The 3 Best Dog DNA Tests
If you rescued your beloved pup from a shelter, you’ve probably wondered which breeds might have contributed to their adorable features. The best dog DNA tests can help to solve this mystery by giving you a breakdown of your dog’s ancestry.
How does dog DNA testing work?
On your end, the DNA test is actually pretty simple. You order a kit, collect a sample from your dog via a mouth swab, send it off, and wait for the results.
When the lab gets your pet’s sample, they extract and process the DNA. Now this is the point that you will find some of the biggest differences between the dog DNA test kits available for purchase. Certified veterinarian and canine behavior specialist Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD, told Bustle in an interview that when selecting a test kit, it’s important to pay attention to the number of genetic markers used in the testing, as well as the number of breeds tested — especially if you suspect that you have a rare breed of dog. In both cases, more is better.
So what is a genetic marker? According to Dr. Hekman, "Markers are locations in the genome where the test looks. A smaller number means big regions of the genome are missed, and so breeds can be missed as well. In general, this is the more important thing to look for." So, to sum it up, more markers analyzed means more accurate and detailed results.
The time it takes to receive the results of a dog DNA test can vary, but most companies claim you’ll get results between two and four weeks after submitting your dog's sample.
What can you learn from a dog DNA test?
The main test results will tell you which breeds make up your pooch (and give you a breakdown by percentage, too). So for example, the results may report that your dog is 50% German shepherd, 25% boxer, and 25% American pit bull terrier. Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Bustle in an interview that this type of information is certainly fun to have, but it can also "be taken into account when anticipating or preparing for some common health issues that may be associated with the breed." For example, he explained, "if you have a miniature schnauzer or collie, which may be more prone to high cholesterol, you may want to feed your dog a low-fat, high-fiber diet." However, it's always a good idea to consult your dog's veterinarian before making any health or diet changes.
Some dog DNA tests are able to test for other information, too, such as potential genetic health conditions specific to your dog that could contribute to your dog's risk for certain diseases. These tests tend to come with higher price tags.
How much is a dog DNA test?
The price of a dog DNA test kit varies, but usually falls between $60 (for just breed testing) and $150 (for breed testing and genetic health information).
Embark and Wisdom Panel dominate the dog DNA test kit market. Both companies provide kits that Amazon reviewers rave about but for different reasons. Check out the three dog DNA tests below to pick the one that is best for your needs.
1. The Best Overall: A Comprehensive, Accurate Dog DNA Test That Covers Breed & Health
The Embark dog DNA test kit is pretty much the most accurate and detailed test available. To generate the results, it analyzes over 200,000 genetic markers from your dog's DNA and screens for over 250 breeds.
Two to four weeks after submitting your pet's sample, Embark will display your results on a personalized online dashboard. And since this pick tests for both breed and health information, you'll get a whole lot of useful data. The results include a breed identification report and information about the maternal and paternal group that your dog has in their ancestry as far back as great-grandparents. You can even find and connect with other dogs that share DNA with yours (or at least with their humans). You can also gain a better understanding of your dog’s health, since the kit screens for 170+ common genetic health conditions.
Amazon reviewers are thrilled with the information that they obtain from this simple test. They give this pick a standout 4.6-star rating on the site after 1,200 and growing reviews.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: "This DNA test may literally give my family extra years with our dog. A genetic predisposition was indicated for Luna for a disease that is typically not diagnosed until it is too late. With the forewarning this test has given us, we will discuss the findings with our vet to ensure early preventative care and screenings. While this information makes the test worthwhile, the value came from the customer care. Before the results were released to us, a member of Embark reached out to explain what the disease was, what the predisposition meant, and options. [...] Of course, the heredity information is exciting to read as well! Our dog was adopted and although we had some guesses as to her breed, seeing the combinations that make up the pup were amazing. I would highly recommend this test for any dog owner."
2. Also Good: An Extremely Accurate Dog DNA Test That Focuses On Breed Identification
If you want to learn about your dog's breed makeup but aren't enthused about paying for additional health information, you can save a little money and opt for Embark's less comprehensive Embark dog DNA breed identification kit. This kit focuses on identifying the breeds that make up your dog, but unlike the Embark's Breed & Health Kit, it focuses on breed information only. And since this is an Embark test, you'll get accurate and precise information. The test analyzes over 200,000 genetic markers from your dog's DNA and screens over 250 breeds in order to determine the results.
Once you send in your pet's sample, you’ll have the results in two to four weeks via a personalized online dashboard. And honestly, you’ll be shocked at how detailed it is. You’ll get a full breed breakdown (which includes breeds that make up as small as 5% of your dog’s ancestry), and can even find and connect with other dogs that share DNA with yours (or at least with their humans).
If down the line you’d like to see your dog’s genetic health report, then you can easily upgrade to the first pick with no additional swabs or kits needed.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: "Worth every penny! Everyone thought my rescue puppy was a Rottweiler or a Doberman mix, or even a hound, but they were all wrong! And trainers were addressing my puppy's training as if she would have the temperament of a Rottweiler. Well she is 60% Border Collie, 20% Australian Shepherd and 20% Labrador Retriever and she fits this mix and it all makes sense including her character and behaviors! I'm so glad I made this purchase! Training has been adapted to deal with her intelligent breed mix; and her flea and heartworm prevention was changed to take into consideration meds not recommended for collies."
3. The Best Value: A Budget-Friendly Dog DNA Test Kit That Screens For 350+ Breeds
If you want to spend less than $100, or if you suspect your dog is a rare or very mixed breed, then this dog DNA test from Wisdom Panel is your best bet. The kit costs less than the two from Embark and screens for an impressive 350+ breeds. Remember, the more breeds tested means a higher likelihood of a match.
After sending in your dog’s sample, you'll receive the genetic analysis of your dog's ancestry and breed identification in as little as two weeks through the Wisdom Panel website. Just keep in mind that you won’t get any information regarding genetic health conditions apart from the drug sensitivity mutation MDR1, which is potentially life-saving to know about.
This pick may not be as detailed or accurate as the first two, since it only analyzes 1,800 genetic markers to determine results, but Wisdom Panel claims to have tested the DNA of more than 1.5 million dogs in order to develop the database. That alone is pretty dang impressive, especially when you consider how much more affordable this test is compared with the other options. Still, if you have the money to spend, Embark's 200,000-plus genetic markers tested makes it a more reliable option.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: "My husband and I were very curious about the lineage of our sweet rescue, who the vet thinks is about 8 years old. It is obvious that the dog is primarily collie, but the rest was a mystery, until we received lab results. The Wisdom Panel DNA test was easy to use, and results arrived online earlier than we expected. We were impressed with the service and the DNA report on our girl."
Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.
Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD, Postdoctoral associate, Karlsson Laboratory, the Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA.
Michael San Filippo, spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association