We tried both at the same time so we’re going to do an in-depth comparison between 2 of the highest rated dog DNA test kits: Embark’s Breed and Health test kit, and Wisdom Panel’s Premium test kit. We will also give our thoughts on which we liked better.
Disclaimer: Neither of the tests were provided to us – we paid for both out of pocket. This review is not sponsored by either company and all opinions are our own.
If you haven’t yet seen our video revealing Chloe’s shocking DNA test results, be sure to check that out! You’ll get to see my reactions to the results and find out how exactly the results indicated that we were scammed by Chloe’s breeder 12 years ago.
But in the meantime, let’s get started on the review.
As mentioned, we tried both Embark’s Breed and Health test kit and Wisdom Panel’s Premium test kit, which are both the premium versions of each company’s commercially-available dog DNA test kits. Specifically, we’re going to discuss the following points to compare the two.
- Turnaround Time
- Sampling Process
- Genetic Health Screenings
- Breed Identification
- User Interface
- Communication, Marketing, Education
- Overall Winner
On June 8, 2021, I swabbed Chloe’s cheek for both the Embark and Wisdom Panel DNA tests, and mailed them both out same-day.
- 3 Days later on June 11th, I heard from Wisdom Panel saying Chloe’s saliva sample was received.
- On June 14th, I heard the same from Embark.
- On June 21st – 13 days after dropping the tests in the mailbox – I received Chloe’s DNA results from Wisdom Panel.
- On June 30th, Embark notified me that Chloe’s health results were in, and a day later on July 1st – 23 days after dropping the tests in the mailbox – I received her breed results, as well.
So again, it took Wisdom Panel 13 days, and Embark 23 days, to send me Chloe’s test results.
For obvious reasons, I was more impressed with the turnaround time from Wisdom Panel than Embark.
Winner: Wisdom Panel
We did both the Embark and Wisdom Panel tests back-to-back. Basically, both tests entail swabbing the inside of your dog’s cheeks for about 30 seconds to get a good saliva sample.
Both companies had easy-to-follow instructions. With Wisdom Panel, all you had to do was get in there, get the saliva, and then put the swab back into its package.
Embark’s kit came with a lot of extra inserts, which was actually a little overwhelming, so I had to read the instructions real careful a couple of times just to make sure I did the test correctly. Plus, there was an added step to the process, which was to insert the saliva swab into a container and shake it for 10 seconds. Putting the Embark swab into that container, though, actually gave me a lot more reassurance that the sample wouldn’t become tainted.
I also preferred the swab for Embark over Wisdom Panel’s. Embark’s was a cotton swab and Wisdom Panel’s was kind of similar to a mascara wand. With the Embark swab I wasn’t worried at all, however, with the Wisdom Panel wand I was a little worried I’d scratch her gums.
I’d also say that Chloe didn’t sit as still with Wisdom Panel’s “mascara wand” swab, which leads me to believe that it wasn’t all that comfortable having that thing in her mouth.
Also, I felt a little anxiety while swabbing Chloe’s cheeks. Chloe isn’t a particularly drool-y dog, so I wasn’t sure how much saliva I would get. However, now that we’ve received the results from both companies, this obviously wasn’t a huge deal.
So with all that said, I found the Wisdom Panel test easier to use, but preferred Embark’s softer swab and the reassurance that her saliva sample was going to get there untainted.
Winner: Wisdom Panel
Genetic Health Screenings
At the moment, Embark screens for 208 genetic health conditions, while Wisdom Panel screens for 211. Both test results noted if Chloe was “at risk” or clear of any disease-causing mutations.
Chloe’s results from both Embark and Wisdom Panel showed that she is free and clear of all genetic conditions tested for! Which is pretty great news.
However, Embark showed us that she has a “copy of a variant associated with reduced Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT) activity”, which is “is often used as an indicator of liver health”.
Unfortunately, Embark’s “Clinical Tools” is not a feature that Wisdom Panel has, so outside of going straight to the vet, there’s no way for me to confirm this.
Embark did do a great job at educating me about this condition, though, and they even have a feature where I can share it with our vet.
