Embark review – How informative is DNA testing for your pup?

Embark Review Summary

Embark is a company that offers genetic testing for dogs and provides ancestry and health reports. Read more in our Embark review!

Nebula Genomics

Results
Price
Interface

Summary

Embark is a DNA testing company for dogs that offers options for breed and health information. It tends to be more expensive than competitor brands.

4.3

Edited by Christina Swords, Ph.D.

7 Facts from our Embark Review

  1. The world’s only canine relative finder, means you can find and connect with your dog’s siblings, cousins, and other relatives.
  2. Embark compares your dog’s DNA to 350+ breeds including street dogs, wolf, coyote, and dingo. 
  3. Embark uses custom canine microarrays developed by leading dog geneticist and professor at Cornell University.
  4. Embark gives a full breakdown of your dog’s breed makeup, you can also get a health testing package to check for over 190 health conditions.
  5. They also offer package discounts for breeders who want to get multiple dogs tested. This is a great option for testing a whole litter or the compatibility of two dogs for breeding. 
  6. You can also opt in to sharing your dogs results to help contribute to dog genetics research.
  7. Before buying a DNA test for your dog, you should sequence your own genome! Nebula Genomics offers the most affordable Whole Genome Sequencing that decodes 100% of your DNA.

Embark Introduction

This is a review of Embark, a company that was founded by brothers Ryan and Adam Boyko in Austin TX in 2015. Before founding the Embark DNA testing company the brothers worked on research using dog DNA to determine the history of where and when dogs were first domesticated. Learn more in our Embark review!

Embark offers two kit options one for DNA breed identification and one for breed identification plus health information. Pet owners send in a cheek swab from their dog and get results in 3-5 weeks. The data and interpretation of results is available in the web browser with an Embark account. They also allow dog owners to share DNA data from their dog’s test to be used for research purposes. Along with their partners at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine research from Embark has already helped explain what genes cause blue eyes in huskies.

Embark charges $129 – $199 for a Whole Genome Sequencing of your dog. At Nebula Genomics we offer the most affordable way to sequence your genome! This is the most comprehensive DNA test that will empower you to get deep insight into your ancestry and receive new reports every week that are based on the latest scientific discoveries!

Review of Embark Science

Embark is an easy to use at home DNA kit for your dog! The kit includes a swab and tube that you can use to collect a saliva sample from your dog and send in for DNA testing. The company isolates DNA from the sample and uses that DNA to analyze your dog’s genetics.

Embark collection kit
Embark collection kit

The Embark dog DNA test uses microarray technology to find more than 200,000 genetic markers for your dog. This is the same method that many companies use to test human DNA but instead Embark uses genetic markers specific to canines.

Review of how Embark Works

Here, we review how Embark works. Collecting a sample is as painless and easy as it is to get your dog to sit, stay, and salivate. Simply, open the swab kit, and place the swab in your dog’s cheek for 30 second. After this you place the swab carefully in the test tube and shake. Then you just have to activate your account on embark.com and drop the package in the mail.

Procedure for sampling your dog's DNA
Procedure for sampling your dog’s DNA

Dogs of the same breed will share a lot of overlap in their DNA. By comparing your dog’s results to the shared breed DNA of different purebred dogs the company determines the breed make up of your dog. This method is more accurate than assessing what a dog’s breed type is based just on appearance. You can learn about your dog’s breed from german shepherds to pit bulls. And it allows you to find even breeds that are even a small percentage of your dog’s ancestry. These results can be surprising and interesting (Hello 1% chihuahua! Didn’t see that one coming!). 

Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to certain genetic diseases and problems, but the Embark kit lets you pinpoint specifically what health conditions might be relevant to your dog. The health screening test identifies genetic health conditions from 16 areas including blood, immune, eyes, skeletal, heart, kidney, bladder, brain, spinal cord and many more. You also get information about your dog’s genetic diversity and level of inbreeding.

Embark Report Review

You can view test results for Embark’s Chief Executive Dog, Harley, on the Embark website. You can also look through numerous other sample dog reports that are publicly posted on the website, including purebreds, mixed breeds, and designer crosses. Keep reading for a summary review of the Embark report sections.

Report Summary

The summary includes a genetic breed results breakdown section, genetic stats, other similar dogs, and a breakdown by chromosome. This is a very interesting and fun way to see your dog’s genetic makeup. Plus they also show some examples of other dogs with similar breed mixes.

Example of an Embark breed report
Example of an Embark breed report
Example of an Embark DNA breed origin report
Example of an Embark DNA breed origin report
Example of Embark genetic stats and breed mix matches
Example of Embark genetic stats and breed mix matches

Family tree

The family tree section gives a best estimate at how your dog’s family tree might have looked by breed all the way back to their great grandparents. Embark uses an algorithm to make this prediction, but it is not necessarily your dog’s exact family tree. Instead, it is a best guess at dogs who share your dog’s breed ancestry.

