Much as human genetic testing has seen a gigantic surge in popularity over the past decade, so too have doggy DNA tests increased in frequency.
Likewise, the technology to perform such tests has improved dramatically in that time, so now more than ever it’s a worthwhile investment to investigate your pup’s history and discover their future.
Again, as with the human equivalent, the market is flooded with providers promising a hundred percent satisfaction, each more informative than the last, but only some actually delivering.
Today we’ll be looking at Embark tests for canine companions specifically, but we’ll also be discussing the reasons to get a doggy DNA test more generally, and how they tend to work.
Why Get A Dog DNA Test?
Still not sure exactly what the purpose of performing a test on your dog is, or whether you should bother going about it at all?
Here are some reasons to consider it, and why they matter.
Find Out Your Dog’s Breed
Unless you were lucky enough to purchase or rescue a pedigree pup, you may only be able to hazard a guess at what breed they are, based on the parents.
Without this information, it’s difficult to know exactly how much your dog is going to grow before they reach maturity, which can be a BIG problem.
Remember when micropigs were all the rage, and people kept getting tricked into buying full-size farm hogs they believed were adorable little teacup piggies?
The exact same thing can happen with your mixed-breed dog, even by accident - being a hundred percent sure what breed they hail from is reassuring and helpful.
This reason is especially important if you’re in the process of rescuing a street mutt, which could have come from absolutely anywhere!
Uncover Potential Health Problems
Once you know the breed (or at least, the predominant breed) of your dog, you’ll then be able to have a chat with your veterinarian (do NOT rely on Dr. Google!) about possible hazards to their health.
Certain breeds are more predisposed to injury or disease than others: for instance, cocker spaniels are incredibly prone to epilepsy, heart and liver disease.
Depending on the specificity of the test you choose, there’s a chance to uncover a dog’s potential for illness by checking for the presence of hundreds of gene variants
With prior preparation, you’ll be able to extend your dog’s lifespan and improve their quality of life by making adjustments to their routine based on this information.
To exemplify this, Labradors and German Shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia, but by avoiding the amount of exuberant jumping or climbing your furry friend does, you can prevent the onset or at least minimize the symptoms.
Discover Interesting Traits To Watch Out For
Allergy-prone owners rejoice! Doggy DNA tests can offer insights on the probability of your pup shedding around the house, amongst other traits you might like to know about them.
You have the chance to discover facts about their size, endurance, coat color, genetic diversity, and other behaviors your dog is likely to exhibit, so for anxious or new owners-to-be, this can provide some much-needed insights.
How Do Canine DNA Tests Work?
Every provider of dog DNA testing will have a unique and likely top-secret methodology once they’ve received your sample, but obtaining your dog’s spit usually happens the same way.
All you’ll need to do is gently open up their mouth, which is easier said than done with some dogs - you can try to bribe them with treats but do NOT allow them to eat until after the swab is done, as food contaminates your sample.
Then swirl the swab carefully around their cheek pouches and under the tongue, making sure you get enough saliva to perform the test accurately, for between thirty and sixty seconds.
Of course, it’s imperative that nothing else touches that swab, most importantly ZERO human DNA, as this can cause the test to fail or return inaccurate results.
If you’re worried about being careful enough, pop a pair of gloves on, and ensure once the swab has been performed, it goes straight into the storage container provided, without making contact with anything else.
On the very rare occasion that a DNA testing service requires a blood sample from your dog, this will of course have to be obtained by a trained professional, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll need to resort to this for a standard genetics check.
Embark: Why Choose Them?
Like we’ve said, there are a plethora of big names to pick from when it comes to the provider of your doggy’s DNA test, so why should you go with Embark?
Having developed their patented tests alongside veterinarians in partnership with Cornell University, Embark DNA tests claim to deliver the most accurate results possible.
This bold statement is backed up by their position as the highest-ratest dog DNA test on consumer sites like Amazon and other dog-affiliated websites.
Your dog’s DNA will be analyzed at their CLIA-certified, dog-approved lab facilities, using a custom-built genetic chip to produce a highly detailed view of your dog’s personal genome, meeting the established guidelines for human DNA tests.
Able to distinguish between over three hundred and fifty different dog breeds, as well as almost two hundred health conditions and twenty physical traits, you’ll be spoilt with a whole wealth of information about your pup.
An average of 4.6 stars across all reviewing platforms helps to reassure potential purchasers that their precision promises are based in fact.
Wide Breed Discovery
Testing more than 200,000 genetic markers, to hand-build your dog’s breed mix one chromosome at a time, laying out their breed percentages right down to the decimal point - over a hundred times more precise than leading competitors.
This can be reassuring if you were under the impression your dog was a purebred pup, and even more useful still if your canine’s breed is entirely ambiguous, since you can see exactly how much of each breed’s traits they’ve inherited.
Doggy Family Tree
In a similar fashion to human ancestry DNA tests, the experts over at Embark are able to reveal the breed of your dog’s predecessors, right back to their great-grand paw-rents.
Their intelligent algorithm system uses DNA to generate the likeliest diagram of descendants, but it’s important to remember that there are other possibilities.
Intrigued owners can also compare results for similar breed mixes who have also taken an Embark test using their Mix Matches tool.
Furthermore, by providing your pet with an inbreeding score, you’ll be able to find out if there’s any diversity in your dog’s genes that might pose future problems.
If that wasn’t innovative enough for you, there’s a chance to discover any family members of your dog - aka other pups that share their DNA - with the world’s only Canine Relative Finder, exclusive to Embark testing.
When you select Embark’s dual Breed + Health combination package, you’re opting for the most expensive dog DNA kit on the market - though vets, shelters and breeders are privy to a thoughtful discount.
However, in this case, you really are getting what you pay for, as your dog will be tested and confirmed or cleared of possessing the genetic mutations that lead to hundreds of conditions.
As a result, you’ll be able to satisfy any curiosities about man’s best friend you have as an owner, and fully prepare yourself for any inevitable illnesses your dog is likely to be susceptible to in the future.
Wondering what makes your dog tick - or bark, as the case may be? Embark highlights examples from the patchwork of pup genetics to determine which traits your dog is likely to possess and why.
Expect to find out interesting information about their coat’s color and texture, the likelihood, and frequency of shedding, as well as a prediction for how big they’ll grow to become, though that’s difficult to accurately map!
Taking The Test
Swift, simple, and entirely noninvasive, an Embark DNA test is one of the least likely to perturb your pup and is also very easy to navigate.
First things first, decide whether you’re going for the Breed test or a combination of Breed and Health, with the latter being more expensive but entirely worthwhile for the wealth of potentially life-changing news it provides.
Once the kit comes in the mail, you’ve got to create an account, which takes two minutes, then activate your dog’s profile using the unique code that begins ‘EM’.
Using the included swab, preferably after watching their handy video guide, all that’s left to do is collect a sample by delicately rubbing the inside of your dog’s cheek and underneath the tongue for up to thirty seconds.
Tips for attaining the highest quality sample include ensuring that the swab’s sponge has been saturated with saliva - for some pups, you might need to keep going for up to a minute to achieve this.
You could also activate your dog’s salivary glands by showing them a treat, but remember not to give it to them until afterward, as you don’t want to contaminate your test and impact the results!
Once done, immediately seal the swab in the vial provided, mailing it back to the lab using the packaging provided, with postage pre-paid already for your convenience.
Keeping you updated on its whereabouts at each turnstile, around three to five weeks after the sample has been received, an email alert will let you know that your dog’s test results are ready to view via their Embark profile.
It really is as simple as that!
What Results Will I Receive?
Again, this section depends on whether you opt for a breed-only test or plump for the pricier breed and health version, but let’s take a look at what your profile is likely to reveal once testing is complete.
