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Old 04-10-2008, 04:55 PM   #1
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Default Are the Mars Wisdom Panel and MetaMorphix Canine Heritage DNA tests scams?

As you probably know, there are a couple of companies selling a DNA analysis service to tell you the breed combinations of your mixed-breed dog. The Canine Heritage tests costs $79.95, is done with a cheek swab, and has a database of 38 breeds. The Mars Wisdom Panel costs $100-$200, is done via a blood sample obtained by your vet, and has a database of “more than 130 breeds.”

The question is, do they really work?

The Mars test, the more expensive and comprehensive of the two, claims,

“Validation testing has resulted in an average accuracy of 84 percent in first-generation crossbred dogs of known parentage.*”

* From: http://www.monroeanimalhospital.com/2035597.html

So what does this mean? For dogs which have both parents of pure breed, the Mars Wisdom Panel was able to positively identify them 84% of the time. This means that they failed 16% of the time. And this is for the ideal case of both parents being pure bred! How many mixed breeds actually fall into that category? And what is the accuracy in those cases? Mars does not say.

Now, the people at these doggie DNA testing companies may be quit honest. But the pressure to ignore relevant data, fail to ask the right questions to begin with, or even falsify data is a serious factor in any scientific research. Think of the pressure when millions of dollars are at stake, and your company’s entire financial success is based on such work! That is why peer-reviewed journals are essential to validate the truth of any claims. Neither company provides such peer-reviewed evidence for an accurate analysis.

It would be great to get experiences, both positive and negative, from other dog owners. How well did your test results match the obvious characteristics of your mixed-breed dog?

You could post the following:

1. A scan of the analysis page which reports the breed results of your dog’s DNA test.
2. A photo of your dog.
3. The approximate weight of your dog, since it’s often hard to get an idea of size from a photo.

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Old 04-10-2008, 05:22 PM   #2
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I sent my money in to Metamorphix and while it's been disappointing, I wouldn't call it a "scam." My opinion is that this breed analysis is in its infancy, so I for one never expected 100 % accurate results. The first go around was that they were not able to conclusively ID what was in my mystery mix and so they offered to refund my money. That is not what scam artists do.
Having been in the science game myself for a couple of decades (also not only having peer-reviewed papers but having been on editorial boards) I know a little of what goes on behind the scenes.
It also doesn't matter much to me that they are not presenting peer-reviewed work to support their claims. I daresay the general public would not be able to make head nor tail of it, as it amounts to a pattern matching software algorithm for patterns that are beyond anyone's visual comprehension.
Are they under pressure to produce? Sure. Did they bite off more than they can chew? Quite possibly.
But honestly I don't see the point of comparing notes as far as pictures and results go. If we could tell by looking, we wouldn't need the test at all, right? And I know for a fact that often known mixes will be misidentifed if you play 'let's guess what's in the mix" as I have made a casual study of this for the past five years.
I would love to know how they get their calibration standards, namely do they only go by purebreds, or do they have known mixes that they have DNA samples for to see if the output matches what they know to be the case.

Personally I think 84 % accuracy in something biological is pretty good. Its one of the reasons I'm in the engineering sciences myself.
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Old 04-10-2008, 06:49 PM   #3
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Thank you for posting those excellent points! Now, let's discuss them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skunkstripe View Post
I sent my money in to Metamorphix and while it's been disappointing, I wouldn't call it a "scam." My opinion is that this breed analysis is in its infancy, so I for one never expected 100 % accurate results. The first go around was that they were not able to conclusively ID what was in my mystery mix and so they offered to refund my money. That is not what scam artists do.
Unfortunately, it is exactly what scam artists do. They must establish your confidence, and giving back money initially is the standard way. Of course, I am not directly accusing either company of scam artistry. The thread name was a deliberately provocative "teaser." However, I am saying that the refund offer cannot be used as a differentiation criterion.

Mars will supposedly refunded your money as well. See http://cbs4denver.com/pets/dog.test.....2.618085.html, which says,
"However, if only a small percentage can be detected, the company will give a refund."

Nowhere on the Mars web site could this policy statement be found.

Quote:
Having been in the science game myself for a couple of decades (also not only having peer-reviewed papers but having been on editorial boards) I know a little of what goes on behind the scenes.
It also doesn't matter much to me that they are not presenting peer-reviewed work to support their claims. I daresay the general public would not be able to make head nor tail of it, as it amounts to a pattern matching software algorithm for patterns that are beyond anyone's visual comprehension.
Yes. The general public would not be able to make heads or tails of such research. However, today's highly trained veteranarians should be able to. And one of the companies sells through veteranarians.

Quote:
Are they under pressure to produce? Sure. Did they bite off more than they can chew? Quite possibly.
But honestly I don't see the point of comparing notes as far as pictures and results go. If we could tell by looking, we wouldn't need the test at all, right? And I know for a fact that often known mixes will be misidentifed if you play 'let's guess what's in the mix" as I have made a casual study of this for the past five years.
Correct. But it can reveal the obvious misidentifications, like a DNA test result claiming that your dog is mostly Great Dane, when it is obviously a Chihuahua mix.

Quote:
Personally I think 84 % accuracy in something biological is pretty good. Its one of the reasons I'm in the engineering sciences myself.
It depends on the specific biological test. "DNA testing" conjures up the image of fingerprint-like accuracy. Indeed, it is extremely accurate in verifying specific parental lineage.

But the figure of 84% accuracy here is only the average for the best possible case -- first-generation crossbred dogs. We don't have a figure for second, third, or more generation. And that is a very likely situation for a mixed breed dog.

