Inheritance patterns


Jenna Dockweiler, MS DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT, and Lindsey Kock, DVM, elaborate on inheritance patterns found within a DNA report and what they mean for veterinarians and pet owners.

Sponsored by Embark

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: So when we're talking about interpretation, because we get a lot of data that comes in, how important is it for the veterinarian to be the one that discusses that or interprets that information with the client?

Lindsey Kock, DVM: Genetics is complex, right? There's no denying it. And regardless of how much you try to simplify it, it's biology. As veterinarians, it can sometimes be a little bit intimidating to go through those results. And I love that about what Embark has done is they've really broken down those results to understand, number one, what's the inheritance pattern, right? Because depending on whether that dog is spayed or neutered changes the whole conversation. But it's really important for veterinarians to talk about that because to interpret the inheritance pattern, to interpret what it means for that breed, there's a lot of considerations and there's a lot of great information on Embark's report that just takes kind of distilling that down for the pet owner so that it's not scary. I think genetic results don't have to be scary and we're there to be able to enable that for them and really make them bite-sized and easy to understand and actionable.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Love what we were just talking about but I know that veterinarians could be inundated when they get the paper and be like “oh my gosh” there's so much DNA testing on here. How do we break it down? I know Embark does a very nice job with breaking that down so tell them a little bit more about that.

Jenna Dockweiler, MS DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: So the first thing to remember is we consider this a prognostic test rather than a diagnostic test. Just because a pet is at risk for a disease does not mean they will go on to develop the disease. That depends on a whole host of other factors which are going to be laid out for you in that Embark report. So it has a ton of information on there, including age onset, expected symptoms, recommended next steps. I'm not going to tell you how to practice medicine, but we're going to try to help you as best we can. We've got all the reference papers also hyperlinked in that report. So if you want to go read the primary literature yourself, you're more than welcome to do so. And then you can also call and consult with yours truly at any time you need to. I'm always here to help you interpret those results and make a plan for your patient.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: This could be for any dog, by the way, too. It doesn't have to necessarily be just for puppies, right?

Jenna Dockweiler, MS DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: Right. DNA testing is appropriate for every dog at every age.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Nice, so do you wanna share an example of what that looks like for you.

Lindsey Kock, DVM: I was just thinking you had mentioned earlier hyperuricosuria, or risk for urate stones, or any type of stones, really. But I think in practice, what does that mean for the care of the animal, right? For me, that means you should probably be doing a urine analysis on that dog once, maybe even twice a year—doing a sediment check, checking for crystals, thinking about the diet. How can you increase water consumption in that dog's diet? How can you feed good supplementation and pick a good dog food that cuts down on the risk? One thing that I think we tend not to think about is depending on that dog's lifestyle, especially if they're a male dog, how often are you actually seeing that dog go out and go to the bathroom, right? So, I think people who walk their dogs may have really good insight to a potential blockage and be able to get on top of that right away. But I know my pets have access to a backyard, so I kick 'em out early in the morning. I'm like, "Go do your business." If they would happen to have an issue with urinary stones, I may not realize it till later. And those symptoms can be pretty nondescript. So I think that's a piece of information that if you know that and you can tell the pet owner, "Hey, we should be doing a urine sediment twice a year. You should be looking at changes for the diet and make sure that every once in a while, you're monitoring that dog going outside. To make sure that you're keeping tabs on things.”

Thinking more about general lethargy, you know, just being off might be a lot more significant in those pets than it would be in another animal. So I think that's a great example where, like you said, it doesn't necessarily mean the animal is going to have it. It means it's at risk, but there are some great things that you can do to really be on the lookout and promptly treat those conditions.

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