Published: 26 Jul 2017 | Last Updated: 26 Jul 2017 15:10:40

Congratulations to Dr David Connolly and Professor Adrian Boswood for their recent grant award from the Dogs Trust for the study "Of mice and dogs: Comparison of the alterations in the metabolome associated with heart failure"

Approximately 320,000 dogs per year in the UK develop degenerative mitral valve disease (DMVD) which causes substantial suffering and premature death.  Clinical signs associated with DMVD include breathlessness, abnormal heart rhythms and occasionally accumulation of fluid in the abdomen. The rate of progression of disease varies but about 64,000 dogs develop terminal heart failure annually.

Previous studies have shown when laboratory mice and humans develop heart failure it is accompanied by detrimental changes in lipid (fat) metabolism (the chemical processes by which the body is maintained, and energy is produced) which contribute to and worsen their condition. Recent studies in rodent models of heart failure have shown that this harmful metabolic change can be completely reversed using a diet high in certain key lipids. Our long-term goal is to explore whether detrimental metabolic changes in dogs with heart failure can also be rectified by dietary manipulation.

We have followed over 300 dogs with DMVD for 10 years and have recorded detailed clinical data including physical examination findings, cardiac ultrasound and blood pressure.  We have also stored urine and residual blood samples from these dogs. This places us in a unique position to study changes in these dogs’ metabolism as their disease progresses, to see if we can help dogs in heart failure by feeding them a diet enriched in specific lipids. However, we first need to prove that these detrimental changes in metabolism definitely occur in our canine population.

Therefore our initial objectives for this study are to:

1.            Explore the changes in the composition of lipid and proteins in the blood and urine of dogs from our ongoing study as they developed heart failure using a technique called mass spectrometry

2.            Identify which changes predict progression and severity of disease.  

Because heart failure due to DMVD is extremely common, and causes substantial suffering this work is extremely important for canine welfare with huge potential for the management and well being of these dogs.

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