Home » Pet Health » Genes and Cancer » How is a Genetic Test Performed?


There may be times when your vet wants to perform genetic testing on your dog. They may want more information about your pet’s risk of developing diseases or gain more evidence to help diagnose when symptoms aren’t enough.

When your vet recommends a genetic test, they will rub the inside of your pet’s cheek with a cotton swab to get a saliva sample. This process is minimally invasive, painless, and will provide enough sample volume for the test. To gather DNA for multiple tests, vets prefer to use blood samples. In this case, the vet will draw blood from your pet’s veins. Most genetic service labs accept both saliva and blood samples. Either you or your vet can send the samples to a company that uses high-throughput genome sequencing techniques, a faster method that allows processing many samples in a short time. Your vet can tell you where to send it, and you will receive the results directly.

It is important to note that genetic testing is a relatively new scientific phenomenon, especially regarding animals and pets. While the information is exciting and has the potential to help identify health risks in your pet, genetic testing for pets is not regulated, and you should view the testing with appropriate caution. Many companies, for example, need to be more transparent with their methods for genome sequencing. Assessing whether the company uses techniques that will give accurate information can take time and effort. Additionally, genetic testing may be misused in breeding circles, leading to unnecessary neutering or spaying, ultimately affecting breed variability.

Your vet or vet specialist will know which tests are most reliable. Additionally, it may be challenging to interpret the results of the tests, so have an expert review the results with you.

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s Website Editorial team is comprised of veterinarians, veterinary oncologists, and veterinary technicians, as well as scientific writers and editors who have attained their PhD’s in the life sciences, along with general editors and research assistants. All content found in this section goes through an extensive process with multiple review stages, to ensure this extended resource provides pet families with the most up-to-date information publicly available.

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Last Updated: November 17, 2022

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The following sources were referenced to write the content on this page: 

Bennett, NE, Mirabal Torres, SE & Gray PB 2022, ‘Exploratory content analysis of direct-to-consumer pet genomics: What is being marketed and what are consumers saying?’, PLoS One, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. e0261694- e0261713.

Mellersh C 2012, ‘DNA testing and domestic dogs’ Mamm Genome, vol. 23, no. 1-2, pp. 109-123.

Gershony, L & Oberbaue, A 2020, Review of the current state of genetic testing – a living resource viewed November 17, 2022,https://www.akcchf.org/educational-resources/library/articles/CANINE_GENETIC_TESTING_07-28-2020_FINAL_with-links.pdf

The Pet Cancer Foundation’s medical resource for pet owners is protected by copyright.

For reprint requests, please see our Content Usage Policy.