Extremely in-depth results
Includes health screening for 171 health conditions
Has information on relatives and lineage, just like a human DNA test
Online interface has fun tests and quizzes
Most expensive kit on the market
We purchased the Embark Breed & Health Kit so our reviewer could put it to the test with the aid of her adorable mutt. Keep reading for our full product review.
I’m sure we’re not the only pet owners who think they have the cutest dog in the world. Our lovable mutt, Doolie, is known to stop people on the street, after all. Those same people often ask what breed he is, but that’s a question for which we’ve never had an answer. To see if we could get to the bottom of Doolie’s short but stocky build and subtly spotted coat, we decided to test him with four different dog DNA tests. Just like human ancestry kits, dog DNA tests use saliva samples to answer questions their breed, lineage, family tree, and (often) medical conditions they may be prone to. Here, we dive into what’s it’s like with Embark’s Breed + Health Kit.
Ease of Use: Easy enough
The Embark DNA kit was easy to use, though of all the tests we tried, we will say Wisdom Panel was the simplest. At first, it was a bit challenging to figure out which packaging the swabs had to be mailed back in, though we figured it out after reading through the directions a bit more. As with other tests, you’ll need to register your kit in advance online. At this point, you can also take behavioral and breed quizzes about your pup or upload a photo and some basic information about your dog’s likes and dislikes.
We’ll get right to it: Embark offers the most in-depth information of any dog DNA test on the market.
When it comes to swabbing, the process is the same as all other kits we tested. Dogs generally won’t like having the saliva-collecting tool in their mouths, but unlike other tests, Embark only requires one swab, not two. For this reason, it is important you’re extra careful. If the swab is compromised or contaminated, there’s no backup. Once you’ve collected DNA from your dog’s gums, the swab is placed into a protective plastic container and sent back in the included self-addressed mailer.
As with other tests, Embark says on average, it takes two to four weeks to get the results (though it can take up to two months). We got the first part of our results back in 3.5 weeks and the second set of results just a few days after that.
Results and Depth of Information: Extremely in-depth
We’ll get right to it: Embark offers the most in-depth information of any dog DNA test on the market. We were somewhat shocked with the amount of information delivered to us—we just couldn't believe how much they were able to discern from one tiny DNA sample.
This kit includes health testing and it automatically screens for 171 conditions from MDR1 drug sensitivity to glaucoma. It also provides extensive information about each condition, even if your dog doesn’t have it. This makes for a great starting point prior to discussions with your vet if you notice anything of concern. This section also includes information about your dog’s age (exactly what our vet guessed!) and their estimated adult size and weight.
It left only 10 percent of his DNA unaccounted for, but still went so far as to make some guesses based on trace amounts.
The reveal of your dog’s breed starts with a custom-made video, which really helps build excitement. Embark’s test told us Doolie is primarily basset hound and border collie—results that were also confirmed by the three other tests we took—but it also came back with additional information that filled in gaps left by other tests. We learned that despite his long, short, and floppy body, Doolie had several completely unexpected breeds in his mix like pit bull, German shepherd, and chow chow. It left only 10 percent of his DNA unaccounted for, but still went so far as to make some guesses based on trace amounts. We learned that he may have dalmatian in his background and that he has nearly 2 percent wolf genes, an unusually high amount, especially in a dog as short and stumpy as Doolie.
This section also includes information on traits found in your dog’s primary breeds, their likeness to shed or not, a family tree, and even their maternal and paternal haplotypes, which show where your dog’s ancestors came from. We even received information on other dogs who had been tested that were related to Doolie. In fact, we learned that he has a sunglasses-wearing basset hound cousin who is a bonafide Instagram celebrity.
We spent an hour or so exploring the information provided by Embark and we took a few pet behavior surveys which are used for research by the company’s laboratory team. With other tests, like the Wisdom Panel, we spent 15 minutes or less reading the provided info. The Embark DNA kit provided nearly the same amount of information as a human DNA kit. It even included a chart of the exact breakdown of each of his 38 pairs of chromosomes!
As much as we loved the process of learning about Doolie’s DNA, we should point out that it’s quite possible this test may have found the exact same information as other tests, like Wisdom Panel. It’s hard to know if the reason for getting more information is because Embark is willing to take more leaps with its interpretation of the DNA, or if it actually does more in-depth testing.
Price: A pretty penny
To get the level of results offered by Embark, you’ll need to shell out. This kit is the most expensive of the ones we tested, with a retail price of $199 for the breed and health kit, which we did, or $129 for the kit without health information. While you can find tests for $50 to $80, they won’t offer a fraction of the information Embark does.
Competition: Embark is one of the best
Wisdom Panel Canine DNA Test: Out of all the dog DNA kits on the market, Embark and Wisdom Panel (view on Amazon) are probably the most popular. While Wisdom Panel is more affordable, we received a greater depth of information from Embark and spent far more time perusing the company’s extra information and dog quizzes and surveys. With Doolie, the Embark kit offered deeper, more detailed breed and ancestry information than Wisdom Panel. This is partly because Wisdom Panel can only test as far back as three generations. If you know your pup had purebred parents or grandparents, or you suspect they’re a mix of just three or so breeds, Wisdom Panel should be able to give you the information you’re looking for. If you’re just not sure, though, we’d say go with Embark.
Find My Pet DNA Kit: The Find My Pet DNA Kit (view on Amazon) was our least favorite of the bunch. While it’s markedly cheaper at just $70, it doesn’t provide a complete percentage-by-percentage breakdown of your dog. Instead, it divides your dog’s genes into five categories. A category one breed means that your dog is primarily that breed, where category five breeds are only found in trace amounts in your dog’s DNA. Beyond that, results are emailed to you in a basic PDF, so there are no interactive online components like with Embark.
DNAffirm Dog Breed DNA Test: DNAffirm (view on Walmart) was the most affordable test we tried. It has a retail price of around $45, but like Find My Pet’s DNA kit, it’s just not as robust as Embark. The information you’ll get from DNAffirm is far more generic in nature. Instead of getting a breakdown of your dog’s breeds by percentage, you’ll instead get told which breeds were found in the greatest amounts (a level one breed) and which breeds left only trace amounts of DNA in your dog (a level five breed). While Embark offers a fully interactive learning experience, DNAffirm offers just a PDF. We greatly preferred the kit from Embark.
We really loved everything about Embark’s dog DNA test. It was easy to collect and send in our dog’s DNA sample and it gave us way more information—on both his health and breed—than we were expecting. While we read the results of other tests in 10 minutes flat, we explored Embark’s site for over an hour learning everything we could about our dog’s family tree, drug sensitivities, and even relatives who’d also been tested.
- Product Name Breed + Health Kit Review
- Product Brand Embark
- Price $199.00
- Genetic Markers 200,000+
- Health Tests 170+ health conditions
- Trait Tests 20