By Dr. Anna Hielm-Björkman (Ph.D., CVA, Docent, PI)
This week, Mercola Healthy Pets is partnering with our DogRisk team, a Finnish university-based, independent research program with a mission to learn more about how nutritional, environmental and genetic factors influence diseases in dogs. Our main interest is the relationship between food and disease, but all other factors must be looked at as well to insure we arrive at accurate conclusions.
The DogRisk Program Needs Your Help
I am the leader of the research group and I want to help you understand why you should consider supporting our research. Over the last week during our DogRisk team video chats with Dr. Becker, you’ve learned of the association between what dogs eat and the diseases they acquire.
You’ve also learned that dietary nutrients change gene expression, metabolic pathways and gut microbiota. We’ve also talked about the fact that cancer-sniffing dogs are far better than any scent-detection machine available right now and they may be able to help us develop early-stage cancer tests.
These are all projects the DogRisk group has up and running, but our researchers are being forced to drop out, one by one, as our funds are depleted. That’s where you come in. You can make a choice here and a real impact. We don’t want to see our DogRisk program end due to lack of funding, and if you feel the same way, then together we can keep moving forward!
6 Things I Want You to Know About My Team
I want to highlight some things that I think are important for you to know, so that you can feel happy and proud to support us. They are things that make our research group special and that also give us the potential to make an impact:
1. Our research is completely independent. We work independently at a university (University of Helsinki) that is well ranked in the world. We do not have to ask permission from anyone to do our research.
Of course, we would be happy to be sponsored by any company or association or even dog food company, as long as we can continue doing just what we are doing now, independently, and with all rights to the data we collect. This is often not how big sponsors want to do things.
So far we’ve secured either association or state grants, and we must compete with human medicine studies. More recently we’ve tried crowdfunding because we believe in the power of grassroots fundraising. We all can make an impact!
2. Our mission is to prove to the world that nutrition matters. We have taken it upon ourselves to demonstrate something that a lot of people, including many of our own colleagues, don’t really believe: nutrition matters for health. This requires curiosity, truth seeking, passion and courage from my team and I love them every day for their commitment to our mission.
3. We’re not trying to become famous! We’re not in this to make a name for ourselves. We do this work because we care about our pets, and yours. We want to know what is bad and what is good for them. We also want to gather the same information for humans, and we can learn much from our dog studies that can be used in human health research.
We are already working with human chronic disease researchers. The pet dog is an excellent human “model,” and just as important, ethically speaking, is that we’re able to avoid using lab animals.
4. I’m not a very good fundraiser! I’m paid by the University of Helsinki, and I don’t receive a dime of the money we raise for our research. Unfortunately, I spend all my time these days trying to raise money for the researchers on my team. This isn’t time well spent, especially since I’m not even good at it!
My strength is doing research and publishing studies, and it’s what I should be spending my time on. That’s why I’ve been hoping for a miracle that will free us up to work on our DogRisk projects now and for years to come. It’s crucially important that we get our research validated and ultimately published in peer-reviewed journals.
5. Grassroots support from people like you is the only way to keep DogRisk research going. There’s no way we can compete with human research for funding. And to be honest, nobody “up there” cares about what dogs eat, but we do.
I absolutely believe dog food research will prevent disease, help pet owners save money on veterinary bills, have more cheerful and content furry friends at home and as a bonus, it will also help human diet research.
6. Our cancer detection dogs do deserve to be famous. Even though we’re not looking for fame, we would like our cancer detection dogs to get the recognition they deserve. Be sure to go back and watch their videos in yesterday’s newsletter if you missed them. We believe they deserve the Nobel prize!
How Will My Donation to DogRisk Be Used?
If we are able to continue our program, we’ll start by publishing the validation of the food portion of our Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ), followed by studies on the links we’ve established between diet and atopy, osteoarthritis, epilepsy, cancer, tooth tartar and many other diseases.
We’ll also publish our findings in the areas of metabolites, gut microbiota and gene expression after our diet interventions. These reports will be in open-access, peer-reviewed research journals so that you can download them easily and refer them to your family, friends and veterinarian. They will also be published simultaneously on our DogRisk website and mentioned on our DogRisk Facebook page.
The good news is we’re already more than halfway through many of our projects as we already have the data from the FFQ and from our first feeding trial. We just have no more funds right now to analyze our results. To be able to wrap things up, we need more funding.
YOUR SUPPORT WILL HELP US CONTINUE OUR IMPORTANT RESEARCH!
How Much Money Do We Need?
Anything is better than nothing, so any amount is good. But let’s look at how much money we would need to work without worry for the next two years:
Examples of what things cost in our research world:
$800 allows us to fully analyze the RNA sequencing of one sample. This gives us information on how the genes work, also known as gene expression.
$1,000 allows us to do some q-PCR testing on special genes to see if they are up or down regulated.
$1,500 to $2,000 allows us to publish one study in a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, which makes that study available online to everyone for free.
$12,000 allows us to pay one year’s rent for the space we use to train our cancer detection dogs.
$10,000 allows us to send DogRisk researchers to international veterinary and dog nutrition conferences to present our independent diet-related research results and get them into the hands of the professionals.
$10,000 also allows us to use statisticians and bioinformatics to guarantee the accuracy of our results.
$30,000 allows us to publish 15 studies over the next two years.
$150,000 allows us to pay the salaries for one year for our researchers.
We can get to our $400,000 target in several ways:
$1 per month for one year from 33,334 dog owners
$5 per month for one year from 6,667 dog owners
$10 once from 40,000 dog owners
$1 per month for two years from 16,667 dog owners
$5 per month for two years from 3,334 dog owners
$100 once from 4,000 dog owners
If we are able to raise more than our target $400,000, it will give us more years of research, the ability to publish more studies and faster and the option to hire more researchers. The amounts noted about are in U.S. currency, but 1 to 5 £ per month, 1 to 5 € per month or 10 to 50 SEK (Swedish Krona) per month are just as welcome. Together we can help this important research continue!
I hope I’ve given you the information you need to make an informed choice for the benefit of independent research that touches all pets, including your own animal companion. Think of it as an early holiday gift for your dog this year! Give your dog a hug and a kiss and let him know this year’s gift went to trying to figure out why so many of his dog friends have diseases.
If you can’t contribute financially, please help us spread the message so that others who can help get the chance. A very warm thank you from the whole DogRisk group!