Embark Review: The most unsuspected genetic barks

Genetic testing is truly a new consumer product. They have established themselves as a new alternative that seeks to exploit an emerging niche, sometimes perceived as a luxury product. This is when Embark and similar alternatives appear, to solve problems that previously had no solution, as is the case of checking canine health through DNA testing. Throughout this review we will discuss the main aspects of Embark and its business model, as well as the technical peculiarities it offers us.

EmbarkDNA testing company for dogs
Dog DNA Testing Best for
4.09 /5
$ 129 /mo
Starting Price
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Table of Contents

    Embark Basic Facts:

    • Company Name: Embark
    • Foundation Year: 2015
    • Location: Boston Massachusetts
    • Monthly Visits: unknown
    • Number of Databases: Unknown
    • Website: https://embarkvet.com/

    What services/products are included in Embark test?- Rated: 4/5

    Good services that any dog owner would like to hire. However, they focus a lot on pedigree and that is quite contrary to the nature of a genetic test.

    • Physical traits 

    Physical characters are very interesting to study. Embark uses specialised genetic markers to understand things that haven't even happened with your dog yet. For example, you can find out how big your pet will be in the future. There are other characteristics like the amount of fur your dog will shed.

    Embark report example

    • Relatives

    This works more like a conventional test for humans. However, you can compare the genome of two different dogs to find out how much familiarity they have, an ideal feature if you plan to crossbreed them.

    • Breed and health

    With this service you are really able to understand the ancestral family relationships that your dog has suffered, as well as the exact genetic breed. You will also find other services related to the intrinsic health of your dog's genome.

    Availability of Diverse Collection Methods (swab, blood ...) - Rated: 4/5

    A standard in the DNA testing industry is swabbing. It is, in this case, smart to keep it that way; because of the ease of the method and also because of its proven efficacy. However, there are no other methods of sampling genetic material..

    Embark Customer Support - Rated: 4.5/5

    Customer service could be defined as a serve-yourself service, in which they set out a rather ambitious FAQ trying to cover all aspects. There is, however, also a help centre and a more personal contact centre, which makes up for the apparent shortcomings of this user support machinery. This is quite important in this case, as the information is presented on the site as somewhat confusing and muddled. Improvable but quite good.


    Embark Kits Pricing/Cost- Rated: 3.0/5

    Two major options from Embark.

    Breed ID kit

    • It includes a phylogeny test with more than 350 characterised breeds, as well as a family and relatives tree.


    Breed + Health kit

    • A specific option for owners concerned about their cat's dental health. Not only is it not a normal genetic test, but it is the microbiome that is analysed here, but a list of risk rates or predisposition to have pathologies related to the dental apparatus, including even bad breath is also given.


    These offers are very well thought out for the dog owner. However, there is little variety and they do not offer many features for the price they are sold for. Perhaps the most interesting thing would be to get a good temporary offer and to analyse very specific things. As the niche for DNA testing in dogs is relatively new, they can still afford certain exclusive prices.

    Embark Database size - Rated: 2.5/5

    As usual, there is no information about the databases that Embark uses to provide its results. This, however, is quite rare for a company that has been in business for at least six years. It is not a good sign and therefore we cannot evaluate this technical aspect of Embark positively.

    Embark Free trial- Rated: 0/5

    Embark does not currently offer free testing services. 

    Embark Expected turn-around - Rated: 4.5/5

    In this concept we are talking about very good times: between 2 and 4 weeks. It is a bit strange that the results come so quickly, in fact. While it may be due to very good efficiency and workflow, it is a little mistrustful to know that you are paying for a product that is going to be dispatched quickly and perhaps carelessly. However, this is only an impression derived from the few results and services the company offers. 

    Embark Accuracy - Rated: 4.5/5

    The info about the sequencing method is lacking, which is indispensable for understanding the ability to make correct reads in a genome. The usual error rate is around 2 % for conventional methods, although it is a trend in the industry to use the latest illumina technology chips, which would reduce the error rate to below 1 %. 

