Viaguard Accu-Metrics Animal Health is a confusing company, or at least its unattractive website is confusing. It advertises Canine Testing (of various types), Feline Testing (which is a detox supplement plan, with no testing at all), Avian Testing (to tell you the sex of your bird), and Diagnostics Testing (for dog and bird diseases).
The confusion comes from a few different angles:
- The tests you can choose from the website menus (Canine + Feline) do not match the ones linked from the home page (Canine + Avian).
- Many of the links to specific tests and order pages are broken.
- The link for the dog breed test leads to the website for another testing brand, but no explanation is given.
I’ll do my best to help you navigate this maze of confusion, but to keep things simple, my review will focus on the Canine DNA Testing and Diagnostics Testing services.
For completeness, I’ll say that this company also sells pet microchip packs that allow you to inject your domestic pets (of any kind) with uniquely numbered microchips that will help you reunite with your pets if they get lost. You can do this at home using the supplied disposable needle(s) or ask your vet to do it.
The Sample Collection Method Depends on the Test Taken
Although not all appear to be available to buy, the sheer number of DNA and diagnostic tests means that there are several different sample collection methods, depending on the test you choose:
- The Dog Breed DNA Test (via a separate site) requires you to submit a dog DNA cheek swab sample.
- Some tests, such as the Canine Distemper Detection Test, require you to use a nasopharyngeal (nose) or ocular (eye) swab.
- Some tests, such as the Canine Cortisol Test require you to submit a small sample of hair from your dog’s coat.
- Other dog diagnostic tests could require a blood sample, but it’s unclear.
- Avian tests require you to submit feathers, blood, eggshells, or take a sample from the bird’s cloacae (rear end).
While the DNA test(s) for dogs and birds require you to send in a sample and wait just over a week for your results, some of the diagnostic tests provide almost immediate results in the style of an at-home pregnancy test. For example, you can find out whether your dog is suffering from heartworm in about five minutes. If the diagnostic test comes back positive, you’ll obviously want to make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss treatment options. Keep in mind that the vet may require that another test be completed in his or her office. Just like a pregnancy test, it is possible to receive a “false positive.” Either way, it is a good first step to take if you have concerns about your pet’s health.
Viaguard’s 5 Standout Features
The following standout features come with a caveat, which is that the information on the Viagard website may be unreliable (as confirmed by a member of its own support staff).
1. Dog Breed DNA Testing
Viaguard’s DNA testing for dogs is the most reliable of its offered tests, not necessarily in terms of accuracy, but in terms of being able to order it and see some sample results. Via a separate website, you can discover the various breeds that have fed into your dog’s DNA down the generations (from a total of 340 identifiable breeds in the database).
2. Detecting Predispositions to 14 Kinds of Canine Cancer
Determining a dog’s breed, described above, can tell you some possible disease predispositions that come from the contributing breeds. For example, Labs are often genetically prone to joint dysplasia. But the best dog DNA tests will tell you the disease predispositions for your individual dog. Viaguard’s predisposition test will tell you your dog’s propensity for developing 14 kinds of cancer:
- Mammary Tumors
- Mast Cell Tumors
- Soft-tissue Sarcoma
- Hepatic Carcinoma
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Gastric Cancer
- Brain Tumors
- Malignant Histiocytosis
- Prostate Cancer
- Transitional Cell Carcinoma
3. Dog Diagnostics in As Little As Five Minutes
DNA tests can tell you if your dog is predisposed to certain diseases but they can’t diagnose if your dog actually does have a disease. This is where the diagnostics services come in to tell you if your dog has high-cortisol Cushing’s disease (results within five days), heartworm (results within five minutes), or distemper (almost immediate results, like an at-home pregnancy test).
When it comes to your pet’s health, many competitors, like Embark, will test for a great number of health traits, but do not actually offer diagnostic testing. If the test comes back positive, you’ll (of course) want to meet with your veterinarian. However, since false positives do happen (just like with at-home pregnancy tests) you’ll probably be required to take a second test to confirm the accuracy of your results.
