Unleash the Secrets of Your Dog
Wondering about DNA testing for dogs? With so many options, like Wisdom Panel vs. Embark vs. a slew of others, it’s difficult to know which is the best option for learning information about your furry companion.
My dog, Kate, is a mixed-breed adopted from a local rescue group. Since she was adopted as a young adult, it left us with questions, like: “Is she susceptible to any genetic diseases?” and “what breeds is she, anyways?”
To figure it out, I researched all of the details about the best dog DNA tests available. Based on what I saw, Kate and I decided to try Wisdom Panel. This canine DNA test has three areas of expertise:
- Breed Identification & Ancestry
- Health & Wellness
If you’ve wondered about these topics too, read on to find out if the Wisdom Panel DNA test for dogs can answer the questions you’ve always had about your four-legged friend. In this Wisdom Panel Review, I’ll share my personal experience, along with the most valuable features and potential downsides you should know about.
Rediscover Your Furry Friend in Just a Couple Weeks
The Wisdom Panel sample collection process is straightforward – but how easy it is will depend on whether your dog is okay with participating. A good gauge is whether you can brush your dog’s teeth for about 20 seconds.
The dog DNA test kit includes everything needed to collect a sample and get it back to the lab: pictorial directions, swabs, return shipping packaging and mailing label (pre-paid).
The sample collection went smoothly for us. However, you should be aware of two key facts:
- You need to collect two samples.
- The sample collection wands are placed in a drying rack prior to shipping (see picture below). Placing the wands to dry made me nervous – the drying rack is a little flap inside of the box. It didn’t seem like the wands were balanced, and dropping them would destroy the sample. Luckily, our wands stayed standing.
CAPTION: You need to dry the Wisdom Panel Dog DNA test kit wands before shipping
All samples are processed according to the best dog DNA test standards. A USDA-accredited laboratory processes all Wisdom Panel DNA samples. Results are reviewed by independent, third-party specialists, geneticists, and leading authorities on canine genetics. After this two-to-three week process, results arrive via email.
Wisdom Panel’s Breed Testing
Did you know accurately identifying a mixed-breed dog without a DNA test is almost impossible? This includes trained professionals like veterinarians and dog trainers, too. Wisdom Panel leads the market by revealing your dog’s ancestry across 350 breeds. You’ll find out which breeds your dog has, down to a 1% contribution!
However, the more breeds your dog is mixed with, the less accurate the test. Some Wisdom Panel Dog DNA reviews suggest the test is most accurate when one parent is more than 50% single breed. Keep this in mind if you have a mixed-breed dog, like I do.
Wisdom Panel uses its large breed database from over one million dogs to calculate the likely breeds of your dog’s ancestors for the last three generations. That means you’ll find the potential breed combinations of your dog’s great-grandparents! Please note, this isn’t a relative finder; it’s more similar to an ethnicity estimator in human DNA test results.
The algorithm for creating the canine family trees scans your dog’s DNA and compares it with over 17 million possible family trees. Then, the eleven most likely family trees are scored, and the one with the highest score appears in your results.
Breed information is then compiled into a “family tree” for your dog going back three generations. Unfortunately, the test cannot determine which breeds came from mother vs. father, only “parent one” or “parent two.” The main point of the family tree is to look at breed contributions through three generations.
Wisdom Panel’s Health & Wellness Testing
Wisdom Panel’s Premium Dog DNA Test Kit is designed to help you make long-term plans for your pet’s wellbeing. Considering whether to breed your dog? Take this test first. You’ll discover whether your dog has or carries the genetic mutations for over 150 genetic diseases.
Concerned about putting your dog under anesthesia for a routine procedure like a spay/neuter or dental cleaning? Using Wisdom Panel’s Essential or Premium kits could help put your mind at ease. Both screen for over 25 genetic mutations that could increase the risk of medical complications. The test covers things like:
- Medication sensitivity
- Immune deficiency
- Bleeding disorders
Plus, Wisdom Panel is the only licensed commercial provider of the MDR1-drug sensitivity test.
