DNA Tests for Dogs | What Can You Learn?

Melanie Mohler

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There are DNA tests for dogs? Yes! Humans aren’t the only beings with DNA. Learn more about DNA testing for dogs and what you can discover from your own dog’s DNA.

DNA testing for dogs, just like DNA testing for humans, allows you to analyze a dog’s DNA to uncover valuable information about its ancestry, breed composition, and potential genetic health conditions. This technology has become increasingly popular among dog owners who are curious about their furry friend’s genetic makeup or want to learn about specific health concerns for their dog’s breed.

What does a DNA test for dogs tell you?

Dog DNA tests can tell you some of the same things that a human DNA test can tell us humans:

  • Ancestry and heritage: Dog DNA tests can reveal a dog’s ancestral roots and trace its lineage back to specific breeds or geographic regions. This aspect is particularly interesting for mixed-breed dogs whose lineage is unknown. The tests compare the dog’s DNA with extensive breed databases to identify the ancestral breeds and their proportions in the dog’s genetic makeup.
  • Confirm parentage: Just like with human tests, you can confirm the parentage of your dog by comparing their DNA with that of its suspected parents. This is especially relevant in cases where the lineage is in question or for breeding purposes, ensuring the accuracy of pedigrees.
  • Health screening: DNA tests for dogs can also screen for genetic mutations and markers associated with various inherited diseases and health conditions. Analyzing specific genes or markers can detect a dog’s predisposition to certain conditions, such as hip dysplasia, certain types of cancers, heart diseases, and more. This information can be crucial for proactive health management and early intervention.

But the one thing many dog owners are most curious about their dog, and why they use a dog DNA test, is breed identification. Think of this as learning about your dog’s “ethnicity” just like you would with your own DNA ethnicity results. Dog DNA tests can identify the different breeds present in a mixed-breed dog, or confirm the breed heritage of a purebred dog. The results typically provide a breakdown of the percentage of each breed found in the dog’s genetic makeup.

How much does it cost to test your dog’s DNA?

The two most well-known companies for testing your dog’s DNA are Embark and Wisdom Panel. Both companies offer a few testing options at slightly different prices. Ancestry also released their own dog DNA test, Know Your Pet DNA, in September 2023. (The ones quoted below are correct at time of publication: please confirm these for yourself when you want to test.)

Embark’s bestseller test is the Breed + Health test for $199, which includes a breed breakdown and confirmation, ancestry and geographic origin, relative finder, genetic health screening, trait insights, measure genetic diversity, and predicted adult weight. Their Breed Identification DNA Test is $129, which only tests your dog’s breed and provides insight into their ancestry, but it does not offer a genetic health screening.

Wisdom Panel starts at $84.99 for a Wisdom Panel Breed Discovery, which screens for 350+ breeds, tests for medication sensitivities, traces your dog’s family tree back three generations, and helps you find your dog’s relatives. The Wisdom Panel Essential for $104.99 offers the same benefits as the Breed Discovery kit, plus it tests for 25+ genetic health conditions and 35+ physical traits. Finally, the Wisdom Panel Premium for $159.99, which additionally tests for 210 genetic health conditions, and you can discuss “at risk” health findings with a vet.

Ancestry’s Know Your Pet DNA test is $99 and looks at breeds, traits, and matches. Ancestry tests your dog’s DNA against 400+ breeds. The test also looks at 30+ genetic traits based on their breed and genetic variants to predict to your dog’s traits. Know Your Pet DNA also allows you to view your dog’s genetic matches and where they live.

Purchase an Ancestry Know Your Pet DNA Test

How accurate are DNA tests for dogs?

Embark tests for more than 350 breeds, types, and varieties, and claims that they “sniff out more dog breeds than any other DNA test.” They also claim to be the most accurate dog DNA test on the market, with 99.9% accuracy. Embark looks at more than 230,000 places on each dog’s genome, and they work with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Wisdom Panel is another commercial DNA testing company for dogs (and cats). They also claim to offer the most accurate commercial dog DNA test, with 21,000+ samples from over 50 countries. Wisdom Panel works with Neogen Genomics to test and analyze pet DNA.

Connie with her dog, Cooper

Connie, one of our genetic genealogy coaches, recently tested her dog Cooper using an Embark Breed + Health test. Just like with a human DNA kit, Connie had to collect a sample of Cooper’s saliva to be tested. Two to four weeks after mailing the sample in, she received Cooper’s results.

Connie swabbing Cooper’s mouth for an Embark Breed + Health test

When Connie adopted Cooper in 2021, she was told that he was a purebred coonhound. But looking at Cooper’s results, you can see that’s not the case. Cooper’s results show that he is:

  • 19.5% Treeing Walker Coonhound
  • 15.5% American English Coonhound
  • 14.5% Plott
  • 14.3% Bluetick Coonhound
  • 9.3% American Foxhound
  • 4.7% Collie
  • 22.2% Supermutt (Embark describes this as a result of mixed breed dogs descending from other mixed breeds, and the contributions from their descendants only giving small contributions to the dog’s DNA. They note the breeds most likely to contribute to Supermutt are German shepherds, American pit bull terriers, beagles, and Labrador retrievers.)

Regardless of Cooper’s mixed ancestry, Connie says she was just curious about his DNA!

As you can see, there’s a lot of similarities in what you can find out about a dog’s DNA and a human’s DNA. Hopefully you’re now even more curious about what you can learn if you test you your dog–or yourself. While we can’t help you analyze your dog’s DNA test results, we can help you with yours! Your results may take you even further, since yours can be compared to other (human) testers to help you find relatives, build your family tree, and explore mysteries in your family history.

To get started, download our free guide for what you need to know about DNA testing for family history.

Get the Free Guide

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