4. Avian Tests, Too
Although Viaguard’s tests relate mainly to dogs, it also offers tests to tell you the sex of your bird and (separately) if it has chlamydia, which could be passed to humans. And don’t worry, you won’t have to wrangle a cheek swab from your bird – which sounds super dangerous. You can submit feathers, a couple drops of blood, or eggshells from newly hatched birds.
Viaguard tests a wide variety of species, including finches, cockatoos, and parrots. Before ordering the test, you’ll want to make sure that your bird’s species is included.
5. Also Sells Supplements to Improve Pet Health
Alongside its dog DNA test kits, Viaguard also sells “Doggie Detox” supplements that contain these ingredients:
- Catalase: Important for healthy liver function as protects against oxidative toxicity
- Glutathione: Enhances probiotic activity and the immune system
- Silymarin: Protects and maintains liver cells and reduces the inflammatory reaction to toxins
- Resveratrol: Increases liver enzymes and helps maintain an ongoing high level of liver function
When it comes to your cat, you can purchase a 12-month supply of “Felinicity” cat supplements at the same price as a six-month supply of the Doggie Detox supplements. The listed ingredients are the same, but they may be in different proportions or quantities.
DNA Results Within Days and Some Diagnostics Are Almost Immediate
I’ll begin with the Dog Breed DNA Test because this is the most well-defined and demonstrated set of sample results on the separately-linked website.
Dog Breed DNA Test
Although the Dog Breed DNA Test is sold via a dedicated website with different overall branding (Viaguard not mentioned) the sample reports themselves are branded “Viaguard Accu-Metrics.” As confirmed by a member of the support staff at Viaguard, both sites are operated by the same company.
In common with most if not all dog and puppy DNA tests, you get a certificate showing the analysis date and the five-level breakdown of the breeds represented within your dog’s DNA:
Here’s what the levels mean:
- Your dog will likely only have a Level 1 breed if its parents were purebreds, as reflected by more than 75% of your dog’s DNA.
- A Level 2 breed means one of the parents was probably purebred, as reflected by 37% to 74% of the dog’s DNA.
- Level 3 likely represents your dog’s grandparents’ DNA, as reflected by 20% to 36% of your dog’s DNA.
- Level 4 breeds possibly represent your dog’s great-grandparents’ DNA, as reflected by 10% to 19% of your dog’s DNA.
- Level 5 breeds are trace breeds reflected in less than 9% of your dog’s DNA.
An illustrative family tree shows how the identified breeds fit together in your dog’s possible inheritance pattern:
If you’re wondering why I’ve used words like “likely” and “probably,” it’s because nothing is certain in inheritance; it’s all a matter of statistical probabilities. This is standard language when it comes to matters of dog DNA test accuracy.
For the breed(s) identified at each level, the report provides a description of the breed and an indication of the health conditions to which this breed is predisposed (which you can discuss with your vet):
At 340, the number of breeds in Viaguard’s reference database exceeds some other testing companies such as Find My Pet DNA (84 breeds), Embark (250), and Wisdom Panel (250+).
Canine Genetic Predisposition Test
The genetic disease predispositions highlighted in the dog breed test are for the breed in general, not for your dog specifically. If you’re looking to determine your dog’s individual genetic predispositions based on its unique gene variants, the Canine Genetic Predisposition test will come in handy.
The problem is, this test can’t be bought because the “order now” button leads to a missing page. All I can tell you is that this test – if available – would detect predispositions to these cancers (and apparently nothing else):
The intention is that predisposed dogs could “receive the appropriate nutritional, environmental, lifestyle, and medical attention needed to mitigate what was, in the pre-DNA era, an inevitable fate.”
Diagnostic Test Results
The results you get for the diagnostic tests, and the time to receive those results, depends on the particular test taken. For example:
- Results of the canine Cushing’s disease test come by email in five to seven days, and should be discussed with your vet.
- The canine heartworm, canine distemper, and avian chlamydia kits all take the form of an at-home pregnancy test, delivers the result within a few minutes:
In addition to the “T” test indicator to tell you if the result is positive or negative, these tests also have a “C” control indicator to tell you if the test is working properly.
