Tag Archives: University of Missouri

BPA (Bisphenol A) in Canned Dog Foods

Note from DoggyMom:

When buying plastic containers for temporary food storage, drink bottles, etc, I always look for “BPA free” labeling.  BPA is an endocrine disruptor and many consumers don’t know to look for this – most of the plastic containers being sold in the ‘$2 shops’ in New Zealand are not BPA free, for example.   In this study, the researchers fed dogs only canned (tinned) food and found significant increases in the levels of the BPA in the dogs – even in tins that were supposedly BPA free.

Very concerning if you are feeding only canned food!


Bisphenol A (BPA) is a widely used industrial chemical found in many household items, including resins used to line metal storage containers, such as food cans. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that short-term feeding of canned dog food resulted in a significant increase of BPA in dogs. Scientists believe that because of shared environments, dog exposure to BPA through canned foods could have human health implications.  tinned-dog-food

“Bisphenol A is a prevalent endocrine-disrupting chemical found in canned foods and beverages,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and an investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center. “We wanted to determine if short-term feeding of widely available commercial canned food could alter BPA concentrations in dogs. Thus, we assessed BPA contained within pet food cans. We also analyzed whether disturbances in bacteria found in the gut and metabolic changes could be associated with exposure to BPA from the canned food.”

Dog owners volunteered their healthy pets for the study. Blood and fecal samples were collected prior to the dogs being placed on one of two commonly used, commercial canned food diets for two weeks; one diet was presumed to be BPA-free. Robert Backus, an associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, and other researchers on the team then analyzed the cans and the food contained in the cans for BPA levels and performed gut microbiome assessments.

“The dogs in the study did have minimal circulating BPA in their blood when it was drawn for the baseline,” Rosenfeld said. “However, BPA increased nearly three-fold after being on the either of the two canned diets for two weeks. We also found that increased serum BPA concentrations were correlated with gut microbiome and metabolic changes in the dogs analyzed. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium that has the ability to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals.”

Dogs who share internal and external environments with their owners are likely excellent indicators of the effects of BPA and other industrial chemicals on human health.

“We share our homes with our dogs,” Rosenfeld said. “Thus, these findings could have implications and relevance to humans. Indeed, our canine companions may be the best bio-sentinels for human health concerns.”

Source: University of Missouri press statement

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Team develops treatment for canine megaesophagus

The Veterinary Health Center (VHC) at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine is pioneering a new approach to treat one type of canine megaesophagus, a devastating disease of dogs.

megaesophagus-scan

This image shows a canine patient during a video fluoroscopic swallow study. These studies, performed by members of a collaborative research project at the University of Missouri, were a major component of revolutionary techniques developed for the diagnosis and treatment of megaesophagus, a devastating disease of dogs. Credit: MU College of Veterinary Medicine

A partnership between the VHC’s Small Animal Internal Medicine, Radiology, Surgery, and Nutrition services and an investigator in the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery department at the university’s School of Medicine has resulted in the discovery of a breakthrough treatment for a subpopulation of dogs with megaesophagus. The Mizzou team has identified a defect of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) as a potential treatable cause of megaesophagus.

Megaesophagus (ME) refers to a large, dilated esophagus with poor or no motility preventing normal passage of food and liquid into the stomach. With ingesta not reaching the stomach to produce the sensation of being full, the dog will continue to eat. As a result, the esophagus enlarges greatly. Dogs end up not getting enough calories so they waste away. Dogs with ME also regurgitate large amounts of undigested food and some of that material can be inhaled into the lungs. This inhalation can result in aspiration pneumonia, a dangerous additional symptom that kills many affected animals.

“In general, dogs with megaesophagus typically die of malnutrition, aspiration pneumonia, or are euthanized because the owners are told they have a terrible prognosis,” according to Associate Professor Carol Reinero, DVM, PhD, an internal medicine specialist helping coordinate the efforts of the multidisciplinary team. “We’re taking a closer look at a subpopulation of dogs with idiopathic megaesophagus, which means we don’t know what causes it. We run all of our traditional tests, but we’ve never been able to find an underlying cause. Now with our video fluoroscopic swallow studies, we have identified an abnormality that we believe is driving the problem: an LES-achalasia-like syndrome.”

The LES acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach, opening when food and water are swallowed, then clamping tight so food doesn’t come back from the stomach into the esophagus. In dogs afflicted with megaesophagus caused by an achalasia-like syndrome, the LES remains closed.

