Nutrigenomics – your pets really are what they eat

I’m fascinated by the field of epigentics and for a few years now I have been wondering how we can use our new knowledge of epigenetic processes to help our pets live longer, healthier lives.  I was therefore extremely pleased to get my hands on a copy of Dr Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure’s new book, ‘Canine nutrigenomics – the new science of feeding your dog for optimum health’ published by the fab Dogwise Publishing.

Nutrigenomics is an emerging field which looks at the way an organism’s diet effects the genes it expresses.  We used to think an animal was born with a set of instructions from its parents and that these instructions were set in stone. However, we now know that exactly which of these genetic instructions are followed is depends on many factors.   Much like a light switch, genes can be either switched on or off. All animals and people are born with a huge number of ‘genetic lights’ but not all of these are switched on.  The diet and life experiences we offer our pets can profoundly affect the combination of genetic lights that become switched on and can either promote health or disease.

As human beings we are all aware that we should be eating a wholesome, minimally processed, varied diet to ensure our own health, yet for decades we have been told that it is perfectly acceptable to feed a single brand of highly processed kibble to our pets for them to remain in good health. In fact we have been told that changing brands should be avoided at all costs and that we should NEVER feed any human food, as it will cause digestive problems. To me it seems totally counterintuitive that the advice we follow for our own health and wellbeing is poles apart from the way we are told to feed our animal companions.

‘Canine nutrigenomics’ offers advice on how to create a functional diet for your pets based on nutrigenomic principles and suggests a range of ingredients and ‘superfoods’ that can help a host of health conditions.

Of these conditions, canine allergies are covered in great detail. Having had firsthand experience of canine atopic dermatitis, it is great to hear this terrible condition being discussed from a functional perspective rather than simply applying a medical ‘sticking plaster’ to mask the symptoms.

After reading this book, it’s pretty clear that our knowledge has surpassed the age of mindlessly scooping processed kibble into our pets’ bowls and while the convenience was great when we knew no better, the time has come to feed our pets’ genes as well as their stomachs.