High-Risk High-Reward Focus Areas for Research in Canine Gastroenterology: A Clinician-Scientists Perspective

Speaker: Jody L. Gookin, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

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The gastrointestinal tract functions to acquire, transport, digest, and absorb all of the nutrients and water upon which life depends. Beginning with disorders of swallowing, and ending with disorders of defecation, failure of normal gastrointestinal tract function is a major cause of morbidity [disease] and mortality [death] in dogs. The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) has recently formed specific Research Program Areas to address the burden of gastrointestinal and hepatic disease in dogs. Moreover, specific health concerns identified by breed organizations have been identified as key funding priorities by CHF. Included on the list are Protein Losing Enteropathy, Portosystemic Shunt, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Perianal Fistula, and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. She goes on to explain several canine GI issues.

Megaesophagus is a condition where the muscles of the esophagus do not contract appropriately and the esophagus becomes flabby appearing in the chest cavity. There is nerve damage to those muscles (“neuropathy”). Food and saliva can collect in the flabby esophagus; they do not move into the stomach for proper digestion. The dog experiences anorexia, swallowing difficulties, clearing of throat, sudden regurgitation of food or water, and/or malodorous breath. The contents of the lazy esophagus can be inhaled causing a complication called “aspiration pneumonia”. Treatment of the aspiration pneumonia requires an expensive hospitalization. The cause of megaesophagus can be inherited, or a complication of another disease condition (e.g., Addison’s).

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Protein Losing Enteropathy are a very complex set of diseases. It occurs in all breeds. The cause is yet unknown, but it can be a devastating disease. “The gut is full of inflammatory cells” which causes irritation to the intestinal lining, and associated thickening and interference with absorption and motility. This promotes diarrhea, weight loss, low grade fevers, malnutrition and weakness. Treatments for IBD are aimed at decreasing inflammation in the intestines and preventing symptoms. Learn more about Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Dr. Gookin is an advocate for canine GI research and feels we need the following: Genome Wide associated studies, and prospective, multicenter, multiyear clinical trials. She is a member of the Comparative Gastroenterology Society. Dr. Gookin has the following funded research with the CHF:

Funded Research Grant 01986: Profiling the Metabolic and Lipid Imbalances that are Causative of Gallbladder Disease in Dogs. The gallbladder mucocele (GBM) is one of the most common, poorly understood and deadliest biliary diseases of dogs. A GBM develops when the gallbladder secretes abnormal mucus that eventually obstructs or ruptures the gallbladder. It usually occurs in dogs greater than 8 years of age. GBM formation afflicts all dogs, but especially Shetland Sheepdogs, Miniature Schnauzers and Cocker Spaniels, and in general, dogs with disorders of steroid hormone or lipid metabolism. By the time a diagnosis of GBM is made, emergency surgery to remove the gallbladder is often required. After surgery only 22-50% of dogs survive to be discharged from the hospital. Based on the breeds and diseases that predispose to GBM, Dr. Gookin hypothesizes these dogs have a unique disturbance in cholesterol or lipid metabolism. If the cause of this disturbance can be identified, then they can potentially understand why GBM forms, develop tests for early diagnosis, and design diets or drugs to prevent GBM formation.

Other AKC Canine Health Foundation Grants Investigating IBD

Dr. Jody Gookin completed her DVM in 1993. She was board certified as a specialist in Small Animal Internal Medicine by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in 1998 and later completed a PhD in Gastrointestinal Physiology. Dr. Gookin is recognized for her expertise in gastroenterology with a special emphasis on infectious causes of diarrheal disease.

 

 

 
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