If your pet is displaying worrying symptoms, an at-home diagnostics test is a good first step to take. If the results come back positive, you’ll want to meet with your veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis and discuss the best treatment options. “False positives” can and do happen, so your veterinary clinic will likely want to run another test in its own lab.
Low Dog DNA Test Cost, but Some Other Tests Can’t Be Bought
Viaguard’s second “Dog Breed DNA Testing” website boasts that this test is available “now at the lowest price ever.” So, if you’re looking for a cheap dog DNA test, this could be something to consider. Indeed, it’s less costly than some of the similar dog DNA tests I’ve seen, such as Embark. Most importantly, I’d have the most confidence in buying this test.
According to the main site, you can buy a dog breed test along with the canine cancer disease predisposition test for a combined price. This – surprisingly – is only a one dollar savings from the separate costs of the breed test and the cancer test. Even if there was a saving to be had here, clicking the “Order Now” button for the combined test currently leads to an error page.
The dog diagnostic tests can be bought, as far as I can see, at just under $100 each. The Avian diagnostics kit for chlamydia is much cheaper and contains five tests to test five birds.
The Doggie Detox and “Felinicity” Cat Detox supplements cost the same as each other for a 6-month supply (dogs) or 12-month supply (cats).
Let’s See Which Website Responds
I wasn’t optimistic about summoning support from Viaguard, not least because its linked Facebook page was unavailable.
Since I was unsure whether I could purchase tests from Viaguard’s main website or could only order the dog breed test from the associated site, I asked the same question in both places via an email and a contact form submission (respectively):
My objective was to see which one answered my question, if at all, and how quickly. The good news is that I received a reply from my Viaguard email within a few hours. The bad news is that it confirmed that the information on the Viaguard website is unreliable, so I (and you) should use the Dog Breeds website instead:
A follow-up email exchange confirmed to me that dog breed determination results should be available within seven to nine days of sending in your dog’s cheek swab sample.
Website Doesn’t Inspire Confidence
Analyzing Viaguard’s offerings wasn’t easy because – as confirmed by support staff – its main website is outdated. It’s almost as though the original website (Copyright 2015) has been abandoned, with the more modern “Dog Breed DNA Testing” website (Copyright 2019) taking over for the sole purposes of determining your dog’s breed.
Would I have confidence in committing my cash to this company? If the more modern dog breed determination website is anything you go by, then the answer is “yes.” If the rapid email response is anything to go by, again the answer is “yes.” Otherwise, I’d be cautious about this company until its main website has been redesigned.
How accurate is Viaguard?
Dog breed tests typically tell you the composition of breeds that are present within your dog’s DNA. Each detected breed is assigned a level:
- Level 1 means more than 75% of your dog’s DNA is from this breed, but most dogs won’t have a Level 1 breed unless one or both of its parents were purebred.
- Level 2 means the breed contributes 37% to 74% of your dog’s DNA. One or other of the parents was probably purebred, and the characteristics should be easily recognizable within your canine.
- Level 3 means that 20% to 36% of your dog’s DNA probably comes from a grandparent.
- Level 4 means that 10% to 19% of your dog’s DNA probably comes from a great-grandparent.
Level 5 means there is a low level (<9%) of this breed’s DNA in your dog.
What animals do Viaguard’s pet DNA tests test?
In terms of DNA testing, Viagard only offers canine (dog) and avian (bird) tests; the latter only to tell you the sex of your bird. Although its website also has a menu option for feline testing, the only cat-related product is currently the “Cat Detox” set of supplements.
Does Viaguard offer dog breed DNA tests?
Viaguard offers a “Dog Breed Test” but the menu option takes you to a separate, differently branded website to order the test. It also lists “Canine Breed Determination” (which may be the same thing) but this link leads to a not-found web page.
What non-DNA services does Viaguard offer?
Non-DNA diagnostic tests are available to test your canine for Cushing’s disease, distemper, or heartworm. Depending on the test, you may need to submit a hair sample, a nasopharyngeal (nose) or ocular (eye) swab, or even blood.
You can also test your bird for avian chlamydia, but this test has to be done “on your premises.” In case you’re wondering, this disease is transferred to birds via airborne bacteria rather than sexual contact.