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5 ways we’re advancing science to help dogs live happy, healthy lives

The unconditional support dogs offer us may have been particularly valuable for some of us during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. On National Dog Day - and every today - we celebrate our companions’ role in our health and wellbeing, as well as the many ways in which our researchers, in partnership with veterinarians, data scientists and experts from across Mars Petcare, are advancing science to help dogs live healthy, happy lives.

Dogs’ unconditional support

Here are just a few ways our best friends can stand by us when we need them the most:

 

5 ways we’re giving back, through science

We’re advancing science to help veterinarians offer individualized care, so dogs can live healthy lives for as long as possible. 

1. A biobank for the future of pet health

We’ll follow 10 000 healthy dogs throughout their lives over the next 10 years to better understand why they get sick and find new ways to prevent or even predict disease. As part of our MARS PETCARE BIOBANK initiative, we’re teaming up with data experts, scientists and veterinary teams across Mars Petcare to unlock the power of big data. We’ll connect data from biological samples to medical, genetic and lifestyle data, so we can identify what triggers common as well as rarer conditions, such as obesity, dental disease or pancreatitis.

 

 

2. Tracking dog behaviour associated with canine conditions 

We’re already harnessing the power of data to help dog owners act early and prevent potential conditions from becoming serious health issues. Together with the data scientists and veterinarians at Pet Insight Project, we’ve developed machine learning technology based on real-world data, which can accurately track dog behaviour (eating, drinking, scratching, licking) associated with common canine conditions.

Ultimately, continuous monitoring of pet behaviour and activity could help pet owners identify pets with a range of possible conditions, including scratching, poor appetite, excessive weight, or osteoarthritis.

3. Individualised, preventive care through genetics

Using the latest artificial intelligence methods, our colleagues at Wisdom Panel™, the world’s leading pet DNA service, have developed a new dog breed detection system offering the most accurate dog DNA test yet.

By understanding a dog’s DNA, pet parents and veterinarians can team up to create individualised care programmes and take better care of their best friends through every stage of their life. Our colleagues also looked at over 1M dog DNA samples and combined the results with clinical veterinary records to better understand the prevalence and distribution of 250 disease-causing variants in dogs, no matter their breed or ancestry. They found that disease mutations are common in all dogs, and that both mixed breed and purebred dogs share many health issues. This work highlights the importance of healthy breeding, genetic diversity, and the benefit of genetic testing when it comes to preventive pet health. 

4. Understanding dental disease 

Gum disease is one of the most common health issues veterinarians diagnose, and it’s linked to other serious health conditions. We’re learning more about the bacteria in dogs’ mouths so we can slow down the development of this illness. 

What's more, we now know smaller dog breeds are more likely to develop gum disease than larger breeds. Our research has also shown that a good oral care routine (regular tooth brushing, dental chews and veterinary checks) can help prevent dental disease in miniature schnauzers.

5. Fighting pet obesity

Data scientists at our Institute teamed up with the Pet Insight Project to develop an algorithm that calculates individualised food portions for each and every dog wearing a Whistle FIT activity monitor.

With more than half of all pets in the US and UK considered overweight or obese, pet obesity is one of the biggest health challenges our pets face today. We know that every dog is unique, so it’s crucial that owners adapt daily food quantities depending on their pups’ activity levels, age, breed, weight and dog food brand.

Read our science stories to learn more about ambition to better understand our pets’ needs through science & data.