Dog DNA Test For Mixed Breeds

mixed breed dog DNA test

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You’re not alone if you’ve ever looked at your mixed-breed pup and wondered about their breed’s competition. With the advent of dog DNA tests, pet owners can now unlock the secrets of their mixed dog breeds. The appeal is obvious: By simply swabbing the inside of your mutt’s cheek, you can discover and gain actionable insights about your pet. This article explains how a simple DNA test can take some of the mystery out of your mixed-breed dog.

What Are Dog DNA Tests For Mixed Breeds?

Dog DNA testing (aka dog genetic testing) involves examining your dog’s DNA, the chemical database that carries instructions for your dog’s body functions. Dog DNA tests for mixed breeds are specialized tests designed to reveal the genetic makeup of dogs with a mix of different breeds in their ancestry. These tests offer unique insight into breed composition and other factors.

Canine DNA tests are also widely used for:

  • Trait identification
  • Ancestry
  • Family heritage
  • Health screening
  • Relative finder
  • Adult weight prediction
  • Behavior

A dog DNA test can be performed at home or your veterinarian’s office. DNA tests can use cheek swabs or blood tests.

Why Consider A DNA Test for Your Mixed Breed Dog?

These tests are becoming an indispensable tool for dog owners seeking to provide the best care for their mixed breed companions.

Health Insights

One of the most compelling reasons to pursue dog DNA testing is the invaluable health insights these tests offer. By uncovering the specific breeds that make up your mixed-breed dog, DNA tests can alert you to breed-specific health issues your pet may be predisposed to and provide critical information for diagnosing, treating and preventing illness. This knowledge is powerful—it enables you to be proactive about your dog’s health, from tailoring their diet to preemptively managing potential hereditary conditions. Early detection and prevention of such conditions can significantly improve your furry friend’s quality of life and longevity. However, there are limitations and you should discuss your results with your vet.

Understanding Behavior Traits

Mixed-breed dogs inherit unique traits from their diverse ancestry, influencing their behavior, temperament, and training needs. DNA tests can shed light on the genetic factors driving your dog’s personality, helping you understand why they may exhibit certain behaviors. This insight is invaluable in developing more effective training strategies, enhancing your dog’s behavioral well-being, and fostering a more empathetic relationship between you and your pet.

Ancestry Information

Discovering the ancestry of your mixed-breed dog is not only fascinating but also practical. Knowing the specific breeds within your dog’s genetic makeup provides a clearer understanding of its physical characteristics, potential size, and energy levels. This information can guide you in creating a lifestyle and care regime that aligns perfectly with your dog’s innate needs and preferences, ensuring they lead a happy and fulfilled life.

Breed Make-Up Percentage.

Get a report of your dog’s breed percentage (e.g., 50% Cocker Spaniel, 25% German Shepherd, and so on).

Physical Traits

From the shape of their nose to the tips of their toes, you will understand the “why” of every inch of your dog’s physical appearance.

Improved Well-Being and Care Strategies

The comprehensive insights from dog DNA testing empower you to make informed decisions about your pet’s care. From customized nutrition plans that cater to breed-specific dietary needs to tailored exercise routines that match your dog’s energy levels and health profile, DNA testing allows you to optimize every aspect of your care strategy. Additionally, understanding your dog’s mixed breed characteristics and genetic predispositions enables you to anticipate and mitigate health risks, ensuring your pet enjoys a healthier, more vibrant life.

Mixed-Breed Puppy Screening

A DNA test is perfect for getting peace of mind if your puppy hasn’t been screened for congenital or hereditary diseases.

The Science Behind Dog DNA Testing

Here’s an overview of the scientific principles and technology that make canine genetic testing possible, along with a discussion on its accuracy and limitations.

