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Embark’s dog DNA test is often referred to as the 23andMe for dogs. The test provides the most comprehensive genetic health screening for dogs.
They also test for more than 150 purebreds to help you understand your dog’s history and ancestry makeup.
Embark DNA is one of the two biggest dog DNA test providers, the other being Wisdom Panel. While Wisdom Panel excels in breed identification, Embark does a significant job testing for genetic health conditions.
Embark’s breed identification is mostly comprehensive. Their fairly large database allows them to provide a detailed ancestry report.
In addition to most of the breeds found in North America, they also test for wolf, coyote, dingo and village dog ancestry.
Keep reading for my full review of Embark Dog DNA.
To compare Embark against the other two leading pet DNA tests, Wisdom Panel and DNA My Dog, read my in-depth dog DNA test buying guide.
The first step is to order the test kit from Embark on Vet’s official website.
It costs $199, making it more expensive than even the new health testing + breed detection package by Wisdom Panel.
But the extra bucks are worth it. Their breed detection report is more detailed, and their health screening covers more diseases. They also offer genetic age prediction, a feature not included in any of Wisdom Panel’s packages.
Note: There are discounts if you test more than one dog. Just use the code, MULTIPACK when ordering. The discount is 10% for two dogs, 15% for three and 20% for four or more. There is also a separate package for breeders who get special bulk pricing. If you are a breeder, contact customer support directly to order multiple kits.
Once you order the test, you’ll receive the kit in a few days.
Swabbing your dog’s cheek is easy, and there are clear instructions to guide you. You can also check out helpful articles and videos on their official website.
If the swabs get damaged in any way, contact the company, and they will send you replacements free of charge.
Remember to activate the kit online before you repackage and send it back to Embark for testing.
Results take quite a bit of time before they are ready; anywhere between 3 and seven weeks. This is longer than the 2-3 weeks that Wisdom Panel takes to test your dog’s sample.
It actually used to take much longer a while back, around 6-8 weeks but they have tried to shorten the turnaround time.
Once the report is ready, you will receive an email with a link to where you can read it.
You can read the interactive report on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
There is also a printable PDF copy that you can share with friends, send your Vet or print for filing.
The report includes results for a breed identification test as well as genetic health screening. You can read it on your secure account when it’s ready and share it with friends or your vet.
Here’s what is included in the report.
The first part of the report breaks down your dog’s breed makeup.
If your dog is a purebred, you are just going to see one breed such as Labrador Retriever or Australian Shepherd. If it is a designer dog, the breakdown will consist of just two breeds, and if it’s a mutt/mixed-breed, the list of breeds can be quite long.
Embark’s database is not as comprehensive as Wisdom Panel’s. They have around 200 samples of purebreds while Wisdom Panel can test for over 250 breeds.
But it’s still enough to cover most of the breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club. You can see the full list of the breeds they test for here.
Most of the breeds are biased towards those with North American roots, so you are at a disadvantage if your dog has foreign ancestry. The analysis will not be as detailed.
Generally, the Embark test is as accurate as a DNA test can get. It’s a very close estimation of your dog’s DNA makeup.
Though they have a smaller database, Embark’s DNA breakdown tends to be more detailed compared to Wisdom Panel’s. The report will list some breeds that the Wisdom Panel may miss.
In addition to the common breeds, the Embark DNA test can also detect the presence of coyote, wolf, dingo and village dog tests. They are the only dog testing service that offers the extra dingo and village dog tests.
To better visualize your dog’s ancestry, the report includes a helpful family tree that goes as far as the great-grandparents level.
Beyond three generations, it’s difficult to pinpoint specific breeds in the dog’s lineage. That’s why the family tree goes only that far.
The family tree could have as few as one breed or as many as 8 depending on your dog’s breed makeup.
If you have a designer dog, for instance, its family tree will consist of just two purebreds, one from the paternal side and the other from the maternal side.
Note that the family tree doesn’t identify which side is the paternal one and which is the maternal one. To learn about each side, the report has another section explaining what they found in their test.
In these sections, the report explains a bit about your dog’s maternal and paternal haplotypes.