    There are other sources of noise that could impair the results and detract from the accuracy of the test, but for the services offered at Embark this is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a type of test that focuses its efforts on determining very specific patterns of race and health among its very limited database. 

    Embark Interface - Rated: 4.5/5

    An example of Embark’s interface.

    The interface of this platform is not as intuitive as that of its competitors in some respects. It is true that when you first enter the site the font size and colours say a lot about the product on offer and it is to some extent comfortable to navigate through the different options available on the site.

    However, the results are somewhat succinct once you have arrived. Under some circumstances it may appear that there is no substantial information contained in the graphs and other figures they use to summarise it. But nothing could be further from the truth: there is in fact a good compacting of the key aspects.

    Embark Privacy - Rated: 4.5/5

    Privacy standards are rigorously enforced. However, because there is a way to view genetic relatives and families, you may have to enable or disable options so that they cannot see certain genetic information about your dog, if that is what you want. There is also a tagging system to take into account, but there are no better concerns.

    Embark Innovation - Rated: 5/5

    Embark has a very interesting private research option. However, it has not only a commercial interest to improve its products (which is also the case), but Embark has partnered with several groups aiming to improve the quality of life of dogs, such as the "Doberman Diversity Project" or the "Belgian Sheepdog Club of America"

    In addition, their scientists have published several scientific results, which you can consult on their website, in medium-sized journals. It should be noted that this is a completely optional service, and they will not take your dog's data without your consent. 

    Embark is a research partner of Cornell University.

    Embark Rate and quality of updates - Rated: 4/5

    They do not specify the frequency of updates or which services are covered. What is certain is that they do update the relative values with some frequency, so it is possible that when you test your dog they may not yet have reliable "family" results. Therefore, as soon as they have this information, they will let you know with the update

    Best Alternatives To Embark

    A very interesting alternative is Basepaws, which tries to do in a very conscientious way the same as Embark, but in the cat world. So, if you have cats as well as dogs, you should also consider this option!


      This concludes the review of Embark, one of the veterans of the new niche of pet DNA testing. This is an ethical company, whose main motivations are the welfare of the world's dogs and to increase our knowledge of them. There are some aspects that could be improved, such as transparency in terms of their databases and molecular techniques used. 

      Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

      Does it matter what breed your dog is? 

      The answer depends on the field you are referring to. Of course, your dog deserves the same petting whether it is of an apparently "pure" breed (which does not really exist) or a mixed breed. But if we are talking in the fields of science, curiosity and health, then it does matter, and matters a lot. Not only will you be able to locate the closest relatives, but you will know genetic predispositions and unhealthy habits to avoid.

      Is Embark open to private and external research? Are there collaborations?

      Indeed. If you are a researcher and want to participate in this, just write to research@embarkvet.com with your allegations. This is also possible for veterinarians and the press, so that they transcend the traditional private company model and make their platform available to the public for a common interest.

      On the website it says there is a 99.99% accuracy in the tests. Is this true?

      Shortly, no. But it depends on what exactly they mean. They say something like "there is quality control in various steps". It is true that with analysis and modelling you can correct for a certain margin of error induced by the techniques, but this final percentage of error is never that small as there can be chimeras between DNA strands that when sequencing interrupt a number of key SNPs, and this 0.001% of wrong bases translates into an incorrect output.

      Embark DNA: Pros and Cons


      • The breed test runs the DNA through a base of 350+ breeds.
      • The genetic information they offer is 100 times more comprehensive than those from competitors.
      • The genetic mutation test checks for over 200 dog health conditions.
      • The test procedure maintains raw DNA on every sample.
      • Live chat and email are available if your results are too complicated to interpret alone.
      • Embark DNA does charitable work with animal shelters.


      • Results take 4-6 weeks to arrive, which is slow in comparison.
      • The health and genome sequencing tests are quite expensive.