What to Know Before Buying a DNA Test for Your Mixed Breed Dog

04 Feb 2022 | Written by Tori Holmes

Dog DNA tests have risen in popularity over the last decade as they move from veterinary clinics to direct-to-consumer models. But what exactly can you expect if you order a kit for your own pup? To find the answers to your most asked dog DNA test questions, read on for Freshpet's answers!

What is a dog DNA test and how do they work?

Before we get into what dog DNA tests are, we should start with a quick biology lesson. Deoxyribonucleic acid, also known as DNA, carries the ‘blueprint’ for every living organism, and genes are specific segments of DNA that act as the basic unit of heredity – for reference, dogs have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes. Now, on to the fun stuff!

DNA tests for dogs are identical to those for humans, with one small difference: the technology has been adapted to fit the canine genome. These tests look for markers in your dog’s DNA and compare them to a database to give insights on breed makeup or health conditions.

All you need to do is order a kit, register the unique code, and use the provided cotton swab to take a sample of your dog’s saliva. After you’ve collected the sample, you can mail it back to the company’s lab where the DNA will be extracted and analyzed.

Why should I do a DNA test on my mixed-breed dog?

There are a number of reasons why you should do a DNA test on your mixed-breed dog, including:

Some experts say that these tests are even better at flagging illness than breed makeup because the disorders they screen for are related to specific and easily identifiable DNA mutations. The hope is that in the near future, these tests will play a key role in showing which dogs are at a high risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease and cancer. This way, pet parents can start scheduling regular screenings and implementing healthy lifestyle regimens that can increase their pet’s chance of living a long and happy life.

What dog DNA test should I buy?

There are a number of dog DNA tests on the market – all of which use identical technology – so your decision comes down to what you want to learn. If you simply want to know your dog’s unique breed mix, there are tests specifically designed for breed identification – most of which come at a lower price point than those that screen for genetic health risks.

If you want health screening in addition to breed identification, look for companies that screen for a wide variety of genetic diseases and have a robust database to compare against. It can also be helpful to choose a company that offers one-on-one consultations with veterinary geneticists to help answer any questions you may have.

Embark, DNA My Dog, and Wisdom Panel are all popular choices among pet parents and offer a variety of features and price points.

If you do get a DNA test for your dog, make sure to share the results with your veterinarian – especially if any genetic abnormalities are flagged. They’ll be able to answer any outstanding questions you have and help you put your new knowledge into action!

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