Wisdom Panel’s Traits Testing
Wisdom Panel’s Traits testing consists of over 35 tests designed to predict your dog’s physical appearance. Features tested range from obvious descriptors like coat color and texture, to more minute details like whether your dog has furnishings (i.e., longer mustache and eyebrows). Overall, the results include:
- 20+ tests on coat color, patterns, and texture, as well as hairlessness and shedding
- 10+ tests for head and body shape, eye color, and high altitude adaptation
- Personalized ideal weight recommendation based on breed and seven genetic markers
If you’re thinking something like, “I can see that my dog’s coat is black, why would a genotype for coat color help?” Well, for me, it was helpful because I could see the accuracy of the results with my own eyes.
Say, the results came back saying my black dog is predicted to be yellow. Then I’d have less faith in the results for genotypes I can’t see, like those that underlie genetic diseases. However, since the predictions for physical characteristics were highly accurate, it gave me more confidence in the other results, too.
The main downside for me was that the traits report doesn’t include specific personality traits or lifestyle recommendations for your dog. There is lots of information about those items and purebred dogs, but it doesn’t tell you which of those traits tend to be dominant and get passed down.
Similar Tests to Consider
A quick internet search will prove there’s dozens of options to get DNA testing for dogs. How do you know which to choose? Don’t worry, I’ve done all the research, and found three top alternatives to Wisdom Panel.
- Embark: This company is probably the most similar to Wisdom Panel. You’ll get an in-depth breed identification report, genetic health information, and traits prediction. In addition, Embark has the world’s first canine relative finder. If that’s a draw for you, it’s probably worth the little bit of extra money.
- 5Strands: This a great option if you’re concerned your pet is showing symptoms of a food or environmental intolerance. This test uses a hair sample to predict underlying causes of shabby coats, digestive issues, or persistent upper respiratory irritation, and tells you which items to eliminate from your pet’s diet.
- Orivet: Here’s a company that offers a range of pedigree breed products. These include dam/sire verification, full breed profiles, genetic disease, and genetic traits testing. Orivet tests are geared toward breeders and veterinarians so it’s best suited for purebred dogs.
5 Standout Features of Wisdom Panel’s Dog DNA Test
1. Finally Answer the Question, “What Kind of Dog Is That?”
Has anyone ever asked you what kind of dog you have? The Wisdom Panel Breed Identification Test promises to answer that. Specific genetic signatures from your dog are compared against the extensive breed database to look for “matches” that are mathematically analyzed to determine which generation(s) contained which breed(s).
My dog, Kate, is clearly a mixed breed, probably part Labrador Retriever. People have guessed she’s mixed with Shetland Sheepdog, Border Collie, Jack Russell Terrier, or some combination of those. Surprisingly, our results showed she’s part Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, American Staffordshire Terrier, Chinese Shar-Pei, and several other breeds (each contributing less than 12%).
After getting the results and trying to “see” the breeds, the first four breeds listed above make sense to me. But, try as I might, I can’t detect the American Staffordshire Terrier or the Chinese Shar-Pei. I guess that’s why canine DNA tests are worth it!
Kate also took the breed identification test from Embark, a main competitor for Wisdom Panel. Similarly, Embark detected Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, Australian Cattle Dog, and Australian Shepherd. Instead of American Staffordshire Terrier and Chinese Shar-Pei, the Embark algorithm detected Bulldog, and Rottweiler, plus smaller contributions from several other breeds.
2. Get Insights on Your Pet’s Great-Grandparents
With Wisdom Panel, you’ll get a three-generation family tree, which means you’ll discover the breed(s) of your dog’s great-grandparents. Family trees are generated using a mathematical model to test over 17 million potential combinations – the overall highest scoring family tree (based on statistical probability) is included in your results.
I enjoyed looking at the potential breed combinations from Kate’s family tree. After talking with customer service, I learned that the algorithm is geared toward predicting which breeds entered at which generation. With fairly high confidence, the breeds of “parent one” and “parent two” can be predicted. However, this test cannot determine which breeds came from the mother or father, specifically.
The family tree is a helpful way to visualize your pet’s heritage. However, if you’re interested in lineage or parentage testing, Orivet may be a better choice for you.