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Old 04-10-2008, 07:36 PM   #4
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Chan, do you maybe have an axe to grind?
Are you disappointed in the results you got? I'd be curious if you did the test on your doggie and got funky results. And if you are aware of a Chihuahua that got typed as a Great Dane I'd be curious to know!

OK fist off, yes scam artists gain your confidence and make off with the money, that is true. But honest lab rats adhereto the 'code' which is that if you can't deliver an analysis as promised, there is no charge. I've done it myself with my lab so how do you tell the difference between an honest lab rat who is struggliing with a messy analysis and a scam artist?

For whatever it is worth, I never expected pinpoint accuracy in the results. As far as I am concerned, ANYTHING which is biological in nature is one step up from sociology in terms of its potential for accuracy.

As far as my mystery dog is concnered, they came up with "Asian breed" (ie Akita, Jindo, Shiba Inu) and Terrier - NO Labbie.

Here is a pic of the dog. He weighs about 55 lbs. You can't see it, but he has a corkscrew tail.
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Old 04-10-2008, 08:25 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skunkstripe View Post
Chan, do you maybe have an axe to grind?
Are you disappointed in the results you got? I'd be curious if you did the test on your doggie and got funky results. And if you are aware of a Chihuahua that got typed as a Great Dane I'd be curious to know!
Nah. No Great Danes or Chihuahua here! Just looking for information.

Quote:
OK fist off, yes scam artists gain your confidence and make off with the money, that is true. But honest lab rats adhereto the 'code' which is that if you can't deliver an analysis as promised, there is no charge. I've done it myself with my lab so how do you tell the difference between an honest lab rat who is struggliing with a messy analysis and a scam artist?
One way you can tell is if such a refund policy is seldom actually honored. Another is if it is honored only after the company has made the customer jump through a lot of hoops. Or if a start-up company which initially does do the refunds stops after it achieves high sales numbers.

Quote:
For whatever it is worth, I never expected pinpoint accuracy in the results. As far as I am concerned, ANYTHING which is biological in nature is one step up from sociology in terms of its potential for accuracy.
I have a lawyer friend who says that the first thing he does in voi dire is eliminate any engineer jurors. He claims that they see things only in terms of black and white, with no grey areas that he can argue. DNA testing always has some probability of failure. This could be 16%, or it could be 0.0001%. I studied molecular biology in the lab of Nobel prize winner. I know all about levels of certainty in this field.

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Old 06-26-2012, 06:07 PM   #6
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Default Results I received from Canine Heritage

This is the picture of my dog. He also has web paws.

https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resi...PJP4jwWo829nN0


Breed Composition Analysis
No primary breeds
No secondary breeds
Staffordshire Bull Terrier Boston Terrier
Chow Chow

Come on they can do a better job than that.

Last edited by Gehrenfeld; 06-26-2012 at 06:10 PM.. Reason: Insert picture

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Old 06-26-2012, 06:21 PM   #7
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The original post is from 4 years ago so I wonder if they've improved.
I suppose it beats the wild guesses we get when someone posts here asking what breen/mix their dog is.
Sadie is supposedly a mix but people in the know that have seen her do not see anything but Australian Shepherd in her. She sure matches the behavior attributed to them as well as physical characteristics so I'm glad the humane society called her a mix as it would have cost me 500 to adopt her instead of 100.
I'm more concerned with the dogs behavior and characteristics which can vary widely within breeds.
Humans are the only ones that care...the dogs are what they are.
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Old 06-26-2012, 09:19 PM   #8
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I think it honestly depends on the dog's breed make-up, because they do not have breed markers for all breeds. I had a Mars Wisdom panel done on Aja, and hers came back Staffordshire Terrier and Plott Hound. Which if you look at her, seems remarkably accurate!
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Old 09-07-2012, 03:22 PM   #9
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Chan was clearly trying to sway things towards "scam" seeing that those are his only 3 posts in this thread, and with the wording and countrpoints he was making, even if he claims (like offering a refund) that he is not directly accusing either company.

That being, I don't trust the rsults of the tests as much as I'd like. I had it done on my mix pup, and it came back as Boxer on one side and Keeshond Mix on the other. I just don't see the Keeshond in her at all. As for the "Mix" part, the test says it's most likely Briard, Samoyed, Chow Chow, Old English Sheepdog, or Bloodhound, in that order.

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Old 09-21-2012, 07:57 PM   #10
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Default Yes The Mars Wisdom Panel Is A Scam

I am a professional breeder of Havanese dogs. I have been breeding these dog for over 11 years. My dogs are from show lines and most are third generation breedings for me. Meaning i have owned or still own the greatgrandparents. I had a client submit a blood DNA sample of one of my havanese puppies to this Mars Wisdom Panel Canine Genetic Analysis company for breed identification. What a joke!!! The analysis came back stating that this puppy had a sealyham terrier as one of the parents first generation and a mixed breed as the other parent. The so called sealyham parent was confirmed to be sealyham for three generations and the mixed breed parent was said to be Saluki, silky terrier, pug, chihuahua, and shiba inu. Now this is an AKC registered chocolate havanese puppy we are talking about. I own the mom and the dad to this puppy both AKC DNA"d havanese. I own the grandparents of the puppy on the mom side both are AKC DNA'd havanese. I bought the dad from a reputable havanese breeder and have the AKC DNA on him as well. I do not own a sealyham terrier nor have i ever owned a sealyham terrier. So there you go they cannot even determine a pure bred pedigreed dog let alone determine the genetic make up of a mixed breed puppy. Below is a photo of the havanese puppy.
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