Dog DNA Tests: How to Decide If It's Worth the Cost for Your Pup

Having your dog's DNA tested can tell you a lot more than just your dog’s breed, but it can be pricey, depending on what you want to learn.

Published June 27, 2023
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Family taking their dog to the Vet

It's super tempting to test your dog's DNA, but you may not be sold on the cost. Consider that more than 65 percent of pet dogs are adopted from shelters, found as strays, or acquired through friends, which means you probably don't know much about their background.

That's where dog DNA tests come in. With a simple swab of your dog's mouth, you can find out about their past, present, and even their future. But how much do dog DNA tests cost, how accurate are they, and what do they even test for? We dug up the dirt on dog DNA testing, so you don't have to.

What DNA Testing Can Tell Dog Owners

Dog DNA testing is a great tool that can give you insight into your dog's breed, what their genes suggest about their health, adult size, appearance, and even their behavior. That's right; these non-invasive tests tell you a lot more than just their pedigree. Depending on which one you go with, you can expect to learn this about your pup:

  1. Breed: The results will show which breeds your dog is made up of. Most will give you a percentage, so you'll know what their main breed is, along with the other breeds that complete them. This can give you insight into their behaviors and quirks because many are related to their breed.
  2. Health markers: DNA tests can let you know if your dog has any genetic mutations or is at risk for developing any diseases later in life.
  3. Physical traits: Looking at your dog's DNA can tell you what size they'll end up and what traits they carry, like muzzle length and eye color.
  4. Family tree: Some services can even locate your dog's relatives! That is if they've also had their DNA tested and are in the database.
Quick Tip

Even if you already know what breed your dog is, DNA tests can still give you very valuable information, such as health screening reports.

Health Conditions These Tests Help Identify

If you're curious about what health conditions dog DNA tests check for, it'd probably be a better use of your time to learn which ones they don't. We're only joking, but most tests check for 100 to 200 or more health risks. Seriously. You can find comprehensive lists on each test's website, but the most common health markers they may detect include:

  • Multi-drug resistance mutation 1 (MDR1)
  • Degenerative myelopathy (DM)
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
  • Canine multifocal retinopathy 1 (CMR1)
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Narcolepsy

Dog DNA Test Costs

Dog DNA tests can range in price from $80 to $200 or more, depending on the brand. A lot of services have different testing levels, so you can pick one that works with your budget. Naturally, the more expensive tests will give you more comprehensive results. Tests performed in veterinary hospitals are generally more expensive than at-home tests, but they also tend to be more accurate, too.

Quick Tip

Curious about your cat's breed or health? Cat DNA tests are a thing, too!

How Accurate Are They?

Beagle dog being examined

Are dog DNA tests accurate? For the most part, yes, but they're not always perfect. Still, most companies boast accuracy rates of 93 to 98 percent, which is pretty darn close.

For the most accurate results possible, make sure you send in a good-quality sample. That means doing a really good swab of the inside of your pup's cheek before they eat (definitely not after because you don't want to send in food particles or other nasty things) and packaging it up properly. Also, look for a brand that uses large breed databases (like 100+ breeds instead of 40 to 50).

Top Rated Dog DNA Testing Services

There's an overwhelming number of dog DNA tests out there, but these two are very popular with dog owners, for various reasons.

  • Wisdom Panel: Wisdom Panel has decades of research to back their tests. They boast more breeds in their database than any others, which contributes to their accuracy. Plus, they have three different tests based on your needs and price point.
  • Embark: Embark's technology was developed by scientists at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and founded by Dr. Adam Boyko. In addition to having a DNA test for mixed-breed dogs, they also offer one specifically for purebreds. You can go with just the breed ID test or upgrade to the health testing for just $50 more.

Have Fun with Dog DNA Testing

Testing your dog's DNA can be loads of fun and could even help you extend their life. But be sure to consult with your vet or the company's experts if you're concerned about the results. Having a marker for a health condition doesn't necessarily mean that your dog will develop the disease, but the knowledge that they have a gene for it can be valuable. Have fun with dog DNA testing, so you can get to know your canine friend a little better.

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Dog DNA Tests: How to Decide If It's Worth the Cost for Your Pup