Haplotypes are basically groups of similar DNA sequences that can be traced through a lineage over thousands of years. They are especially helpful in tracing migratory patterns over time.
A group of haplotypes that descend from the same ancestor is called a haplogroup.
For instance, in the above screenshot of Harley’s report, her haplogroup is A1a. The report explains how the group was domesticated in Central Asia 10,000 years ago and how it migrated to Europe before splitting into many of the famous dog breeds we have today.
Her haplotype is A17 which is the same haplotype in Labrador Retrievers, Mastiffs, and other common breeds.
Harley’s paternal section is blank because she is a female (no Y-Chromosome). If you test a male dog, you’ll get a detailed explanation of its Haplogroup and Haplotype. This is because male dogs have both the X and Y chromosomes.
These two sections are significant if you want to go beyond the last few generations of your dog. It tells you about your dog’s history and ancestry as far back as 10,000 years.
That’s something Wisdom Panel doesn’t provide.
This is the other significant part of the report and is just as comprehensive as the one on breed identification.
Embark tests for a lot of genetic conditions, over 160 of them. You can see the full list here.
They include MDR1 Drug Sensitivity, Exercise-Induced Collapse, Muscular Dystrophy, and Narcolepsy.
The report will have three categories as you can see in the screenshot above: those diseases that your dog is at risk of, those for which he is a carrier (meaning they could affect future offspring) and those for which he is in the clear.
Tap on any category to see the list of diseases under each. The report provides a brief explanation for each disease.
Under the clear category, which will obviously have the most number of diseases, the report only lists those conditions that are common in your dog’s breed.
Note: It’s important to share the report with your vet if the test shows that your pet is at risk or a carrier of one or more genetic conditions. Do not act on any health information in the report without your vet’s advice.
Embark also carries out an analysis of your dog’s physical traits. You can see how well they match to your dog or give you an idea of what your puppy will grow into.
The report covers six areas: coat color, coat traits, body features (such as skull size and tail bushiness), body size, performance and genetic diversity.
The last one – genetic diversity – is particularly interesting. No other company tests for it.
It involves testing for the level of inbreeding or how closely related the dog’s parents were.
Why is this important?
A higher level of inbreeding increases the risk of genetically inherited health conditions.
If your dog has low genetic diversity (more inbreeding) you need to keep a closer eye on his health. You should especially watch for the most common diseases that affect his breed type.
The age-old saying that one human year is equal to 7 doggy years is not exactly true. Embark uses a more scientific method to predict your dog’s age. It’s not definitive but provides a much better estimation than a popular myth.
Note that Embark doesn’t predict calendar age but rather genetic age. These are different.
The calendar age refers to how long your dog has been around since birth. Unless you have a rescue, this is relatively easy to figure out.
DNA testing cannot predict calendar age.
Genetic age refers to your dog’s healthspan. In other words, how far along he is health-wise.
This is very difficult to predict because of different dog’s age at different rates. For instance, younger dog’s age faster than older ones and small-body breeds tend to mature more quickly than large-bodied ones.
To estimate the genetic age, Embark starts with the dog’s calendar age. Then they factor in its breed mix, gender, inbreeding coefficient and genetic markers to come up with an estimated figure.
The report gives you the age regarding human years.
Here is a table showing how Harley’s calendar age corresponds to her genetic age.
It’s important to learn your dog’s genetic age. It allows you to customize his nutrition and health plan to his age. For instance, you can start watching out for symptoms of certain age-related diseases and catch them in time.
Finally, the report provides you with your dog’s ideal weight.
Unlike other tests, the weight is not based on breed and ancestry but on a mix of factors including genetic markers, gender, and breed.
So it’s more accurate.
This information is essential for your dog’s health. If he is far beyond the ideal weight, then you know he is overweight, and you can tailor his nutrition accordingly.
If there is a wide variance between the reported genetic weight and your dog’s ideal weight, it could be that the test missed a certain weight-influencing gene. But it’s still a good idea to talk with your vet about it and decide if you need to make any dietary changes
I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.