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Do Dog DNA Tests Actually Work?

The Dodo logo The Dodo 8/5/2022 Danielle Esposito

How many times have you looked at your perfect adopted dog and thought to yourself: I wonder what her breed actually is?

Probably more times than you can even count, right?

Luckily for you, technology rules — and dog DNA tests are now common and totally safe to use.

But do dog DNA tests work?

We reached out to Dr. Stephanie Austin, a veterinarian at Bond Vet in New York City, to find out what an expert's views are on the hyped-up dog DNA test.

How do dog DNA tests work?

According to Dr. Austin, depending on the type of DNA test used, it might analyze your dog’s breed heritage (meaning, the breed(s) that make up your dog), or it can give you an idea of your dog’s risks of inherited genetic diseases. And some dog DNA tests can do both!

Most of the time, all you need to do is take a sample of the inside of your dog’s mouth and send it to the lab by mail.

“A cheek swab (rubbing the inside of a dog’s cheek with a small brush) is usually what is used to obtain a sample for analysis,” Dr. Austin told The Dodo.

How accurate are dog DNA tests?

There’s a lot of debate on the accuracy of DNA tests for dogs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still super popular among dog owners — especially those who adopt!

“There are definitely instances where a dog with a known purebred lineage receives results that are inconsistent with their heritage, or where a mixed breed receives results that contain breeds much larger, smaller or different in appearance than the dog being tested,” Dr. Austin said. “So, results should be interpreted with the understanding that there’s some margin for error.”

But that really shouldn’t discourage you from trying it out for fun!

Even knowing there’s a margin for error, it’s still totally exciting to see the results of breed testing. The anticipation when you send out your pup’s sample to the laboratory is real.

Dog DNA health testing

“Tests may also be useful for determining risks of genetic diseases that specific breeds are prone to,” Dr. Austin said. “Along the same lines, some tests are now available for certain genetic diseases in dogs.”

Of course, the results of these health tests should always be discussed with your veterinarian, as genetic markers for a disease do not necessarily mean a dog will develop that disease.

But really, even though you should take your dog’s DNA test results with a grain of salt, it’s something that’s still super fun, anyway.

Which dog DNA test is best?

According to Dr. Austin, the best dog DNA test is really up to you and what you’re looking for.

“There are many options available, and they offer different options in terms of what they test for. So it’s best to choose one that covers the results you’re interested in (breed heritage, genetic disease testing, etc.),” Dr. Austin suggested. “Be sure to do your research and read reviews as well.”

If you’re looking for a DNA test kit to try, The Dodo’s very own dogs have already tested out the Embark Breed & Health Kit — and they totally loved it!

Try the Embark Dog DNA Test from Amazon for $159.00

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