Embark Review

When the words ‘DNA test’ come up in conversation, most people immediately think of paternity tests. But recently, there’s been a growing demand for DNA tests for other purposes. 

One DNA testing niche that has grown significantly in recent years is animal testing, with dog DNA testing being by far the most popular. Dog DNA testing is now so popular that there are entire companies dedicated to it. 

One such company is Embark. Embark is a Boston, Massachusetts-based dog DNA testing company that provides a range of advanced, medically-endorsed DNA tests for dogs.

Whether you’re a breeder hoping to confirm the pedigree of one of your dogs or a concerned owner who wants to be proactive when it comes to your canine companion’s health, Embark’s DNA tests can provide you with valuable insight. 

This article will discuss each of the individual DNA tests available through Embark’s services before reviewing the most important features of the company, from pricing to customer service.

By the end of our article, we hope you’ll be fully informed as to whether Embark is the dog DNA testing service for you. 

Background

Embark, or Embark Veterinary, was founded just 5 years ago in 2015 by two brothers from Austin, Texas. 

Adam and Ryan Boyko decided to combine their professional knowledge of public health and veterinary medicine to create a service designed to revolutionize canine health and enhance the historically strong bond between dogs and humans. 

In the decade since the Byoko brothers began their research, they’ve made some groundbreaking discoveries surrounding canine population history and partnered with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. 

Today, Embark is one of the leading dog DNA testing companies worldwide. 

Pet Owner Products

Embark offers 2 DNA kits for home testing: the Breed ID kit and the Breed + Health kit.

Read on to find out what’s included in each kit, how they work, and the pros and cons of each product. 


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Embark’s Breed Identification Kit is the most affordable option of the 2 kits on offer through the company. 

The kit is very simple and includes a mouth swab, instructions for testing, and a return envelope so you can send your sample back to the lab without any fuss. 

What we love most about this kit is how inexpensive it is considering how detailed the results are.

Not only can this testing service provide you with a breakdown of your dog’s genetic makeup in terms of breeding, but it also allows you to construct a family tree that goes all the way back to your dog’s great grandparents. 

This kit also grants you access to Embark’s Canine Relative Finder, which lets you connect with owners of other dogs that share your dog’s DNA! 

The other great thing about the kit is how easy it is to use. All you need to do is activate your kit online using the code provided, perform the mouth swab, and send the swabs to the lab using the return envelope provided. 

The Breed Identification Kit from Embark is actually the most accurate Dog DNA testing kit on the market.

The test screens for 350 different breeds and tests over 200,000 genetic markers using the genotyping platform the company developed in collaboration with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. 

This platform is a research-grade system that can detect breed contributions all the way down to 5%, which is more than twice as specific as most competitor companies. 

Once your samples arrive at the lab, you can expect your results to be made available within 3 to 5 weeks. 

Pros

  • Uses research-grade genotyping platform
  • Screens for 350 breeds 
  • Tests 200,000+ genetic markers 
  • Detects breed contributions down to 5%
  • Allows access to Canine Relative Finder 
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Can’t test for health conditions


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If you found yourself reading our review for Embark’s Breed ID Kit and wishing there were a way for you to discover your dog’s breeding and health status at the same time, allow us to introduce Embark’s Breed + Health Kit!

With this kit, you’ll get access to all the features available through purchase of the Breed Identification Kit but you’ll also get a lot more! This kit is the highest rated dog DNA testing kit on Amazon, and with all the features and information it grants the user access to, it’s no mystery as to why!

As well as screening for 350 breeds, the Breed + Health Kit tests for predisposition to over 190 genetic health conditions. These conditions include the most common genetic diseases found in dogs, from glaucoma to dilated cardiomyopathy. 

This kit will tell you which, if any, genetic diseases your canine companion is predisposed to, so you can be proactive and prepared when it comes to their health.

Therefore, while this kit is significantly more expensive than the Breed ID Kit, we truly believe that the price is worth it in return for the ability to preempt and prevent health issues before they begin to cause problems for your pet. 

Samples are taken in the same way for this test as the Breed ID test, with a quick and painless mouth swab. A sample return envelope is included in the kit, along with instructions on how to obtain the sample. 

As with the Breed ID Kit, results will be made available to you online within 3 to 5 weeks of sample return. 

