Are Dog DNA Kits Worth the Money?

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Your rescued dog’s merle spotted coat is eye-catching. 

Everywhere you go, people ask what breed he is. And you’re curious too.

So you’re thinking about buying a dog DNA kit to satisfy your curiosity once and for all, but are dog DNA kits worth the money?

DNA Kits For Dogs - Yellow retriever holding red pouch in mouth.

In this article, I’ll discuss the top-rated DNA kits so you can make your own decision.

Why Use a DNA Test?

In addition to your curiosity, there are other benefits to using a DNA kit:

  • You’ll better understand your dog’s drives and behaviors once you know his breed composition.
  • If your dog circles you or nips at your heels as you walk, knowing that he has sheltie and border collie in him will help explain that herding behavior. 
  • Or his obsession with chasing squirrels may make sense when you discover that he’s part Jack Russell and cairn terrier.
  • Knowing what his drives are will help make life better for both of you. You can devise a better training and exercise program for your pup.
  • Some of the DNA test kits also provide information regarding potential health problems your pup may have. 
  • You may also be able to devise a better nutrition and health plan for your canine companion.

The Top Three Dog DNA Kits

I’ll describe the benefits and downsides of three of the top-rated dog DNA kits

Some considerations when deciding whether the DNA test is worth the money are what breed and health conditions they cover and how accurate they are. 

Of course cost and the time it takes to receive results are also factors that help you determine which one to choose.

The genetic material for all of the tests listed is collected by taking a swab of your dog’s saliva from his cheek. The Q-tip-type swab is provided by each company. 

After collecting the saliva sample, the swab is placed in a vial with a liquid to preserve the sample and sealed. You then return the sample in a postage-paid envelope to mail the sample back to be tested. 

Each company has specific instructions on their websites how to proceed with the swab or swabs you need to submit.

If the swab is damaged, most companies will replace it. 

Before swabbing your dog’s mouth/cheek area, he can’t lick, chew, or eat anything for minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the test.

No company offers details regarding their testing methodology, citing proprietary concerns. 

Embark

Embark is generally the highest-rated but it’s also expensive. 

The Breed and Health Test retails for $199, but there’s often a coupon for $50 off, making the test $149.

The Breed Test alone retails for $129, but is often on sale for $99.

The test was made in partnership with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Embark breed tests covers 350 breeds, types, and varieties, including some street dogs and the gray wolf.

It identifies 200,000 genetic markers, twice as many as other companies. It tests genetic disease risk for over 200 known canine health problems, which is more than are covered by other tests.

The information analyzed goes back to the dog’s great-grandparents.

Genetic health tests are run on the DNA.

You get the results in three to five weeks.

You’re notified by e-mail when the results are available. 

The results are accessed through Embark’s website and can be downloaded to share a report.

The report has visuals and charts that are easy to follow.

The company claims that its tests are 95 to 99 percent accurate.

Some reviewers of the tests indicated that if there’s an alarming finding, a geneticist would reach out personally before sharing the report to go over the findings.

Also included in the purchase is a possible relative finder which matches your dog’s DNA to possible family members in their computer base.

Embark contributes funding and genetic testing to animal shelters in the United States and Nepal.

This test is the official dog DNA test of the Westminster Kennel Club.

If you have any questions or need help interpreting test results, you can e-mail or live chat with the company.

Their website has a blog, a FAQs section, and a newsletter sign up.

I recently used this test to find out more about my rescued dog Millie. 

She was born in rescue. Her mother looked like a purebred Australian shepherd and the rescue had no idea what the sire looked like. 

When I submitted Millie’s DNA sample, I gave no indication of what she looked like or what her temperament was to the company.

I got the results in about three weeks. 

The results were that two main dogs in her ancestry are the Australian shepherd and Australian cattle dog. 

Both of these made sense not only because of her appearance but also because of her high energy level and herding drive.

The description of her coat–a merle, spotted, dark coat–was right. 

Her coat length is relatively short to mid-length, and her muzzle is dark and mid to long, as described in the test result. 

The result also described a normal-length tail, which she has. 

But what really blew me away was the test result that she`was likely to have dew claws on her rear legs, which she had until they were removed when she was spayed.

So I was satisfied with the results of my test.

Wisdom Panel 3.0 Canine Premium DNA Test

This test is one of the best for mixed breeds, especially if your dog is suspected to be mixed with breeds uncommon to the United States. 

