Everybody thinks their dog is the best dog in the world — and they’re right. All doggos are the best doggos in the world. 11/10. 100% good boy/girl.
You already know that your dog is unique, but you’re probably wondering what about your pet’s genetic makeup makes them so special. Why are his eyes two different colors? Why does she have spotted fur? Why does he insist on barking any time something walks past the window?
You could put a picture of your dog on Twitter and have people vote on what he or she is — but Mashable did a What’s your mutt? quiz last year that proves to all of us that we suck at guessing.
Enter dog DNA tests. Yes, they’re a thing, and they can tell you an awful lot about your dog’s family history, their genetic makeup, and their risk of disease in the future. For rescue parents, these are pretty much a must-do to finally solve your fur baby’s identity issues. (Plus, it’ll be nice to be able to give people a real answer when strangers at the dog park ask about their breed.)
Similar to the way human DNA tests shows a pie chart of percentages from ethnic regions around the world, a dog DNA test show you what your “mutt” is really made of — and maybe you’ll finally find out that his grandma was a Great Dane, and that’s why his ears are so pointy when you’ve been thinking he was all Mastiff this whole time.
Wondering how TF the science works? Well, the whole thing is actually pretty similar to human DNA kits: Dogs have two copies of every gene, one inherited from the mother and one from the father. DNA genetics labs can hone in on each and trace your dog’s maternal and paternal line all the way back to great grandparents. It’s also important to note that puppies will randomly inherit 50% of each of their parents’ breeds, making it very possible for puppies in the same litter to have different breed compositions. So even if you know (or think you know) what your dog’s parents or siblings are, a DNA test is still super worthwhile.
What we were surprised to see is that almost all dog DNA tests offer health screenings. 23andMe is the only human DNA test that offers a health service, and it’s optional. But it’s way better to spend the money to take precautions now rather than wait until a problem actually arises and end up having to break your bank on medical bills. And let’s be real, finding out if there’s a problem early and possibly being able to add years to your dog’s life is worth all of the money in the world.
Also, we’ll warn you now that most of dog DNA kits are just as expensive (or more expensive) than DNA tests for humans. But then again, most of us care about our dogs as if they were our human children, so hell yeah, we’ll fork over that money.
Our top pick for the best dog DNA test overall is Embark: This kit is nothing but praised by customers on Amazon due to the fact that the people at Embark care about your dog just as much as you do. Embark tests for over 200 canine breeds and over 200,00 genetic markers, which gets down into the nitty gritty gene details by testing the maternal and paternal side back multiple generations. As for health screening, Embark tests for the highest number of diseases we’ve seen in our research — and if something’s wrong, Embark’s amazing customer service employees will call you immediately to help you weigh the options. It is the priciest one in the bunch, but the quality of the results and of the customer service are so worth the cost.
Our top pick for the best dog DNA test on a budget was Find My Pet: This is one of the only kits we were able to find that offers both the breed breakdown and the predisposition health screening in the same kit for less than $100. Though it doesn’t test for as many breeds or use as many genetic markers as more expensive tests, the results are still impressively accurate and will get the job done — people in the reviews were pretty psyched.
Here are the best DNA testing kits for dogs:
One of the most well-reviewed kits we came across was Embark (and no, we didn’t just put this at the top because of the dog pun — though that is an added bonus). Embark’s DNA services can test both the maternal and paternal line of your dog, going all the way back to great grandparents. They’ll test for a crazy 256 quadrillion genes and over 200 dog breeds, and are even able to tell you if your dog has any wolf or coyote in his or her blood.
As for the health test, Embark screens for over 160 diseases and known medical issues for dogs, which is the highest number we’ve seen (AKA next to nothing will get past this test). Just swab the inside of your dog’s cheek, send the tool back, and get your results in three to seven weeks.
We also wanted to mention the stellar customer service. Unlike when you take your pet to a giant vet office and they want you to get in and out as fast as possible, Embark makes it obvious that they care about your pet as much as you do. So, if something worrisome shows up in the health screening, they won’t just send an envelope to your house that says “Surprise, your dog is dying” — they’ll call you and break the news like a doctor would, and then talk you through the options. Amazing.
Amazon customer Kerri writes:
“This DNA test may literally give my family extra years with our dog. A genetic predisposition was indicated for Luna for a disease that is typically not diagnosed until it is too late. With the forewarning this test has given us, we will discuss the findings with our vet to ensure early preventative care and screenings.
Before the results were released to us, a member of Embark reached out to explain what the disease was, what the predisposition meant, and options. Contact information was given in case we had further questions. I was extremely impressed that this “bad news” was broken to us gently, rather than just sending a report that would have caused panic.
Of course, the heredity information is exciting to read as well! Our dog was adopted and although we had some guesses as to her breed, seeing the combinations that make up the pup were amazing. I would highly recommend this test for any dog owner.”
If you need a bit more convincing, just read a few more Amazon reviews. Seriously, people are excited about this. You can grab your Embark kit for $199 here.
