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How Much DNA Do Dogs Share with Humans? What Science Says

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By Nicole Cosgrove

happy dog owner with his pet dog

There’s an underlying debate about the relationship between humans and animals, especially when it comes to DNA and genetics. Humans and primates have the most in common, but they’re not the only animals we share DNA with. Since all creatures share some percent of their DNA with us, we are all connected. But how much DNA do we share with our longtime canine companions? We share around 80-85% of DNA with dogs, which is a surprisingly high percentage.

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What is DNA?

DNA is an important part of all living creatures, where our bodies keep our genetic codes. Short for deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA is like an instruction manual for reproduction and survival. We can inherit certain genes and conditions, which pass down through pairs of chromosomes from our parents. DNA primarily exists in the nuclei of cells, with a small amount within the mitochondria.

Image Credit: madartzgraphics, Pixabay

Do Dogs Have the Same Number of Chromosome Pairs?

Humans and dogs both inherit pairs of chromosomes, which consist of a copy from each parent. While we do share a surprising amount of DNA, we don’t have the same number of chromosome pairs. We have 23 pairs of chromosomes, with 46 chromosomes in total. Dogs have 38 pairs of chromosomes, with 76 chromosomes in total.

Can Dogs Get a DNA Test?

Yes, dogs can have their DNA tested, but the science and technology are still fairly new. Most tests are fairly accurate, but they’re certainly not foolproof. DNA testing labs analyze the cells from the sample, looking for specific genetic markers. These genetic markers can help determine breeds and potential genetic health conditions, which is why DNA testing is growing so popular.

DNA testing for humans and dogs is nearly identical, using cells from saliva or a stool sample. The main difference is that the lab adjusts the testing process for dog DNA, making sure the results are valid and accurate. DNA testing can help a dog owner understand things like genetic health conditions, breed profiles and potentially validate a purebred dog.

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Dog DNA and Animals from the Canidae Family

Grey Wolves

grey wolf
Image Credit: keyouest, Pixabay

Grey Wolves are the closest relatives to the Canis familiaris, also known as domestic dogs. They share 99.9% of DNA and can breed, making offspring that are fertile. Although dogs and wolves are related, dogs did not descend directly from wolves. Both wolves and dogs come from different ancestors of the Canidae family.


coyote in the wild
Image Credit: mathey, Pixabay

Dogs are also closely related to coyotes, though not as much as with wolves. Still, coyotes are capable of breeding with dogs, creating coyote-dog hybrids called “coy dogs”. The hybrid offspring can eventually reproduce, which is the same as wolf-dog hybrids.

African Wild Dogs

african wild dog
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

Although African Wild Dogs have “dog” in their name, they aren’t as closely related to dogs. Neither can reproduce together, as they’re not from the same genus of the Canidae family. Still, they do share enough genetic traits to share the same scientific family, which also encompasses foxes.

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DNA is a very complex scientific area of study, but also an important one for humans and animals alike. Genetics play an important role in health, but it also helps us understand how closely related we are to other animals. Dogs and humans share a lot more in common than it may seem, with having over 80% of our DNA in common. As the technology for DNA testing advances, we will uncover even more data than ever before.

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Featured Image Credit: mreed720, Pixabay

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