Embark Review (2024)
Updated on March 26, 2024
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Dog Testing
Embark Review (2024)

Our verdict: We thought that Embark was pretty reliable, easy to use, and helped us understand our dog better. We wished it was a little more comprehensive and that there was a more detailed report, but it was a good starting point.

As any dog owner knows, your pet is a valued family member. And like any other family member, you want what’s best for them.

One way to ensure you’re giving your friend the best possible care is to determine your dog’s needs. However, seeing how your pet can’t exactly tell you their needs, you’re somewhat limited.

That’s where doggy DNA tests can play an important role.

Dog DNA testing can help you identify their breed ancestry, potential health risks, or the importance of its genetic traits. The more you know about your pet, the better you can care for them—and Embark really helped us find out more about our furry companion by identifying their genetic markers.

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Source: Embark

In our Embark review, we’ll cover what I learned about the company when testing my dog, Loki.

So before you put your dog’s well-being in the hands of an at-home DNA testing company, read our Embark review and see if this doggy genetic testing kit is right for you and your furry friend.

Quick Facts

Sample CollectionSaliva swab
DNA Testing TypeAnalyzes over 200,000 genetic markers
Speed2-3 weeks

Overall Review of Embark: A Fun Way to Learn About Your Pet

Pros

  • Includes 350+ breeds, which is considered a pretty extensive breed database
  • 190+ health conditions
  • Painless and easy sample collection
  • Can be a good way to learn about any potential genetic diseases your dog can pass down or has
  • Find your dog’s living relatives
  • Figure out your dog’s breed composition or breed breakdown if they are mixed
  • Competitively priced
  • Return shipping is included for US-based customers
  • Results turnaround time is pretty quick

Cons

  • Health results aren’t a concrete diagnosis
  • Trait insights could be more thorough
  • Doesn’t give a thorough breakdown of all mixed-breed dogs
  • Free shipping only covers customers within the United States

While I thought Embark’s genetic testing was a fun way to learn a little bit more about my four-legged friend, I was left wanting a little more.

Embark included some interesting and actionable results in the traits and health portions, but everything here has to be taken with a grain of salt.

These results aren’t necessarily 100% accurate. Treating them like they are could even lead to unnecessary treatments or taking actions that aren’t beneficial, or worse, could be harmful.

Regardless of this, I had a great time reading about everything Loki’s DNA had to tell me. So, use this test as a fun way to get to know your pet better. Don’t use it as a replacement for regular checkups and visits to the vet.

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How Much Does an Embark DNA Kit Cost?

Embark has the following tests to choose from. The details and costs of each test are as follows:

  • Breed ID DNA Test Kit – $109
    • Looks at over 200,000 genetic markers
    • Covers more than 350 dog breeds
    • Includes a family tree
    • Learn about your pet’s relatives and Family Tree
  • Breed + Health DNA Test Kit – $159
    • Includes everything you get with the Breed Identification Kit
    • Covers more than 250+ health conditions
    • Learn about 35+ physical traits
  • Age Test Kit – $159
    • Age Test model uses data from thousands of dogs with known ages
    • Reliably estimates your dog’s age based on their DNA methylation profile
    • Includes an estimate of your dog’s birthday
    • Life stage information developed by veterinarians

What’s In the Box

Your DNA testing kit includes:

  • DNA sample collection swab
  • Stabilizing fluid
  • Instructions
  • Prepaid return envelope
My Dog and My Embark Kit Review - How Accurate Was It? 15
KnowYourDNA / Joel

Steps for DNA Testing Your Dog

With Embark, DNA testing your dog is quick and easy. Once you’ve received your doggy genetic testing kit, you’ll simply need to take the following steps:

  1. Navigate to embarkvet.com and click the ‘Activate Kit’ button in the screen’s top right corner. When prompted, input your seven-digit activation code (your activation code will appear as follows — ‘EM-1234567’).
  2. Open your kit and remove the DNA sample collecting swab. 
  3. Make sure the swab doesn’t touch anything other than the inside of your pet’s mouth, and do not let your dog eat or drink anything for at least 30 minutes before collecting the DNA sample.
  4. For 30 to 60 seconds, mop the collection swab sponge in your dog’s cheek pouch and under its tongue. Make sure the sponge is fully saturated with saliva to get as many cheek cells as possible. If you’re having difficulty collecting enough saliva, show your pet a treat to cause them to salivate. Do not let them eat the treat.
  5. While holding the swab upright, unscrew the cap from the collection tube. Turn the cap upside down and place the sponge into the stabilizing fluid. Fully rotate the cap until it can no longer turn to ensure it is sealed.
  6. Invert the tube and vigorously shake it for ten seconds.
  7. Return the DNA sample to Embark using the included prepaid envelope. You should receive your results within three to five weeks.

