The first time I interviewed Dr. Lori White, the veterinarian who owns the clinic located right across from East Limestone High School known as The Village Vet, I learned a good deal about the specific needs as well as disease proclivities of a number of breeds of dogs.
Dr. Lori is a good teacher, her love of dogs is palpable throughout the clinic and is shared by her staff. When I came back for this interview, Sam, a large collie who happens to belong to Dr. Lori’s mother, was getting a summer shave, and, as is customary for his breed, was trying to herd the dogs in the other room. The patience shown toward Sam made me glad once again that I was being given the chance to tell the residents of Limestone County about Village Vet.
This time, however, what made Dr. Lori’s eyes twinkle was teaching me about a service that she is now offering at Village Vet to all her patients. It is DNA testing that, among other things, identifies breeds and therefore makes it possible to anticipate things like hip dysplasia, organ failure and cancer.
“At first, when this testing was developed, it was very inaccurate, especially when it came to mixed breeds, so vets dismissed it,” she told me. Apparently the kinks have been worked out, especially with the blood based tests. There are two types of tests, the saliva based ones that are available at the big box pet stores, and the ones that involve drawing blood, which is done only at a veterinarian clinic. “The saliva swab tests are ok,” she told me, “but the blood tests are the best.”
I always appreciate it when a customer “takes their own medicine,” and Dr. Lori showed me the DNA panel of her two shelter dogs, Dorothy and Priscilla. She was visibly delighted at finding out the bloodlines flowing in her pooches, because it would assist her in caring for her own dogs. “This stuff is important, and fun,” she said with a smile.
Priscilla was pretty straightforward, being a Chihuahua and Pekinese mix, “a true mutt,” according to Dr. Lori. “She has such vigor, and being a mutt is working to her advantage," she said.
By contrast, while Dorothy also is a mutt, she has been much tougher to “profile” by sight. It turns out she is a mix of three breeds,
golden Labrador, Australian Cattle dog, and Rottweiler. The thing that brought Dr. Lori the “aha moment” once Dorothy’s test came back was the disclosure that she had Aussie flowing in her veins. “Now I know why she behaves the way she does,” said Dr. Lori.
In addition, the test predicted Dorothy’s weight range correctly, tested her for seven disease causing mutations, and then examined the chromosomes in her ancestry that could signify the possibility of breed specific diseases showing up down the road. Interestingly, the combination of breeds present in Dorothy tended to cancel out the possibility of her developing degenerative myelopathy, a disease that causes communication between the brain and back limbs to break down. Dorothy would also have more of a chance to have had retinal problems if she had received two copies of the problem solving chromosome. Thankfully, Dorothy only has one, and her retinas should be just fine. Dr. Lori would like to see breeders use this test, because it “recognizes the potential for breed specific diseases.” So far the blood based tests and panels have been developed for 235 breeds. The best tests, according to Dr. Lori, and the ones she uses in the clinic are offered by an outfit called Wisdom Panel Professional Genetic Analysis. It covers breed detection, appearance, behavior, and history.
The Wisdom test makes it possible for vets to serve both dogs and their owners with a whole new level of excellence, and the full panel costs $130. In terms of all that the test can do to help, that is a bargain. “I am interested in disease prevention, especially because animals don’t show illness until they could be close to death,” says Dr. Lori.
Another product she she uses is Hills brand dog food. “I have been to the plant, have seen how it is produced, and seen the science that goes into producing the best possible dog food,” she said. In her view, no other product compares when it comes to dealing with food allergies, which are not just confined to humans, but show up in dogs as well and often go undetected.
These are just two examples of how the Village Vet is serving our community, and I for one am glad that Dr. Lori and her crew are in our midst.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner