Personalized care and treatment plans


Jenna Dockweiler, MS DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT, and Lindsey Kock, DVM, expand on a customizable care program using DNA testing.

Sponsored by Embark

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: We're chatting so much in this day and age about customized care, individualized care, and what does that mean now that we have in Embark’s DNA testing kit available? What does that look like to the pet parent's perspective and to the veterinarian that we have now, like a customizable care program?

Jenna Dockweiler, MS DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: So I think we've kind of evolved as a profession over time. You know, initially we practice medicine, and then we practice species-based care, as in cats are not small dogs. Then we started to practice breed-based medicine. Perhaps these things are more breed-associated than others. This is really the next frontier, so personalized medicine.

In addition to MDR1, there are other things that are on our genetic test that could offer some personalized care. One that comes to mind for me is a variant in the POMC gene that interferes with satiety. So if you have a fat lab who comes in, which we see every day, you're doing thyroid testing, the owner swears up and down, you know, they're not feeding the dog anything extra, but he's always hungry.

So this POMC gene really can interfere with satiety and just give a reason for why that pet might be constantly hungry and potentially, maybe overweight. I find it's very helpful to point to something to say, "Hey, this is why your dog maybe has trouble with feeling full." So he's not actually starving, you know? So we can follow this weight management plan.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah, I love that.

Lindsey Kock, DVM: That is one of my favorite studies because if you dig into it, they used assistant dogs in that study and they found that dogs who were really trainable had that POMC mutation, but it makes sense, right? They were food motivated. And so, a lot of dogs that end up in assistance programs tend to be food motivated, tend to be easier to train. It tells us about satiety, and it tells us, you know, things that we wanna know about weight management.

But the other thing it tells us is making some training recommendations, right? So a dog who has the POMC variant might be more likely to be really trainable with food. But we may be able to talk to pet owners who have dogs that don't have that mutation about some other tactics that they can use for training too when they might be having a tough time at home. So it's interesting how when we learn about genetics, sometimes there's the second layer of other ways that that we can apply that information in practice, which is really cool.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: There's a practice that has this wonderful thought philosophy that says everyone is a VIP and it's very individualized for the pet and pet parent. And what they do is for every dog whether it be a rescue dog, from a breeder, a puppy, it's included in the initial visit that they already have the Embark DNA test there. What are your thoughts on that?

Jenna Dockweiler, MS DVM, DACT, CCRT, CVAT: I think that's a great way to, again, build trust between the client and the practice because everybody feels like the plan is really made together. This is individual for my dog specifically. It's not just the breed or the presumed breed mix. This is my dog so I think that's a great tactic.

Adam Christman, DVM, MBA: Yeah and because they get so excited when they see right and I, to your point, where we're just talking about the human animal bond and we want to bond with our clients in the exam room like that. You want to be excited for them and so having that discussion about genetic testing and being a proactive approach to care I think is so powerful. What are your thoughts on that?

Lindsey Kock, DVM: One thing I think about, too, is we tend to see trends carrying over from human medicine. So I think about how people's animals are parts of the family, right? And they expect them to get the same sort of personalized treatment that a family member may have gotten or that they may have gotten. And so I think, as human medicine becomes more personalized, and we start to use genomic testing in different areas of human medicine, it's important to understand how that is going to impact clients' expectation of us as veterinarians too.

For me, this plays into expectations for personalized care based on things that those clients may seek out if they've done a consumer DNA test. If they've looked at their microbiome, if someone in their family has gone through treatment for cancer and they've done personalized care. So I think the more we start thinking about this type of technology and how we can apply it, I think it's fair to think about the big picture too and client expectations.

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