Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dog DNA Tests Wisdom Panel VS Embark


This is Quintana Roo
Roo definitely looks like a chocolate Labrador. But having had purebred Labs before, it's fairly obvious (to me and Jeff anyway) that he's not a pure Lab. We were very curious what other breeds he might be. Friends also had lots of guesses. Most common guesses were Chesapeake Bay Retriever, German Shorthaired Pointer, Australian Shepherd, Vizsla, Blue Lacy, Dalmatian, pit bull (aka Staffordshire Terrier), Weimaraner, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and coonhound.

Dog DNA tests have become pretty popular and of course we wanted to know what breed(s) Roo might be in addition to the fairly obvious Labrador. I told Jeff when we tested him, if it came back without any Labrador, I would be sure the test wasn't accurate. I did some research, looked at many brands of Dog DNA tests...Wisdom Panel, Embark, DNA My Dog, DogDNA, etc. I chose Wisdom Panel based on the price and the good reviews (knowing that I might do a second test as a "confirmation" later).

I ordered the Wisdom Panel test for Roo in March and got it in the mail just a few days later. Wisdom Panel tests cost about $60-80. Swabbing Roo's cheek was very easy, and the instructions were simple to follow. I mailed the kit off the next day. I got an email saying they had received the sample and then about 2 weeks later got another email saying my results were ready! I excitedly clicked on the link saw Roo's pie chart. 37.5% Labrador, 25% Chow, 12.5% German Shepherd, and 25% mixed.
Roo's Wisdom Panel breed chart
I had learned enough about the tests to know that all dog DNA tests only go back 3 generations and if a dog's great grandparents are highly mixed (mutts) the results will likely come back as "mixed".
Roo's Wisdom Panel ancestry chart
So I wasn't surprised by the Labrador or the mixed results. I was a bit surprised the Labrador percentage wasn't higher. I wasn't really surprised by the Germain Shepherd, and neither were most other people, they'd look at him and go "yeah, I can see that" even though he really looks nothing like a German Shepherd. He does act more dignified and thoughtful than most Labs, and he's got a big German Shepherd-y bark.

But the 25% Chow stumped everyone! They're fluffy, Roo has short hair, they have pointy ears, Roo has floppy Lab ears, they're stand-offish and wary of people (stereotypes anyone?), Roo thinks everyone is his best friend. But at the same time, Roo holds his tail over his back like a Chow, he has a shorter muzzle than a Lab, he's more dignified and patient, he's lighter in color and has "highlights". I even called and talked with a representative from Wisdom Panel. She was very nice and talked with me for a long time. She confirmed my suspicion that many Labrador traits are dominant, which might be why so many "mutts" look like Labs (Roo included). I was pretty convinced the test was accurate, but quite a few people said they didn't think Roo could be part Chow.

I really liked the format of the Wisdom Panel results. They give you quite a bit of information about each breed, you can set up a profile with information about your dog, and you can look at other Wisdom Panel dogs in "The Dog Park" and see what breeds they are. The site is fun to explore. Wisdom Panel tests for Multidrug Sensitivity, but no other genetic health issues. Overall I was really happy with the test.

I figured eventually I'd do an Embark test and see how it matched up (or didn't) with the Wisdom Panel test. Embark is more expensive at $199 (but here is a link for $30 off). So it's significantly more expensive than Wisdom Panel, but Embark also tests for 164 genetic diseases. When we got Wichita, we definitely wanted to do a genetic test since so many "pit bulls" aren't really pit bulls (aka Stafforshire Terriers, or American Pit Bull Terriers) at all.

This is Wichita. Photo credit: Dogs of ATX, Stephanie Conrad
The process was exactly the same and just as easy, order kits, swab dog cheeks, mail the kits back, get email confirmation and then wait. Embark takes longer to get results, they say 6-8 weeks. In our case right at 5 weeks. I got Wichita's results back 2 days before Roo's, I assume because Wichita's breed info ended up being very simple- 100% Staffordshire Terrier (aka pit bull). I wasn't necessarily surprised by the result- Wichita definitely looks like a pit bull, but I generally assume most "pit bulls" are mixes- not in our case!
Wichita's Embark breed make up
When I got Roo's results, I just thought..."well, that's interesting". Embark found 7 different breeds in Roo and none of them, aside from Labrador, were breeds that anyone had guessed. They did however, get Labrador at 30%, Chow at 13.9%, and German Shepherd at 6%, which are the same breeds (although lower percentages of each) as Wisdom Panel. In addition, they found Great Pyrenees at 8.6%, Brittany Spaniel at 7.7%, Rottweiler at 6.7%, and Doberman Pinscher at 4.6%. They also got mixed, what they call "Supermutt"at 22.5%. What a crazy mixed up mix!
Supermutt as defined by Embark
As I said before, Roo clearly favors his Labrador genes. He may have a few very slight Chow traits, and in Jeff's words "A Great Pyrenees is just a big, fluffy, white Lab" I'm not sure that's true genetically, but it's certainly true for looks. The other breeds are all such small percentages that I doubt you'd really "see" them very much in Roo.
Roo's Embark breed make up
Embark gives you the ancestry tree and breed info very similar to Wisdom Panel. But they also give you info on maternal and paternal lines. They include "advanced" information on things like coat color & length, shedding, and size. And the health info includes testing for 164 different genetic diseases. Roo came up clear for 163 diseases and as a carrier for Exercise-Induced Collapse (fairly common in Labradors). That means Roo will not get EIC, but he could pass it on to offspring (if he weren't neutered). All of the 164 genetic diseases are described, I had never heard of many of them. They even give you the breed mix by chromosome.
Roo's breed mix by chromosome
Honestly, Embark gives you so much information that if I weren't a little nerdy, it might be overwhelming! But to me, it's fascinating!

Embark has a great website, and for the amount of information they give, I think they do a great job of making it easy and user friendly. They let you set up a profile for your dog and see other Embark dogs, similar to Wisdom Panel's "Dog Park". They even give you a shareable link to Roo's info. and Wichita's link. Embark also has a blog that is a pretty good read. They even give you a specific report to sent to your veterinarian so he/she will know if your dog tested positive for any genetic diseases.

So why the differences between Embark and Wisdom Panel? Wisdom Panel says they use "1800+" genetic markers to compare each dog's DNA, whereas Embark says they have a database of 200,000 genetic markers. So it makes sense that you'd get more detail from Embark than Wisdom Panel. I don't think the differences mean either one is "wrong". I think the fact that they both included Labrador, Chow, and German shepherd means that they are both accurate, it's just that Embark has more markers and gets more detailed. I also think that Roo ended up being a bit of a tough case for genetic testing since all the tests really only go back 3 generations and most of Roo's ancestors, aside from a pure lab, are straight up Supermutts! I never would have guessed that Roo is quite as mixed as he is!
My Supermutt and my purebred Staffy
So which test did I like better? Hands down, Embark gives you more information, including genetic disease info and in my opinion, more detailed breed results. Embark will also update you with more info as their technology improves- that's pretty cool! I think Embark is definitely worth the higher price tag. For me personally, I think I'm glad I did both tests. I'm not sure I would have believed Roo's Embark results had I not already seen Chow and German Shepherd in his Wisdom Panel results. 

If you read this far, you certainly deserve a coupon! Here's the link for $30 off an Embark test.. It's a refer a friend program, so it should work for everyone. And here's a Wisdom Panel code for $15 off FF6097934HE, it says it's a "one time code" so I'm assuming it'll work for the first person who tries it but no one else.

No comments: