If you follow me on social media (I’m on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, etc etc) you’ve already met our new dog Gus. Gus started in our family as a very big burr in a relatively small saddle when my son adopted him while at college, against the express wishes of his mother. His sister stepped in to help out with pup logistics and much thrashing about and a few heated conversations later, he’s our newest family member. Gus was purchased through a Craigslist advert, sold by someone who was rather coy about the breeds of his parents, though they insisted it was mostly German Shepherd.
One look at this cute little guy, however, and you can see that he’s not a classic German Shepherd and there is unquestionably more to his mix than that. But what? Well, first, meet Gus. He was born on Aug 15 or thereabouts, so as of this writing that makes him 3 months old:
Ridiculously cute, I know. How could we resist that little face and those expressive eyes of his? But German Shepherd? Nahhh…
So we reached out to Embark Veterinary and they generously offered to send us a full DNA kit so we could not only figure out what mix of breeds made up our Gus but also did a full hereditary disease screening too. In fact, the Embark Dog DNA Test is pretty amazing, including tests for 170+ health conditions and breed analysis against 250 different breeds, types and varieties of dogs. I didn’t even know there were that many different dog breeds! This is, by far, the most comprehensive DNA analysis option on the market, if you’re curious.
The DNA sample is taken through swabbing some dog saliva and mailing it into their labs. It all comes in a very attractive box:
That’s Harley on the cover of the box, btw, and you can actually look up his genetic information online, which is quite interesting. Before you click, though, look at his happy face and guess: what breed do ya think he is?
Turns out he’s a lot more of a purebred than Gus is. In fact, Gus is quite the mutt, but we’ll get back to that and why it’s a good thing for dog health.
Crack open the box and there are very clear instructions:
The DNA sample via is basically a test tube with a stabilizing solution within and a swab on the end of a stick that is inserted into the tube once sampled.
Gus, to his credit, was bemused but completely cool with the sampling process (they recommend you swab around for 30 seconds to get it good and sodden with saliva):
The purple liquid is the stabilizing solution. It’s all super easy, nothing to stress about at all, and once done, the pre-paid mailer is included in the box so it’s another 30-45 seconds work to have it ready to hand off to the post office for analysis.
Took a few weeks to get results, and the first data we got was the test of health conditions. Embark Dog DNA Test considers more health conditions than any other test and the company notes that over 50% of dogs are at risk or a carrier of a genetic disease. But not our Gus!
The online test results detail and list every single possible health issue, way more than I can even understand, but I’m not a vet either. What’s cool is that if your dog does have some issues with at risk or being a disease carrier, you can easily print out a form ready to share with your own vet.
We were MUCH more interested in the breed information and that took a few additional days before we got the notification it was ready to review. The test considers over 200,000 genetic markers and can identify genetic breed contributions down to 5% of total DNA, so we were expecting something comprehensive. And boy, is that dog a mutt:
The person who sold the dog to my son and told him that it was mostly German Shepherd? Naw, not so much. The good news is that this is a pretty interesting mix of breeds and they’re all smart and loyal dog breeds. Chow Chows can be a bit standoffish and aggressive, but otherwise, with good training, we’ve got the genetic makeup of a great addition to the family.
But Embark doesn’t stop with the above chart because you can also see a family tree which they deduce from the genetic markers and data:
Really, this is ridiculously cool. I can’t say just how impressed I am with the Embark Dog DNA Test and the fact that we can send in a saliva sample and get all of this information. In fact, Embark had a fun quiz we went through, a sort of ‘gender reveal quiz’ analog, and the kids and I had lots of fun guessing whether Gus was part poodle, part St. Bernard and similar. Then to click through and get the full report, so darn fascinating.
I definitely recommend this test for any dog and remember, from a dog health perspective, genetic diversity is good, not bad. Purebreed dogs have all sorts of problems due to the necessary inbreeding the AKC requires, so I was pleased to see that Gus has such a dramatic range of doggy ancestors. It’s directly related to his having zero of the 172 genetic markers for common illnesses, for sure.
Want to check it out for your own pup? You can go to embarkvet.com and learn lots more about the test and sign up to learn a lot more about your own dog! Even better, use discount code gofatherhood and you’ll save an easy $20 on the breed + health kit, that you can then use to buy your pup a new toy or a treat!
Disclosure: Embark Vet gave us a complimentary full Embark Dog DNA Test in return for this blog post. Which was ridiculously nice of them. We appreciate it! Oh, and the link above is an affiliate link too. It’ll save you $20 on the test and we’ll make a few dollars to buy kibble for the pup too! #embarkwithus #sponsored