The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Embark Dog DNA Test Offers Helpful & Health-Full Insight

By Lea Jaratz


Take a look at this handsome face. That spotty foot. Those ears that are neither up nor down, neither flat nor pointed. That almost black, but in reality chocolate, brindle fur.

People have guessed any number of breeds when trying to figure out what Kayden is. Most guess some Pit Bull, but others have guessed everything from Border Collie to Great Dane, Pointer, and Lab. But, he was a stray in the middle of the Utah desert, so his ancestry is anyone’s guess. Until now, I’ve always said Kayden was part “weirdo.” (That’s what Gonzo the Muppet is identified as, and the term suited Kayden better than mutt or mixed breed.)

But, now I have answers to Kayden’s breed. Want to guess?

(Clue: Remember I mentioned that spotty foot? It’s the thing most people notice about Kayden, but as it turns out, the spotty foot holds a huge clue to Kayden’s breed ID.

Ready for the answer:

KAYDEN embark

The American Staffordshire Terrier (one of several breeds that fall into the Pit Bull group) was no surprise to me, based on his build and the fact that 30% of dogs entering shelters are classified as Pit Bulls or Pit mixes.

The spotty foot and chest were definitely gifts from some handsome Cattle Dog ancestor, which also makes sense in the western desert. The wisp of white on his snout is another of their trademarks.

But the Golden Retriever? That was a shocker to me too. He’s got short fur, light eyes, and he’s short on that wiggly, doofy Golden Retriever personality... but he does LOVE to swim for sticks.

This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to getting breed testing done. A few years ago I learned that my “yellow dog” was in fact a 50/50 Golden Retriever and German Shepherd mix. It was a fun test. But beside answering the “Why is he so fluffy” question, it didn’t offer a ton of info.

kayden genetic embark

The Embark DNA test offers something more. Now, I know more about Kayden than just where his spotty foot came from. I know his risk for hip dysplasia, thyroid problems and any of the other 160 genetic health conditions Embark tests for. (Turns out no, he’s clear of all of them! That was a pleasant surprise and a weight off my mind as he about to turn 7 years old.) It even let me know that he was a carrier for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and while that’s not an issue for a neutered dog, it’s fascinating info for dog geeks like me.

This info is remarkably useful. Imagine knowing if your dog had multi-drug sensitivity that could cause seizures or coma so you could make an informed decision about how to treat their parasites or cancer. Think of how much it could help your vet to know that your dog was at risk of early cataracts or spinal cord problems. The information this test provides isn’t just a cute novelty. It could actually add years to your dog’s quality of life.

There are a few more pieces to his ancestral puzzle that Embark filled in too. We joked that he was raised by jackrabbits, living off of lizards in the desert, but the Embark actually details out Kayden’s haplogroup (in layman’s terms where his mother’s and father’s families originated, perhaps even 10,000 years ago). It tests for wolfiness and village dog lines (Kay was low for both) and screens for inbreeding. I can also see images of other dogs with similar test results and learn more about breeds related to Kayden. I can even participate in surveys to help sort out other yet-to-be-discovered answers to the bigger DNA picture. Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time just reading these results for fun, and I still have tons to learn.

He’s still a weirdo, but now I know he’s actually a pretty healthy weirdo and there are fewer missing pieces to his backstory.

If you’d like to flip through Kayden’s results they’re viewable here.

Thank you to Embark for providing Kayden’s test for review at no cost. Stay tuned for my follow up where I talk about what it means to me to have a “Pit Bull-type dog.”

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