Genetic Markers and Sequencing

Dog DNA testing relies on identifying specific sequences of DNA called genetic markers. These markers are segments of DNA that vary among individuals, making them useful for identifying genetic traits, predispositions to certain diseases, and ancestry. The process involves extracting DNA from a sample (like a cheek swab), amplifying it using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and then analyzing it for specific genetic markers associated with different breeds, traits, and health conditions.

Breed Database Comparison

Once the DNA is analyzed, the genetic markers are compared against a comprehensive database of known markers for various dog breeds. This database results from extensive genetic research and mapping of the canine genome, identifying markers unique to specific breeds. The test can determine your dog’s breed composition by matching the markers in your dog’s DNA to those in the database.

SNP Chips

Many dog DNA tests use SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) chips, which simultaneously screen thousands of genetic markers. SNPs represent variations at a single point in the DNA sequence, and by examining these variations across a dog’s genome, the tests can provide insights into breed ancestry, genetic health risks, and physical traits.

Accuracy of Canine Genetic Tests

The accuracy of dog DNA tests has improved significantly with advances in genetics technology and the expansion of breed databases. Most reputable companies report high levels of accuracy in breed identification and the detection of genetic health markers. However, the precision of breed composition analysis can vary depending on the diversity and size of the breed reference database used by the testing service. Tests that screen for a larger number of genetic markers across various breeds tend to offer more precise results.

Limitations of DNA Testing

Despite the advancements, dog DNA testing is not without its limitations. The accuracy of breed identification can decrease for dogs with a highly mixed background or breeds not well-represented in the testing company’s database. Additionally, while genetic testing can identify potential health risks, it does not guarantee a dog will develop the condition; environmental factors and lifestyle also play a significant role in a dog’s health. Furthermore, the interpretation of genetic data can be complex, and ongoing research may change how certain genetic markers are understood.

Understanding the science of dog DNA testing, including its methodologies, accuracy, and limitations, is crucial for pet owners considering these tests. While DNA testing offers valuable insights into a dog’s genetic background and potential health risks, viewing the results as one piece of your pet’s broader health and care puzzle, complementing regular veterinary check-ups and a healthy lifestyle is important.

Mixed-Breed Dog DNA Test Price

Dog DNA test costs $60 to $200 (including the kit and lab analysis). Pricing varies by test type. Some tests only include dog breed identification; others might include more in-depth information such as health risks, traits, family trees, and more. When it comes to dog DNA tests, you get what you pay for (the higher the price, the more accurate and comprehensive the results). You’ll pay more in a veterinarian setting. However, veterinarians and breeders use the DNA testing companies we recommend here. You’ll pay more in a veterinarian setting. However, veterinarians and breeders use the DNA testing companies we recommend here.

What Is The Best DNA Kit For Mixed Breeds?

Selecting the “best” DNA kit for mixed breeds depends on various factors, including what you hope to learn from the test, your budget, and the level of detail you desire. However, a few DNA test kits are frequently mentioned for their accuracy, comprehensive analysis, and customer satisfaction. Check our best dog DNA test review guide to find the best option for your mutt.

How Do At-Home Mixed-Breed DNA Tests Work?

Thanks to at-home dog DNA testing, the dog DNA test process is relatively easy for us dog owners. Here is how it works.

1. Ordering. Purchase a DNA kit from a site like Amazon, Chewy, or one of our recommended top picks below, and you’ll get your dog’s DNA test kit in the mail.

2. Cheek swap sample. The kit will come with a cheek swab to swipe the inside of your dog’s cheek. Swab the inside of your dog’s cheek for 15 to 30 seconds to collect a sample of your dog’s DNA.

3. Mail the swap sample to the lab. Read the instructions for properly packaging your kit and mail your dog’s sample back. 

4. Sample analysis. Once the lab receives your dog’s DNA sample, scientists will determine your pet’s DNA sequence during a process known as “genotyping.” Your dog’s genome will be analyzed and compared with an extensive breed database to ensure accuracy.

