How Dog DNA Tests Work

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How Dog DNA Tests Work

January 29, 2023 6 min read

A new way to test canine DNA is available through companies that perform genetic profiling or testing. These tests look for unique markers, also called alleles, in your dog’s genome. Just like people have different versions of genes, dogs can inherit these allele types from their parents.

Alleles are not identical, which means some copies may be missing or incomplete. This difference is what accounts for various shades of skin, eye, and hair color as well as other physical characteristics in individuals!

By analyzing certain alleles in your pet, you can determine whether he or she has an inherited disease, know about health risks related to breeding, and possibly even find his or her biological family members. It is very important to do research before bringing a puppy into the home, but this technology can help rule out potentially harmful breeds.

It is thought that up to one third of all pure-bred puppies die within the first year due to poor quality litters, congenital defects, or illness. By using genomic testing, we are able to identify if a given breed is overpopulated and/or if there are too many close relatives being bred.

Many owners claim they want to prevent diseases in their pets, so it makes sense to use tools that check for potential problems. Unfortunately, most popularly known genetic conditions cannot be prevented with current tests, but genomics does offer us alternative information.

Genomic DNA

how dog dna tests work

Genetic material is made up of two main components, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). Yours comes from your parents, and then it splits into two copies, one for each individual person.

But while there are only so many atoms in the whole world, there are an infinite number of combinations of these molecules. A small amount of your DNA is repeated over and over again like a unique personal identifier. This special section of your genetic makeup is called a “genome” or “junk genome” because scientists consider it to be non-functional fluff!

It doesn’t do anything important, but you still have a lot of it, which means there’s a very small chance that someone else’s sequence will look totally different and work just as well as yours does. Science calls this diversity a ‘seeding effect’ because having similar genes helps people breed healthy kids.

A few specific genotypes can also influence how easily you get sick and how quickly you recover when you do. These variations in immune function are what makes some people more susceptible to infectious diseases than others.

Your body gets rid of old cells in a process known as apoptosis or cell death. But sometimes too much dying happens at once and inflammation results, which is why doctors check white blood count tests before giving antibiotics to anyone with a cold.

Mitochondrial DNA

Two Corgi Dogs Sitting On Sidewalk


Another type of genetic testing is called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing. This test looks at an individual’s mitochondria, which are cellular components that help create energy for our bodies. Your body has many thousands of these cells, and each cell contains a small amount of mtDNA.

Some people have more powerful or plentiful mitochondria than others due to genetics or natural biological processes. As you can imagine, this could make a big difference in health and wellness!

By studying the ratio of “older” to newer mitochondria in your tissues, we can determine how well-oxygenated your tissue is and whether there may be underlying conditions like diabetes, obesity, or autoimmune disease.

In fact, studies show that people with chronic inflammation often have reduced levels of healthy mitochondria. That means they aren’t getting as much of a boost from consuming food, and their body isn’t breaking down extra fats effectively.

Y-Chromosome DNA

how dog dna tests work

Another way to identify a dog’s breed is by looking at their y-chromosome DNA. This test looks for differences in the structure of the male dogs’ chromosomes, or pieces of DNA that contain information about heredity.

There are several reasons why some breeds have similar lookalike chromosome patterns. For example, Boxers and German Shepard have very close chromosome shapes because both breeds come from Europe where they were bred around the same time.

Another reason is due to selective breeding. Dogs with the same shaped chromosomes are more likely to be bred together and pass down these traits. Because of this, people may wonder if there are similarities between two dogs that seem almost identical.

However, not all white coats are caused by being related to other whites. Some breeds are known for having solid colored coats, so it is important to make an exact match before assuming genetics are the source of the coloration.

Advantages of DNA testing

how dog dna tests work

Beyond determining if your dog is a pure-bred puppy, there are some important reasons to test your dog. Health issues can be determined via genetic tests, for example.

DNA profiling is an increasingly popular way to check whether dogs in a shelter or breed rescue organization are related. This information can help determine which dogs may be good candidates for rehoming, or possibly even adoption!

It also helps find new homes for older dogs who have been living as unfulfilling pets due to health problems. Sometimes owners will give up their pet because they think it’s too old, but then learn that its genes don’t match those of other animals in the same litter.

Some behaviors such as barking and chewing are hard to change once a dog has these habits, so knowing his genetics can aid in finding him a home where these things won’t hurt anyone else.

Disadvantages of DNA testing

how dog dna tests work

One major disadvantage of some genetic tests is that they can’t always determine whether or not your child will be healthy unless you have genetics similar to those in the parent who carried the gene.

This makes sense because many times there are multiple genes involved in any one condition, so what matters isn’t necessarily which ones you have, but how these different genes work together.

For example, say there were two people whose parents both had a history of heart disease. One person also has a family history of diabetes, while the other does not.

If this person with the diabetes family history was born to a parent with heart disease, then it would predict having risk for developing heart disease themselves.

However, if this person was born to a parent without either disease, then it wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not they would get heart disease as well.

It could even predict that someone who doesn’t have diabetes may still get affected by the gene after reading their profile.

What does a DNA test tell you?

how dog dna tests work

A canine genetic profile is made of two things:

Phenotype, or observable traits (color of hair, ear shape, etc.)

Genes that affect these characteristics are analyzed to determine what breeds the dog belongs to

After determining which breed each trait corresponds with, there are several websites and companies that offer predictive profiling using this information.

Some of these sites predict whether your puppy will be a good guardian, if any health conditions are present in the parents, or if the puppies already have issues they should be aware of. This can help prevent potential problems by giving you early warning.

It also helps find new homes for dogs who might not succeed in finding their ideal match due to behavioral reasons.

How accurate are DNA tests?

how dog dna tests work

Recent advances in genetic testing have allowed for far more precise analysis of animal genomes than was possible just a few years ago. These new methods use highly sophisticated technology to identify specific markers, or sequences, of individual genes.

The amount of dog dna that is present in their fur falls under these categories: A very small proportion is known as “coding” DNA which encodes for proteins; the rest is non- coding DNA which does not encode for anything meaningful. The less important parts of canine DNA can be identified using the same techniques as human genome sequencing!

However, it is the coding regions of dogs’ genomes that are heavily researched at this moment. Scientists believe they contain information about breed diversity and even some clues about health. By comparing different breeds’ codes, we may be able to determine what qualities each breed possesses and whether those traits apply to other breeds or not.

There are several companies that offer canine genomic profiling services. Some test only one or two genes, while others test many more. What matters most is which gene(s) being tested you want to know about, so make sure you research which ones exist in which breeds before choosing a test.

Another factor to consider is how much sample size each company has. Some do not require too much due to the fact that there are already limited numbers of samples available from previous studies and/or collection of cells.

Who should get a DNA test?

how dog dna tests work

Recent developments in genetic testing have made it possible to do personal genome or individualized health care profiling. This is done by looking at your genes, and how they interact with the environment around you.

By getting this information, doctors can identify potential risk factors for disease that may be present in one of you genotypes (specific gene variants).

This has enormous potential benefit for individuals because risk factors are already well documented in medical literature. By identifying these risks early, we can begin to take action to prevent diseases from happening to us.

It also helps researchers as we work to find effective treatments and strategies for existing conditions.

Cindy PetsForLife
Cindy PetsForLife

Hello, I'm Cindy, the founder of PetsForLife. I am a true animal lover with 3 cats and 1 dog of my own. My passion for all things pets has led me to create a unique collection of personalized pet gifts. Check out our personalized pet gifts on our website.

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