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Genetic health testing for service dogs now more accessible


Through new corporate partnership between Embark Veterinary and Assistance Dogs International

In honor of National Service Dog Month, Embark Veterinary, Inc is offering its Embark for Breeders dog DNA test kits to North American members of the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) breeding cooperative. This is part of the 2 entities new corporate partnership.

SayLi / stock.adobe.com

SayLi / stock.adobe.com

"At ADI, we pride ourselves on establishing and promoting standards of excellence for assistance dogs," said Chris Diefenthaler, executive director at ADI, in a company release.1 "That's why we work closely with our International Breeding Cooperative to use all the tools at our disposal to produce the healthiest puppies, who will go on to become successful assistance dogs. Embark dog DNA tests are one of those tools that help us create new paths of possibilities for individuals with disabilities."

DNA tests, like Embark, help detect genetic health conditions pets are prone to and most assistance dogs are typically those susceptible to disease, including Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, poodles, and Newfoundlands.1 This stresses the importance of genetic health testing for these dogs who undergo extensive training as puppies to help perform tasks for people with disabilities.

Currently, Embark test for genetic health conditions relevant to the dog’s breed, clinical tools, and 250+ genetic variants associated with the disease.2 According to the release, most recently, to further address the array of genetic disorders found in dogs, Embark added a new test for Stargardt Disease to its genetic screening panel in March 2023.

"Stargardt Disease is an example of a genetic health condition that occurs in Labrador retrievers, a breed that's essential in many assistance dog programs," said Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT, Embark veterinary geneticist.1 "The disease causes the slow deterioration of a dog's vision and would devastate a dog's career in assistance work. This test is just one example of how genetic screening tools empower organizations with the information they need to make the best breeding decisions for their programs. Fortunately, because this disease is inherited in a recessive manner, smart breeding decisions can avoid producing puppies at-risk for this disease."

NEADS World Class Service Dogs, a Massachusetts-based service dog program, is among the 53 ADI-accredited organizations that will benefit from the new Embark partnership.1 NEADS has developed the "Prison PUP Program," in which service dog puppies are trained by select prison program handlers. NEADS used Embark DNA testing early in the game to help breed program candidates with specific health, temperament, and longevity parameters.

"One of our recent program graduates displayed stellar temperament, behavior, and health during his evaluation period for breeding and training. To fulfill his potential in both breeding and service dog work, we chose to collect his semen and freeze it to use for future matings," said Kate Albertini, manager of breeding and puppy development at NEADS.1 "This dog went on to complete his training and was matched with a veteran client. When we are ready to breed using his stored sample, his Embark DNA results will help us match him to an appropriate female. This will provide his future offspring with the best opportunity for long, healthy careers in service dog work."


  1. Service Dog DNA testing becomes accessible through new partnership. News release. Embark Vet/ Bam Communications. September 25, 2023. Accessed September 25, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/service-dog-dna-testing-becomes-accessible-through-new-partnership-301936310.html
  2. Learn more about genetics. Embark Veterinary, Inc. Accessed September 25, 2023. https://embarkvet.com/breeders
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