Last updated on March 19, 2017
Science has come a long way, and that includes cutting edge insights into the health conditions that might affect our beloved dogs. Imagine if you could test your dog for genetic diseases whether that dog is from a rescue, a shelter, a foster, or a breeder. Imagine that during that genetic screening that you could determine your dog’s ancestry, as in what breeds comprise your dog.
The folks at Embark asked if we would do an honest review in exchange for a DNA/genetic testing kit. The Embark dog DNA test is something I wanted to try, so this provided a perfect opportunity. This dog DNA home test kit is touted as the most sophisticated genetic test available for consumers that -with one cheek swab – and gives U.S. dog owners spot-on scientific insight into their pets’ health, behavior, ancestry and more.
Count us in. Here’s our experience and why you should consider the Embark dog DNA test for your dogs.
Meet the Bark Behind Embark
Adam and Ryan Boyko are the brains behind both the product and the start—up tech company called Embark. Adam, a world-reknown expert in canine genetics, is assistant professor in Biomedical Sciences at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. His brother, Ryan, is a Harvard and Yale graduate who traveled the world collecting dog samples and contributing to a number of prominent scientific studies about canine health. Partnering with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the leading veterinary school in the country, and Spencer Wells, a pioneer in consumer genetics, the Boykos founded Embark.
Once you purchase the Embark DNA Home Test Kit, a package will be mailed to you. In it, you will find what you need to simply swab the inside of your dog’s mouth, activate your kit, and send the sample in a prepaid envelope to the Embark lab. It is that easy. You want to be sure your dog does not eat or drink for about 30 minutes before getting the saliva sample, which is super easy to obtain. I had my spouse hold a piece of a favorite dog treat near Dexter and he soon salivated and I was able to swab the inside of his mouth and get the sample. Instructions are provided. Here’s everything you get, including a cute and purposeful dog tag:
How is Embark Different From Other Dog DNA Tests?
This is one of the first questions I had, and you can read a dog this for a dog DNA test comparison. I also liked the email updates I received from Team Embark, a sampling is below. The folks at Embark say this test screens for over 160 genetic health conditions, the most accurate breed identification scientifically possible (based on more than 100 times as much genetic information as other tests), and so much more.
What Kind of Dog Genetic Diseases?
MDR1, degenerative myelopathy, dilated cardiomyopathy, PRA blindness, exercise-induced collapse and more, using 200K + genetic markers for over 160 diseases. Information revealed in the tests can help an dog parents perfect their dog’s diet, for instance, to address needs not specific to the breed but to that exact animal. The kit is also designed so you can discuss your results with your veterinarian and it can actually potentially change how your vet would treat certain conditions if they developed.
Personally, having the results gives me peace of mind. Cocker Spaniels have their own share of genetic anomalies, and as I mailed off the saliva sample in the prepaid envelope, I knew having the results would help my dog receive better care. This information you will receive comes as a Vet Report, designed specifically for dog parents to bring to their vets to help guide healthcare decisions. Knowing a dog’s genetic predisposition for a disease may help you take precautionary measures and know early warning signs to watch for, so this is a plus.
Fidose Goes to Science
If you like to geek out as I do and understand what the process of the saliva and extraction involves, here goes in a condensed nutshell, from the folks at Embark to me in an email:
First, our team separates Dexter’s DNA from everything else that the sponge soaked up. Our scientists delve into Dexter’s cells with chemicals and awesome machines called centrifuges and pull out all the doggy DNA they can. Then the sample goes through several steps of purification to remove everything else. Next our team pops the DNA in a PCR machine which makes lots of copies of your dog’s DNA — we’re talking millions of copies of DNA from a single cell. Without the PCR machine, we might have needed a gallon of saliva from Dexter to get the DNA profile, and nobody wants that. Seriously, this machine is amazing! After that comes the genotyping, which we will tell you about in our next email.
The whole process takes one to two months, on average, which can seem like forever, but it is oh so worth it. Ours took about a month.
From a DNA perspective, our dog is 100 percent all-American Cocker Spaniel, with a 1.7 percent factor of “wolfiness.” We are told that Cocker Spaniels are handsome and intelligent hunting dogs that are also well suited to life as a loving family pet.
We totally dig this number: How wolfy is our dog? If you ever wanted to know how much wolf is in your dog’s DNA, they tell you! Most dogs have wolfiness scores of 1% or less, although Embark says they occasionally find populations and breeds with higher scores and even some especially unique individuals with scores of 5% or more. Our pup is 1.7 percent. Aroooo!
What Wolfiness Means For Your Dog
Your dog’s Wolfiness Score is not a measure of recent dog-wolf hybridization (the breed mix analysis report would tell you if your dog has any recent wolf ancestry). Instead, the wolfiness score is based on the number of wolf genetic markers your dog has in our unique wolfiness marker panel. While these wolf genes (or, more scientifically speaking, alleles) could be in your dog because it is a wolf-dog hybrid, wolfiness scores below 10 are almost always due to ancient wolf genes that have survived many generations to be carried in your dog. These may date back to the original domestication event 15,000 years ago or to more recent dog-wolf matings only a few thousand years ago, but either way they are bits of a wild past that survive in your dog!
Alas, the big question: What exactly did our health screening show for our dog, Dexter?
Alanine Aminotransferase Activity result: Low Normal
Dexter has one copy of a mutation associated with reduced ALT activity as measured on veterinary blood chemistry panels. Please inform your veterinarian that Dexter has this genotype, as ALT is often used as an indicator of liver health and Dexter is likely to have a lower than average resting ALT activity. As such, an increase in Dexter’s ALT activity could be evidence of liver damage, even if it is within normal limits by standard ALT reference ranges.
Carrier Condition: Skeletal Dysplasia 2 (COL11A2): A disease of skeletal development, this causes dogs to have abnormally short legs but similar body lengths compared to unaffected dogs, and can be observed by the time dogs reach five to six months of age. This has been best characterized in certain lineages of Labrador Retrievers. Other than their height, affected Labradors suffer no ill effects from their condition. However, affected dogs nearly never meet breed standard.
Most notably, he tested clear for all the diseases for which they screened! YAY. I have peace of mind. Each of those diseases is outlined in a fully detailed online report AND they would even send a copy to my dog’s veterinarian.
More to Come
Embark says their scientists are hard at work in the lab, and they are expanding our results all the time! As new features and results become available they will let me know.
How to Purchase an Embark DNA Kit
Simply click the photo below and learn more about Embark DNA and purchase your dog’s very own Embark DNA and genetic testing kit.
Have Two Dogs? There is a discount on the price of two Embark Dog DNA tests here: Embark Dog DNA Test 2 Pack: Most Accurate Mixed Breed Identification With Over 160 Health Tests
Win an Embark Dog DNA Kit: CONTEST CLOSED
Winner is Donna Zygarlicke!!!
You can still purchase a kit here: CLICK THIS: Embark Dog DNA Test · Breed Identification · 160 Health Results · 200K Genetic Markers
We are giving away one Embark Dog DNA and Genetic Testing Kit to one lucky Fidose of Reality fan. Visit the entry form below for your opportunity to win a kit: (complete rules and regulations here, and USA only, 18 and older)
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