Owning a mixed breed dog, you’ve probably got your own best guess answers at the ready when folks at the dog park ask you about your pooch. It’s true that for the most part, we have no idea what breeds our dogs might really be, and even rescue organizations are only offering a best guess when they list them for adoption.
Orivet Dog DNA Test review
The truth is that knowing more about your dogs breed and genetic makeup can actually help you understand their behaviours and proclivities. And thanks to the advent and popularity of pet DNA testing, now it’s possible to find out for sure.
Much like you can get a kit to find out your family history through DNA testing (23 and Me, anyone?), you can do the same for your dog. Orivet is a company that performs DNA tests that can help you learn more about your dog.
An Orivet DNA test can identify your dog’s breed, pinpoint potential genetic anomalies that could cause health problems, as well as help you learn more about your dog’s proclivities and breed traits that affect behaviour. Orivet gave me the opportunity to do a DNA test on my two dogs so I could see what the experience is like and what I could learn about my pets, Rainie, a mixed breed rescue that came to us from Mexico, and Kica, a lab cross found as a puppy on a local reserve.
Doing the Orivet Dog DNA test: easy to do
Orivet offers a variety of tests for both cats and dogs. There’s a basic DNA identification test, or something a little more in-depth; I received the Dog Breed Identification Test and LifePlan (USD 129.95). This test allows you to identify your dog’s ancestry, but also provides you with a ‘Customized Life Plan With Lifestyle, Health & Nutritional Recommendations to Ensure A Full Life’.
Once your Orivet test kit arrives in the mail, doing the test is simple and takes just moments. Inside the box are two swabs in a sealed plastic wrapper (save that!). The swabs look similar to mascara wands on long handles. You’ll roll each one around your dog’s mouth for about 15 seconds, then pop it back into the cardboard box to dry for a few minutes. Then slip them back into the wrapper.
Next up, you need to activate your kit online so Orivet knows where to send the results. You’ll create an account and the site will give you a special number or Activation Code which gets written on the swab wrapper and on the envelope they get sent back in. With that done, you’ll seal up the envelope, which is pre-addressed to Orivet and send it off.
Results take several weeks, but Orivet keeps you up to date both online and via e-mail about the status of your dog’s test. After about 3 weeks, an e-mail landed in my inbox declaring the results were ready!
Getting Orivet dog DNA results
A word to the wise; when your results come in, if you access them on your phone, you’ll get an email with a link that takes you to what’s called a ‘Genetic Analysis Certificate’. This is a very simplified one page version of your results (and to be honest, it doesn’t seem mobile enabled so it doesn’t display well at all.) To get the full picture, it’s best accessed on a desktop.
My dogs’ results: Orivet DNA kit
We obviously had our guesses about what kind of mixes we have. Our guess with Rainie was a Doberman Lab cross. With Kica we were pretty sure she was mostly lab, with maybe some shepherd in there.
Drumroll please! My dog Rainie came back as:
12.5% Staffordshire Terrier
12.5% Cocker Spaniel
50% “Mixed Breed Unknown”
What’s up with ‘Mixed breed Unknown’?
Some owners may be frustrated at getting their dog’s DNA report back with a high percentage of ‘unknown’ DNA. Orivet addresses this and explains it:
“While we understand that it can be disappointing to receive a report with mixed breed portions, this is a result of your dog?s unique and
diverse ancestry. What our test is able to do is detect purebred ancestors in the most recent 3 generations (to the great grandparent
level). In very mixed dogs, however, there are often ancestors in those recent generations that were profoundly mixed themselves. In these cases we are not able to identify the exact breeds present and they are just too far back, but we can usually tell the genetic group they belong to, which is why we are able to share the breed groups.
The gist; dogs are very mixed up creatures.
These results for Rainie actually jives exactly with another DNA test we did on her last year, which gives me comfort that these results are standard, and not somehow made up. (Yes, that is an internet conspiracy theory; that someone in a dog DNA lab randomly assigns breeds for fun.)
Kica came back as:
25% German Shepherd
12.5% Labrador retriever
12.5 % Chow Chow
50% “Mixed Breed Unknown”
When you see the results displayed, you might not realize you can click on the breed percentage and get more info about that breed’s characteristics. It took me three visits to the results page before I stumbled on this.
When it came the Rainie’s breed details, I was able to learn more about her traits, like that the Chihuahua in her is “Alert, active and often playful” and she might “Respond well to reward based training using treats or favourite toys”, and that her “small size makes it easy for them to live in small places such as apartments” and she “May be suspicious of strangers or bark at other dogs when intimidated by their size.”
Click to read more and you’ll get a tonne of helpful and detailled history of the breed and info about them.
What you get in your test results: Health Risks
Also included in your Orivet Dog DNA kit results is health information. Orivet says their lab takes into account your dog’s breed makeup, age, weight, sex and other lifestyle factors to try to predict how likely you dog might be to develop a variety of conditions, like allergies, heart disease, epilepsy and more.
Reading through this information and dissecting it isn’t easy, in my opinion. These conditions and diseases are listed under their less common medical or scientific terms instead of their more common names (Cardiomyopathy instead of ‘Heart Weakness’ perhaps, and Atophy instead of dust and pollen allergy) given as ‘Impact Rank” and “Estimated Prevalence’. Looking at this wall of medical-ese and trying to figure out what it means for your pet is an exercise in patience. You’ll need to read through lengthy and densely written paragraphs to figure out what’s going on.
Here’s the 411: Impact Rank is shown as a scale of 5 paws in a range of colours from yellow to red, and it’s the seriousness of the disease; more paws on the scale means more serious.
Estimated prevalence is shown as a speedometer gauge with a line and the numbers 1000 on the left and 1 on the right. What it seems to mean is mystifying; does my dog have a 500-1 shot at getting allergies, for example? Nope. If you hover over the gauge, a pop up appears which will show that my dog has a 1 in 14 chance of allergies.
While there’s obviously some good information here, you definitely have to work to interpret it.
There’s also an opportunity to add in information about your dog manually; things like her weight, birth date, sex, and activity level.
Overall thoughts on Orivet pet DNA test
I think the data you get here is good; you’ll definitely learn more about your dog’s genetic makeup. The results make sense to me and also match up with results I got from another DNA test kit, so I think there’s accuracy here.
Where I find fault with the Orivet experience is in the data presentation and user interface. The website is definitely not mobile-enabled, and since that’s where about 60% of folks consume their content, that’s a huge oversight.
The website interface is clunky, it’s not intuitive and you really have to explore to see where your information is. Plus, it’s not written in plain English; I think the average dog owner will feel frustrated trying to interpret what’s here. There are definitely easier kits on the market to read and understand. Read my review of Wisdom Panel’s Dog DNA test kit here to compare.