Embark to Test DNA in Dogs For Possible Future Diseases

Diana Faria
by Diana Faria
If you’ve ever wanted to find out what kind of diseases your dog is likely to suffer from in the future, your answers are just a cheek swab away.

You did it. You took the big leap and adopted an adorable furry friend from your local animal shelter and both of you are as happy as you can be. Unfortunately, you don’t know much about your soon-to-be best friend and wish you could. You’d like to know what kind of breed s/he is more or less to find out what kind of diseases that breed is susceptible to.

Thankfully, Embark is here to help (or, will help, rather). Founders Ryan and Adam Boyko have partnered up with Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine to create a DNA testing kit for pooches! The startup isn’t up and running just yet, but when it does, they will be able to give you a genetic map of your dog to tell you what kind of diseases you new friend may or may not develop when they are older.

Related: Researchers Say DNA Testing in Pedigree Dogs Not Enough

How does it work? It’s really simple. Right now, pricing is still in the works so all you can do is reserve 1-3 kits to be mailed to you when Embark is ready to embark (bazinga!) on their journey. But, once the test kit is in your hands, it will come with two very important parts: a DNA testing swab and a prepaid return envelope. Simply swab the inside of your dog’s cheek with the test kit, send it away and in a dew weeks, your dog’s report will be available!

This test kit will not do the following: they will not tell you what kind of breed your dog is and they will not tell you if your dog currently has a disease. Breed estimates have been known to be faulty, and as such Embark won’t be handing out this kind of information just yet. What this test can tell you is, based on the DNA sample, if your dog has a higher than average chance of developing a disease in the future, as well as if the dog is likely to pass the disease-associated mutation to a pup.

Embark isn’t the first DNA test kit on the market. If you want to find out what kind of breed your dog is, DNA My Dog may be your first choice, however don’t rely sole on the results, as they can be proven to be inaccurate. Wisdom Panel does the same thing, plus give you some more information such as how much the dog will weigh when it is fully grown and check for genetic mutations.

Related: Top 5 Wacky Wisdom Panel Dog Breeds

To be perfectly honest, if you know what breed your dog is, looking up what kind of diseases it can be susceptible to can come up on a google search and I doubt this DNA kit would be worth it if one were looking solely for that piece of information. However, this kit is useful for breeders, as they wouldn’t want to breed a dog that is highly susceptible to osteochondritis or panosteitis and they would want to make absolutely sure the dog is vulnerable to as little diseases as possible. After all, their livelihood is at stake.

But this test kit has a few more uses that Embark does not explicitly disclose on their website. The Verge recently spoke to Ryan Boyko, an Embark’s computer scientist and the company’s co-founder. He explained that humans and dogs suffer from similar conditions and by studying the genetics of diseases in dogs, they may be able to find out how they originate in humans. We’re not entirely sure why this valuable piece of information isn’t explained on Embark’s website. If they were afraid the general public wouldn’t want to send in their samples because it would be used for other studies that benefit mankind, they’d be very mistaken!

Reserve your spot to get one of Embark’s DNA testing kits.

[ Sources: TheVerge]

Diana Faria
Diana Faria

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