3. 200+ Health Tests to Share with Your Vet
Using Wisdom Panel Premium, you’ll get results for over 200 health tests, all for less than what it usually costs to go to the veterinarian’s office. Even better, the results can be easily shared with your veterinarian.
The tests are grouped by category, which makes specific results easy to find. The categories cover various health aspects, such as eating behaviors, pain tolerance, mobility, adult-onset vision loss, and many others. Knowing which conditions your dog is prone to will give you insights toward planning the best lifestyle for your furry friend! Plus, you’ll get tips on how and when to talk with your veterinarian.
Luckily, Kate didn’t test positive for any of the health risks that Wisdom Panel screens for! I did still share the results with her veterinarian. If Kate ever gets sick in the future, the results can help rule out potential causes and save me money! Keep in mind that, while the results are highly accurate, it’s important to discuss any concerns with your veterinarian, too!
Even if you don’t choose the Premium test kit, the Essential option still tests for 25 medical conditions that cover important healthcare topics, including medication sensitivity, immune deficiency, and bleeding disorders. As a quick point of comparison, Embark does not cover any medical tests in its basic dog DNA test kit.
4. Interactive Traits Report
Personally, my favorite part of the results was the interactive traits report that explains your dog’s genotype in traits you can see. Being able to visualize the genotypes also gave me confidence in the results I couldn’t see. Plus, it saves so much time over having to do the research yourself!
Traits testing reveals your dog’s genotype for more than 30 physical traits, organized into three categories.
- Coat: color, patterns, texture, hairlessness, shedding, etc.
- Body Features: head and body shape, eye color, high-altitude adaptations, etc.
- Weight: ideal weight recommendation based on seven genetic markers and breed identification
Kate’s results were quite accurate. Her coat is black, short, and sheds – which matched the predictions. However, her genotype predicts that she’d have “perk” or upright ears. Kate’s ears are somewhere in between perk and floppy ears, which are sometimes called “rose-shaped” ears.
The ideal weight prediction was also fairly accurate. The ideal weight range captured both Kate’s current weight, and her “goal weight” from her veterinarian. Both of those numbers are at the lower end of the weight range predicted in the results. However, if Kate gains any weight, her body condition score will be too high (i.e., we wouldn’t be able to find her ribs!)
5. Extensive Database Enhances the Dog DNA Test Accuracy
The scientists and veterinarians behind Wisdom Panel have compiled a massive database to ensure the accuracy of your test results. The database holds purebred samples from more than 15,000 dogs and contains a library of genetic data from over 1.7 million dogs! When you consider that the breed identification alone checks more than 1,800 genetic markers, that’s over ten million data points!
The larger the database, the more accurately the genetic signatures for each breed can be predicted. Thanks to the extensive research from the Wisdom Panel team, the dog DNA test accuracy exceeds 90% for breed contributions greater than 12%. This means you’ll get a strong idea of the breeds that make up your dog’s genes.
Let Your Dog’s Genes Do the Talking
I found my digital Wisdom Panel results by logging into my account on a whim. It took another ten days for me to receive the email stating that my results were available! Glad I happened to check. Keep in mind: even if you don’t get the official email, it’s worth checking for your results after a couple weeks.
An upside of the digital format is that you can quickly and easily share the results with your veterinarian. This is especially useful if any causes for concern are found in your genetic health results. Even if your pet scores “all clear,” it’s still worth sharing with your veterinarian because it could help rule out conditions if your pet gets sick in the future. Your veterinarian will then decide whether more testing is warranted.
Now, on to the main question: “Do the results match my dog?” Let’s take a look, section by section.
Breed Test Results: Which Breed(s) Is Your Dog?
The Wisdom Panel algorithm compares your dog’s unique genetic signatures to a database containing the genetic signatures of more than 350 dog breeds. From this, the likely breed contributions of your dog are mathematically calculated. But does it work? Let’s see what it said for my dog, Kate.
