Dog DNA Tests: What You Need To Know

With loads of mixed breed dogs popping up all over social media, ‘dog DNA test NZ’ has become a commonly searched term. Kiwi dog owners are eager to discover their pets’ origins through dog genetic testing to determine whether they are secret purebred dogs or unique crosses.

We wanted to find out all the important DNA test info: how accurate they are, how they work, where you can get them done and, of course, how much they cost.

So, avid dog lovers, read on to find out more about conducting a dog DNA test in NZ.

What is dog DNA testing?

What is a dog DNA test anyway? Well, dog DNA tests are designed to determine three things:

1. Ancestry

Dog genetic testing can provide insights into the breeds and their proportions that make up a given dog’s DNA. For a long time, only owners of purebred dogs with a registered and documented pedigree had the luxury of knowing exactly how their dog was bred.

Now, dog DNA tests allow any dog, including rescue dogs or those with unknown origins, to have their breed mixture assessed. Whether you’re curious about your dog’s genetic makeup or want to confirm your suspicions, these tests offer a way to gain clarity on their breeding.

2. Health recommendations

Dog genetic testing can be used to assess great health and lifestyle recommendations for dogs, based on their breed. Given that the Basset Hound breed has a tendency to overeat, for example, you can use test results to regulate your pup’s diet and exercise accordingly.

3. Disease prevention in breeding

Unlike the dog DNA tests available in the market in NZ that anyone can purchase, veterinarians and breeders use specialised tests designed to identify specific hereditary diseases. These professionals are already familiar with the diseases common in certain breeds. They can check if a dog is a carrier, offering treatment or using the information to avoid breeding it and passing on those genes to a new generation of puppies.

Do dog DNA tests actually work?

While there’s been a huge increase in demand for dog DNA tests in NZ, it’s still a fairly new concept. Because of this, the industry is largely unregulated.

Still, these tests offer the opportunity for some fascinating insights into your dog’s history, health, plus physical and personality traits. Plus, they allow you to satisfy your curiosity about how your pup came to be brindle or why they love water.

Much like human genetic DNA testing, you probably don’t want to place too much emphasis on the results of any dog genetic test. Some companies claim tests are 93% accurate, however, methodology between different tests isn’t always uniform, so this is yet to get the peer review stamp of approval.

Can a DNA test tell a dog’s breed?

Different dog DNA tests vary in terms of what they offer. Some only tell you about your dog’s parentage or breed makeup. Others go as far as matching your dog to siblings and other canine relatives.

Several in-market tests also include varying degrees of genetic disease testing for cats and dogs.

Here’s some of the information you can glean from different DNA tests on the market:

  • Breed makeup/parentage
  • Canine “family finder”
  • Weight indicator
  • Health plan
  • Possible health risks, genetic disorders, or medical complications
  • Possible physical traits and body features

Of course, many owners want to do a test simply to find out what breed their dogs are, for the fun of it. It’s fun to see the results and match the different breeds to your dog’s physical characteristics and personality traits.

That aside, you might find even more value in dog DNA tests. For example, knowing your dog’s breed could help you explore what health conditions it might be more prone to.

If you know French Bulldogs are prone to dog skin conditions and your dog is half Frenchie, for instance, these tests can help you to proactively manage their lifestyle to avoid complications. The same goes for a range of conditions like hip dysplasia, epilepsy and IVDD.

What’s the best way to DNA test a dog?

Dog DNA tests are usually done via a cheek swab or a sample of your dog’s hair. Most of them are available to buy online. All you have to do is take a swab of their saliva and send it back to the lab.

Here are some of the options available for dog DNA tests in NZ:

  • Massey University EPAGSC
  • Orivet
  • Embark
  • DNA My Dog

Here’s a guide to how most of these tests work:

  1. Purchase the DNA kit online and register an account with the company’s online portal if needed
  2. Open your kit then carefully check the contents. It should include a swab, swab bag, prepaid return envelope, and instructions
  3. Read the instructions, carefully!
  4. Take a swab of saliva from your dog’s cheek
  5. Let the swab dry, then seal it up and post it using the envelope provided
  6. You’ll be able to view your results online or possibly via email. The process usually takes a couple of weeks

Aside from satisfying your own curiosity, you can also share the report with your vet. Depending on which breeds make up your dog’s parentage, there might be valuable insights into their health, temperament, or personality traits.

How much does it cost

The costs of dog DNA tests can vary significantly, although many are around $200. The more expensive tests usually offer larger DNA databases and a further in-depth analysis.

If there’s a big DNA database, there are more samples for your dog’s DNA to be cross-referenced against. That means you have a better chance of getting a fuller picture of your dog’s genetic makeup. Some tests only use a database of around 60 dog breeds, where others have hundreds.

Are dog DNA tests ever wrong?

Is it actually worth the spend to get your dog’s DNA tested? It depends on your viewpoint.

On the plus side, results go through a detailed analysis comparing your dog’s DNA against the database. As we mentioned above, this means companies with bigger breed databases are more likely to offer comprehensive results.

And the companies themselves are quite confident. Some claim they can detect a dog breed (say, Labrador) in your dog’s DNA even if your dog is as little as 5% that breed.

But without regulations, there’s no way to confirm that your results are 100% accurate. We prefer to think of these tests as really useful guidelines rather than something completely set in stone. Of course, the choice is yours. It depends how invested you are in knowing your dog’s genetic makeup.

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About the reviewer of this page

This report was reviewed by Canstar Content Producer, Caitlin Bingham. Caitlin is an experienced writer whose passion for creativity led her to study communication and journalism. She began her career freelancing as a content writer, before joining the Canstar team.

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