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Here’s What You Need to Know About Dog DNA Tests

Dog DNA tests have become just as popular as human DNA tests thanks to better and cheaper genome technology.

A dog DNA test can help you find out about your dog’s ancestry, breed mix, and physical traits. It can also predict which genetic diseases your dog is at risk of.

If you are thinking about having your dog’s DNA tested, here are the most important things you need to know.

1. All Dog Genes Have Been Sequenced

Back in 2003, the Human Genome Project was completed after 15 years.

Researchers had sequenced all the genes in human DNA. This greatly improved our understanding of human DNA and led to the now-popular DNA tests.

You may be surprised to learn that there’s also a Dog Genome Project. There are actually two of them that we know of.

One was done by the Broad Institute, a collaboration between MIT and Harvard.

The other, which is ongoing, is being done by the National Human Genome Research Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

These two projects have already provided plenty of insights into dog DNA, helping researchers learn more about inherited diseases, traits, breed mixes, and ancestries.

They’ve also made it possible for companies to offer dog DNA tests at a low cost. The companies don’t have to study the entire dog’s genome – that would be expensive.

Instead, they look for known genetic markers associated with certain breeds, ancestry, traits, and diseases.

2. There are No Regulations, So Be Cautious

About Dog DNA Tests

The FDA is pretty strict when it comes to human DNA tests. Just ask 23 andMe.

In 2013, the FDA ordered the company to stop selling its DNA health testing service, forcing them to pivot to ancestry-only DNA testing.

The company has regained some approvals since then.

Unfortunately, there’s no such regulation when it comes to pet DNA testing. This has led to a sort of Wild West with some unscrupulous companies offering low-quality services that misinform pet owners.

So be careful when looking for a Dog DNA testing service. Go with reliable companies that are well known and have been around for some time.

We have some great recommendations in our in-depth guide to dog DNA tests.

3. You Don’t Need to Draw Blood

The first dog DNA tests require a blood sample. That’s why companies like Mars Petcare only sold their DNA testing services through vets.

But companies soon developed a technique for extracting DNA from a cheek swab, allowing them to sell these services directly to dog owners. Almost all dog DNA tests today require a simple cheek swab.

Taking a cheek swab is definitely easier than drawing blood and is painless for the dog.

Just make sure you read the instructions before you take the swab. Otherwise, you could do it wrong and compromise the quality of the sample.

4. Be Careful About 

Dog dna test kit

It’s exciting to learn new things about your dog – her lineage, breed and hidden traits. But when it comes to predicting genetic diseases, be careful.

The health part of a dog DNA test is essential. It can help you improve your dog’s care to mitigate a possible health condition.

Unfortunately, most people are too quick to interpret health results without consulting a professional.

There are pet owners who have put their dogs down because they discovered that they were at risk of severe disease.

But genetic experts warn that just because your dog carries a specific gene mutation doesn’t mean that they will get that disease.

It could be that the mutation only affects certain breeds.

Here’s the recommendation from vets: Do not act on the health results without the input of a vet or a dog genetic expert.

If your vet doesn’t know much about dog genetics, reach out to the testing company. Most of them are more than willing to answer any questions you might have about the results and what to do about them.

5. A Dog DNA Test Helps You Understand Your Dog Better

Many pet owners are surprised at how emotional a dog DNA test can be.

You get to learn so much about your dog, stuff you did not know. It also confirms some suspicions you’ve always had about your dog’s breed and traits.

This improved understanding has plenty of other benefits too.

It helps you take better care of your dog.

For instance, most dog DNA tests include weight prediction. This tells you whether your dog is at a higher risk of obesity. You can then change his diet to keep him healthy.

Some tests like Embark also include age analysis, which estimates the dog’s age and lifespan. This allows you to customize your dog’s diet for her age.


About the Author Charles McKnight

I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.

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