If a dog’s breeds are a mystery or you suspect many rare breeds are involved, this kit tests for over 350 breeds, types, and varieties. 

It also tests for coyote, the Mexican street dog, and the wolf. 

But, because it tests fewer DNA markers than the Embark test does, the results may not be as accurate.

Like Embark, there are two versions of the test you can purchase. 

The Premium Test tests for breed, disease, and traits. The Essential DNA Test tests only for breed identification.

The Premium Test retails for $159.99

The Essential DNA Test retails for $99.99

The premium version of the test tests for 211 different genetic diseases. But, unlike Embark, it doesn’t specifically inform “at-risk” results to owners.

It tests for over 20 genetic traits, predicting coat color patterns and body traits like ear erectness, leg length, and weight.

The test is made by Mars Petcare. The company now claims that its test is over 98 percent accurate.

Unlike Embark, the company doesn’t allow customers to share results through a web portal.

The DNA sample tests for hundreds of genetic markers that help identify the dog’s breeds. 

They provide the dog’s genetic background, weight range predictions, and details regarding his breed mix.

The results are e-mailed to you within three weeks. And you can call the company with questions. 

Customers who reviewed the company praised its responsiveness. The company’s website has resources regarding DNA testing.

There is no relative finder option available.

The company has charitable partnerships with some animal rights groups.

Orivet Dog DNA Test

The company, like the others above, has two versions of its DNA tests. 

One is for mixed-breed identification and the other is for mixed-breed identification and for health screening. 

The mixed-breed identification test retails for $99.95

The mixed-breed identification and health screening test retails for $139.95

There is a separate charge for each test. Three to five weeks for results.

When you first look at the company’s website, it appears that tests are conducted only for veterinarians or dog breeders. 

But the company does do tests for dog owners too.

The company’s website provides suggestions regarding how to collect the DNA on its swabs, even for dogs who don’t want to allow their saliva to be collected. 

And it offers pet parents the option of having their vet submit a blood sample from their dog in lieu of the saliva swab.

Its tests also include a “life plan” for your dog, with nutritional suggestions.  Life plans contain medical advice and health conditions that require consultation and discussion with a veterinarian.

It covers the percentage levels of each breed as well as predicting the dog’s adult weight.

It also gives insights into your dog’s personality and behavior.

The breed test covers 220 recognized and developing breeds in its database. The health test covers over 150 canine health conditions.

The company calls its Genopet 5.0 test as the most complete dog DNA test in the world.

The company calls it the ultimate mixed-breed DNA test combo. It determine a dog’s breed  and tests for all available heritable diseases and traits.

The company offers access to geneticists to discuss results.

The results are e-mailed within three to five weeks. Consumers have reported excellent customer support.

Caveats Regarding Testing

Some experts warn to take the results of any dog DNA test with a grain of salt. 

They note that it’s difficult to know how accurate the tests really are because they don’t disclose their methodologies. 

And, as far as we know, each company may even use different ones.

Also, there are no peer-reviewed publications describing the methodologies and assessing their accuracy. And the Federal Drug Association doesn’t regulate canine DNA tests.

Other experts worry that information regarding breed identification may lead to breed discrimination. 

Some breeds, such as pit bulls, are often discriminated against in many settings. For example, some rentals won’t house someone who has a pit bull.

Also, some experts are concerned that people may make medical decisions based on the DNA test’s results regarding the risk for potential health problems.

They note that, even if certain breeds may tend to have certain health problems more than other breeds do, that doesn’t mean that your specific dog will develop such problems. 

And even if a DNA test specifically indicates that your dog may be more prone to develop certain health problems, it doesn’t mean he will develop them.

It’s even feared that some people may euthanize their dogs based on the results of the test, especially regarding potential health conditions the test concludes the dog may have.

I’ve also had friends receive results from various tests where the outcome is at odds with their dogs’ appearance and traits.

Final Thoughts

If you’re really curious about the breeds that make up your mixed-breed rescued dog, DNA tests provide an option to find out the possible breeds.

But, because there is no independent agency regulating their testing methodologies and results, the conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.

Have you ever had your dog’s DNA tested?

What were the results and were you satisfied with them?

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Dog DNA Kits - Are They Worth The Money? - Golden Retriever holding red pouch in his mouth.

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