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Dog DNA test kit results depend on the test database

4 year old Stoney gets a cheek swab to find out his breed mix KOMO photo

Dog DNA tests are increasingly popular. Animal shelters use them to get an idea of breeds. Some apartment managers use DNA tests to identify dog owners who don't pick up poop.

Becca Rushworth wanted to know the breed mix of her 4 year old dog Stoney.

The shelter guessed he's a German Shepherd- Corgi mix. Rushworth thought he might also be part Basset Hound.

So our Sinclair team in Austin, Texas, where Rushworth lives, purchased two DNA kits- DNA My Dog for $69 and Wisdom Panel which cost $80.

Rushworth followed the instructions, which were the same for both kits. She collected cheek swabs, sealed the swabs in the provided containers, and our team sent them by regular mail to the two labs for analysis.

The results were mailed back a few weeks later.

DNA My Dog showed Stoney as a mix of Siberian Husky, Bull dog and Catahoula Leopard dog.

Windom Panel shows Stoney as a Border Collie, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Dalmatian, Keeshond mix.

"I figured they would be, at least similar," said Rushworth.

Here in Seattle, we paid a visit to UW Medicine Medical Geneticist Dr. Gail Jarvik. Her lab only deals with human DNA tests but she says the math is the same, and a key factor in any DNA test is the database.

"It depends on what percentages they're working from." said Jarvik. "If you don't have a large pool of different kinds of breeds in your database, then you're going to come up with fewer categories, and bigger percents in those categories. If you have many, many more breeds in your data base, you'll come up with more breeds and different percentages."

On its website, DNA My Dog dog shows they test for 84 different breeds. Wisdom Panel tests for more than 250 breeds and varieties. Both companies stand by their results and provided the following comments in support of their analysis of Stoney's DNA tests:

From DNA My Dog:

"There are a few factors that can affect a sample such as bacteria or other contamination. We don't see any signs of this from the sample you provided us. Our test offers the highest possible accuracy based on continuous measures we use to make sure we are able to report only the most accurate results. If the sample is taken correctly and the breed is in our database (which covers about 97 percent of the mixed breed population) the results will be 99.9 percent accurate."

Mindy Tenenbaum, M.Sc Vet Med/Vet Forensics, DNA My Dog

From Wisdom Panel:

"For superior accuracy you need three things: A sophisticated algorithm, a large breed database with plenty of samples, and a comprehensive set of strategically placed markers. Wisdom Panel tests use more than 1800 markers and draw from a 12,000+ breed sample database and the test features the largest breed coverage (250+) available. Since its inception in 2007, Mars genetic tests have been used by more than 700,000 pet parents to find out their dog’s unique genetic make-up and breed heritage."

Juli Warner, Sr. Brand & Corporate Affairs Manager, Mars Veterinary

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