Veterinary medicine is constantly changing, and scientists are always looking for new ways to diagnose and treat diseases. Genetics research is growing particularly rapidly, and it’s developing in many different ways. One area is in the ability to predict genetic problems in different breeds of dogs so we can eventually eliminate some genetic diseases that are passed on from generation to generation. Some of these diseases include progressive retinal atrophy (eyes that are genetically programmed to go blind) in Dachshunds and Springer Spaniels, renal (kidney) disease in corgis and setters and Von Willebrand disease (bleeding disorder) in multiple canine breeds.

Hill’s has been using nutrigenomics  to change dogs’ aging processes through foods. They’ve found that certain genetic markers turn on and off as dogs mature. They have used this knowledge to change the aging process through nutrition. To date, they have identified over 40,000 markers, and they are watching these markers closely to see how they affect dogs as they age. Some of the more remarkable results of this research have resulted in Prescription Diet b/d diet, which not only slows dementia, but reverses the clinical signs of it.

They have also created a formula (Prescription Diet j/d) that stops arthritis, stimulates cartilage growth in the joints and causes cartilage to absorb water to recreate the cushion effect. They have also identified genes that are involved with obesity, and by turning these genes on and off, they found a way to help weight loss with Prescription Diet r/d.

Another company, the Mars Veterinary Company, has used this technology to determine what breeds of dogs are incorporated in mixed-breed dogs through a test called a Wisdom Panel. Once you send in a few samples from your pet, they can send you back a list of all the different breeds present in your dog.

Genetic technology is also beginning to be used to diagnose different diseases through the genetic makeup of the organism itself, be it a bacteria, virus, rickettsia or fungus. This has the potential to make huge strides in the ways we diagnose multiple diseases.

Genetics are an exciting new area of research, and Animal Health Services will stay on the cutting edge of this research so we can continue to offer our clients the best science and medicine available.

Nutrigenomics

Of all the environmental factors that we are exposed to on a daily basis, food is arguably one of the most important for determining health and illness.

Nutrigenomics is the science of how nutrients or food can affect health at the genomic (chromosomal/genetic) level and aims to develop rational means to optimize nutrition with respect to genotype. Historically, our understanding of the etiology (cause) of disease has often languished on the “Is it nature or is it nurture?” debate. Do the genes you are born with control your overall health, or do environmental factors determine the presence or absence of disease? Newly available scientific methods and technologies have provided the tools that are going to allow us to start answering these questions. As you might expect, neither “nature” nor “nurture” can fully explain the complex metabolic processes that ultimately determine health.