I tried Wisdom Panel's dog DNA test with my miniature poodle, and the results gave me peace of mind

·6 min read

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  • Wisdom Panel Premium is a dog DNA test that identifies the breeds in your dog's background, and I found the results were spot-on.

  • It also checks for genetic health conditions, medication sensitivities, immune deficiencies, and bleeding disorders.

  • My report showed no genetic health predispositions in my currently healthy dog, but the trait tests weren't perfect.

Dog DNA tests, which reveal your dog's ancestry, have been around for more than a decade. Early on, the tests required a blood draw at the veterinarian and the results were sometimes questionable. Today's cheek-swab saliva test kits are much simpler and the testing itself is growing more robust.

My current dog is purebred, so I never had any interest in getting his DNA tested. But Wisdom Health Genetics, the company behind the well-known Wisdom Panel DNA test kit (currently $79.99), recently released a new enhanced test called Wisdom Panel Premium. The test not only tells you your dog's breed or breed mix, but it also offers deeper insights into your dog's health and genetics. I was intrigued.

Because I frequently report on pet health topics, a representative for Wisdom Health Genetics reached out to ask if I would like a try the new Wisdom Panel Premium test kit (no strings attached - I was not asked by the company to write about the product, favorably or otherwise). I happily accepted.

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What does Wisdom Panel Premium look for?

The test looks for your dog's genetic predisposition toward more than 200 health conditions. It can identify your dog's carrier status for certain genetic disorders, and tests for more than 25 different medication sensitivities, immune deficiencies, and bleeding disorders. The test also tells you your dog's projected ideal weight range based on its body characteristics and lineage.

I was extremely curious to find out how my 10-year-old dog's health looked from a genetic standpoint. He has been relatively healthy all his life, but you just never know what is lurking in your dog's DNA. Would I discover he had a gene for a dangerous disease?

To get a veterinarian's thoughts about dog DNA tests like Wisdom Panel Premium, I reached out to my colleague Gary Weitzman, DVM, CEO of the San Diego Humane Society, whom I met when I worked as a contributing writer for his book "National Geographic Complete Guide to Pet Health, Behavior, and Happiness: The Veterinarian's Approach to At-Home Animal Care."

"When DNA tests were first introduced in 2007, the results were more like getting a dart near the target rather than hitting a bull's-eye," Weitzman said. "But today's tests are much more accurate. They can differentiate hundreds of breeds and more than 20,000 genetic markers."

"This information can provide valuable information about important health-screening data," Weitzman said. "It's helpful as a starting point for a conversation between you and your veterinarian."

How to collect DNA from your dog

Using the test was relatively simple, but I read the instructions several times before getting started. It's crucial that you follow them precisely to avoid contaminating the sample. For instance, your dog shouldn't eat anything within two hours of swabbing. I swabbed my dog, let each one dry, placed them in the included sleeve and pre-addressed and postage-paid box, then sealed it up. I also visited the website to activate my kit before dropping the box in the mail. Easy peasy.

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The results of the test

Ten days later, I received an email when my dog's test results were ready. Hearing that his DNA results were in was far more thrilling than I had anticipated. I hurriedly clicked the link and was taken to a custom page with all his results.

First and foremost is the breed portion of the DNA test. Now, I know my dog is a purebred miniature poodle, and he has many generations of poodles in his pedigree. Had this part of the results been off, it would have thrown up my skepticism radar, but the results revealed my miniature poodle is in fact 63% toy poodle, 31% miniature poodle, and 6% medium poodle.

For those who don't know, poodles are one breed with three size varieties in the United States (toy, miniature, and standard). Other parts of the world recognize a fourth size variety (medium). It's quite typical that my purebred miniature poodle's DNA results would come back with a variety of smaller poodle sizes. Since all are poodles, I call this part of the test 100% accurate.

Had my dog been mixed breed, finding out the breeds in his background could also be beneficial from a health standpoint.

"Mostly it's just fun to know your dog's breed," Weitzman said. "But knowing your dog's breed(s) can also help with identifying common breed-related ailments to be monitored by you and your vet."

The next section of the results went over the health screenings. This was the part I was most interested in. I got a bit of a thrill when I saw that the test did not detect any known genetic health predispositions in my dog's DNA. Relief!

Of course, this does not mean that my dog is safe from developing any health conditions in the future, genetically linked or not. But it was great news to learn that nothing alarming had been discovered among 211 tests that were performed.

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Finally, Wisdom Panel Premium includes 39 genetic trait tests, including coat color, pattern, length and texture; skin pigmentation; eye color; ear type; leg length; and other traits. Most of these results were accurate other than ear type (test said "pricked ears likely" but my dog - like all poodles - has drop ears) and coat type (test said "occasional shedder" but being a poodle, he doesn't shed).

The test also identifies an ideal weight for your dog - an interesting concept. My dog's result said his ideal weight range is 11.9 to 22.9 pounds. He weighs 22 pounds exactly and has been deemed a healthy weight by his veterinarian, so I say this was spot on.

Is it worth it?

Wisdom Panel Premium is not inexpensive, but it does provide a lot of valuable information that you might not otherwise know about your dog's background and health. It's worth mentioning that with Embark's comparable but pricier DNA test ($199 regular price, currently $149), your report will include any of your dog's relatives found in the Embark database along with a family tree.

Pet owners who are mostly curious about their dog's lineage might prefer the less-expensive Wisdom Panel Essential, which tells you the breeds in your dog's background and identifies genetic traits like ideal body weight. Finding out the breeds in a mixed-breed dog's heritage is not only fun, but it can provide helpful health information.

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