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DNA kits for pets: Which is the best?

Posted at 2:36 PM, Mar 18, 2019

Human DNA test kits are all the buzz right now, but the newest trend is DNA tests for your pet. But can you trust the results?

Meet Potato. He was rescued by his owner Bart Fletjterski.

"Potato was advertised as a corgi," Fletjterski says.

However, that just didn’t seem right when looking at Potato. Fletjterski says he’s been trying to figure out what kind of dog Potato really is.

"The guesses vary from St. Bernard mix to collie mix to Anatolian shepherd,” Fletjterski says.

Fletjterski agreed to try DNA tests for pets to find out. In order to ensure accuracy, Potato’s DNA was submitted to three different companies, using their kits. The companies were Embark, Wisdom Panel and DNA My Dog.

Potato’s DNA was collected by swabbing, which he was not a fan of.

"What's interesting to me is that a lot of those same techniques that would be used for forensics or paternity applications are being moved into this realm of identifying the breed of dog or even identifying individual dogs," says Dr. Andrew Bonham, chair of chemistry at MSU Denver, who does a lot of DNA work.

It took about a month to get the test results.

According to Embark, Potato is primarily Siberian Husky, mixed with some other breeds. Wisdom Panel identified Potato as Siberian Husky, too, along with a few other breeds. Both companies provided similar test results, with some variations in the percentage and types of breed.

However, the third test produced results that differed majorly from the other kits. According to DNA My Dog, Potato is not primarily Siberian Husky; he's Samoyed.

So, what could cause the major differences?

"There's different algorithms that are used to try to understand ancestry and different companies will use different algorithms," explains Adam Boyko, founder and chief science officer at Embark Veterinary.

Embark says you can get different results based on the company’s data sets and how they analyze the data. As the data grows, so will the ability to narrow in on your dog's breed.

"Over time, you can log back in and you can learn more about your dog than when you first had it," Boyko says.

DNA My Dog did not want to go on camera, but they sent a statement, saying in part: "The sample taken had all of the DNA. It just didn't match well with anything."

The first sample sent to DNA My Dog got contaminated, but that came as no surprise. The company asked for the sample to be sent in an envelope, while the two other companies provided a sealed container.

DNA My Dog was the cheapest of the three tests. It was $69 bucks, compared to Wisdom Panel at $80 and Embark at $159, with a coupon code.

As for dog owner Fletjterski, he says he’s happy to finally have a better idea of what Potato is.