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Analytical Chemistry

Video: C&EN tested one dog’s genetics and got weird results

Difference in results among genetic-testing services highlights limits of the tests’ accuracy

by Tien Nguyen
February 25, 2019

Credit: C&EN/ACS Productions

Over the past decade, companies like Ancestry and 23andMe have made personal genetic testing mainstream. Now, humans are projecting their genealogical curiosity onto their pets to determine the breeds mixed together in their animal companions. C&EN wanted to know how accurate these animal genetic-testing services have become. Our editors submitted samples from one dog to three different consumer DNA-testing services: Embark, Wisdom Panel, and DNA My Dog. How do the tests stack up? And how do they work? C&EN reporter Tien Nguyen and our unofficial mascot, Ultraviolet the Supermutt, have your answers in the latest episode of Speaking of Chemistry.

Music: “Carefree” by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under CC-BY International 3.0 and “Furious Freak” by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under CC-BY 3.0.



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Courtney (February 27, 2019 2:34 PM)
I used Wisdom Panel 3.0 when I first got my rescue dog four years ago. That test only used 321 markers, and said he was 25% Alaskan Malamute, 75% mutt. I retested him using Embark a few months ago (Dec 2018), and got:
22.4% chow chow
19.4% Rottweiler
18.3% American pit bull terrier
10.7% boxer
8.2% German shepherd dog
5.4% Labrador retriever
4.4% Shetland sheepdog
11.2% supermutt
It's understandable after viewing this video that the Wisdom Panel test missed so much, given the small number of markers!
I researched the connection between chows and Malamutes, and it turns out there is one. They're both Arctic breeds and a member of a breed group called spitz.
I think these dog DNA tests are worth the money, especially as the number of biomarkers increases.
Nancy McAtee (February 27, 2019 6:03 PM)
What a great video! We did the Wisdom Panel test for our rescue hound. While it had him at 62% coonhound/hound (which is what we believe he is 100%, although not the sub-breed of coonhound listed in his test), the outlier breeds confused us (collie, Bichon Frise, etc). After viewing the experiences in this video, I think I understand his results better.
john hoare (March 3, 2019 8:57 AM)
I used two different tests and got two completely different results. Since then I have talked to other dog owners who experienced similar results. It is a waste of money!!
Katie Ellis (March 6, 2019 6:33 PM)
We might not know her exact breed history, but it's uncontested that UV is 100% adorable! Interesting and informative video.
Cynthia Cole (March 7, 2019 7:59 PM)
The number of dogs in the database is also critically important because there is variation within breeds. Wisdom Panel has over 12000 purebred dogs in their database. No idea what Embark has. DNA marker numbers matter but so do the number of dogs within a breed that are used to create the signature. So embark may use lots of markers but if the only have 3 Dogs of one breed versus 20 for Wisdom Panel they may not actually be more accurate. Full disclosure. I worked for Wisdom Healh makers of Wisdom Panel. Excellent peice by the way!!
Dwight Matthews (March 12, 2019 9:54 AM)
My wife bought a Wisdom Panel test kit for our dog who came from a Carolina kill shelter. The interesting thing about this dog is she looks completely like a Carolina Dog (aka American Dingo) that runs about 60 lbs and is a wild dog of the Carolina's, not discovered until the 1970s. So the American Dingo (which looks exactly like a dingo) has a limited domestication and breeding history.
The results were 1/8th all over the map:
American Stafordshire Terrier
Australian Cattle Dog
Chow Chow
German Sheperd
Siberian Husky
White Swiss Sheperd
and 25% "sporting breed groups".
I wrote Wisdom Panel enclosing a photo of the dog that matches web photos of American Dingo's. Their response was that they only use known pure breed dogs for their DNA database, and they don't have an American Dingo purebred with papers recognized by the American Kennel Club (big surprise) . So their test pops up about everything else from their 1877 SNP database.
Moral of story: if your dog's background is not in the database, you get the smorgasbord result.

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