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Must-read for breeders: The latest report on dog-DNA testing


Must-read for breeders: The latest report on dog-DNA testing

Looking for the right fit in a dog DNA testing company? The AKC Canine Health Foundation and the OFA, two of the most prestigious authorities in the dog breeding world, recently published a review of the dog DNA testing industry—and it’s an extremely useful guide.

Not only does it provide practical explanations of genetics and scientific testing methods used, it highlights how breeders can benefit from genetic testing and apply the results to improve the health of their  breeding lines and populations.

While the report does not cite individual test providers and can be viewed as an independent guide for breeders, we were thrilled to see many of the best practices that Embark offers to our customers highlighted in the report. 

Important among these is Embark’s commitment to provide expert advice and support to breeders on how to apply the test results to their breeding programs. While many providers stop at simply providing test results, Embark’s in-house team of veterinary geneticists advise breeders about the effect genetic COI can have on litter sizes, the complexities of coat colors, and more. 

Take a look at a few of the report’s observations excerpted below—and see how Embark stacks up.

Ensuring accuracy of test results: primary source transparency

 “Scientific papers are often written using extensive scientific jargon and can be difficult to understand—so it is not uncommon for authors to overextend their findings in the lay summary. It is, thus, important to review the entire paper and not only rely on a lay summary.” 

How Embark stacks up

As a science-first company, Embark provides research citations for all our health results (and direct links to view the research, whenever possible) so breeders can confirm breed-relevance and more. Our veterinary geneticists are also available to explain test results and how they can be applied.

Data ownership and sharing

“Some direct-to-consumer testing providers utilize test results in research projects, and indicate that the owners will receive the full SNP data derived from the large panel testing, which then allows owners to share their dog’s genetic data with researchers conducting important studies.”

 How Embark stacks up

This is what Embark provides to all customers. Unlike other dog DNA companies, Embark generates research-ready data from every DNA swab, and freely provides it to customers along with ownership of their dog’s data. This data can be leveraged by Embark for new research (often in partnership with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine), and customers can also share it with any other organizations of their choosing (researchers, breed clubs, etc.).

DNA testing data in action: research discoveries for dogs

“Direct-to-consumer testing providers can mine the data derived from owners purchasing DNA testing to discover new genetic variants. For example, a mutation responsible for blue eye color in Siberian Huskies was found using direct-to-consumer testing data.”

How Embark stacks up

Embark is proud that our discovery of the blue-eyed color mutation in Siberian Huskies is highlighted in the report, and this is just one of many findings achieved by our team! The Embark test generates data that provides the basis for future groundbreaking research, and this contributes to the continual additions of new health and traits tests included in our Embark for Breeders kit. 

Complex disease testing capability is on the horizon for Embark

“Broad-range SNP panels may still be used in the future… with a focus on providing genomic estimated breeding values to assess the likelihood of a dog passing on particular complex traits to its puppies. However, this will require a great many dogs with comprehensive phenotyping across varied environments and across breeds to obtain the accuracy in prediction necessary before such tests can be deployed.”

How Embark stacks up

Embark offers the broad-range SNP panel and research-grade testing platform required to develop the multiple-gene tests that will enable us to better understand, and hopefully one day predict, risk factors for complex diseases like cancer. To support these efforts, every customer can complete the free surveys on their dogs’ Embark profiles.

Navigating the DNA testing landscape can be challenging—but the better you understand it, the more confident breeding decisions you can make. The AKC and OFA sponsored report was prepared by experts from UC Davis and Clemson University and you can read the full report here. As always, feel free to contact our Embark experts  with any questions: We’re always glad to help.

Lisa Peterson Contributor

Award-winning writer, journalist, and podcast host, Lisa Peterson, is a canine subject matter expert and Senior Content Strategist, Breeder/Veterinarian at Embark Veterinary. She served as the American Kennel Club director of communications and club communications for 10 years before becoming a Westminster Kennel Club public relations consultant from 2016 to 2021. Lisa began owning, breeding, and handling Norwegian Elkhounds more than 35 years ago, and today is an AKC judge and AKC Breeder of Merit.

Read more about Lisa Peterson

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