5. Results. In a few weeks, you’ll receive a report that includes your dog’s DNA results. Depending on the company, you will receive your results via email or view them through a customized portal on its website. Your results will vary depending on the type of dog DNA test that you picked. 

Mixed Breed Dog DNA Test Risks

Dog genetic testing poses little physical risk, and blood and cheek swab tests have almost no risk. However, dog DNA testing can have emotional and financial risks for dog owners.

While DNA tests allow owners to better understand their dogs’ health, owners shouldn’t make medical decisions about their pets based solely on DNA testing results. It’s important to not panic at every health risk in your dog’s results and never waste more money doing further testing until a professional has officially diagnosed your dog.

A dog’s DNA test may indicate a vulnerability to a health condition, but it does not mean the dog will get it. DNA tests only provide warnings, not diagnoses. Even if your dog’s results reveal a mutation, they may not necessarily develop the disease, says Professor Kari Ekenstedt at Purdue University.[1]  

For example, look at a severe degenerative myelopathy (DM) condition. DM is a debilitating spinal condition that eventually results in paralysis in elderly dogs. Professor Ekenstedt calls DM the “ever controversial DM mutation” because it is hard to interpret. A story of two distressed dog owners published in Nature recounts the story of a 13-year-old dog that was losing her ability to walk. They bought a genetic test through a direct-to-consumer company that showed a mutation linked to DM. Convinced that she would slowly die of the disease, her owners put her to sleep. It’s possible the 13-year-old dog had an entirely treatable spinal disorder and did not need to be put down.[2]

The American Kennel Club notes pet DNA health test research is still in its infancy and warns against “the unquantifiable level of worry, heartbreak, and sometimes false confidence these tests might stir.” For instance, some conditions are associated with multiple genes, but genetic testing companies might only test for one of those genes. This might result in pet owners falsely believing their canine companions have the “all clear” from a certain condition.[3] 

If you get back a positive test — meaning your dog is carrying a genetic variant that has been in a study correlated or associated with a disease—discuss your results with your vet, a medical geneticist, or a genetic counselor to make an educated decision about your dog’s results.

Your vet can provide further health screening if needed. Frequent exams can corroborate your dog’s DNA test results and give you more insights.

The Bottom Line

Dog DNA testing for mixed breeds is more than just a luxury or novelty—it is an essential tool for any responsible pet owner committed to providing the best possible life for their dog. The insights gleaned from these tests empower owners with knowledge, enabling them to cater to the unique needs of their mixed-breed dogs with unparalleled precision and care.

Therefore, if you’ve ever pondered the mysteries of your mixed breed dog’s heritage or how you might better understand and care for them, consider exploring their genetic background through DNA testing. This journey of discovery will not only satisfy your curiosity but will open up new avenues for enhancing your bond with your pet, providing them with a life of health, happiness, and love that is as unique and special as their genetic makeup.

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Canine Bible uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process and product review methodology to learn more about how we fact-check, test products, and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. The Atlantic
  2. Nature
  3. AKC
Meri Halvari, Veterinarian Student, DVM Candidate at Canine Bible

Meri Halvari is a dedicated and passionate veterinary student and a proud contributing author at Canine Bible. Her lifelong journey with animals began in her childhood, evolving into a steadfast commitment to animal care and wellness.

In terms of experience, Meri served as an Interim Veterinarian in Finland in 2023 and worked as a Veterinary Assistant in the same country from 2019 to 2023. Her hands-on experience in these roles has further fueled her passion and knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine.

Regarding her educational background, Meri is currently a Veterinary Student at the Estonian University of Life Sciences, where she has been studying from 2018 and is expected to graduate in 2024 with a DVM degree. Additionally, she undertook traineeships at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria in 2023, and at the University of Perugia, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Italy in 2022. These international experiences have broadened her perspective and enhanced her skills in veterinary medicine.

To complement her education and experience, Meri is working on her final thesis on the field of Anesthesia, showcasing her comprehensive and diverse expertise in animal care and treatment.

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