Dogs, just like their human owners, may be exposed to possible toxic chemicals commonly found in and around the home. These chemicals can include heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury. These metals can build up and cause damage in organs, including the aging brain and nervous system. Human studies show toxic heavy metals can cause nervous system damage and can increase the risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, other dementias, hearing loss and vision loss. Researchers will evaluate if this also holds true for aging dogs. In one arm of the study, the team will study heavy metal exposure in dogs living in Wisconsin and follow thinking and memory function, hearing and vision over 18 months. In another arm of the study, the team will use owner questionnaires to assess similar function for dogs living in Flint and Detroit, Michigan, cities noted for lead toxicity. Findings will further our understanding of the relationship between toxic metal sources in the home and dog health. Data also will provide a foundation for future studies into potential treatments or preventions to protect the brain and sensory organ health of older dogs.
Grant amount awarded
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Freya Mowat, PhD