoke with several veterinarians to learn more about what dog owners need to know about dog DNA test kits—and whether they should give one a try.
How do dog DNA tests work?
Most brands that make home DNA tests use a swab from the inside of your dog’s cheek to sample their DNA, explains Zay Satchu, DVM, cofounder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet. After you send your kit back to the brand, it compares your dog’s sample to genetic samples from purebred dogs in a breed database, Preston Turano, DVM, veterinarian, and American Kennel Club (AKC) Pet Insurance spokesperson tells SELF.
There are also tests that rely on blood samples to get DNA test results, which will usually require a trip to your vet. “Some prefer the blood test since it provides a larger sample of genetic material and thus potentially more information,” Dr. Satchu explains.
Are dog DNA tests accurate?
“Many veterinarians consider dog DNA tests to still be in their infancy,” Dr. Satchu says, explaining that testing companies aren’t regulated and lack peer-reviewed research. If you’ve already done some browsing online, you’ve probably come across a fair number of displeased reviews describing breed identification tests that clearly missed the mark. Some pet owners even report receiving dramatically different DNA results from different brands for the same dog.
While it’s wise to take DNA and breed results with a grain of salt, Dr. Satchu says it’s quite possible that these tests will get more accurate as time goes on: “More information is being gathered all the time. So, maybe results will get better and better as more pet owners participate.”
What can you learn about your dog from a DNA test?
Depending on the specific test you use, the DNA sample from that simple cheek swab can tell you about your dog’s ancestry; breed makeup; physical traits like their weight, height, fur type; and genetic health conditions, Dr. Satchu says.
To that last point, “Breeders or other pet parents may benefit [from health testing results] if they are concerned about their dog carrying specific genetic diseases,” Dr. Turano says, referring specifically to the set of diseases that currently have known, testable genetic markers. He adds that you should share your pet’s DNA results with your vet for an even clearer understanding of their individual health concerns.
Should you try a dog DNA test?
Several of the experts we heard from said that at-home genetic testing can be a fun way to get to know your dear doggy a little better (especially if they’re a mixed-breed dog) and feel more informed about their breed breakdown, personality traits, and potential health issues. However, they should not be caused to create more worries for you as a pet parent.