And even though Chloe was free and clear, I learned that in the event that your dog’s results do show a genetic condition, Embark will email you before you receive the results just to give you a heads up, because learning your dog could become ill can be a bit disheartening. I think this is a really nice gesture.
(To be fair, Wisdom Panel may do this as well, but I haven’t found anything that says they do or don’t.)
Health Page – User Interface and Education
By contrast, I really liked Wisdom Panel’s “stoplight” visual which made it easier to digest Chloe’s health summary, and the page just wasn’t cluttered with stuff.
Also, when comparing the two, I found the information that Wisdom Panel gave about each of the genetic conditions to be more detailed, which, I can imagine, would be more helpful to a parent whose dog might have any genetic health risks.
In the end, I like Wisdom Panel’s health feature more due because of its user interface and detailed information about each condition.
Winner: Wisdom Panel
Both companies claim that they test for over 350 breeds, types and varieties. However, Embark notes this on their website: “By testing over 200,000 genetic markers, we build up [a dog’s] genes one DNA segment at a time, to learn the ancestry with great certainty. Other dog DNA tests look at many fewer genetic markers and have to take a guess at breed ancestry based on that.”
Before I go on, if you haven’t yet seen my reaction to my “Goldendoodle’s” shocking DNA test results, check that out here.
The images below show the breed results I received from each company.
As you can see, the test results from each company differed a bit, but they did both detect roughly the same amount of Standard Poodle, Siberian Husky, and Collie in Chloe.
However, each company also independently detected a couple of other breeds in Chloe. For example, Embark detected German Shepherd and “Supermutt”, whereas Wisdom Panel detected Labrador Retriever, German Spitz (much different than a German Shepherd), and Boston Terrier.
The difference in results makes it really hard to know which test is more accurate. The world may never know what Chloe “really” is…but in the end, I think both companies were fairly accurate where it really mattered.
I’ll discuss accuracy more in the Family Tree section next.
Both Embark and Wisdom Panel provide a copy of a dog’s family tree to show what breeds the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents could have been. This was cool to see drawn out.
However, based on what [little] I know about Chloe parents, it seems Embark’s family tree was more accurate because it reports that one of her parents was a purebred Standard Poodle.
Wisdom Panel, on the other hand, reports that one of her parents was a Poodle-Collie mix.
I’m not saying it’s NOT possible that Chloe’s grandma was half Poodle/half Collie, but somehow it just seems more likely that Chloe descended from a long line of purebred Poodles.
But again, this is just an assumption; who really knows…
“Dogs Like Mine” – Embark Feature
This feature exclusive to Embark allows you to discover dogs who share a similar breed mix to yours. A score of 100% means they share the exact same breed mix.
It’s pretty cool, too, because you can learn more about each dog and see an in-depth comparison of their DNA, breeds, and more. You can even reach out directly to other dog owners via direct message in case you want to schedule a playdate.
Genetic Diversity – Wisdom Panel Feature
Wisdom Panel’s Genetic Diversity feature shows where your dog is at when compared with other mixed-breed dogs.
Chloe’s genome analysis shows higher than average genetic diversity, which means she has a lower risk of genetic disorders and other complications.
Maternal Haplogroup and Haplotype – Embark Feature
Embark also has a cool feature where you can trace your dog’s mother’s ancestry back to where dogs and people first became friends through their mitochondrial DNA. A map helps you visualize the routes that her ancestors took to your home.
Paternal Haplogroup and Haplotype – Embark Feature
Embark’s Paternal Haplotype feature reveals your dog’s deep ancestral lineage, stretching back thousands of years to the original domestication of dogs.
Paternal Haplotype is determined by looking at a dog’s Y-chromosome—but not all dogs have Y-chromosomes!
Since Chloe is a female (XX) dog, she has no Y-chromosome to be analyzed to determine a paternal haplotype.
Breed Page – User Interface and Education
Wisdom Panel and Embark Dog DNA Test were both very detailed in Chloe’s breed makeup, providing information to read about each breed’s description and behaviors. Both had good, easy-to-navigate user interfaces, so no complaints there.