Pros

  • Most highly-rated dog DNA test on Amazon 
  • Uses research-grade genotyping platform 
  • Screens for 350 breeds 
  • Screens for predisposition to 190+ genetic diseases 
  • Tests for 20+ physical traits 
  • Tests 20,000+ genetic markers 
  • Detects breed contributions down to 5%
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • More expensive than the Breed ID kit

Products for Breeders

In addition to the 2 main DNA testing kits for pet owners reviewed above, Embark provides testing kits specifically for dog breeders.

The 2 breeder-specific packages offered by Embark are the Litter Package and the Breeding Package. Keep reading to find out more! 


Embark’s Litter Package has been designed to give breeders a full and detailed picture of the genetic makeup, physical traits, and disease predisposition of puppies from a very young age. 

The reason this information is important for breeders is that often, dogs do not develop certain physical traits and characteristics until later in adolescence or adulthood. This can make it difficult for breeders to select puppies for breeding early on. 

Embark’s Litter Package will tell you everything you need to know about your puppies, from their genetic COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding), genetic health condition status, and physical traits of their breed. 

Each kit contains 4 or more DNA tests, all of which must be used on puppies from the same litter. Sampling is carried out using mouth swabs which can be easily returned to Embark’s lab using the provided envelope. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, the purchase of Embark’s Litter Package will also get you a consultation with one of the company’s expert breeding specialists!

This consultation can help you to better understand and interpret the results of the tests and gives you the opportunity to ask any specific questions or seek any advice you need. 

Pros

  • Includes 4+ DNA tests 
  • Tests for Genetic COI 
  • Screens for predisposition to health conditions 
  • Reveals physical breed traits 
  • Includes consultation with a breeding specialist

Cons

  • No option for less than 4 tests per kit 


Embark also offers a Breeding Package designed specifically for 2 potential purposes.

It can either be used to test the DNA of a male/female dog pairing for litter potential, or it can be used to test a pair of dogs of the same sex for comparison. 

Each package contains 2 testing kits consisting of a mouth swab, instructions, and a return envelope. A consultation with a breeding specialist is also included with each purchase. 

These kits test for the same things as the litter kits, with results revealing each dog’s Genetic COI, physical breed traits, and predisposition to genetic diseases. 

If you wish to purchase more than 2 kits, this will need to be arranged via the email provided on the website. 

Pros

  • Multipurpose 
  • Includes 2 kits 
  • Reveals physical breed traits
  • Tests for health conditions in 16 areas 
  • Calculates Genetic OCI 
  • Includes consultation with a breeding specialist

Cons

  • Multiple purchases must be arranged via email

Website

Embark’s website is professional, inviting, and highly informative. There are drop-down menus accessible from the home page for information about the company, features of the available testing kits, and inter-company comparison.

There’s also a drop-down menu for help, as well as tabs for access to Embark’s research and blog. You can also easily sign into the website or activate your kit from the top of the webpage. 

The website has dedicated sections for pet owners and breeders. Detailed information is provided about each product, alongside clear and eye-catching pictures of the products themselves and the sampling and results processes. 

The only small inconveniences we noticed when using the website were, first of all, that the shop page is separate from the rest of the website in the sense that the drop-down menus are not accessible from this page.

The user needs to click on Embark’s logo at the top of the page to go back and access the rest of the website. This decreases the ease-of-use of the website slightly. 

Additionally, Embark does not seem to provide a specific FAQ section for the Breed + Health Kit, as it does for the Breed ID Kit. This is an unfortunate oversight given the immense popularity of the Breed + Health Kit and the fact that customers are likely to have more questions about this kit due to its more extensive range of features and higher price point. FAQs are also not provided on the shopping pages for the litter and breeding kits.

Otherwise, we found Embark’s website easy to navigate and very informative. We and Embark’s customer base also really appreciate the balance struck on this website between professionalism and personality. 

Pricing

Some customers might initially balk at the test prices stated on Embark’s website, especially the Breed + Health test. Both tests are more expensive than your average home paternity test, for example. 

However, when considering the amount of information and access to exciting and innovative services that each testing kit provides, the price is put into perspective somewhat. 

Not only will the tests produce accurate and reliable results but they’ll also allow you access to services that let you connect with your dog’s relatives and build a family tree. 