Here are a few pictures of me giving the kit to my dog, Loki. There was some struggling, but overall, he didn’t mind getting his lower cheeks swabbed:

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KnowYourDNA / Joel
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KnowYourDNA / Joel

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KnowYourDNA / Joel

Embark also lets you know the status of your sample:

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How Does Embark Protect My Privacy?

According to Embark’s privacy policy, your personal information will be used in several ways. First, any information you provide to the company may be shared with third parties employed by Embark to render the necessary services.

This includes outside laboratories and research organizations. Sharing your data with these third parties is necessary for Embark to provide their products and services and shouldn’t be of too much concern. 

They may also use your information to investigate potential violations of the company’s terms of service and when they’re legally obligated to do so. This also shouldn’t be a problem if you’re not trying to do anything illegal through them.

The main concern is that they may use your data, which they collect through their website, for advertising and research purposes.

While it’s possible to opt out of having your dog’s genetic data used for research, the fact that this is done at all has raised some privacy concerns among users.

Embark’s Test Results

Embark’s dog DNA test results cover four different aspects of your dog’s genetic makeup. This may vary depending on the kit you order, with the health portion of your test results being exclusive to their Breed + Health Test Kit customers.

We’ll look at the things covered in the test results in greater detail below.

Identifying Your Dog’s Breed

One of the first sections you’ll likely look at in your dog’s test results is its breed identification.

Embark will delve into its paternal and maternal lines by examining your pet’s genes. With this information and identifying your dog’s genetic markers, Embark will create a ‘family tree’ for your pet, laying out its genetic makeup and breed analysis.

The company can test for over 350 different dog breeds in total and even attempt to determine your dog’s breed mix if they’re mixed.

Breed Result

Loki is a goldendoodle F1B (meaning that he is 3/4 poodle and 1/4 golden retriever). Here is what Embark displayed as his results:

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KnowYourDNA / Joel

He tested for about what we thought he was.

Family Tree

These were Loki’s Results:

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KnowYourDNA / Joel

As far as I know, this looks about accurate. I could see this image being a lot more interesting if someone had a mixed breed instead of the intentionally bred dog that Loki is.

You are also able to look at:

  • Dogs Like Mine (dogs with similar genetic results)
  • Maternal Haplotype (you can see your dog’s maternal lineage)
  • Paternal Haplotype (your dog’s paternal lineage)

These last two give you a map of something like this:

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KnowYourDNA / Joel

As well as tons of information about their different haplogroups.

Health

As all pet owners know, your dog’s health is of the utmost importance.

In the health screening portion of the test results, you can get a better idea of the issues you may need to watch out for so you can start any preventive measures early.

Embark looks for over 200 different possible genetic health markers and conditions that are common among animals that share your dog’s genetic makeup.

Embark gives you a nice interactive dashboard that looks like this:

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As you can see from Loki’s results, he is at an increased risk of Intervertebral Disc Disease (Type I).

Embark sent me an email prior to getting these results to remind me that increased risk doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll get this.

They also explained what I could do as his owner to help him if he does develop this (Loki has two right now, so this wouldn’t present itself for a while).

Finally, if your dog does have variant risk, you are also able to send the results to your vet:

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Physical Traits

From your dog’s coat color to the shape of its snout and the length of its tail, in this portion of your test results, you’ll learn about the physical traits that make your pet unique.

For Loki, who is still a puppy, I learned that he’ll one day grow relatively large.

This has helped me determine how much exercise he should get and how much food I should shovel into his bowl, all useful information to keep Loki as healthy as possible.

Embark will also tell you about their potential adult weight, ideal weight range, and genetic risks that come with their physical traits.

Relatives

This is one of my favorite parts about Embark’s test results—discovering if any of your doggy’s distant relatives have also taken the company’s DNA tests.

By combing through their database of DNA results, Embark knows if your pet has any long-lost relatives whose parents were also curious enough to genetically test their furry friend.

Here, I found out that Loki shares 15% of his DNA with a Labradoodle named Kat, who is currently living in Richmond, Virginia. While this information isn’t all that useful, it’s fun to know that one of my dog’s relatives also has some inquisitive parents who spent time collecting their companion’s saliva.

Embark even allows you to contact their owners if you’re interested in arranging a future playdate (I’m still waiting to hear back from Kat’s parents).

How Accurate is Embark?

Since it was developed in partnership with the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Embark is twice as precise as other dog DNA tests.

That said, there are a few things to consider.

While your Embark test results are pretty reliable, they’re no replacement for regular checkups with the vet. This is especially true for the health portion of the DNA results that may point to potential medical conditions. Even the most accurate dog DNA tests should require you to consult a professional.

