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- Embark is a dog DNA test that determines your dog’s breed and checks for over 170 genetic health conditions and 20 traits among other fun facts.
- Staff veterinarians and customer service representatives are also available to answer questions from pet owners.
- We used the test to learn more about our rescue dog, Nellie. You can read more about our experience below.
Even if you picked up your puppy from the pound with no information – and you’ve been guessing or making up breeds to satisfy strangers’ curiosity ever since – there is a way to actually know the precise origins of your furry best friend.
Enter the Embark Breed and Health dog DNA test. The test uses 200,000 genetic markers and 100 times more genetic information than its competitors. It checks for over 350 different breed types and 170-plus genetic health conditions – and it has partnered with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (the leading veterinary school in the country) and a pioneer in consumer genetics – Spencer Wells – to combine cutting-edge science and pet care. They’re the people who are ecstatic to tell you they recently discovered why some dogs have blue eyes.
Knowing your dog’s genetic history is great for the shallow interest of curiosity and dog park small talk, but it can also help you navigate potential health risks, avoid medications they could be sensitive too, and even help you decide how big of a home you’re going to need in the future.
Here’s how the dog DNA test works
Order the test online, activate it, swab the cheek of your dog, and mail the sample back to the Embark lab in a pre-paid return envelope. In two to four weeks, you’ll receive the results. If you’re unsure how to swab your dog’s cheek correctly, there are video tutorials on the site.
I tried the Embark dog DNA test on our rescue dog, Nellie, to see how it worked in real life. If you keep scrolling down to the bottom of this article, you can see the exact steps we went through in greater detail. But what I liked best was how digestible the information was for non-scientists, and how many resources were provided if you’d like to do further research. I also loved how obviously passionate about dogs the Embark team seemed to be.
On the site, you can engage as little or as much as you want. It was as succinct as “she’s mostly a German Shepherd” and “she’s clear of all the health risks we check for” and as granular as links to learn how the process is done and breakdowns of what each genetic condition is as well as which breeds it’s commonly found in. There are even linked citations in some sections where research was referred to.
The Embark dog DNA test is not cheap, but it’s information that could improve or extend the life of your dog – and for most owners, that’s not a bad price to pay.
All in all, it’s a great tool – and something most dog owners will probably be excited to learn about. Pets are the slobbery, warm-bodied, loving beings that occasionally care more for you than they do for themselves. Figuring out a bit more about how to responsibly return that love and care is an exciting new opportunity.
If you have multiple dogs and get tests for them, you can “add a dog” to your “my dogs” section in your account to keep your family all in one place.
Keep reading to see our experience and our dog’s results below.
Embark breaks down dog breeds by percentages. If you keep scrolling, Embark highlights the main characteristics of each breed present.
Embark tests your pup for over 170 genetic health conditions and 20 traits.
We took the Embark DNA test probably just as much for the health results as to satisfy our curiosity, if not more so. Embark screens for over 170 genetic conditions looking for the mutations that can cause them, and Nellie showed up negative for everything. Being able to rule out these mutations also makes it easier for your chosen vet to determine what’s wrong quickly and accurately if your dog becomes sick in the future, and to avoid prescribing medications your dog may be sensitive to. To easily share with your vet, click “Vet Report” to input your vet’s name and email address. They’ll get a copy.
Embark makes the results easy for non-scientists to understand. It showed that she was cleared for the 135 genetic conditions common for Nellie’s breed (which the test already provided for us and the lab) and then broke down what those conditions are exactly. You can also view the full disease test in more detail if you wish.
Embark also breaks your dog’s DNA down to make a family tree that goes back to great-grandparents.
Embark’s algorithm generates the most likely family tree for your pup, though it’s not the only possible one for your dog’s mix.
You can also check out other dogs who have Embark accounts that have similar breed mixes for comparison via the Mix Matches tool.
The DNA test also tests your dog’s traits, making it possible to predict coat color, coat traits (shedding, curly, straight) and body size among other things.
You’ll be able to see the genes that make your dog’s coat the color, texture, and shedding-heavy mess that it is, as well as your dog’s projected body size, along with links to deeper wells of information if you’re interested in learning more.
You can also see your dog’s genetic diversity (was there inbreeding?) as well as performance. For instance, we discovered that Nellie has an adaptation that makes her more tolerant of high altitudes.
Staff veterinarians and customer service reps are also available to answer questions from owners.
The service also encourages users to email firstname.lastname@example.org if they have a particular health issue or area they’re interested in.
You can also take “Health and Wellness” quizzes to get personalized feedback and contribute to research, making the Embark test even more accurate and extensive for you and others in the future.
These quizzes and feedback mean the service can get smarter and better over time — benefiting both old users and new with more features and ever-more accurate results, just like human DNA tests. If you choose to participate, you could help scientists make new discoveries.