Are Dog DNA Tests Really That Accurate? | A Vet’s Perspective

As someone who has worked with dogs of all shapes and sizes for the past 30 years, I’ve gotten pretty good at coming up with ideas for what breed mixes comprise my client’s dogs.

Or at least I thought I was. With the popularity and easy of DNA tests for dogs, I’ve been shown to be wrong fairly often in my “guesses” of what dog breeds are in any particular dog.

Who are these dogs really???

I’ve also done DNA tests on a few of my own dogs as well as discussed and seen DNA results for dozens of patients over the years. Sometimes, the results we get back are very eye-opening.

Inevitably the questions start coming…how can my 150 lb dog have any chihuahua DNA? Why does my dog not have any Golden Retriever DNA in it – it looks so much like a Golden Retriever? How did they not identify any dog breeds in my dog??

Let’s dig deeper into Dog DNA tests and try and get the bottom line question answered: are these tests accurate?

Two Kinds Of Dog DNA Tests

There are fundamentally two different kinds of dog DNA tests:

  • Breed identification
  • Screening for inherited genetic abnormalities linked to specific diseases

The breed-specific tests claim to have the ability to identify roughly 191 AKC-registered breeds. How they all do that is up for debate. Some companies, such as Wisdom, don’t publish their exact testing procedure for fear of someone copying their techniques.

The inherited genetic abnormality tests are numerous and complex. Moreover, there has recently been a strong discussion regarding whether or not these tests should even be available to the public at this time.

The concern is that medical decisions regarding a pet based on a result from one of these genetic tests can be misleading and potentially inconsequential.

Are These Dog DNA Tests Accurate?

The answer is as clear as mud: we just don’t know. There is no industry-wide quality control standard and no uniform testing protocol that we can trust.

Regarding genetic testing for breed identification, even that isn’t as straight-forward as it might seem. Again, there is no standard quality control and comparison of the different methodologies that each lab uses.

There is finally an effort now to try and have the industry come together to formulate a set of standards that everyone can follow. Whether or not that will involve sharing data across companies is yet to be seen.

What’s The Bottom Line For Now?

  • For now, veterinary geneticists are asking that you not base medical decisions for your pet based on a specific genetic test until there’s formal standardization and proof of accuracy for these tests.
  • If you want to try and determine what breeds make up your dog, feel free to have fun and try a test or two. However, don’t put all your faith into these results. We just don’t know if your test is accurate or not.
  • The best two breed identification tests based solely on number and quality of ratings on Amazon are the Embark Dog DNA Test and the Wisdom Panel.

Other Dog DNA Resources You May Want To Check Out

Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs

NHGRI Dog Genome Project