dog dna and age test

Collection

Dog DNA and Age Test: What is Your Pet’s Genetic Age?

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

Advertiser Disclosure

The products featured on this page are from our partners. We may be compensated for purchases made through these links. However, this does not influence our reviews and ratings. We independently research and test the products we recommend and our opinions are our own.

dog dna and age test

If you adopt your dogs from a shelter, which is an amazing thing to do, it can be difficult to plan a good life for them without a proper understanding of their genetic background and actual age.

A Dog DNA test can answer all these questions for you. The test is designed to help determine the biological age of your pet, its genetic background, and potential health risks.  Samples needed for DNA extraction are simple to collect using an at-home cheek swab. It takes less than a minute to pull off. The swab sample is mailed back to the DNA testing company, with the results back in about two to four weeks with an accuracy ranging from 90 to 99%.

The beautiful thing about this test is the ability to predict the genetic age of your pet. This can influence how you care for them from now on – including activities, food, and beds which best suit them. The genetic age test will also help you predict your pup’s longevity, which can be valuable, especially if you have a rescue dog or adopted senior dogs from animal shelters.

What is a Canine Genetic Age Test?

dna and age dog test

A canine genetic age test reveals all the breeds that form the genetic background of a mixed breed dog. A genetic age test tells the exact biological age of your dog by reading the length of your dog’s telomere. A good understanding of the breeds in your dog will help better care for your pet. This test also confirms its breed composition if not sure.  It is suitable for pet owners with mixed breeds or shelter dogs who want to demystify their dog’s inner secrets.

How do Dog DNA Tests Estimate Age?

A dog genetic age test measures the length of telomeres in DNA. Dog’s telomeres are protective caps located at the base of a chromosome. They are known to shorten with an increase in age. The telomere length is screened against a Canine Genetic database, where it is matched with thousands of similar dogs to identify your canine genetic age at a genetic level. The breed testing does not stop there; it also reveals valuable information about your dog’s genetic makeup. It uses a sophisticated database to identify all the dog breeds that make up your pup.

The Science Behind a Genetic Age Test

dog dna and age testing

Before diving into the science of Genetic Age Testing, let’s quickly differentiate it from the chronological or actual age. A dog’s chronological age is predicted by making an educated guess after a physical examination of your dog’s fur color, eyes, and teeth without conducting a dog’s DNA test. For instance, some dog breeds begin to grow gray hair by age 7 – 10 years old, while others start to grow teeth from around 3 and a half months old.

While these markers are easy to identify, they are never always 100% accurate. On the other hand, a dog’s genetic age is measured by considering the length of chromosomal telomeres. This is the only accepted method for determining a dog’s biological age.

Just as it is observed in humans, DNA strand becomes slightly shorter each time a chromosome replicate. This causes telomeres, a compound structure found at the base of a chromosome, to shorten as they get older.

It has been shown that dog’s telomeres shorten ten times faster than humans. This is similar to the life expectancy between dogs and humans. To arrive at your dog’s biological age, the length of its telomere is compared with thousands of similar dogs on a genetic level to arrive at a value.

How to Test a Dog’s Age

test for dog dna and age

Adopted dogs don’t come with a lot of information; thus, estimating their chronological or actual age can be challenging. But, having this information as well as ancestral history is essential to providing the best care for your pet.

It can help determine the appropriate time for preventive health care such as deworming and vaccination and helps predict the best time to test for certain age-related diseases such as heartworms.

Even though it is more accurate to conduct a DNA test to ascertain your pet’s age, the following pointers can give you a rough estimate;

Signs of Graying

Dogs gray as we do. Graying begins at different ages and progresses at varying rates. As observed in humans, some adults grow white-haired in their 40s, while others are minimally gray until their 60s; dogs vary greatly in this trait too. When you observe graying on your dog’s muzzle, it suggests your pet is a mature adult. But it does not provide a clearer estimate of age than that.

Observe your dog’s Eyes

As your pet ages, a part of its eye that focuses and refracts light begins to change. You will observe “Mild bluish-gray discoloration or cloudiness if you look closely into the eyes of many older dogs. This condition is known as lenticular sclerosis; it typically appears when a dog is about 6-8 years of age. Lenticular sclerosis is not the same as cataracts. This medical condition can lead to dog blindness, which is also characterized by cloudiness.

Your Dog’s Behavior

Usually, younger dogs are very energetic, spasmodic, and active, leading to a prediction of 1 or 2 years of age. As your dog age, its activity level begins to decline. They may have difficulty getting up or sitting, as well as trouble with climbing stairs and walking. They also tend to sleep more than usual. Older dogs may also experience sleep disruption in the middle of the night and have accidents in the house. These are characteristics of older dogs with no clear genetic age estimate.

How Accurate are the Results of a DNA Genetic Tests?

dog dna and age test accuracy

Certain conditions may trigger a higher-than-normal biological age after genetic testing. If your pet has underlying medical conditions and stress, the results may be higher-than-normal. It is also an excellent pointer to the likelihood of health risks in your pet that may include diabetes, coronary illness, and other diseases.

Canine DNA testing can also reveal if your dog is suffering from a genetic disease. It has been reported that breeds having short telomere length are more predisposed to death from cardiovascular disease.

