What is dog DNA testing?

What is dog DNA testing?

We consider our dogs to be a part of our family, but more often than not, we don’t know that much about them.

Despite feeling like we’re kindred spirits when we look deep into their eyes, they can’t tell us much about their backstory ­– particularly if they’re a mix breed or mongrel.

If you’ve got a one-of-a-kind rescue hound and you’re desperate to find out more about him/her, the good news is that science has now made this possible.

Getting to the bottom (or top) of our dog’s family tree is now easier than ever before, thanks to the latest phenomenon of DNA testing for dogs.

With a simple swab or sample, DNA tests now provide a fascinating insight into the ancestry, health and breed of your pooch (which comes in handy when doing a dog insurance comparison).

In recent years, we’ve seen a surge in dogs having their DNA tested. With more than one million mixed breed dogs in the UK, it’s no wonder pet owners are growing curious.

In the world of dog breeding, for example, DNA testing has become a prerequisite – and while it has been met with some controversy, it can help to avoid inbreeding.

Dog DNA tests have even been used to track down owners that don’t clear up after their pets.

A dog licking its lips with a tennis ball between its paws on a sofa

How does DNA testing for dogs work?

The process works very much like a human DNA test and can be conducted at home or at the vet’s clinic. Some vets offer blood DNA tests, which vary from practice to practice but can exceed £150.

There has been a considerable buzz surrounding these tests as of late, thanks to the ‘home kits’ that make things easier and cheaper.

They are usually around £50 to £100. They’ll include a cheek swab, which involves collecting a bit of saliva from your pup.

This sample can then be sent off in the post to a laboratory for testing and in around two to four weeks, you’ll receive a fascinating analysis of your dog’s genes.

This is possible thanks to a special DNA reader, which genotypes your dog’s sample along with a series of ‘markers’. Thanks to a super-smart computer algorithm, it reads the markers and matches them alongside billions of ancestral combinations for canines.

These markers can provide clear yes/no answers regarding your pooch. For example, if the mutated version of a certain gene is present, you can tell which disease your dog is more likely to have.

Some testing kits, however, may charge more for detecting inherited diseases.

The science is really quite simple. Just like us humans, dogs have two copies of every gene – one inherited from the mother and one from the father.

Genetic labs can trace the maternal and paternal line of your canine back a couple of generations.

However, puppies will inherit 50% of one parent’s breed characteristics at random, so the same litter can all have a different genetic makeup.

It can make a dog DNA test all the more inviting – to finally find out what you’ve always wanted to know.

A line up of many varying dogs of different breeds and sizes

How do I find out exactly what breed my dog is?

Testing breeds can be a little trickier. This is not so much a ‘yes/no’ answer, and often companies have databases on different dog breeds in their database.

They compare your pooch’s genetic information with the information that they already have – and it’s not always that accurate, as it often involves algorithms as opposed to actual data. 

With a fair few tests on the market, there’s certainly competition for who has the largest database of doggy genomes.

As a result, there is often controversy surrounding which DNA test is the most accurate, and the prices charged for doing this can vary massively.

Similarly, official dog breeding bodies have cautioned pet-owners about using ‘high street’ DNA home kits for making predictions about their doggy’s health – as they’ll largely only offer an approximation.


What are the genetics of my dog?

Perhaps you’ve always suspected your mysterious rescue mix to be a Terrier, thanks to their champion digging qualities, or perhaps they run like the wind and you suspect their grandparent was a Greyhound.

We often think that just from looking at the physical traits of a dog, we know exactly what breed they are.

But canine genetics are often far more complex and a simple DNA test can reveal much more about what’s beneath the surface.

It can also provide an important look into the genetic makeup, and therefore the health of your dog.

Some dogs are naturally more predisposed to certain diseases, and for owners that are concerned about the chances of their dog developing a hereditary disease, it can be quite helpful in knowing how to take proper precautions now, rather than wait until an issue arises.

It can even be helpful in the case of dog insurance comparison to know the unique health quirks of your furry friend. This, in turn, can help you avoid costly medical bills and could possibly add years to your dog’s life expectancy.

With more people peering deep into their doggy’s heritage, it naturally comes with its own set of ethical controversies – just as with human DNA tests.

Considered to be a form of ‘genetic engineering’, there are concerns that some breeders are using DNA tests to breed the most aesthetically pleasing pup – all for novelty purposes.

For the average dog owner, however, conducting a DNA test for your doggy is a fun and informative way to get to know who your dog really is. 

A dog running through a field with tall barley plants

So which DNA test should I choose?

If you’re opting to buy a DIY dog DNA test, then there are usually a number of factors to consider. Well-known brands in this market include Wisdom Panel, Animal DNA Diagnostics and Laboklin, to name just a few.

Some companies have a more extensive genetic database of breeds, others offer a health screening, some have an element that can tell whether your dog has wolf or coyote ancestry (cue wolf howl), and others have a shorter waiting time to find out the results.

Dog DNA tests can cost as much, if not more, than some human DNA tests. But with many dog owners prepared to fork out as much as they would for a human baby, money is certainly no object.


Get a dog insurance comparison today

No matter what the results of your doggy DNA test, you’ll love them no matter what – and you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure they’re happy and healthy.

If anything, getting health results for your pooch can help put into perspective how important it is to take good care of them.

That’s why we recommend taking out insurance for your beloved four-legged friend. You can start the process by doing a dog insurance comparison online with the UK's only dedicated pet insurance comparison website

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