In the end, I trusted Embark’s breed identification results more than Wisdom Panel’s all because of the Family Tree. I also appreciated Embark’s extra features such as the suspenseful breed reveal video and “Dogs Like Mine”. I’m indifferent about the Maternal and Paternal Haplogroup and Haplotype features as they seem mostly like “fluff”, but if you’re a real detail-oriented person this might be up your alley.
Both Embark and Wisdom Panel report back physical traits that your dog likely has. For example, it reports on their base coat color, coat patterns, coat length and curl, amount of shedding, whether your dog has furnishings, their likely size, eye color, and more.
When comparing the two, the results from both seemed to be pretty much accurate and the same, but for me it all came down to the wording.
For example, Embark outright insisted (multiple times) that Chloe “can have” dark fur and skin based on her genome. Erm…I highly disagree.
To be fair, Wisdom Panel also said that “black features are likely” but they also said that a Fawn coat – one of the most common red coat patterns – was “possible”. I know Chloe isn’t red but it’s the thing that makes the most sense. Plus, she has these beautiful golden/red markings on her body:
That said, it is surprising to me that Chloe, being as cream-colored as she is, would have dominant genes that should have expressed dark hair and skin.
I don’t think they got it wrong – but I do appreciate Wisdom Panel’s delivery more because they said a Fawn coat was still possible.
Traits Page – User Interface and Education
Embark gives you the details of your dog’s traits right down to the Genetic Result on which Gene. It goes into detail about what a specific Genetic Result typically means, along with citations from published studies.
Wisdom Panel did not match this level of detail, so again if you’re a real detail-oriented person, Embark might be more up your alley. I certainly enjoyed the detail.
Both companies have a very clean and nice looking website that work well and do their job.
With Embark, there really is so much information provided to you, that sometimes I didn’t even realize there were parts I could click on to get even more information. This was a little overwhelming at times.
Wisdom Panel’s website is much simpler and easier to navigate because the results were formatted like a timeline moving from one point to the next. However, the details and educational experience was a bit lackluster.
That said, I prefer Wisdom Panel’s interface more – it really was much simpler and easier to navigate.
Winner: Wisdom Panel
Marketing, Communication, and Education
I’m just going to come out and say it – Embark gives you a much better educational experience from the time you send in your test to the time you get your results. They send emails to you notifying you of each step, from confirming that…
- You’ve mailed your test
- They’ve received the sample
- Processing is about to begin
- Processing has begun
- Your results are ready
By now you should have gathered that Embark is all about the details. Well, each of these confirmation emails also includes a lot of information and answers FAQs related to the whole process.
Basically, their marketing is on-point.
Wisdom Panel, on the other hand, sent half the emails with less information inside.
In terms of educational quality, Embark also knocked it out of the park. Sure, lots of times I became overwhelmed at the sheer amount of information provided, but I would agree that it’s better to get too much information than not enough.
Breed Reveal Experience
In terms of Chloe’s breed reveal, both companies first notify you that the results are ready via email. Embark won hands down due to its lovely and suspenseful video about her results. Wisdom Panel didn’t go that extra mile – all they did was direct link me to the Ancestry page…kinda boring if you ask me.
So because I am someone who likes to be informed and kept in the loop, I name Embark the winner for this category.
However, both companies are always doing deals, so be sure to see here if there are any going on right now.
In terms of value, I’m going to have to go with Embark. Their results are more comprehensive and detail-oriented, and they provide extra features that Wisdom Panel does not.
I liked both – I truly did.
But I’m calling it.
Embark just gives you a better educational experience. It’s very in-depth, yes, but it’s wonderful for people who care about information. And even though all that information was overwhelming at times, as a web designer I know this can be mitigated by having a more thought-out user interface. Embark’s educational experience with Wisdom Panel’s user interface would be second to none.
Wisdom Panel’s strength was its simplicity. It’s a great option for people who don’t care for the details.
In terms of accuracy, I guess I’d say it’s a tie. So if you are trying to decide which test to get based off accuracy, my opinion is that they’re pretty much on par with each other. (Let your preference for detailed information decide for you!)
- Detailed information is the name of the game for Embark, but its presentation can be overwhelming at times.
- Wisdom Panel is best for people who prefer simplicity over details.
The information on this page is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified animal health provider with any questions you may have.