It’s also important to consider the amount of detail the results for each test go into. Embark tests an incredible 200,000+ genetic markers per sample, which is many thousands more than the majority of home DNA tests. 

Moreover, Embark offers deals on multiple purchases of its products, specifically the breeding test kits where several kits will often be purchased at once. 

Taking all of this into account, the prices offered by Embark Veterinary are really quite reasonable. 

Customer Service

Shipping

Embark’s website states that customers can expect to receive their DNA testing kits within 3 to 5 days of ordering, which is an efficient turnaround. However, the waiting times estimated on Embark’s website are only applicable to customers residing in the U.S. 

Unfortunately, Embark doesn’t provide shipping time estimates for international customers, which may be frustrating for those living outside of the U.S., but it does mean that no promises are made that can’t be fulfilled, which many customers do appreciate. 

It should be noted that the enveloped for return shipping are only usable inside the U.S. Therefore, international customers will need to pay for and facilitate their own sample shipping. 

Results 

Embark makes test results available online between 3 to 5 weeks after the return of your samples to the lab. 

The provision of results online eliminates further wait times for shipping, while the inclusion of expert consultations with some packages means that interpreting and understanding your results on an in-depth level is made easy. 

As we’ve mentioned, the results are also extremely detailed and over 99.9% accurate due to the number of genetic markers tested and the extensive list of health conditions and breeds screened for during the tests. 

Testimonials

The customer testimonials for Embark Veterinary are overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority of reviewers giving the company 5 stars. 

Customers have reported discovering exciting new information regarding the breed of their dog as well as being made aware of health conditions that they didn’t know their dog was predisposed to. 

From these testimonials, it’s clear that Embark Veterinary’s range of DNA testing packages not only further owners’ understandings of their canine friends but also provides genuinely important information regarding canine health. 

For the most part, the only negative customer reviews (which are few and far between) seem to concern very rare kit mixups or a particular breed not being tested for. 

Ethics

The founders of Embark are extremely passionate about both canine and human welfare, so customers can expect a highly ethical and respectful service from this company. 

All of Embark’s DNA tests can be carried out using a simple, non-invasive, and completely painless mouth swab. As an owner or breeder, you can perform the sampling at home yourself, so there’s no need for any stressful trips to the vet or potentially painful blood samples. This testing method is, therefore, about as ethically sound as possible when it comes to safeguarding your dog’s physical and mental wellbeing. 

Many dog owners and animal rights activists object to the practice of breeding dogs for financial gain, competitive sports, or shows. Therefore, some might consider Embark’s breeding-specific products to be unethical. 

However, Embark’s breeding and litter DNA tests ultimately make dog breeding safer by testing for things like Genetic Coefficient of Inbreeding, or Genetic COI. Genetic COI calculates the extent of inbreeding in your dog’s genetic history. Knowing this information can help breeders to avoid mating dogs in pairings that may cause health complications related to excessive inbreeding. 

Additionally, the fact that Embark includes a free consultation with a genetic specialist with the purchase of their breeding packages means that results can be interpreted clearly and thoroughly and important advice can be sought on safe and healthy breeding strategies. 

Overview

Advantages

  • Research-grade genotyping 
  • 200,000+ genetic markers tested 
  • 350 dog breeds screened for 
  • Caters to owners and breeders 
  • Health tests can screen for 190 conditions 
  • Fast, online test results 
  • Access to Canine Relative Finder service 
  • Expert consultations available

Disadvantages

  • Some layout improvements could be made to the website 
  • Less convenient for international customers 
  • Some reports of suspected kit and result mixups 

Final Thoughts

Our research into Embark has shown that this is by far one of the best dog DNA testing services worldwide. 

Embark has created some of the most popular and well-reviewed dog DNA testing products on the market and provides the most accurate and detailed results out there due to the fact that it tests 200,000+ genetic markers and screens for 350 dog breeds and over 190 health conditions. 

Results are provided quickly and made easily accessible online, with some kits even including an expert consultation alongside the results. 

If you feel strongly against supporting breeding practices, however, this may not be the company for you. Additionally, if you live outside the U.S., you may find the process of waiting for your kit and sending off your samples less quick and convenient than U.S. customers. 

Overall, though, if you need or want to test your dog’s DNA, be it out of simple curiosity, concern, or for professional reasons, we highly recommend Embark Veterinary.