Like most pet parents, I love my dog. She, on the other hand, loves taking naps, running around the backyard, and has enough personality to live up to her namesake — the infamous April Ludgate from NBC’s “Parks And Recreation.” She’s the best and she knows it, which is why we spoil her with dog toys, outfits (Adidog sweatshirts, anyone?) and even fabulous furniture that goes with the rest of our living room.
My family adopted her from a shelter when she was just a few months old. She was a tiny white dog with a brown spot around her eye, a big heart and an even bigger personality. At the time, the shelter believed she was a mix of Daschund, hound and Jack Russel Terrier. As she got older, April grew longer, leaner and even developed more spots, not looking anything like those breeds. When people would ask what breed she was, like most shelter pet parents, we would say on cue, “Oh, she’s a mix!” but always wondered about her roots.
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Test No. 1: Wisdom Panel
About: I was sent the Wisdom Panel Health Canine Breed + Disease Detection kit. The branding says it is “the world’s leading DNA test for dogs” and includes “screenings for 150+ genetic health conditions as well as the most breeds of any canine DNA test on the market.”
What It Tests For: Ancestry, breed, health
- Screens for 150+ conditions
- Breed detection, with a family tree going back three generations
- Predicts weight profile
- Genetic trait analysis
- Results can help develop training, nutrition and long-term health plan with veterinarian
How It Works: The Wisdom Panel kit has two swabs that look like mascara wands. Use them inside your dog’s mouth along the cheek to collect skin cell samples. Place both wands into the provided plastic bag, activate the kit online by creating a profile, and then drop the bag off in the mail in the box that came with the kit. (It includes prepaid postage.) Your pet’s results arrive via email in two to three weeks.
Pros: Two price points; used by veterinarians; easy to understand
Cons: The swabs had rough bristles, and April didn’t seem to like me putting them in her mouth. It was hard to actually get the sample.
Time For Results: 24 days. Kit was sent on March 20, and results were returned on April 13.
April’s Wisdom Panel Results:
April’s Wisdom Breed Results: 25% American Staffordshire Terrier (Pitbull), 12.5% Basset Hound, 12.5% Doberman Pinscher, 12.5% Chow Chow, and 37.5% of unspecified breed groups of hounds, herding dogs, and terriers. For this last “unspecified breed group,” Wisdom DNA offered some guesses as to what April could be, listing Beagle, German Shepard, Great Pyrenees and Russel Terrier, along with other breeds.
April’s Wisdom Health Results: Screened for 150 conditions ― found at risk for 1; carrier for 2; cleared for 149
The results are easy to share with your veterinarian for more customized care. When we mentioned it to April’s vet, she said that Banfield Pet Hospitals use Wisdom Panel in some of their pet care planning to better understand the animals’ health care, behavioral and nutritional needs.
Test No. 2: Embark
About: I was sent an Embark Dog DNA Test kit. Its branding calls it the “most accurate and highest reviewed dog DNA kit on the market,” and says Embark uses “research-grade DNA genotyping platform,” to look at “over 250 breeds and more than 175 genetic health conditions and traits.” The company also offers a “canine relative finder” that’s free with your purchase, where customers can “discover and connect with dogs that share DNA with yours.”
What It Tests For: Ancestry, breed, health, relatives
- Screens for 165+ conditions
- Breed discovery among 250+ breeds including wolf, coyote and village dog
- Family tree going back three generations, including dogs of similar breed mix
- Connect with other dogs of similar DNA, including distant and close relatives
- Comprehensive genetic testing for adult-onset diseases
- Embark partners with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and is trusted by veterinary hospitals
- Easy to share results with veterinarian
How It Works: Use the cheek sponge applicator to collect your dog’s DNA by popping it into their mouth and letting it soak up the saliva in their cheek for 30 to 60 seconds. Place the swab into collection tube with blue liquid and shake it for a few seconds. (This stabilizes the DNA, similar to how it’s done with the Ancestry DNA kit.) Seal it inside the provided plastic bag, activate the kit online, and drop it off in the mail in the pre-postage box. Your pet’s results arrive via email in two weeks. The company also mails you a metal dog tag engraved with your pet’s name, your contact info and the Embark logo.
Pros: Easy-to-use collection swab; dog tag; relatives page
Cons: Very scientific; pricier (but includes more in-depth information)
Time For Results: 15 days. Kit was sent on March 20, results were returned on April 7.
April’s Embark Results:
April’s Embark Breed Results: 37.3% American Pitbull Terrier, 19.3% Basset Hound, 12.7 German Shepard Dog, 10% Mountain Cur, 9.5% Great Pyrenees, 7.4% Chow Chow, and 3.8% Doberman Pinscher. Unlike the Wisdom Panel, this test didn’t include any “unspecified breed groups.” The breed breakdown by percentage was also a little different from the Wisdom Panel.
April’s Embark Health Results: Screened for 175 conditions ― found at risk for 0; carrier for 3; cleared for 166. This was different from the Wisdom Panel, which said April was at risk for one condition and carried two. They were the same three conditions, though.
In offering its health results, Embark took a more scientific approach to explaining a mutation and how it is expressed.
Most interestingly, Embark has a relatives analysis section where you can explore other dogs who have completed Embark and share a high percentage of DNA with your dog. You can click through their profiles to see photos, place of birth, location and the option to contact the owner — great for setting up puppy play dates.
While it might seem silly, both of these dog DNA tests brought my family and me a lot of joy. We anxiously awaited her results for weeks and huddled around the computer when they finally arrived. We made wild guesses about what she might be and looked for connections between her physical features and personality, and the many, many breeds she was associated with.
The truth is, it didn’t actually matter what breed of dog she might be — we already loved her and nothing in the results could ever change that — but it was a great way to reflect on how special she was. And getting health results also put into perspective how important it is that we stay on top of her care as she gets older.
That said, while both of these dog DNA tests offered varying degrees of information, at the end of the day it depends on what you want out of the test. Personally, I preferred Embark’s DNA test for the detailed breed information, dog tag and section about “relatives.” While both dog DNA kits had pretty similar results, Embark gave much more detailed information, and the test actually specified breeds that Wisdom lumped together as “unspecified breed groups.”