Mail-in DNA kits for humans have become incredibly popular in recent years, but did you know the demand for pet DNA tests is also on the rise? Amazingly, the company Embark—one of the leaders in the pet DNA space—sold roughly 100,000 units in 2018. As genetic science advances and Americans spend more money on their pets, it’s unlikely this trend will diminish anytime soon.
Although these kits are undeniably popular, does that mean they should be trusted? Is a DNA test a worthwhile investment for your pooch?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and perils of dog-approved DNA tests. We’ll also share specific info to look for if you have a German shepherd. By the end of this piece, you should have a better understanding of whether a dog DNA kit is worth your hard-earned cash.
How Does a Dog DNA Test Work?
Although there are a few differences between companies, most pet DNA tests only require a simple swab of your dog’s cheeks. Interestingly, there are epithelial cells all along the cheek that contain a wealth of genetic information.
Most companies recommend brushing the inside of your dog’s cheeks for at least 20 seconds before placing it in a sterile container. Afterward, all you have to do is send off the sample to the lab and wait for processing.
For the best results, vets recommend taking cheek swabs a few hours after mealtime. You should also hold off on testing for about two hours if your dog was close to another animal.
Usually, a good cheek swab is all that DNA companies need to scan your dog’s genetic lineage. There are, however, a few labs that might require a blood sample. As always, read the instructions listed on your test kit for full details. If you have any questions, be sure to contact the company directly or speak with a registered veterinarian.
Are Pet DNA Tests Worth The Price?
Before evaluating the pros and cons of dog DNA kits, keep in mind that the majority of these tests are interested in determining your dog’s breed. While some DNA kits could provide insight into genetic mutations and disease susceptibility, those aren’t usually the primary concerns.
If you’re curious whether your “purebred” German shepherd has 100 percent German Shepherd genes, then investing in a DNA kit could provide reasonably accurate results.
People who own mixed breeds often order DNA tests to understand their dog’s temperament better. This valuable information could also help you develop an effective training strategy.
Just be forewarned: you can’t rely on DNA tests to tell you about any diseases your dog could develop. Of course, figuring out your dog’s breed will help you understand what conditions they’re prone to, but these tests still can’t predict disease susceptibility accurately. You have to be willing to take whatever “disease predictions” turn up on your test with a grain of salt.
While the info on possible illnesses might not be 100 percent accurate, it could give you an idea of conditions to look out for in the future. This data might help you determine whether pet health insurance is a good investment or how much money to set aside for future medical bills.
The price of dog DNA tests could be a pro or a con depending on how much you value the data and what company you go with. Prices for dog genetic testing now range from about $60 to well over $150.
Keep in mind, not all DNA tests are created equal. You should thoroughly review the company you’re interested in working with. In addition to looking through customer reviews, you should look into how many DNA samples are in the company’s database. In general, the more genetic info a company has, the more accurate your DNA results will be.
What Conditions To Look Out For In German Shepherds?
Like any other dog breed, German shepherds are at a higher risk for certain genetic disorders. All dog owners need to ensure the DNA test kit they’re interested in takes these common mutations into account.
The most significant condition to look out for is hip dysplasia. Like many other large dog breeds, German shepherds are particularly susceptible to this painful condition that limits hip motility. Frequently, hip dysplasia is the result of a genetic mutation.
Although hip dysplasia is arguably the most common issue German shepherds face, there are many other conditions to be aware of. Here are a few other genetic problems that should be screened on your German shepherd’s DNA test:
- Skin allergies
- Thyroid issues
- Perianal Fistulas
Are Doggie DNA Tests Worth Your Dinero?
As geneticists continue to unravel the complexities of doggie DNA, these DNA test kits have real promise for the future of pet care. True, pet DNA tests still have a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. If you’re most interested in getting a detailed glimpse into your dog’s breed, then one of these kits could be worth the price.