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When Should I Order My DNA Test Kit?


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Embark Veterinary is focused on providing comprehensive results in an efficient manner. Did you know over 95% of breeders receive their results less than 21 days after we receive their DNA kits? Still, we encourage breeders to plan ahead and order kits as soon as they know how many puppies or potential breeding dogs they need to test because shipping delays, lost packages, and retesting due to low-quality DNA sometimes happen. Waiting to order can cause undue stress if dams go into heat early or pups are getting ready for their new homes before their results are ready. Luckily, Embark Veterinary DNA kits use a simple cheek swab with a shelf life of more than a year, so it’s safest to order kits six months to six weeks in advance.

Ordering Kits for Breeding Adults

Knowing when breeding females are going into season can be a challenge even for the most experienced breeder. Depending on the breed, a dam typically goes into heat twice a year, but that frequency can be as little as once a year or even once every 18 months. In addition to scheduling pre-breeding wellness exams with a veterinarian, maiden dams need a number of health screenings and these include genetic health testing like that offered by Embark Veterinary.

While some non-genetic health screenings (like hip x-rays), are age specific and must be done at certain times, prospective breeding dogs can receive genetic health testing at any time, including while they are still a puppy and being considered as a potential dog to keep for future breeding. See “Best Age to Test Puppies” below. Check out some of the benefits of testing breeding dogs for genetic health risks prior to breedings.

If genetic health testing (including breed-relevant genetic health condition risks and coefficient of inbreeding) is still on your to-do list for your dogs, breeders can reliably order a DNA kit from Embark as little as five weeks before a planned first breeding. Kits ordered even later may also be ready in time, but run the risk of being late from shipping delays or other hazards. 

When to Order DNA kits for Puppies

Ordering Kits for Puppies in a Litter 

Many breeders allow puppies to go to their new homes as early as 8 weeks old. This presents breeders with a short window to DNA test puppies before selecting a pick of the litter to keep and decide which puppies go to which homes. 

The best time to order DNA kits is as soon as it’s known how many puppies are in the litter. Some breeders rely on x-rays around 55-58 days of gestation to estimate how many puppies the dam is carrying. Breeders could know seven days earlier than the birth how many DNA kits to purchase to cover the entire litter. X-rays aren’t foolproof and sometimes they miss one puppy on average, but breeders can have an estimated number on which to order kits. Learn more about why it’s important to test all puppies in a litter. 

Best Age to Test Puppies 

Everyone wants DNA test results before puppies head to their new homes. Puppies can be tested at any age as the results won’t change. However, it is advised to wait until they are at least 2 weeks old and it is safe to separate them from the dam and littermates for at least 1 hour to minimize contamination. Ordering the kits shortly after the puppies are born and testing them at 2 weeks old ensures results will be ready well before adoption day.

Receiving Results for Puppies 

Once the puppies have been swabbed, breeders can put up to three swabs into one envelope and mail them the same day as collection. If the puppies are tested at 2 weeks of age, 3-5 days to reach the Embark Veterinary lab in the USPS mail plus the 2-3 weeks for DNA processing means DNA results will be ready when the puppies are between 5 to 7 weeks old. Each puppy’s results may come back staggered a few days apart versus all at once due to the order in which they were processed at the lab, especially if the swabs were sent in separate envelopes. Once all the results are back, breeders can select the pick of the litter to add to their breeding program based on DNA test results and send puppies home with their results.

Sufficiently sampling the dog’s DNA is the most important step. Get lots of slobber! The primary mistake that many breeders make is not leaving the swab in the dog’s mouth long enough to collect sufficient cells. Also take the utmost caution to ensure the right swab is activated for each dog. Embark Veterinary tracks each sample in the lab with barcodes to ensure mix-ups don’t occur, but if a breeder forgets which swab was used for each dog, it can cause delays and, in some cases, require new swabs to sort out. When testing multiple dogs at once, we recommend only having one open swab at a time and registering it immediately for the correct pup before starting the collection process for a second pup.

Embark Veterinary understands the results from these swabs are ultimately used to make major breeding decisions and could make large impacts in a breeding program. Embark for Breeders swabs are prioritized with this in mind, and by planning ahead, breeders can ensure they have the results they need when they need them. If there are still questions on when to order a kit, send a message to and our staff can help you decide when to order.

Lisa Peterson Contributor

Award-winning writer, journalist, and podcast host Lisa Peterson is a canine subject matter expert and Content Strategy Lead 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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