Feed the pain-and build your practice


Nutrigenomics can reduce pain in osteoarthritic dogs and create a bond with clients.

Most 14-year-old dogs don't go on daily three-mile walks with their family. But Ajhia, an Australian shepherd, does just that, even after suffering two torn knee ligaments and struggling with osteoarthritis. How does she do it? It starts with her diet.

Dr. Robin Downing's understanding of nutrigenomics has been paramount in Ajhia's transformation from a pain-riddled dog to an active pooch. A few years ago, Dr. Downing, the owner of the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colo., began offering the service, which prescribes food formulated to affect the expression of certain genes in a dog's genetic profile. This process can ease pain and decrease swelling caused by inflammatory diseases, helping osteoarthritic dogs reduce their need for pain medications and become active again.

Here are four steps you can take toward offering the service at your practice, according to Dr. Downing:

1. Educate yourself. Look beyond marketing materials and analyze scientific data when choosing a brand to feed your patients. Seek out research from nutritionists who are at the forefront of nutrigenomics.

2. Look for the clinical application. Once you understand the science, look for ways to incorporate nutrigenomics into your practice. Determine how you can help your patients, then create a plan of action.

3. Educate your team. Help team members find language to communicate the principles behind nutrigenomics to clients. Client education always starts with your team members.

4. Put it into practice. Understand that many patients need pain medications at the beginning of the program, and clients must comply with your exercise and rehabilitation recommendations. Half the battle is fought at home, so your clients must be in it for the long run.

Along with improving your patients' health, you'll also likely see clients more often when they purchase food from your clinic. This acts as a great revenue stream, but more importantly, it gives you a chance to touch base with clients and to recommend any necessary follow-ups.

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