Your summary shows you a quick overview of everything, including the dog’s genetic breed result and some information about their traits - you’ll find out about every breed contributing to your pup’s genome, no matter how small.
The family tree tab reveals an algorithm’s likeliest guess of the dog in question’s family tree, right back to their great-grandparents, although it’s important to note that other potential mixes and matches could produce this outcome.
This enables you to check out specifics about their maternal and paternal haplotype groups, a fancy way of saying you can imagine the routes and maps that your dog’s ancestors may have taken to get to wherever you are now.
Next up, if you’ve opted for it, is that all-important health check, which summarises any potential variants there are to be concerned about, and how many copies of that genetic code your dog carries.
You’ll find out not only what this result means, but the scientific basis behind their assessment of your dog’s likelihood for that particular genetic condition or disease, as well as what each individual health issue is and can lead to.
Last but not least, as this is probably the most fun section, you’ll get to see some information about your pup’s traits, behavior and appearance-wise, as well as the genetics behind them.
This includes coat length, texture, shedding, and their potential for albinism, alongside claws, eye color, muzzle length, body size, appetite, the likelihood of adapting to different altitudes, and much, much more.
There are far more things to discover in your own personal profile report, including the chance to check out verified pups with similar breed mixes to your pride and joy, so we recommend trying the experience out for yourself.
If you’d like to have a look at a sample report before you take the plunge, you can check out this test they ran on the CEO’s dog, Harley, which reveals all you can expect to find out about your pup, and more!
As you can probably tell, we’re big fans of the work Embark are doing to improve canine healthcare, especially for underprivileged dogs and strays, but it would be remiss of us to ignore the possible downsides you might experience.
Price Point We’ve already noted that this test is one of the priciest DNA test kits for your dog, which can be a drawback for many, though this does dramatically increase the level of accuracy and amount of information you’ll receive.
You can reduce the cost a little by choosing to opt for the Breed test only, although then you’ll be missing out on the useful and possibly health-impeding information the more thorough test provides.
One big tip we’d highly recommend is to keep your ears and nose to the ground, hound-dog style, for any coupons on the go, as this can significantly reduce costs.
Additionally, for an average dog owner not well-versed in stats and graphs, it might be quite difficult to interpret some of the more confusing and complicated scientific data you’re provided with, which can be frustrating.
It’s arguable that sections of the information your test results display are somewhat unnecessary as they won’t really tell you very much unless you’re proficient in interpreting it, meaning you’ll need to seek assistance to understand.
However, that isn’t to say that the other tests out there won’t also be equally as puzzling to wrap your brain around either - thinking about DNA and genetics for any creature, dog or otherwise, is never going to be easy!
Alright, you’ve read everything we had to say, but let’s go over it one more time, so you can make a clear and informed decision, no mess, no fuss.
- Arguably the most accurate doggy DNA test on the market, capable of breaking down the presence of over 350 breeds
- Health data can assist you in preparing for any future illnesses your dog is susceptible to or genetically predisposed to developing, scanning for hundreds of gene mutations
- Non-invasive, easy swabbing procedure, with shipping already taken care of as part of the fees - no hidden costs here!
- Learn more about why your dog behaves and acts as it does, including traits, appearance and a prediction for when they’ll reach full size and what that looks like
- Experience the novelty of your dog’s estimated family tree, which traces and estimates the breeds of their parents, grandparents, AND great grandparents using trademarked algorithm technology
- Keen to track down any canine cousins? Embark testing allows you access to the world’s only Canine Relative Tracking service, putting you in touch with owners of dogs that share your pup’s DNA
- One account can be used for multiple dog tests, so if you’ve got a house full of dogs you want to test, you’ll have access to all of their information in one place
- Experience raw, unedited data about your dog’s genome!
- More expensive than a lot of the other offerings available
- Potentially confusing and complicated excess data to interpret
As you can see, the number of positive reasons to Embark on this journey far outweigh any possible negatives - we see absolutely no reason why you wouldn’t be completely satisfied with their service. Good luck!