 “Video fluoroscopic swallow studies have been around a long time,” Reinero said. “The problem with prior protocols is they did not represent normal eating and drinking behaviors. Those tests had very little to do with reality. A dog had to be restrained, lying on its side, and syringe-fed barium, which was not palatable even when mixed with food. If dogs don’t eat during the swallow study you’re not going to get a diagnostic study.”

In order to receive a better diagnostic result, the Mizzou collaborative research team blended innovation with adaptation, developing new techniques and tools while borrowing procedures from human medical practices to diagnose and treat this type of canine ME.

Assistant Professor Teresa Lever, MS, PhD, from the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery department, spearheaded the development of trapezoidal holding chambers or kennels—which are now patented—where dogs walk in and are funneled to the narrow end of the enclosure. The animals are more naturally restrained and are given food that they consume while standing upright. Lever’s lab, in cooperation with an independent company that conducts feeding trials in dogs, also developed a number of different recipes and consistencies of food and liquid to optimize how well the dogs could take it down and discover which contrast agent was more palatable and effective.

“So, now we have these chambers, we have optimized palatable recipes, and we have experience in normal, healthy dogs without swallowing disorders, as well as lots and lots of patients coming in with other swallowing disorders,” Reinero said. “It was in the process of developing this protocol and having clinical patients come in when we recognized that LES-achalasia-like syndrome was the underlying cause of megaesophagus in some dogs. That’s when we began to adapt what they do with humans, a therapy where we’re opening or dilating the LES with Botox and/or balloon dilation.

“We perform an endoscopy to first dilate the LES and then administer Botox, which paralyzes the sphincter muscles that formerly wanted to remain closed. While we are still evaluating this procedure, we’ve had dogs with remarkable clinical improvement. Additionally, when we repeat the fluoroscopic studies, we can document an open LES. The patients that show improvement can be candidates for surgery, and that surgery is potentially curative,” Reinero said.

During a patient’s recovery, residents in the Nutrition Service monitor the dog’s weight and food intake. The amount of food an owner may give a pet might need to be altered every couple of days.

James Schachtel, Bvet Med, MRCVS, is a Radiology resident and key collaborator in the study.

“This approach gives these dogs a chance, whereas a lot of them didn’t have much of one,” Schachtel said. “At this time, it is early in the evaluation process, but it’s a novel approach that shows promise.

“This subpopulation can receive a really significant benefit from our direct ability to detect their malady. It can give them a really good quality of life. This is a revolutionary diagnostic technique for a disorder identified with a pathological outcome. It offers us the opportunity to use therapies that have been successful in people, so we’re optimistic we can experience similar success with canines,” Schachtel said.

Source:  University of Missouri-Columbia

See also my 2014 post about megaesophagus

Autistic children who live with pets are more assertive

Yet another piece of research that points to the value of dogs and other animals.  This time the research was done at the University of Missouri and focused on the social skills of autistic children.

You guessed it – the children who lived with pets developed better social skills including assertiveness.  “When I compared the social skills of children with autism who lived with dogs to those who did not, the children with dogs appeared to have greater social skills,” said Gretchen Carlisle, Research Fellow.

Source:  University of Missouri press release

Dogs benefit children with autism

A University of Missouri researcher has studied dog ownership decisions in families of children with autism and found that parents report a range of benefits of dog ownership including companionship, stress relief and opportunities for their children to learn responsibility.

Photo credit: Noël Zia Lee, Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Noël Zia Lee, Wikimedia Commons

‘Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with interacting with others, which can make it difficult for them to form friendships,’ said Gretchen Carlisle, the study’s author. ‘Children with autism may especially benefit from interacting with dogs, which can provide unconditional, nonjudgmental love and companionship to the children.’

Carlisle interviewed 70 parents of children with autism.  Nearly two-thirds of the parents in the study owned dogs, and of those parents, 94 percent reported their children with autism were bonded to their dogs. Even in families without dogs, 70 percent of parents said their children with autism liked dogs.

‘Bringing a dog into any family is a big step, but for families of children with autism, getting a dog should be a decision that’s taken very seriously.  If a child with autism is sensitive to loud noises, choosing a dog that is likely to bark will not provide the best match for the child and the family. If the child has touch sensitivities, perhaps a dog with a softer coat, such as a poodle, would be better than a dog with a wiry or rough coat, such as a terrier.’

The study, “Pet Dog Ownership Decisions for Parents of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder,” was published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing earlier this year.

Source:  University of Missouri media release

For more about the benefits of dogs for people with autism, read my post Dogs are a ‘social lubricant’ in helping people with autism