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We were considering giving our dogs DNA tests but heard that they can be unreliable. You’ll be happy to know that’s not the case with Embark’s newest at-home dog genetic testing kits. Thanks to recent scientific advances, Embark now offers the most accurate at-home dog DNA test available on the market — for breed identification, genetic health risks, and age. They also sell oral and gut health tests as well as purebred tests. There’s something for every dog owner to learn. Read on to find out how much we were able to discover about our dogs!
Product Name: Embark Dog DNA Review
Product Description: Embark offers at-home DNA tests to determine your dog's breed makeup and potential genetic health concerns.
Our team determines the overall rating based on several factors, including ease of testing, health screening options, breed identification accuracy and detail, pricing, customer support, and more. We’ve tested various DNA tests on the market and believe Embark’s tests are superior and a worthwhile investment for dog owners who seek comprehensive information about their furry friends.
- Simple swab tests
- Results in 2-4 weeks in most cases
- Easily share results with your vet
- Looks at 230,000 genetic markers (twice as many as most competitors)
- Free replacement swab if yours gets damaged
- Developed by veterinarians and partners with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine
- Official dog DNA test of the Westminster Kennel Club
- Charitable work with animal shelters
- Phone or email available if you need help interpreting test results
- Positive feedback on customer service and accuracy
- Breed + Health test is slightly more expensive than other tests (but better and more accurate results, so worth the price)
- No cat DNA tests currently offered
Embark Test Overview & Comparison
|Breed + Health |
(Mixed or Purebred)
|Breed Identification||Age||Oral Health||Gut Health|
|Breed breakdown and confirmation|
|Ancestry and geographic origin|
|Support from genetic specialists|
|Genetic health screening|
|Predicted adult weight|
|Bacterial imbalances & microbiome diversity|
|Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
Embark Breed ID + Health (Mixed Breed Or Purebred)
Embark’s breed identification plus health test is the most scientifically advanced at-home dog DNA test available, testing for 350+ breeds, types, and varieties (also sells a test that tests for a dog’s age). It also tests for 250+ known canine genetic health problems and screens for 35+ physical traits.
If you want a comprehensive snapshot of your dog’s overall health while identifying their breed (which can further help diagnose or prevent disease), this is the best test to go with. See our personal experiences with Embark’s Mixed Breed + Health test and the Purebred Health test.
|Mixed Breed + Health|
Embark Breed Identification Only
The Breed Identification test is a scaled-back version of the Breed ID + Health test. With this test, you’ll get breed identification information only. While identifying your dog’s breed makeup may help inform you of possible breed-related health conditions, you won’t get as in-depth analysis as you will with the ID + Health test.
|Breed Identification Test|
Embark Dog Age Test
Beyond DNA, Embark now allows you to find out all sorts of information about your dog. Their age test measures a dog’s chronological (calendar) age using DNA methylation (90% of dogs have a true birthday within 18 months of their estimated birthday). The results also give you life-stage insights from veterinarians on what to expect as they age so they can live their best life. See our personal experience with Embark’s Age Test.
Gut Health Test
Embark has also partnered with AnimalBiome to offer canine microbiome products. You can test your pup’s gut health to discover if he has any bacterial imbalances. An abundance of bad bacteria in a dog’s gut microbiome can cause everything from diarrhea and constipation to skin, behavioral, and immune system issues. Results also include personalized recommendations for diet, supplement, or lifestyle changes to improve your pup’s gut health. See our personal experience with Embark’s Gut Health test.
|Gut Health Test||$125|
Oral Health Test
Embark’s oral health test analyzes the bacteria in your dog’s mouth to help identify the cause of bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss, tooth decay, and other oral health issues. This test helps you evaluate the overall health of your dog’s oral microbiome to find out if they need a dental cleaning or have other oral concerns to address. See our personal experience with Embark’s Oral Health test.
|Oral Health Test||$125|
Looking for the latest Embark promo code? Use code: BESTDOG for up $40 off plus free shipping. Visit our dedicated Embark coupon article with the most up-to-date seasonal offers and discounts. Embark eGift cards are available in $50, $75, $100, $125, $150, and $200 increments. Give one to a friend or family member so they can pick out their own DNA test kit.
