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Un-Mixing A Mutt: DNA Testing And Your Dog

If you’re the owner of a mutt, it’s likely you have an idea — or more likely several — about his breed mix. But what if you could know for sure?

Well, you can, through dog DNA testing. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that it’s not as expensive as you would think. Testing starts at just $60, though the price goes up from there for more accurate tests. More comprehensive at-home tests cost $100 and upwards, and you can also opt for even more precise — and pricey — testing at your vet.

Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions about dog DNA testing.

What’s the difference between tests done at home and those done at the vet?

When dog DNA testing is done at home, the Pack Leader uses a cotton swab or bristle brush to collect saliva for sampling. Your veterinarian will draw a blood sample instead.

Home tests tend to be less expensive but also less accurate, though they can still provide insightful results, typically back to your dog’s great-grandparents. Tests done at the vet are usually compared against more possible breeds, allowing for more possibilities of a match.

When comparing tests, know that the more breeds in the company’s database, the better the test’s accuracy is.

What are some of the benefits of getting a DNA profile of my dog?

By gaining information about your dog’s genetics, you and your veterinarian can be aware of possible health factors related to breed, including proper nutrition, routine healthcare, and preventative measures. You and your vet can be on the lookout for possible health issues related to breed that you otherwise might have overlooked.

Some of the tests also detect for the Multi-Drug Resistence Gene (MDR1). If a dog has inherited mutated versions of this gene from both parents, then they lack the ability for their bodies to cycle drugs out of their brain. This leads to a toxic and fatal build-up of otherwise beneficial drugs, like heartworm and anti-diarrhea medications.

The information can also provide insight when determining your dog’s exercise requirements, engaging in training, and even addressing problem behaviors. You may understand better why your dog has certain tendencies or drives because they are often related to breed.

If you’re adopting a puppy, it can also help you better guess how big the puppy will get and understand her likely energy levels and exercise requirements in advance. Nowadays, many shelters routinely DNA-test incoming dogs in order to facilitate placement in new homes. Next time you adopt, ask if the shelter does this.

Can I use DNA testing to confirm my dog’s parentage?

Yes, there are also DNA tests offered specifically for this reason. For example, the AKC offers DNA profiling exclusively for confirming parentage and genetic identity, but does not provide any information about breed.

What are some examples of at-home tests?

Here are two of the most popular tests available online:

DNA My Dog
Covers the 85 breeds that make up 97% of common North American mixed breeds. Cost: $59.99.

Wisdom Panel
Includes over 250 total breeds, types, and varieties. Their newest 3.0 version now includes wolf and coyote detection. (Currently, 3.0 is only available from their website; outside testing companies use version 2.5.) Cost: $84.99.

Human genetic testing, principally to determine ancestry, first came to consumers around 2000, with animal genetic testing for breed following in 2007. Since genealogy is now the second most popular hobby in the U.S., it’s no surprise that doing the same for our four-legged friends wouldn’t be far behind — so why not test yourself and your pack (through different companies, of course) if you haven’t already?

Have you tested your dog’s DNA? Did it confirm what you already knew or reveal surprising results? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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