Kate is clearly a mixed breed dog, who weighs about 45 pounds and has a dark coat. She’s loyal, fun, loves kids, and can be a bit protective. And everyone always asks us, “What kind of dog is she?” Now, we finally have some insights. Our results show Kate is:
- 25% Labrador Retriever
- 12.5% (each): American Staffordshire Terrier, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Chinese Shar-Pei, and German Shepherd
- Less than 12% Mudi, Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog, Mexican Street Dog, Italian Spinone, and Gordon Setter (shown in image as “breed group(s)”)
Here’s an image from the report:
Note on Dog DNA Test Accuracy: Results are considered more than 90% accurate when a breed contributes at least 12% to the dog’s genetic makeup. Contributions of less than 12% are “lesser confidence matches” and may have a lower accuracy rate.
The results present images, statistics, and descriptions of each breed. This includes personality traits and activity levels commonly attributed to each type of purebred dog. For example, it describes Labrador Retrievers as intelligent people-pleasers with lots of energy.
However, I was disappointed the results didn’t extrapolate to say which traits my dog is most likely to have. Are the labrador traits likely to be dominant traits that my dog would have? Since the information is only about purebred dogs, I’m not sure. The statements about common breed characteristics are probably only helpful for people with purebred (or nearly purebred) dogs.
Since Kate is so many breeds, this information became less valuable. It was a long list of many breeds and characteristics which were easy to get lost in. The results gave information about each specific breed, but didn’t do anything to pull the information together to apply to my dog.
Among the characteristics were the average physical measurements of each breed (see Kate’s examples below). Notice that Kate’s adult size fits comfortably within the predicted average size range.
After receiving Kate’s breed identifications, I think the Labrador Retriever, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd Dog, and German Shepherd designations make sense. Kate shares several physical and personality traits with those breeds. I was surprised by the American Staffordshire Terrier designation, although many rescue dogs from the southern US are mixed with that breed.
The most shocking breed identification to me was Chinese Shar-Pei. Chinese Shar-Peis have large “hippopotamus” heads with wrinkly faces. The breed is described as independent, territorial, dominant, and sometimes aggressive.
On the other hand, Kate has a disproportionately small head, no wrinkles, and is submissive. Other breed descriptions say Chinese Shar-Peis are loyal, naturally clean, and mannerly. I would say Kate shares these traits…but I don’t know that I’m convinced she’s part Shar-Pei.
Kate’s Family Tree
Wisdom Panel also compiles a family tree based on mathematical models. The family tree is designed to accurately predict which breeds contributed to each generation. You can’t tell mother vs. father, but you can distinguish “parent one” vs. “parent two.”
Kate’s family tree results show potential purebred lineage at the level of her great-grandparents, and one grandparent may have been a labrador. Overall, it’s a nice way to visualize your dog’s ancestry.
Health Test Results: Is Your Dog At-Risk for Disease?
The health results flag any disease-causing genetic mutations that may affect your dog or your dog’s offspring (if your dog is a carrier). These results can be easily shared with your vet for long-term health planning.
The diseases scanned for include common mutations in purebred dogs. Kate’s results demonstrate the power of genetic diversity – she’s all clear! As an accuracy check: all of Kate’s recommended veterinary checks are up-to-date and nothing is cause for concern.
If Kate did have alleles associated with health issues, the concerning results would be flagged in this section. Wisdom Panel may specifically recommend follow-up with a veterinarian, depending on the genes involved.
In case you’re wondering, a genetic disease carrier that is spayed/neutered is an example of a circumstance when Wisdom Panel wouldn’t recommend additional testing. Why? Your dog won’t have the disease, and there’s no chance your dog could pass on the mutation. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to share your results with your veterinarian, and it’s super easy to do.
Traits Results: Is Your Dog “Furnished?”
DNA testing for dogs uses genes to predict physical traits. At Wisdom Panel, a value-added feature is the interactive format of the traits results. By clicking a circle (in a figure similar to the one below), you get a pop-up that describes the trait.