Embark’s Genetic Research
Embark partners with scientists from Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine to conduct ongoing research into dog genetic testing — and you have the option to include your dog’s DNA data in their research. In some ongoing studies, Embark researchers are working on identifying the genetic basis of stomach cancer and the genetic variants that may increase the risk for Wobbler’s Syndrome. They’re also trying to understand the role of genetics in obesity and arthritis in dogs. But they’ve already made many important discoveries.
In their most recent published study, Embark scientists discovered a genetic variant associated with early-onset adult deafness (EOAD) in Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. Embark is now the first dog DNA test to inform Ridgeback owners, breeders, and veterinarians of a dog’s risk for this type of EOAD.
Another recent study found that “roaning” dogs such as German Shorthair Pointers, Australian Cattle Dogs, and other breeds are strongly associated with a genomic region on chromosome 38 and likely regulated by the usherin gene (USH2A). Roaning contributes to uniquely spotted coats that do not gray with age. This chromosome variant also contributes to Dalmatian spots. Testing for this genetic trait is only available through Embark’s dog DNA tests.
Our First-Hand Experience with Embark’s DNA Tests
Here’s a sample of what you might learn about your dog during the testing process, as well as our personal experience testing on each of our dogs.
Breed + Health (Mixed-Breed Dog)
“Embark gave more accurate results than Wisdom Panel with the majority being Pit Bull and Labrador Retriever and some minor genes for Chow, Husky, Golden Retriever, and ‘Supermutt.’ Sure, it’s more expensive, but it’s better than throwing away money on a test that was only partially accurate. Embark also surprised me by sending health-related genetic markers for Bella.”– Michelle Schenker, Co-founder of Canine Journal & Parent To Two Mixed-Breed Rescue Dogs
Bella got a high wolfiness score of 3.1% (most dogs score 1% or less). Does that mean she’s part wolf? No, but she has inherited more wolf genes than many other dogs. A wolfiness score below 10 doesn’t mean your dog is a product of a recent dog-wolf mating. Almost all wolfiness scores below 10 are from ancient wolf genes that have been passed down multiple generations — possibly even dating back to 15,000 years ago when people began domesticating wolves.
Breed + Health (Purebred Dog)
“I tested the purebred kit on Georgie, my Cavalier, King Charles Spaniel. The results showed that Georgie is, in fact, 100% Cavalier. It also indicates his dog’s genetic diversity and level of inbreeding, explaining how closely related his ancestors are. They compare the gene diversity to other purebred dogs in the Embark database. Georgie has a 64% overlap with another dog who lives in the same geographic area. Using Embark’s messaging, Sadie reached out to the dog’s parents and confirmed the dogs are related (Georgie’s grandfather was the other dog’s dad). We also got his health results back which said out of 215 genetic risks he had an increased risk for 2 diseases or conditions due to his breed with explanations of both.”– Sadie Cornelius, Parent To A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Dog Age Test
We had the opportunity to test out Embark’s newest product, the age test. Here are our results.