A canine genetic test is as accurate as the science backing it; when you factor in the possibility of human error, the test can’t always be 100% accurate. But it is an excellent opportunity to test your pet for genetic diseases that might prevent it from living the good life.

Dog DNA Kits that Test Your Dog’s Age

Embark Dog DNA Test

Embark Dog DNA Test Breed Identification Kit

Get it on Amazon

Embark DNA test will reveal valuable information about your dog’s breed and health issues that your dog is prone to. But, do you know it also provides information about the biological age of your dog?

Embark create and maintain a canine genetic age database divided into breed-related genetic markers. Your dog DNA is compared to this database to identify what markers match your dog’s. By running this comparison check, Embark can discover what breeds make up your dog’s genetic background as far back as three generations.

Embark has a large canine DNA database; thus, it performs more comparisons and tends to be more accurate. This database includes all of the American Kennel Club’s recognized breeds. In addition, Embark tests for genetic diseases that your pet might encounter later in life. It tests for medical conditions that include but are not limited to dilated cardiomyopathy, degenerative myelopathy, and glaucoma, three of the most adult-onset diseases in domestic dogs. This valuable information will help inform what preventive measures to take to keep your dog healthy and active during its lifetime.

Aside from the report on health issues, Embark also provides information about your dog’s genetic age. This is because the conventional physical observation is not accurate and can not be relied on to plan important activities such as when to deworm or go for vaccination. With your dog’s biological age, you will be able to provide age-related food and know the age-specific check-ups your dog should be undergoing at any point in its life. Embark is arguably the best dog DNA test on the market today.

Wisdom Panel Dog DNA Test

Wisdom Panel Essential Dog DNA Test

Get it on Amazon

Wisdom Panel has two versions, one that offers genetic DNA tests and another that screens for more than 200 genetic diseases (health kit), including 25 responsible for problems during routine medical procedures such as neutering and spaying in dogs.

Results are delivered in about three weeks after you send in a sample. It contains information about your dog’s genetic lineage, traits, health, with each section explaining how your pet’s unique genetics might impact its life. Should you find the information confusing, there is an option for an online or phone conversation with one of the company’s veterinarians to help you make sense of the report.

Wisdom Panel has one of the largest breed databases housing over 350 unique profiles, including coyote and wolf. You will get information on your dog’s health, body features, type, color, ideal weight range, just as in Embark. With this info, it becomes a lot easier to plan your pet’s lifestyle and medical visits.

Wisdom Panel collaborates with academic and research labs such as the Washington State University to continually improve the efficacy of its testing kit.

DNA My Dog Breed ID Test Kit

DNA My Dog Canine Breed Identification Test Kit

Get it on Amazon

This is an affordable option for an at-home dog genome assessment. Although this test provides valuable information about your dog’s breed-related health concerns, personality traits, and your dog’s dominant breeds, it pales in comparison to the information you will get from Embark and Wisdom Panel.

DNA My Dog has fewer than 350 dog breeds in its canine genetic age database. You will not be getting the level of accuracy observed in Wisdom Panel, Orivet test, and Embark. But if you can not afford the top test kits, this is a reasonable alternative.

One standout feature about this DNA My Dog is the Canine Genetic Age Test feature you can purchase as a companion product to identify your breed mix. It provides the biological age of your pet by measuring the length of the chromosomal telomeres in the DNA, thereby predicting the longevity and health of your pet.

Orivet Dog DNA Test

ORIVET Dog DNA Test

Get it on Amazon

Knowing your dog’s genetic makeup is an interesting trivia to tell your friends. But this information about your dog’s breed composition, genetic makeup, personality traits, and potential health risk can help keep him safe and healthy throughout his life.

The Orivet Mixed-Breed Identification has a Life Plan feature that allows dog owners to develop a personalized wellness plan for their pets based on their lifestyle, location, gender, weight, and canine genetic age. It includes valuable information about potential medical risks and routine care that will interest your vet.

Orivet maintains a canine database that houses 350 dog breeds and provides breed report that spans up to three pedigree generations. Test results take about three weeks after a swab sample has been submitted. Orivet has a dedicated service desk accessible via email if you have questions concerning your report.

Our Final Thoughts

Knowing your dog’s genetic age and breed mix can help your veterinarian offer medical advice and develop a health plan suitable for your dog. If the result shows a genetic mutation, it informs you about a genetic predisposition he could be susceptible to in the future.

Even information about his breed mix can inform you about susceptible diseases synonymous to each breed in his genetic background. Then, you will know what signs to watch out for and take early preventive measures before it is too late.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a dog DNA test accurate?

According to DNA My Dog, Embark, and Wisdom Panel, the accuracy of a DNA test is from 95-99%, leaving room for human error and limitations due to the size of the canine database.

Is there a test that reveals how old a dog is?

Dog DNA tests can reveal all the information you need to know about the breeds in your dog. A genetic age test will reveal its exact biological age using your dog’s telomere measurement.

What will a DNA test tell you?

It shows the percentage composition of your dog’s breed mix based on a database of over 250 unique dogs. There will be additional information about each breed history, appearance, fun facts, temperament, and related breed information for each breed identified.