Characterization of Dysphagia in a Potential Canine Model of ALS
Combining the knowledge and skills of speech-language pathologists and veterinarians, professionals from two seemingly disparate medical fields, may prove to be mutually beneficial for humans and animals with common diseases that cause swallowing impairment (dysphagia), such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recent work by veterinarians at MU suggests that canine degenerative myelopathy (DM) may be a new animal model of ALS. Like humans with ALS, these dogs develop adult-onset, progressive paralysis of the limbs and die within three years of disease onset. Unspecified difficulty with swallowing and tongue movements has recently been reported in some end-stage DM dogs. All humans with ALS develop dysphagia at some point as the disease progresses, resulting in malnutrition, dehydration and respiratory complications that lead to a poor quality of life and contribute to death. No effective treatment currently exists for dysphagia in patients with ALS. The goal of this interdisciplinary research project is to develop a protocol to characterize dysphagia in canine DM, using a videofluoroscopic (X-ray) swallow test that is routinely used by speech-language pathologists in clinical practice with humans. This test is uncommonly used to diagnose swallowing impairment in dogs; therefore, it is not surprising that a standardized protocol is nonexistent for this purpose. Adapting well-established videofluoroscopic methods developed by speech-language pathologists for clinical and research use by veterinarians is an exciting new direction for both professions. Ultimately, studying animal models of ALS may hasten identification of treatments for clinical trials with humans. Therefore, characterization of dysphagia in canine DM is imperative to validate this animal as a suitable model for translational ALS research.
Mentors: Teresa Lever (Communication Science a nd Disorders) & Joan Coates (Veterinary Medicine and Surgery)
Semesters: Spring 2012