When we rescued Lily, the shelter estimated her age to be 5 years old. The vet looked her over and thought she was 4. But, based on this new information from Embark, it looks like she was likely only 2.5 years old when we adopted our sweet girl! While she is now 13.5 years old, according to the Embark Dog Age Test, we find comfort in knowing she will likely be with us for a few more years, given her current health condition.– Michelle Schenker, Co-founder of Canine Journal & Parent To Two Mixed-Breed Rescue Dogs
Gut Health Test
“Upon getting my results back from Embark’s gut health test, I talked to a specialist who reviewed the results with me via phone. She was very thorough in explaining the various bacteria types and how they impact your dog’s gut health. Luckily our dog was only two and a half at the time he took the test, so he is still relatively healthy and didn’t have any issues that would be cause for concern other than an imbalanced microbiome (none harmful or missing). However, she explained that identifying imbalances in younger dogs can help you prevent certain issues over time. The way to balance their system is to counterbalance the bacteria and push out the ones not needed and replace them with ones that do with a DoggyBalance Gut Restore product they recommend (which is made from dog’s fecal matter).”– Sadie Cornelius, Parent To A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Here’s a screenshot of what to expect with the Gut Health Test results:
Oral Health Test
“The Oral Health Test did an excellent job analyzing the results based on our dog’s breed and age. It gave insights into the oral microbiome and the four different bacteria types (periodontal, aerobic, anaerobic, and potential pathogens). They also gave dental recommendations for sticking to a healthy teeth cleaning regimen to stay proactive in preventing gum disease (which is reversible in many cases if caught early).”– Sadie Cornelius, Parent To A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
How Embark DNA Tests Work
Here’s a step-by-step process of how to use any of Embark’s tests. The process is more or less the same, with the exception of the gut health tests, which use a stool sample instead of saliva. Also, the activation questions might vary slightly depending on which kit you get.
1. Order & Activate
Once you order a kit, you’ll get it in the mail within a few days. It was easy to activate the kit using the barcode number. During the registration process, you’ll be asked a number of questions about your dog’s age, health, diet, medications, and other symptoms they may be experiencing currently. This helps their experts better have a big picture of what other factors could play into your dog’s gut health as well as ongoing research efforts.
2. Collect Sample
Follow the instructions for tips on how to collect the best sample. All tests except the gut health kit use a cheek swab in the inside of your dog’s cheek that you put it into a test tube.
The gut health test collects a stool sample from your dog to analyze the microbiomes in their gut. The process is a little messier, but Embark makes it easy (and clean) to get a good sample. Simply bring back the poop bag from a walk, and use a wooden stick (provided in the kit) to break open the stool so you can get a good sample without dirt from where it touched the ground. They even provide rubber gloves so you can be extra careful. Using a cotton swab stick, you’ll select a clean piece of their poop and stick it in the provided test tube.
Seal up the sample in the test kit (don’t forget to activate the kit using the bar code first). Then drop it off at a post office or any mailbox using the pre-paid return envelope. While you wait, Embark sends email updates throughout the testing process, letting you know when the kit is received, sent to the lab, and when the results are ready.
3. Get & Analyze Results
Within a few weeks, you’ll be notified via email when your results are ready. Depending on your test, you’ll get insights, bacteria or breed breakdown, appendix, and family tree. Your summary provides an in-depth interpretation of the health results, what having a genetic mutation could mean for your pet, and how common it is for your dog’s breed.
All the results are sharable via PDF, public link, or email, making it easy to send to your vet, breeder, or anyone else who might be interested in the results. You can also change your privacy settings to keep the information private. You may also receive an email from a veterinary geneticist at Embark with more details.
It may be a little technical to understand at first glance, but they offer lots of resources and guides to help you make sense of the data. And the gut and oral tests offer the option to talk with a specialist to go over what the analysis means. The specialist calls you directly (within a day) and spends up to 30 minutes or so answering any questions you have.
How Does Dog DNA Testing Work?
Check out Embark’s video to see how their dog DNA test works and what it can tell you about your pup.
Embark is slightly more expensive than its competitors. However, if you want to know all you can about your dog and feel confident in the results, we believe Embark is worth it. Its genetic health screening is, paws down, the best you’ll find for an at-home dog DNA test (Embark blows other DNA dog tests out of the water). You also get breed identification results from the same DNA test.
Be sure to check out our dog DNA test reviews to see how other tests compare to Embark. Learn more about Embark DNA in our interview with its veterinary geneticist and another with the co-founder Ryan Boyko.
If you genetically test your dog and find that it is predisposed to certain chronic illnesses, you may consider pet insurance. Read our pet insurance comparison to see which company we ranked #1.Tagged With: DNA