Embark can help you learn about your dog’s potential to develop certain genetic health conditions, but these results are not a diagnosis. Some vets have even expressed concern about the accuracy of these health results.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may receive results that state your dog is prone to a condition it never develops, leading to unnecessary medical treatments that could hurt your pooch in the long run.

So, use these results as a fun way to learn a bit more about your pet, but don’t take anything they say as a concrete diagnosis.

Embark vs. Competitors

Other than Embark, a few other notable companies offer similar services.

These other doggy genetic testing companies are:

Wisdom Panel ($84.99-$159.99)

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Source: Wisdom Panel

Test for over 350 different breed types, up to 200+ genetic conditions, and more than 35 traits. The premium kit also includes a free call with one of Wisdom Panel’s licensed veterinarians to discuss any health findings that arise.

DNA My Dog ($79.99-$199.99)

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Source: DNAMyDog

With four test kits to choose from, DNA My Dog offers a wide array of services.

From doggy allergy tests, breed identification tests, and genetic and health screenings, what you get depends on the kit you order.

Why Health Screenings Are Important

Fast diagnosis

The tests performed during a health screening will increase the speed of diagnosis and improve medical outcomes (if your pet is found to have an illness).

Here’s an example: neurological diseases like degenerative myelopathy are adult-onset conditions whose signs may not be present until they reach late adulthood.

The most substantial evidence in diagnosing these conditions before death is their classic signs combined with genetic test results confirming that the dog inherited mutated copies of the responsible genes.

If the dog has never had an evaluation, the vet will have to perform all these tests to make a diagnosis.

However, if your dog has had an evaluation, you won’t need to order a genetic test. This will save you valuable time and money as you attempt to diagnose your dog’s condition.

Fast Treatment

Health screening helps you provide proactive treatment for illnesses that require immediate medical intervention. This can prevent or limit the clinical signs associated with the disease.

An example to consider here is intestinal cobalamin malabsorption, in which dogs are born unable to absorb vitamin B-12. Left untreated, these animals suffer a range of clinical signs that include emaciation, anemia, neurological disease, and death.

In most scenarios, dogs will not exhibit any signs of cobalamin deficiency until they’re three to four months old and the fetal stores of cobalamin have been depleted.

If your dog is diagnosed at a young age through routine genetic screening, it will have regular supplements to avoid the severe consequences of deficiency.

Dogs that start a lifelong routine of parenteral supplements have a good chance of living happy, everyday lives with few to no long-term health consequences.

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Safer Medicine

Medical evaluations also help doctors choose the safest medications for your dog. Many canines are allergic to the anesthetic agents used in vet clinics, which puts them at risk for adverse health effects.

Dogs who carry the gene for multidrug resistance (MDR1), for instance, are very likely to experience several adverse neurological effects when given drugs that interact with the P-glycoprotein.

Medical evaluations will quickly reveal if your pet carries such genes, allowing for safer medications to be administered whenever it is possible.

About the Company

Embark is a biotechnology and genomics company specializing in canine DNA testing services tailored for breeders, consumers, and veterinarians.

The company is founded by experts including Ryan Boyko, Adam Boyko, Spencer Wells, and Matt Salzberg. Embark has established itself as a key player in the field. The company’s roots highlight its commitment to dog genetics and DNA research.

Embark’s main goal is to help regular dog owners get a better grip on their furry friends’ health. They also want to push the whole dog DNA research scene forward, advancing knowledge in genetics and genomics.

Commonly Asked Questions about Embark

How does dog DNA testing work?

Through the use of a small saliva sample, Embark analyzes over 200,000 genetic markers and compares them to the latest research to deliver a wealth of information about your pet.

Can dog DNA tests help with obedience training?

Yes and no.

The breed and traits portion of your test can tell you about certain behaviors that are common among dogs with a similar genetic makeup.

This can help you to determine what sort of training could be beneficial to your pet. But as every dog’s personality can vary greatly, regardless of genetics, the things you learn here aren’t necessarily 100% applicable to your specific animal’s behaviors.

What can dog DNA tests tell you about your dog’s health?

Your DNA results can tell you about the health conditions common among dogs with similar genetics to yours.

However, this is by no means a diagnosis, and your results can’t tell you, with 100% accuracy, anything solid about your dog’s genetic health. Only a vet will be able to do that.

Does Embark test for wolf?

Yes.

Embark tests for over 350 breeds, such as wolves, dingoes, village dogs, and coyotes.

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Updated on March 26, 2024
Katrina Canlas
Katrina Canlas
Content Contributor
KC Canlas is an experienced content writer for Know Your DNA. She combines her passion for storytelling with a deep understanding of DNA and genetics. She creates engaging content that can empower readers with knowledge about their genetic makeup, promoting a greater understanding of the role DNA plays in their lives.