But can a dog DNA test really predict your dog’s traits? To illustrate the dog DNA test accuracy, I made a table to compare Kate’s predicted traits to the traits she expresses. As you look through the table, you can see that Wisdom Panel’s predicted traits and Kate’s actual traits are highly similar.
|Trait||Genotype||Predicted Trait||Actual Trait|
|Long legs||Long legs|
GT / CC
at/a; Em/Em; KB/ky; kbr/ky; I/wt
|Dark color, “mask pattern” on face||Black coat with faint masking|
|Perk or upright ears||In the middle (“rose” shaped ears)|
|Black pigment on nose, around eyes, feet pads||Black nose, black around eyes, black feet pads|
|No furnishings (i.e., no fuzzy beard or eyebrows)||No furnishings (i.e., no fuzzy beard or eyebrows)|
Five of six predictions matched Kate’s traits. She has a faint dark brown masking pattern (#3), which is obvious in certain lights, but difficult to capture in photos. The least accurate result was the Ear Carriage prediction. There’s a certain “perk” to the base of Kate’s ears, but her ears are never upright.
While Wisdom Panel did a great job predicting Kate’s physical traits, I wish more information or predictions were included about her personality traits/tendencies, or her recommended activity level. This was only included in a discussion about purebreds, and not directly applied to Kate’s DNA.
Kate’s Ideal Body Weight
Another feature of the traits report is an ideal body weight estimation, which is based on your dog’s DNA. However, the estimation cannot account for environmental factors that may have impacted Kate’s final adult weight, such as:
- Mother’s nutritional status during pregnancy
- Any parasitic infections
- Kate’s nutritional status during critical periods in her development
Wisdom Panel estimated that Kate’s ideal body weight would be between 39–65 lbs. Currently, Kate is 47 lbs. Her veterinarian of the past five years thinks Kate should weigh somewhere between 40–44 lbs. Yes, at our last vet visit we were told she should lay off the table snacks!
Overall, Wisdom Panel did a good job of estimating Kate’s adult weight. Although her veterinarian would be horrified if Kate weighed 65 pounds, the low end of the predicted weight range captures Kate’s current weight, and her goal weight. Plus, a few factors made Kate’s adult weight particularly difficult to estimate:
- Rescue dogs are more likely to have suffered from poor nutrition or parasitic infections during critical developmental stages (environmental factors known to affect adult weight).
- Mixed-breed dogs with a highly heterogeneous background will have more variability in final size.
More Affordable Than a Visit to the Vet’s Office
Are you looking for a cheap dog DNA test? If so, I have good news for you – Wisdom Panel is very reasonably priced. Plus, you get two options for dog DNA test kits: Essential or Premium. If the Essential test will answer your questions, you’ll save about 30% compared to Premium. You can expect to pay around $100 to $150, depending on which kit you choose.
Wisdom Panel is a good value for your dollar because the dog DNA test cost covers Ancestry (or breed identification), Health, and Traits testing. The main difference in price between the two test options is the breadth of Health testing. The Essential test covers 25 items, while the Premium test covers around 200 items. Considering the cost of a visit to the vet (especially for genetic disease testing), the Premium kit upgrade is a steal!
Purchases are made online using ShopPay, Google Pay, PayPal, VISA, Mastercard, Amex, or Discover credit cards. There’s also a discount if you sign up for the newsletter! Wisdom Panel offers free shipping on all US orders.
In my opinion, Wisdom Panel is a better value than its main competitor, Embark. The Embark Basic Test costs about 30% more than Wisdom Panel’s Essential Kit, and it doesn’t include testing for any medical conditions. Likewise, the higher-end Breed and Health Kit from Embark covers fewer health conditions and is more expensive than the Premium Kit from Wisdom Panel.
Skip the Email and Pick Up the Phone
Overall, Wisdom Panel has satisfactory customer service. The website is informative with videos and tutorials about sample collection, a searchable knowledge base, and an FAQ section. Plus, Wisdom Panel maintains an active blog, and social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
However, contacting Wisdom Panel via email did not work out for me. I sent two emails. The first one received a canned reply about seven days later, saying that it would be five to seven business days before I got a response. The second email I sent got a direct response ten business days after sending the email.
Honestly, I was rather disappointed with the reply because it was basically a cut-and-paste from the website…and I was asking for further information. It did help me understand the focus of the breed identification algorithm is to assign a “generation,” which is why Kate’s breed contributions were frequently 12.5%.
Since I still had questions, I called and spoke with a customer service representative over the phone. I should’ve started there instead of waiting for an email reply. She explained how the algorithm matches breeds to generations and then assigns percentages.
