Being prepared for the future


Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT, and Lindsey Kock, DVM, outline how DNA testing can prepare veterinarians and pet owners for future health conditions in their dogs.

Sponsored by Embark

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: We talk a lot now about spectrum of care. What happens to the dog parents, unfortunately, who cannot afford the price of DNA testing? We really want to recommend it, but they just don’t have the funds. What are your thoughts on that?

Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: DNA testing is fairly cost effective and it will only become more so in the future. A dog's DNA is the same from the day it's born to the last day of that pet's life. So really at any point along that journey, it is appropriate to DNA test. Potentially in the future, as costs come down with just the testing technology itself, it will likely become more accessible for those folks.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: What about the practice that says, "We don't have the time for this?”

Lindsey Kock, DVM: I think it's one of those things that taking the time to do that DNA test enables you to have more time later. By taking the time to do that test, you no longer have a full laundry list of things to cover at that puppy exam, but you have a few individual talking points.

We talked about compliance, but if you have the genetic testing to back up the recommendations, you're spending less time teaching and helping the pet parent to understand those things that come up. Something that really is a pretty quick, minimally invasive test, the results can be a lot, but Embark’s done a great job of whittling down those results. You take that and you save yourself time in the long run. So it's a little effort for, I think, a huge increased efficiency and increased payoff in the long run.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Okay, are there specific dog breeds that, I don't want to say they have predispositions, but need DNA testing more than other dog breeds out there?

Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: We all know there are certain breeds predisposed to certain genetic conditions. I think that's a known truth at this point in veterinary medicine, but certainly testing is appropriate for every dog at every age. Even conditions that we see or think of as particularly breed-associated may not be as breed-associated as we thought, which the urate stones would be a great example of something like that.

And the dog's DNA is going to be the same from when it's born to the last day of that pet's life. So you can test it anytime during that spectrum. And some of these diseases won't manifest until later in life.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: I want to talk a little bit about taking away some of the financial issues or burdens that can happen. I find, personally, when you DNA test these dogs and puppies that are coming in, that the clients are more likely to say, “oh, let me get pet insurance, just to help take away some of that financial stress that can happen down the road.” Have you experienced that in your neck of the woods?

Lindsey Kock, DVM: Yeah, it'll be interesting to see how genetic results have an impact on health insurance. I think today, genetic results are really giving us more insight into potential issues down the road, right? And I think a lot of insurance coverage to my knowledge is based on actual diagnosed conditions that we're seeing clinical signs for, but using some caution too in that and potentially getting the insurance on board first and then doing the genetic test may not be a bad idea.

But I think too, aside from insurance, just being able to be financially prepared for decisions that you may have to make down the road, right? So we talked about intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) with those at an increased risk. Dogs who have at least one of those mutations tend to be at like 45 fold more increased risk of having an episode, but also out of five to 15 increased risk for needing surgery, right? So being able to prepare early for that financial burden and being able to be prepared for that decision, whether you're saving up or you have insurance is really important.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: I know we chatted a few years ago about this and I'll share the story with all of you out here because some of you, probably all of you, know I'm a huge dashchund fan. I did want to do the DNA testing for Clark W. Griswald and Lindsay was the one to say you really should, just so that way you know if there's the marker. Well, lo and behold, he did, and this past summer he did have inner vertebral disc disease. He did fantastic, but I expected it. I had pet insurance for him. Granted, I'm his veterinarian, but I can't do the surgery, but it made me so much more aware as a dog dad, knowing like, okay, I know what's gonna happen as much as I had dog ramps, and anything that you try to do. I didn't have that huge panic feeling especially with IVDD when the dogs go down.

Lindsey Kock, DVM: It is hard. Yes, like I don't care who you are. Getting a dog to keep quiet is hard.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: I remember talking to clients in the exam room about this with IVDD just because it could be so scary to see your dog walking all of a sudden just go down. But I tell them to be prepared, just like you were talking about, just to know what to expect in case. And I have noticed in my experience that these clients, they're more responsible with the decision-making. Yes, they're emotional, but not nearly as emotional because we already had that discussion. Have you heard that too exactly?

Jenna Dockweiler, MS, DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: Exactly. It's a more proactive discussion, like we were talking about earlier, rather than reactive. So you can tell this client, “hey, this is what you're gonna look out for.” Maybe they're gonna be wobbly in their hind end, have some back pain, or maybe, go all the way down. They're not panicked about what could this be. It's already, I have a good idea of what this might be and I know I need to seek veterinary attention.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yes, absolutely.

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