Embark family tree
Embark’s version of a family tree

Embark Health

The health section includes any potentially problematic health variants that came up in your dog’s DNA. It also includes an explanation of what those results might mean for your dog or their offspring, what the disease is, and potential actions owners can take. If any frightening health issues come up in your dog’s health results, someone from the Embark team will reach out to you personally.

Example of a Health Summary
Example of an Embark Health Summary

Embark Traits

The traits section shows some of the genetic variants that affect your dogs appearance. These are broken down into the categories: base coat color, coat color modifiers, coat traits, other body features, body size, and performance. 

Example of an Embark trait report
Example of an Embark trait report

Embark Maternal and Paternal Haplotype

A haplotype is a group of genes that create a signature that can tell us about our ancestry and how our ancestors (or our dogs’ ancestors) moved throughout the world. The maternal haplotype comes from just mitochondrial DNA because all mitochondria are passed from the mother. On the other hand, the paternal haplotype is traced on the Y-chromosome. Males can trace both maternal and paternal haplotypes because they have both mitochondrial DNA and a Y chromosome. Females, who have mitochondrial DNA but no Y chromosome, can trace only their maternal ancestry.

Example of haplotypes
Example of Embark haplotypes

Review of Embark Products

The Breed ID kit and the Breed + Health Kit from Embark are both DNA testing kits for man’s best friend. Both kits claim to give a breakdown of the percentage of your dog’s breed makeup. The health kit gives additional results for 190 health conditions, inbreeding score, and genetic traits.

Embark DNA tests
FeaturesBreed IDBreed + Health
350+ Breeds ScreenYesYes
Family TreeYes Yes
Relative FinderYes Yes
Research SurveysYesYes
20+ Physical Trait ReportsNoYes
190+ Genetic Health RisksNoYes
Inbreeding ScoreNoYes
Price$129$199

Alternative Products

There are a handful of dog DNA testing kits on the market. The most well known are Wisdom Panel and Embark. But there are other kits as well. They are at different price points and offer various levels of depth in terms of the information you get about your pet’s DNA.

ProductFeaturesPrice
Wisdom Panel Essential Dog DNA TestOptions for breed identification and some health information. Simpler and less information in report$100
DNA My Dog BreedQuick 2 week turnaround. Lower price point. Only gives breed results. No health screenings and does not break down breed by percentage$70
Orivet Dog DNABreed, genetic traits, common diseases, breed profile. Targeted to vets and breedersMany options
American Kennel Club DNA TestThis test is for purebred dogs only and comes with no results. This test just allows AKC breeders to have DNA results registered with their dog’s lineage$45

You may be interested in comparing costs to determine which is the best Dog DNA test kit for you!

Embark in the News

Embark Reviews

Embark reviews on Amazon.com: 4.7/5 with 3,627 reviews (Currently on sale for $139, 30% Discount)

Reviews of Embark on Amazon

Amazon reviews for Embark Breed + Health kit are largely positive. Most reviews highlight that the kit was interesting, informative, and detailed. And the few negative reviews seem to claim that the results they obtained for their pup were inaccurate.

Embark reviews on PCMag.com: 4.0/5 Excellent (Review by Eric Griffith)

PC Mag highlights Embark as the most comprehensive and accurate product for dog genetic testing on the market. They suggest that the main downsides are the expense of the kit and the amount of information given in the results.

Embark reviews on CanineJournal.com: 4.75/5 (Review by Sally Jones)

Similar to other reviews Canine Journal highlights the rigor and ease of testing and sees the main negative as the cost of the test. 

Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Most comprehensive health screen for your pup on the market with 350+ Breeds Screen


Expensive
Connect with your dog’s relatives and participate in research about dogsData can be complicated
Test for over 160 genetic diseasesSome users feel that the test may be inaccurate
Easy to use
Users receive access to raw data
Excellent customer service and vet team to help interpret results

Nebula Genomics

In this final part of our Embark review, we take a look at Nebula Genomics.

Nebula Genomics isn’t offering dog genetic testing at this time. But why not get yourself tested at the same time as your dog! Nebula offers the most secure and complete option for human genetic testing on the market.

Unlike Embark, Nebula gives whole genome sequencing results. Which means that the results decode 100% of your DNA as opposed to about 0.02% which is what most other commercial DNA testing kits decode. 

Nebula Genomics also helps customers make sense of all their data. The Nebula Research Library hosts constantly updated research that will help you make sense of your genetic results. We also have a host of DNA exploration tools and ancestry discovery.

Nebula puts a focus on giving you control of your DNA data. We prioritize security and let you control what happens with your data and who can access it. It is easy to download your whole genome sequence yourself so that you can do your own analysis, share with health care providers, or input into other analytics systems. 

For more information on genetic sequencing technology, check out our Intro to DNA Testing Methods and other articles on our blog.

Want to learn more about DNA testing for your pets? Also check out these reviews:

Did you like our Embark review? You can read more reviews on our blog and check out our complete guide to the best DNA test kit and other home tests.