You’ve probably seen companies that offer “DNA tests” for your dog, allowing you to determine the lineage of your precious pup.
The first genome sequence of the domestic dog was released in 2005, opening the door for vets, pet parents, and breeders alike to take a closer look at a dog’s genetic makeup, heritage, and potential health conditions.
The dog DNA testing marketing raked in about $235 million in 2022, with predictions that it will reach around $723 million by 2030. But with such widespread adoption and significant market growth, you might be scratching your head wondering—how accurate are these dog DNA tests, really?
Before you order a test kit to learn about your mutt’s heritage, read on to learn more about what this testing technology has to offer, and some precautions to keep in mind.
- What is dog DNA testing, and what does it cost?
- How accurate are dog DNA test results?
- What are the benefits of getting a dog DNA test?
- What are the best dog DNA tests?
- Can my dog’s DNA test results be used when I buy pet insurance?
What is dog DNA testing, and what does it cost?
Dog DNA testing is a process that can help pet parents discover the breed makeup, genetic health, and ancestry of their pooch. In 2023 the average cost of an at-home dog DNA test kit ranges from about $130 to $200.
These tests analyze specific genetic markers in your dog’s DNA to help identify the different breeds that make up your dog’s heritage—and even pinpoint potential health conditions that may be linked to their genetic makeup.
Here’s how the process typically works:
- Buy a dog DNA test kit (we’ll get into some of the best companies a little later).
- Collect a sample by swabbing your dog’s cheek, following the instructions and materials included in the DNA test kit.
- Ship it to the lab for analysis. If there’s any delay between collecting and shipping the sample, make sure to store it as instructed in the kit—usually at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and moisture.
- Wait and see. The company’s laboratory extracts DNA from your dog’s sample and analyzes it using genetic markers, which they compare against a breed database to identify different breeds in your dog’s ancestry
Once the analysis is complete, you can usually access the DNA test results via an online portal—usually within two to five weeks of sending the sample—which could include information like:
- Specific breeds
- Percentages of breed makeup
- Family tree details going back several generations
- Insights into potential genetic health conditions
Some vet clinics and major animal hospitals may offer DNA testing as part of your pup’s wellness plan, which can remove the hassle of swabbing and shipping a sample.
How accurate are dog DNA test results?
Many dog DNA testing companies claim more than 90% accuracy; these types of tests are never 100% accurate, and there are lots of factors that can influence your pup’s results, including:
- Quality of the DNA sample: Contaminated or improperly collected samples can lead to incorrect results. If another pets’ DNA, or food residue in the dog’s mouth, gets on the swab, it could contaminate it.
- Breed complexity: Identifying purebred dogs tends to be more accurate than mixed-breed dogs. Some breeds, especially rare or closely related ones, may get skewed results.
- The size of the breed database: A testing company with a large database—like hundreds of different breeds—increases the likelihood of correct breed identification.
- The technology and methodologies used: Look for a company that uses advanced genetic testing methods—for instance, using many genetic markers. Top-tier companies use tens to hundreds of thousands of genetic markers.
- Reputation of testing company: Well-established companies often collaborate with geneticists and vet experts—sometimes partnering with research universities—to ensure scientific credibility.
Keep in mind: Dog DNA test companies pretty consistently conduct new research and customer surveys to improve accuracy and gather new info. So by sharing your experience after testing your pup, you can help improve the knowledge base.
What are the benefits of getting a dog DNA test?
Dog DNA tests can offer a variety of valuable insights for dog owners, veterinarians, and rescue shelters alike.
These tests can help you discover your pup’s breed makeup, especially if you’re the proud parent of a mutt who looks like a mix of everything under the sun.
Some results can go back several generations, and even help you find your pup’s relatives (similar to 23andMe for humans).
Testing your dog’s lineage could help identify genetic diseases and health conditions that they may be more prone to, which could better inform you about the preventive care and wellness planning your pup may need.
Keep in mind: If your pup’s DNA test results suggest your pup will be more prone to certain issues, it doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the case. But it’s still a good idea to discuss the test results with your vet.
By gaining a better understanding of your furry family member’s background, you can build a deeper bond and connection.
This personalized approach takes into account your pet’s individuality, so you can build a happier and more fulfilling relationship by aligning care, play, and training based on their inherited traits and preferences.
Dog DNA testing allows breeders and owners of purebred and designer dogs to verify lineage, prevent inbreeding, and ensure breed-specific genetic conditions will not be passed down to the puppies.
By enhancing ethical breeding practices, DNA testing contributes to the wellness and integrity of dogs, building trust among breeders, buyers, and the wider community.
What are the best dog DNA tests?
Embark Dog DNA Test and Wisdom Panel are two of the leading names in dog DNA testing. Each company offers a comprehensive look into your dog’s genetic makeup by analyzing hundreds of thousands of genetic markers with databases of hundreds of different dog breeds.
Embark is an official research partner of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Wisdom Panel partners with Neogen, a Michigan-based animal and food safety company.
Don’t forget that no matter the quality of the test, the results aren’t foolproof.
Can my dog’s DNA test results be used when I buy pet insurance?
No. While dog DNA tests are a fun way to learn about your furry family member’s potential background—and to join the community of people who enjoy guessing dogs’ breed backgrounds—you probably won’t be able to use the results to confirm your dog’s breed for pet insurance purposes.
Veterinarians often rely on SOAP notes—another name for your pet’s medical record—to share their findings about your pooch’s health and wellness, and to help them make educated guesses about your dog’s breed.
Pet insurance companies usually need a vet’s SOAP notes to confirm your dog’s breed makeup—and any pre-existing conditions—making it crucial to have a pet medical record for your pup when you sign up for a pet insurance policy.
Before we go…
No matter their lineage, you can expect a lot of new costs when you add a new addition to your fur fam—like adoption fees, vet visits, food, grooming, bedding, toys, and other essential supplies.
Buying dog insurance early in your mutt’s life is a smart (and responsible) move to help you cover the costs of their health care. And at Lemonade, you can cover your dog from as early as two months old.
Learn more about what a Lemonade Pet policy covers here. For example, a basic policy can help cover the costs of diagnostics (like x-rays or blood tests) and treatments (like surgery or medication) for eligible accidents and illnesses.
Click below to get your quote started.
A few quick words, because we <3 our lawyers: This post is general in nature, and any statement in it doesn’t alter the terms, conditions, exclusions, or limitations of policies issued by Lemonade, which differ according to your state of residence. You’re encouraged to discuss your specific circumstances with your own professional advisors. The purpose of this post is merely to provide you with info and insights you can use to make such discussions more productive! Naturally, all comments by, or references to, third parties represent their own views, and Lemonade assumes no responsibility for them. Coverage and discounts may not be available in all states.