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Should I Get My Dog a DNA Test?

Sure! But don’t expect 100-percent accuracy.

Unless you bought your dog from a boujee breeder, you probably have no clue about its lineage. Your guess is as good as mine: Even professionals struggle to nail down breeds by their appearance, according to several studies. But if you care about that kind of thing, 23andMe-style DNA tests for dogs are available, guaranteeing zoom-inducing breed reveals.

But are dog DNA tests accurate? And should you get one for your dog? 

Maybe! 

Many consumer-facing DNA tests for dogs work in the same way: You provide the company with a sample — normally a cheek swab — from your dog, they load that information onto their DNA reader, which then compares the sample to targeted genetic markers. A computer algorithm interprets those markers and spits out the most accurate breed match, which usually consists of more than one breed, for your particular pup.

The other nice thing about doggie DNA tests is that they may be able to reveal if your dog has a predisposition to certain genetic diseases, which could theoretically help you plan for a future diagnosis. “It’s a good way to get more information about your dogs,” says Andrea Tu, medical director at Behavior Vets of New York. If results show that your dog is susceptible to liver disease, for instance, you could be proactive by running blood work more frequently to catch potential problems early.

One very, very important thing to keep in mind when you get your results, however, is that DNA science is incredibly complex, and the algorithms these products use do a decent amount of estimating. Even human DNA tests can be nebulous at times — a 2018 report revealed that human genetic-testing company results were inaccurate a whopping 40 percent of the time, and almost no data exists to suggest that direct-to-consumer DNA tests for dogs are accurate enough to provide sufficient guidance relating to health care. (If you want to be prepared for the worst, pet insurance is likely a better bet.)

In short, DNA tests for dogs, especially the ones you do at home (Tu says blood DNA tests performed by vets are more accurate), are still a work in progress and should be taken with a grain of salt, especially when it comes to disease detection. But their accuracy will improve as technology advances, and they can still provide some insight into your dog.

For now, if you want a good guess at what your dog is made up of, DNA tests for dogs can be a fun thing to do. If anything, Tu says, “It’s not really expensive.” Indeed, you can find loads of at-home dog DNA tests for just over $100. 

Just don’t expect it to reveal why your dog loves watching you pee or anything like that.

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