I also asked about why my dog had a “Breed Groups” result. She explained that more breeds contributed to Kate’s DNA but there was less statistical confidence in the “match” between Kate’s DNA and the breed signature. She went on to share the most likely breeds included in the “Breed Groups,” which was bonus information not found in Kate’s results.
Can Wisdom Panel Unleash Your Dog’s Secrets, Too?
Overall, Wisdom Panel is a strong option if you’re looking to understand your dog better on a genetic level. Whether you’re curious, thinking about breeding, or planning for the future, the results will give you valuable information. From my experience, Wisdom Panel is one of the best companies for breed identification, genetic health testing, and trait reports.
However, there are a few features that Wisdom Panel doesn’t include. If one of these features is important to you, here’s an alternative to look into.
- If you need parentage testing, go with Orivet.
- If you’re interested in a canine relative finder, choose Embark.
- If you want food or environmental intolerance information, pick 5Strands.
Using the Wisdom Panel Dog DNA test, gave me several insights and a couple surprises about my dog. For example, I never would’ve guessed that she was part German Shepherd, but after doing the dog breed DNA test, now I can see a few of these qualities in her body postures and behaviors. While Wisdom Panel is certainly a contender for “Best Dog DNA Test,” it can’t tell you everything – like, “why is this my dog’s smile?”
Is Wisdom Panel accurate?
Yes, Wisdom Panel is accurate – typically more than 90% accurate! However, it is important to note that a few factors can affect dog DNA test accuracy:
- Quality of the sample. If the sample is contaminated or doesn’t contain enough DNA, the results will not be accurate. Make sure you follow the directions in the test kit to prevent this.
- Number of contributing breeds. The larger the number of breeds, the more difficult it is to accurately predict the exact contribution from each breed. Dog DNA tests are extremely accurate for dogs that are only a few breeds.
- Number of generations. How many generations that have passed between the DNA entering the line, and your dog can affect the accuracy, too. For example, if your dog is 98% Labrador Retriever and the “other” DNA entered the gene pool eight generations ago, accurately identifying the “other” breed(s) could be challenging.
As more dogs get DNA tested, the accuracy of the tests will continue to improve. It’s also important to note that breed IDs that are less than 12% tend to be lower confidence matches.
Is Wisdom Panel or Embark better?
Wisdom Panel vs. Embark is a difficult question. Both tests offer high-quality sample processing and data analysis for a reasonable price. However, a few distinguishing factors may sway your decision:
- Wisdom Panel offers more genetic health information, is less expensive, and features an interactive traits report.
- Embark provides on-going communication, a user-friendly report, and the only canine finder available. (For more info on Embark, check out my review).
Both companies are leaders in the canine DNA test market, so it really comes down to which features are the most important to you.
How reliable are Wisdom Panel results?
Wisdom Panel takes several steps to ensure the reliability of its results. This includes:
- Providing two wands for two sample collections
- Conducting all sample processing in a USDA-certified third-party laboratory
- Maintaining a database of 15,000 breed samples and a genetic library from over 1.7 million dogs
- Consulting with veterinarians for data analysis protocols
If you submit a clean sample, you will receive results that can give you (and your veterinarian) valuable insights about your dog’s health.
What does the Wisdom Panel Dog DNA test show?
The Wisdom Panel Dog DNA test provides information about your dog’s:
- Breed identification
- Genetic health risks
- Physical traits
- Ideal weight
If you are the most interested in genetic health risks, make sure to go with the Premium Kit, which includes more than 200 health tests! The Essential Kit covers all of the items listed above, but only includes testing for 25 medical conditions. Either way, the reports are shareable, so you can send it straight to your veterinarian.
The ancestry and breed identification reports include a family tree and breed information for the last three generations. This means you’ll even find out the breeds of your dog’s great-grandparents! The family tree is an informative and interesting way to organize this information.
The traits report is interactive, letting you click through the figure to explore the information. It’s a fun way to learn about the results from the 30+ traits tests.
Is Wisdom Panel only for dogs?
Yes. Wisdom Panel is a world-leading expert in canine genetics. If you are interested in a similar report for cats, consider Basepaws. For more information, read our Basepaws review. If you are a feline breeder or veterinarian, Orivet offers additional feline testing, as well.