If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ve likely asked yourself what your furry companion’s age is. As dogs age much faster than us humans, it’s vital to know their age to take care of them properly. This is particularly important if you’ve adopted your pet at a later stage in life.
With today’s scientific advancements, you’ll find that almost anything is possible. But it’s interesting to know that it’s still very difficult to determine a person’s age with a DNA test, as opposed to how simple it is getting someone’s ethnicity and sex.
But we’re not here to talk about humans. We’re here to know more about our wonderful pups!
Canine DNA testing can do a lot of things. Veterinarians use it to determine your dog’s breed, family history, and any health risks.
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But can a dog DNA test determine age?
The short answer is yes, you can determine your dog’s age by using a DNA test. A dog’s biological age is measured by the length of its telomeres. The length of a dog’s telomere is matched with a thousand other similar dogs to match its age on a genetic level, which allows us to determine a dog’s biological age. This is, as of today, the only scientific method available for determining dog age.
The Science of Determining a Dog’s Age
Before anything, what’s the difference between your dog’s biological age and its chronological or actual age?
A dog’s chronological age can be estimated by its teeth, eyes, or the color of its fur without needing a DNA test, but it’s mostly an educated guess.
For example, some dogs’ permanent teeth won’t start to show up until they’re around 3 and a half months old, and some begin to go grey when they’re about 7 – 10 years old. With these markers, we can figure out their actual age.
The only downside to this is it’s never always 100% accurate.
A dog’s biological age, on the other hand, is measured by the length of its telomeres. This is, as of today, the only scientific method available for determining dog age.
Just like with us humans, a dog’s DNA strand becomes slightly shorter each time a chromosome replicates itself. This causes its telomeres, the compound structure at the end of a chromosome, to shorten as they get older.
Dogs lose their telomeric DNA ten times faster than humans, which is found to be similar to the estimated life expectancy between humans and dogs.
The length of a dog’s telomere is matched with a thousand other similar dogs to match its age on a genetic level, which allows us to determine a dog’s biological age.
The Accuracy of Dog DNA Tests and Your Dog’s Biological Age
Numerous components may bring about a higher-than-normal biological age in dogs.
Dogs that have underlying clinical issues and stress may fall under this classification. This may likewise be a pointer of undiscovered sickness in your pooch, including coronary illness, disease, and diabetes.
Measuring the length of a dog’s telomere will help you determine if your pet is suffering from an undiagnosed illness such as the one listed above. It’s also shown that breeds with shorter telomere lengths have an increased probability of death from cardiovascular disease.
So to alliterate: No, the precision of dog DNA tests isn’t always 100%. But let it be known that this is an excellent opportunity to make sure your dog is tested for any health issues and take care of any potential health issues as early as possible.
What Other Things Can You Learn From Your Dog’s DNA?
Other than a dog’s biological age, there are a couple of other significant details you may learn about your pet when doing a DNA test. This is especially helpful if you’ve adopted a dog and want to know more about its genetic lineage.
Here’s a simplified list of what you can learn from a dog’s DNA test:
- Your dog’s breed or breed mix
- Your dog’s susceptibility to any medical conditions
- Their ancestry
- Their pedigree
- Any allergies they may have.
The great news is that you can test your dog’s DNA at home by using DNA test kits made for canines. Similar to tests for humans, DNA tests for dogs would typically involve a simple saliva kit.
A quick google/amazon search may bring up at least 10 different DNA test kit products, each promising you various results from determining your pet’s age to its very breed.
For your convenience, we’ve chosen some of the more noteworthy ones that can be found today.
Choosing Your DNA Test Kit
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Some of the best DNA test kits found in the market are:
- Wisdom Panel
- DNA My Dog Breed Identification Test Kit
- Orivet Mixed-Breed Identification & Life Plan Dog DNA Test Kit
The best by far is Embark Breed & Health Kit, which provides you with breed identification, health screening, and results twice as precise as other dog DNA tests as they use up to 200k genetic markers to tell you as much as there is to learn about your dog.
- BREED IDENTIFICATION: Embark screens for over 350 dog breeds. Using a research-grade genotyping platform developed in partnership with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Embark offers the most accurate breed breakdown on the market.
- HEALTH SCREENING: Embark tests for 190+ genetic diseases including MDR1 drug sensitivity, glaucoma, degenerative myelopathy, and dilated cardiomyopathy, some of the most common adult-onset diseases in dogs. Keep your dog healthier & happier, longer.
- DISCOVER YOUR DOG’S RELATIVES: Find and connect with other dogs that share DNA with yours, including distant and close relatives. Only Embark will give you a percentage of shared DNA between your dog and others that have been tested with Embark.
- FAST, TRUSTED RESULTS: Built by experts, only Embark is partnered with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and is trusted by veterinary hospitals. Results generally between 2-4 weeks.
But remember, your reasons for testing will determine what type of test you want to select, whether it be knowing your dog’s genetic age or an analysis of how their DNA may contribute to their personality.
Why Bother Testing Your Dog’s DNA?
That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Our furry friends, as lovable as they may be, don’t really care about their biological age, ancestry, or pedigree. Most of us test our dogs out of curiosity more than anything else.
But there’s arguably a far more important reason as to why we should test our dogs.
It’s that we can utilize DNA tests to check for specific diseases or hereditary mutations. DNA tests can identify these illnesses or uncover them before it’s a problem, and it may very well save our pet’s life in the future.
Can you determine a dog’s age with a DNA test? Yes.
But in my personal opinion, most dog DNA tests must be taken with a grain of salt. As just another tool to understand your dog’s genetic makeup.
If you do decide to purchase a do-it-yourself DNA kit at home, remember to not make hasty decisions such as changing their diet or medications without the advice of your veterinarian.
Since there are such a huge number of tests available for sale, there may come a point where there’s a bit of difficulty in deciphering its outcome. This is why we often need professional advice in comprehending the unpredictable data we’re given.
Remember, to ensure that your pet is getting the best care, you need to know their age. It’s simple. If you don’t know your dog’s age, you wouldn’t know how to take care of them properly.