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We love the genetic variation that makes mixed breed dogs unique and extra adorable. Yet we’re also a little—OK, a lot—curious about the breeds that make up our pups. I sure was after I adopted Archer, my lovey-dovey, 7-year-old mix. To discover which affectionate dog breeds contributed to my sweet and lovable pooch, I used a dog DNA test kit.
Dog genetic testing is easy and painless to do at home. Just swipe the inside of your dog’s cheeks with the swab provided in your kit to collect the DNA in its saliva, then mail the sample back in the mailer provided. In a few weeks, you’ll know the breeds that created your adorable mutt; depending on the dog DNA test kit you use, you may also learn about potential health risks. Note that mixed breeds come from larger gene pools than purebreds, so they’re actually some of the healthiest dog breeds. Here’s the scoop on the best dog DNA test kits.
The Wisdom dog DNA test kit screens for over 350 breeds, including coyotes, wolves, and rare dog breeds. The results are compiled in an easy-to-use interface that displays the breakdown of your dog’s breed mix all the way down to 1 percent. With the kit’s genetic mutation testing for more than 200 diseases, including MDR1 drug sensitivity, you’ll also get a heads up on potential health risks. This information is very helpful to know should your dog ever require medication.
Wisdom, which launched to U.S. consumers in 2009, says it has tested more than 2.7 million dogs. Once your dog’s DNA is in the database, they’ll search for genetic family members so you can compare DNA results, photos, and more with your dog’s parents, siblings, or extended family members.
Founded by canine geneticist Adam Boyko, DVM, of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the Embark dog DNA test kit is backed by a genotyping of over 200,000 canine genetic markers. Embark also tests for 350 breeds, including some non-domestic types, like wolves, village dogs, and dingoes. When it comes to results, Embark says it sticks to breeds identified with a high degree of certainty and leaves out low-percentage findings that don’t represent true ancestry.
For the health portion of the kit, Embark screens for over 210 genetic health conditions in 16 different areas, including neuromuscular, heart, blood, skeletal and skin, and connective tissues, plus MDR1 drug sensitivity.
The user-friendly Relative Finder feature notifies you of other dogs who have taken the test and share your dog’s common ancestry. You can connect with pet parents who have pups that share DNA with your sweetie and swap pictures. And whenever a new doggo enters the database with a similar breed mix to yours, you’ll get an update.
This dog DNA kit not only satisfies your curiosity about what breeds make up your darling woofer but also serves as a lifelong health road map to help keep your dog in prime condition. You’ll get percentage-based breed makeup results, detailed information about any health risks that pop up (and what you can do about them), plus a comprehensive wellness plan based on DNA findings. Results also come with customized feeding recommendations, including specific dog food brands and serving sizes, plus fun things like breed-specific suggestions for mentally stimulating dog games and activities to keep your pup active.
The results are presented in an online account where you have the option to update your pup’s vitals, such as weight, health records, medications, and body condition. Plus, you get alerts for tests and immunizations as well as advice on routine health care.
DNA My Dog is an affordable dog DNA test kit option if you want to find out if your pup is a mix of toy dog breeds, giant dog breeds, or anything in between. This kit has fewer breeds in its database—just 95, compared to the more than 350 in the Embark, Orivet, and Wisdom databases—so you won’t get the same in-depth breed accuracy. DNA My Dog doesn’t present the breed composition in percentages but rather in a scale. The scale begins at Level S, a single breed match. Next is the Level 1 category, with 61 to 99 percent of the DNA from one specific breed, followed by Level T, which denotes a trace amount of breed DNA. You’ll receive a step-by-step guide to the potential health problems that plague certain breeds.
Without a doubt, the best part of a dog DNA test kit is finding out what breeds make up your lovable mix. But what does it mean if your pooch tested positive for carrying a genetic variant? As scary as the term “genetic variants” sounds, we all have them (pets and people), and most are harmless.
“However, some alterations in genetic instructions can predispose our pets to express certain heritable conditions over time,” says veterinarian Karen Shaw Becker, DVM, author of The Forever Dog. Yet just because your dog is predisposed to a certain disease or health condition doesn’t mean your pup will automatically get it. In fact, genetic predisposition accounts for up to 20 percent of health issues in dogs; surprisingly, the remaining 80 percent is due to poor lifestyle and/or environment, according to Dr. Becker.
Even if you got some worrisome results from your dog DNA test kit, as a pet parent, you still have a lot of influence over your dog’s health. What’s important now is what you do with the information. “Identifying genetic predispositions prior to disease occurring empowers us with information we can use to help reduce the potential for disease expression,” Dr. Becker says. “The day-to-day lifestyle choices we make for our pets have a profound effect on their gene activity.”
With the results in hand, you can work with your vet to create a proactive support plan around your pup’s DNA to help reduce the likelihood of disease later in life.
We want our dogs to live long and healthy lives, and as their guardians, we can control almost every aspect of our pet’s well-being. “The painful truth remains that the vast majority of animals don’t die from genetic diseases, rather degenerative, lifestyle-related diseases that are preventable,” says Dr. Becker.
Set your dog up for a healthy and long life with lifestyles choices beginning with vet-approved quality dog food, ample exercise, and regular wellness checks at the vet.
Dog DNA test kit results can help you understand your dog’s personality and maybe even explain the reasons behind some of its weird behaviors. For example, let’s say your pup’s mix is heavy on the hound—say, beagle and bloodhound. You’re likely to have an investigative sniffer and a loyal dog that will never leave your side—unless it gets a whiff of something worth tracking.
“Knowing breed tendencies will aid in the development of management, exercise, and training plans,” says Brad Phifer, executive director of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and owner of Bradley Phifer Dog Training in Indianapolis. For example, if you have an aforementioned hound mix, you’ll want to make sure you have a fenced-in yard.
Review reputable dog breed websites, such as the American Kennel Club, to learn more about the breeds that make up your dog. That said, Phifer notes that every dog is an individual, and it’s essential to get to know them—and all their lovable, quirky habits—regardless of the breed mix.
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