If you’re really trying to kick the family finder up a notch (or cannot for the life of you figure out what random mix of breeds your dog could possibly be) Wisdom Panel might be the kit to snag. This Amazon’s Choice kit claims to have the largest breed database in the dog DNA market, testing for over 250 canine breeds — that’s accounting for 50 more breeds than most other tests. (However, it does test for significantly less genetic markers than Embark does.)
Remember, if your dog is a mutt and both of his parents were mutts, the chance of finding the exact percentages of each breed can be slightly limited, and something like “51% mixed breed” may come back if some older grandparent genes can’t be untangled. Worth a shot, though.
Wisdom Panel also offers a kit that combines the classic DNA test with a Disease Detection test, which will screen your dog’s DNA for over 150 genetic health conditions common in dogs. (Even if you only do the DNA kit, Wisdom Panel will test for the potentially life-saving mdr1 drug sensitivity at no extra cost. Sweet.) Just swab the inside of your dog’s cheek with the provided tool, send it back, and get your results in two to three weeks.
Amazon customer Erin Wilson writes:
“This was a simple, straightforward, exciting way to learn my dog’s lineage a little better! I picked this adorable one-eyed mutt up at my local shelter last year. With no history on her, they listed her with their best guess as an ‘Affenpinscher mix.’
The results were beyond my expectations! They confirmed a lot of suspicions I had. It turned out my scruffy mutt was 37.5% Brussels Griffon, 25% Affenpinscher, 25% Pug, and the remaining 12.5% was ‘mixed breed.’ But the analysis was able to go beyond simply stating ‘mixed breed;’ they specified that the remaining mix was likely of terrier, companion, or sporting dog descent. They even managed to construct a family tree going back three generations to my dog’s great-grandparents, showing what pedigree or mix each one was!”
If you want to opt out of the health test and just figure out your dog’s genetic makeup for now, you can get the canine DNA test kid for just $79.98. If you’re also interested in the health information, Wisdom Panel’s DNA and Disease Detection kit goes for just $149.99 — which are both seriously great prices. Find them DNA test here and the DNA and disease test here.
Determining what type of dog you actually have is obviously cool, and finding out if there are any medical issues that you need to prepare for is handy. But what do you do after you find out that information? After comparing your dog’s genes to over 220 breeds, HomeDNA testing takes things to the next level by transforming the info into a “life plan” for your dog to live the longest, happiest life possible. They’ll give personalized (er, doggo-ized) information about the best food to feed your dog, how big that specific mix should grow to be, and even the best way to play and interact with your dog’s breed. (This also makes for an A+ bonding experience.)
HomeDNA also offers a package with a health screening (instead of the breed finder) and life plan package, testing your dog for over 100 genetic diseases and traits that could be bad. While that number may be high enough for you, we’ve seen other kits test for up to 160 medical issues — so if you’re super into the health aspects, we’d suggest a different kit. At any rate, you’ll just swab the inside of your dog’s cheek with the provided tool, send it back, and get your results in around three weeks.
Amazon customer P. Moss writes:
“Submitted the test for our Dachshund on 1/31. While we did not get the results in the time specified, Dr. Pik was more than accommodating in addressing our concerns and posting the DNA test results which were delayed by unusually bad weather. The test results were first rate and we look forward to making sure our dog lives a long and happy life”
Both the Mixed-Breed Identification Test and the Health Screening Test are sold separately at $125 each. We love the idea of the mixed-breed one with the personalized nutrition and play info, but a health screening for $125 just isn’t as good of a deal as kits mentioned above. Learn more and get them here.
One last option to consider if you’re on a budget is Find My Pet DNA. Find My Pet is the only well-reviewed kit we’ve seen to offer both a breed breakdown screening and health screening together for under $100.
The idea is slightly “you get what you pay for” here — so as you can guess, your dog’s ancestry percentages probably won’t be as detailed as they would be with a more expensive kit, as Find My Pet doesn’t incorporate quite as many breeds or genetic markers. However, you may not even care to get that specific, and Find My Pet can still 100% give you most of the general mixed-breed questions you may have. (Note: Find My Pet will not confirm if your dog is a purebred or not.)
Amazon customer Amazon customer (lol) writes:
“We got our dog as a rescue four years ago and ever since then we’ve been wondering exactly what he is. The shelter we got him from just had him listed as Havanese mix, he is actually Maltese, ShihTzu, Cairn, Who would have thunk it ☺
The DNA kit arrived in a timely manner, and doing the test could not be any easier. The instructions are good, and mailing the sample back is also very convenient. We believe that these results are accurate and it’s so nice being able to look these dogs up and see what types of personality traits they have and also what type of health issues to look out for, so we can be proactive and not ignore or miss signs of trouble. We would recommend this test.”
We also saw another review saying that Find My Pet DNA’s results were more specific than results received by a significantly more expensive kit. The price is low, the quality sure isn’t.
Grab your Find My Pet Dog DNA Test (with health screening included) for $89.95 here.
If you’re still not convinced, we seriously suggest going to the reviews of some of these to see what people have to say. Countless customers mentioned how happy they were to finally confirm what their rescue dog was — and the number of customers who said that these health tests literally saved their dogs lives by warning them of cancer (or some other medical problem) before it was too late is extremely heartwarming. *Tries not to tear up*
To see our review on the best DNA tests for humans, go here.